Thursday, October 3, 2013

Augustus Montague Toplady: The Man Who Didn't Compromise

We have all heard the supposed example of the bitter rivals, George Whitefield and John Wesley from whom we are supposed to consider how Christians should disagree yet remain friendly. But have you heard of Augustus Toplady? Toplady was a contemporary of George Whitefield, John Gill, and William Romaine. At age 15, Toplady converted via the preaching of an Arminian preacher but by the time Toplady was 18 and had read several Calvinistic works, he came to see Arminianism as an incorrect view. While Whitefield constantly publicly refused to engage Wesely, even though Wesley had turned Whitefield's Calvinst ministry into an Arminian ministry, Toplady took Wesley head on. Toplady first published a work titled, The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted which upset Wesley. This 1769 work was actually a translation of the 1562 work which in great part helped Toplady become a Calvinist. (Confession of the Christian Religion). Interestingly enough, Wesley resorted to some of the same tactics we see today of some blogger Christians who attribute things to people never said by those people. Wesley published an "abridged" version of Toplady's Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted but in Wesley's version, he made it look like Toplady was a Hyper-Calvinist. Wesley added a mocking comment but did not make it clear it wasn't Toplady's words:
"The sum of all is this: One in twenty (suppose) of mankind are elected; nineteen in twenty are reprobated. The elect shall be saved, do what they will; the reprobate will be damned, do what they can. Reader believe this, or be damned. Witness my hand"
In a letter to Wesley, Toplady sought a retraction of the falsely attributed quote, yet Wesley's response, like so many today was a condescending, passive-aggressive one:
"I do not fight with chimney-sweepers. He is too dirty a writer for me to meddle with. I should only foul my fingers. I read his title-page, and troubled myself no farther." -- Wesley to Toplady
So, we can see first by Wesley's blatant lie of attributing quotes to Toplady and secondly by his immature and "un-pastor-like" condescending comments, Wesley was not a noble or honorable man. Why Whitefield sought to protect such a man was also not honorable. It was amazing that Toplady didn't lose his faith entirely seeing his mentor, Whitefield being such a compromiser and coward. (See Doug Wilson's article on this) By 1774, Toplady was in full tension with Wesley and Wesley's attempt to spread Arminianism. Toplady published a 700 page work called, The Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England. But it isn't so much Toplady's unwavering dedication to the sovereignty of God that I want to address in this article. To be sure, Toplady was a true example of an uncompromising Christian, a defender of the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. I want the reader to consider how Toplady must have felt. Here is Wesley who had been documented as a liar, a slanderer, a scoundrel and yet Whitefield is playing nice with such a man? Compare Toplady's unwavering commitment to the Sovereign God, to Whitefield's wormy and compromising letter to Wesley, and keep in mind the type of man Wesley REALLY was (link). What was Toplady to do? Whitefield would not call out Wesley on Wesley's deplorable character, which no doubt drove his erroneous doctrine. Instead, Arminianism swept England and soon America. Let it be recorded, I consider Toplady more a hero of the faith than Whitefield. While some may be content following the example of men like Whitefield, I shall stay uncompromising with men like Toplady. Toplady is also known for writing the famous hymn, Rock of Ages.

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