The Works Of Samuel Hopkins -- By: Edward Beecher

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 010:37 (Jan 1853)
Article: The Works Of Samuel Hopkins
Author: Edward Beecher

The Works Of Samuel Hopkins1

Edward Beecher

It has, of late, become quite fashionable with a certain class of writers to represent New England theology, in all those aspects of it which are disliked and feared, as peculiarly a metaphysical system, and the offspring of hold and daring speculation. These things are especially said when it is desired to neutralize the power of the Edwardean doctrine as to the nature of true holiness, and of sin as consisting in benevolent or selfish voluntary action, and as to the natural ability of the sinner to do his duty, notwithstanding the certainty that he will not do it, which is caused by the power of his depravity, and is so absolute as to render essential the interposition of the Divine Spirit to effect his salvation.

In view of these things the Princeton divines are wont to expatiate on the influence of Edwards, as the founder of a “School of metaphysics,” and of “metaphysical theology,” derived from Locke. The piety of “this great and holy man “they do not call in question; they concede that it elevated him immeasurably above many of his followers, but, nevertheless, he did, unfortunately, establish a school of “daring speculators.” The metaphysics of this school, they tell us, “is of a hyperborean sort, exceedingly cold and fruitless.” “In the conduct of a feeble, or even an ordinary mind, the wiredrawing processes of New England theologizing, became jejune and revolting.” School-boys, youth, and professors, “were taught to consider mere ratiocination as the grand and almost sole function of the human mind.” Hence the sermons heard in New England pulpits for the half century next after the death of Edwards, were exceedingly “barren and frigid.” They concede, indeed, that for a time, even among “the dwindled progeny of the giants,” there were “marks of genius,” but at last “a winter reigned in the theology of the land, second only to that of the scholastic age.”

Lest, however, we should lose ourselves in these eloquent rhetorical generalities, our elevated and all-surveying critics descend to some definite details. They first aim a shaft at that “subtle errorist,” Emmons, as teaching “that the soul is a series of exercises; that God is the author of sin; and that, in order to escape damnation one must be willing to be damned.”

Of course it was not to be expected that Hopkins would escape, and he did not; nor did Taylor, of New Haven, in fact escape, whatever were his hopes. But, singular to relate, our discerning critics place them both in the same category, and make their respective systems essentially one and the same, and a lineal and genu...

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