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How Hopkinsians relate to the Heresy of Decisional Regeneration

All New Light Calvinists called seekers to immediate repentance and submission to God. Second and third generation New Light Calvinists went so far as to say "make yourself a new heart". Both the call to immediate repentance and "make yourself a new heart" were based on a rock-solid belief in predetermination. Samuel Hopkins, more succinctly than other ministers, explained the reason why New Light Calvinists felt confident in making forceful appeals.

samuel hopkins large image

Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803)
Second Generation New Light Calvinist theology was the start of the immediate decision for Christ. In order to understand the basis of the New Light Calvinist immediate decision for Christ, it is essential to understand how they saw saving repentance and saving faith as consecutional* to the sovereign, saving grace of God. The following excerpts were taken from Samuel Hopkins System of Doctrines 1 and 2.

*CONSECUTIONAL: Consecutional means that Saving Faith is the Consequence of Saving Grace. For The New Light Calvinist, this also means Saving Repentance and Saving Faith are the result of regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God". Saving grace is the cause of saving faith... anything other than consecutional faith is not saving faith.

The theological basis for New Light Calvinist ministers
asking seekers to make an immediate Decision for Christ

1) ELECTION
1) THE GOOD OF THE UNIVERSE AS A WHOLE IS THE REASON GOD ELECTS CERTAIN PEOPLE TO SALVATION.
"This is universal benevolence; disinterested, unlimited, infinite goodness, which has the highest possible good of being in general for its object, that is, infinite good; which must infallibly take place, and be enjoyed forever.

An explanation for modern Christians who think election, or predestination is either determined by God's foreknowledge or God's mysterious decree...
Most Calvinists believe God determined election for reasons known only to Him, those to whom he would apply irresistible grace and be saved. Most Aminians believe God determined election by foreknowledge of who would not resist His grace and be saved.

The New Light Calvinist view of election went further into why God elects some to heaven and some to hell. When Hopkins says God ordains "the highest possible good of being for its object", he is not referring just to individuals, but to all of creation. When Paul and Silas sang songs in the dungeon, they knew they were part of God's bigger plan to bring salvation to the world. If they had died in prison, it would have been God's decree "which has the highest possible good of being in general for its object, that is, infinite good".

2) GOD DECREES - THAT'S HOW HE KNOWS THE FUTURE

2) EVERYTHING IS DECREED BY GOD'S ETERNAL PURPOSE - ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY.
"Therefore infinite wisdom discerns and fixes upon that which is preferable and best, in every instance... the divine determination respecting the actual existence of all these, and their taking place in all respects exactly as they do, or will, is, in every instance, most wise: and no thing, event, or circumstance, could be in any respect otherwise, consistent with infinite wisdom... foreknowledge is not only to be distinguished from the decree, but must be considered as, in
order of nature, consequent upon the determination and purpose of God, and dependent upon it. For the futurition or futurity of all things, depends upon the decrees of God ; by these every created existence, and every event, with all their circumstances, are fixed and made certain; and in consequence of their being thus decreed, they are the objects of foreknowledge; for they could not be known to be future, unless they were So joined and they were made so by the divine decree, and nothing else...infinite wisdom, discerns, without a possibility of mistake, what is the best end, most worthy to be set up and pursued, and fixes on this end; and discerns and determines the best means by which this end Shall in the best manner be answered. And this determination is the same with the decrees of God, and involves or comprehends every thing that comes to pass, every event, great and small, with every circumstance, be it ever so minute; and fixes them all; unerring wisdom being exercised with respect to them all ; So that to make the least alteration in any thing, event, or circumstance, would render the whole plan less perfect and wise. "The work of God is perfect, whatsoever God doth, it shall be forever: Nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it. That which is perfect is not capable of the least alteration, without being rendered imperfect; and defective. This is true of the infinitely wise plan of the divine operations and all future events, which was formed by the eternal purpose and decrees of God.

An explanation for modern Christians who think this sounds like fatalism...
Fatalism is "the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. Included in this is that man has no power to influence the future, or indeed, his own actions.

Second generation New Light Calvinist theology did not advocate fatalism, but predeterminism. God predetermined everything before he created the universe. This does not affect man's free will in the least. Think of the future as already having happened for God, and it's like a completed film, "in the can". Since only God can see the film, it does not affect the actors in the least bit who are yet to play their parts.

3) FORKNOWLEDGE AND DECREES ARE EQUALLY PROBLEMATIC

3) IF NEW LIGHT CALVINIST PREDETERMINISM IS NOT RECONCILABLE WITH MAN'S FREE WILL AND MORAL CHOICE, SO IS THE ARMINIAN GOD'S FOREKNOWLEDGE OF INSTRUMENTAL FAITH
If the doctrine of God's decrees be inconsistent with the freedom and moral agency of man; then the foreknowledge of God is equally so: Therefore the objection under consideration is as much against the latter, as it is against the former. For if it be foreknown what events and what actions will take place, then they must be fixed and certain; since it is a contradiction to say, an event is certainly foreknown, and yet it is uncertain whether it will come to pass ; just as great and palpable a contradiction as to say, an event is certain and fixed, and yet precarious and uncertain whether it will take place, or not...Nothing can be the object of the divine foreknowledge, which is not fixed as certainly future. If it be not fixed by the decree of God, it must be fixed by blind fate, or by something else, if this were possible; and this surely is as inconsistent with the freedom of man, as if fixed by the counsel and decree of God : yea, infinitely more So.


4) GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN'S FREE WILL IS AN ANTINOMY

4) NEW LIGHT CALVINIST PREDETERMINISM IS AN ANTINOMY WITH MAN'S FREE WILL AND MORAL AGENCY - BUT SINCE IT IS TAUGHT IN THE BIBLE, IT IS WISE NOT TO STRUGGLE WITH IT.
Since it is so consonant to reason, and even demonstrably certain, that a Being of infinite understanding, power and wisdom, who is absolutely independent, and on whom all creatures and events wholly depend, must determine and foreordain whatsoever comes to pass; and at the same time it is equally certain that men are free and moral agents: And Since divine revelation most expressly and abundantly asserts both these; he who admits and believes them both to be true, however unable he may be to reconcile them, and show or conceive how they are consistent, acts a more reasonable and wise part, than those who reject one as not true and impossible, merely because they cannot see their consistence.


5) MISUNDERSTANDING OF PREDETERMINISM #1

5) SKEPTICS THINK PREDETERMINATION MEANS GOD SAVES PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT THEY REPENT AND SUBMIT AND HAVE FAITH
If it be decreed that a particular person shall be saved, or he be elected to life, he shall certainly be saved, let him conduct as he will; and though he live and die in impenitence and unbelief.


6) MISUNDERSTANDING OF PREDETERMINISM #2

6) SKEPTICS THINK PREDETERMINATION MEANS GOD WILL NOT SAVE PEOPLE ON THE BASIS OF WHETHER OR NOT THEY REPENT AND SUBMIT AND HAVE FAITH
And if he be not elected, he must perish, let him do what he can, and though he sincerely seek salvation, and however humble, penitent and obedient he may be. The scripture doctrine of God's decrees does not imply, but absolutely excludes, such an absurd notion and fatality as this; and makes the use of means, and agency of man, as important and necessary, in order to accomplish any proposed end, as if there were no decree respecting it:


7) SCRIPTURE SHOWS GOD USES MEANS TO GET ENDS

7) The doctrine of God's decrees, including the means as well as the end, and connecting one with the other, so as to render the former important and necessary as the latter, as has been now stated and explained, in opposition to the absurd notion of fatality just mentioned, may be illustrated by a piece of history which we have in the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostle Paul being in a terrible storm at sea, and "all hope that they should be saved was taken away” had a revelation from heaven, that not one of them in the ship should lose his life; but they should all get safe to land. Upon which he stood forth, and declared it unto them, and his atterance that this revealed decree would come to pass. Thus Paul and his company were elected to be saved from the danger
of the sea; the preservation of their lives was unalterably fixed, and certain.

Yet, soon after this, while they were yet in danger, and the seamen, who only could
manage the ship, were about to quit it, to provide for their own safety, "Paul Said to the Centurion, and to the soldiers, EXCEPT THESE ABIDE IN THE SHIP, YE CANNOT BE SAVED. Here the doctrine of the fatality above mentioned is contradicted, and declared not to be true; and that the decree making their salvation absolutely certain, did not exclude the necessity of the use of means, in order to its taking place; but included this, and made their agency in the use of means important and necessary, there being a connection between these, and the end. It appears that in this instance, the means, and the exertions and agency of those who were to be saved, were as much appointed and fixed, as their salvation; And the latter could not come to pass without the former. this is equally true of all other instances of the purposes and decrees of God.


8) GOD AND MAN BOTH INVOLVED IN HARDENING HEART

8) Whenever God hardens the heart, and closes the eyes of men, they harden their own hearts, and shut their own eyes, the one being necessarily implied and involved in the other, so that when it is expressly said that God hardens the heart of any man, or hath given him eyes that he should not see, it is as really asserted, that the man himself hardens his own heart, and closes his own eyes, as the latter is necessarily implied, it being the very thing expressly said to be produced as the effect of the divine agency. Therefore when Isaiah speaks of God as hardening men's hearts, and shutting their eyes, he equally asserts that these men harden their own hearts, and close their own eyes; and may justly, and with the greatest propriety be quoted, as asserting both of them, or either the one, or the other.


9) GOD AND MAN BOTH INVOLVED IN MAKING A NEW HEART

9) Whenever and wherever God gives a new heart, the man makes himself a new heart, in that agency and those exercises, in which a new heart consists. He renews and cleanses his own heart, and circumcises it, by turning from sin to God; hating sin and loving God, and in all that agency,
and those pure and holy exercises in which he conforms to the divine law, and to the gospel, and lives a holy life. All this is necessarily implied in what God does in giving a new heart, as it is the effect which he produces by his agency; and therefore are connected, and involved in each other, as are the cause and effect: So that to assert one, is equally to assert the existence of the other.

So this is why New Light Calvinists told seekers to make themselves a new heart. They were not saying anyone can be regenerated if they want - they were saying if God has regenerated you, you will show the fruit. Hopkins continues: "The sinner’s heart cannot be made a clean heart, by the divine agency, in any other way, but by the sinner's cleansing his own heart; because a clean heart consists in those exercises of the man, in which he does cleanse his own heart. It is a contradiction to say, that God has circumcised the heart of a man to love him; and yet the man does not love him, or, which is the same, has not circumcised his own heart to love the Lord: And so of the rest. Therefore when God says, he will give a new heart and put a new spirit within men; it is really asserted that they shall renew their own hearts, in the proper exercises and agency, in which a new heart and new spirit consists; or that they shall walk in his ways. And on the contrary, whenever a man makes him a new heart, and becomes obedient, this implies all that divine agency, by which God gives a new heart: And therefore by asserting the former to exist, the latter is really asserted. If a man purifies himself, and cleanses his own heart, in pure, holy exercises, it is certain that God has created in him a clean, a new heart; and to assert the former or the latter, is really to assert both."

So when Lyman Beecher or Asahel Nettleton or Charles Finney said, "make yourself a new heart", now you know what they meant.