Samuel Hopkins, an American clergyman, born in Waterbury, Conn., Sept. 17, 1721, died in Newport, R. I., Dec. 20, 1803. Till about his 15th year he was occupied chiefly in agricultural labor, when he entered Yale college, where he graduated in 1741, after which he studied divinity with Jonathan Edwards. In 1743 he was ordained pastor of the church in Housatonnuc (now Great Barrington), Mass., where he remained till January, 1769, when he was dismissed, and began preaching in Newport, R. I. In April, 1770, it was voted not to invite him to settle there, as many were dissatisfied with his theological sentiments. He preached a farewell discourse, which was so touching and impressive that the vote was immediately and almost unanimously reversed, and he was settled as pastor. When the British took possession of Newport in 1776, he was obliged to leave the town, and preached in various places till 1780, when, Newport being evacuated, he returned to his parish, which was so much reduced and impoverished that for the remainder of his life he was dependent for his maintenance upon weekly contributions and the voluntary aid of a few friends. In 1799 ho was attacked with paralysis, from which he never entirely recovered, though his mental powers were uninjured, and he was afterward able to preach occasionally.
By sermons and his famous " dialogues," by letters to public men, and newspaper essays, he stirred up an organized and political action against slavery, so that in 1774 a law was passed forbidding the importation of negroes into the colony, and in 1784 it was declared by the legislature that all children of slaves born after the following March should be free. He also formed a plan for evangelizing Africa, and colonizing it with free negroes from America, as early as 1773. Besides his numerous sermons, addresses, and pamphlets, he published a life of President Edwards, and lives of Susannah Anthony and Mrs. Osborn, and left behind him sketches of his own life. His "System of Theology," however, is his great work, which, in connection with his other theological writings, must be fully understood by every one who would rightly appreciate New England either in its progress or its present condition. Of its author Dr. Channing writes that "he must always fill an important place in our ecclesiastical history." The entire works of Dr. Hopkins were published by Dr. West in 1805, and again, with a memoir of his life and character by E. A. Park, D. D., by the doctrinal tract and book society (3 vols., Boston, 1852).