Nathanael Emmons

1745-1840. Congregational theologian. Born in rural Connecticut and educated at Yale College, he entered the ministry of the Congregational Church. He served as pastor at Franklin, Massachusetts, from 1773 to 1827, during which period he published more than two hundred articles in periodicals, and personally instructed about one hundred young men in theology and preaching, many of whom attained positions of leadership in the church and in theological education. He generally followed the teaching of Jonathan Edwards* as developed by Samuel Hopkins,* but Emmons elaborated the Hopkinsian theology further into a system called “Consistent Calvinism.” He affirmed that “holiness and sin consist in free, voluntary exercises”; consequently only Adam, and not mankind generally, was guilty of original sin. Yet God in His sovereignty determined to treat Adam's posterity as sinners. God executes His decision that all men must “choose evil before they choose good” by “directly operating on the hearts of children when they first become moral agents.” In fact God Himself placed within Adam the first inclination to evil, which resulted in the Fall. Emmons believed it is consistent with God's righteousness to implant either sinful or holy exercises within man. Men act freely at the same time they are being determined by divine agency. Although God determines that men sin, he has the “right to require them to turn from sin to holiness.” Therefore, preachers should “exhort sinners to love God, repent of sin, and believe in Christ immediately.” He helped to found the Massachusetts Missionary Society, favored the abolition of slavery, was a zealous patriot during the American Revolution, and became a Federalist thereafter.