JOHN WESLEY'S SHAMEFUL PERSECUTION OF AUGUSTUS TOPLADY - ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF ARMINIAN HATRED FOR THE TRUTH AND THOSE PREACHING THE TRUTH WHICH IS COMMONLY NICKNAMED CALVINISM
John Wesley, the great apostle of Arminianism in the following century, manifested the same malicious spirit of persecution against Augustus Toplady, an earnest defender in his day of the doctrines of free and sovereign grace, and author of 'Rock of Ages Cleft for Me.'
When Toplady was thought to be on his death-bed, Wesley industriously circulated a report that Toplady had recanted the principles which it had been the business of his life to advocate. Wesley supposed Toplady to be too near the grave to contradict this foul calumny and write in his own defence. "But to the confusion of his enemies" to quote from Volume I of Toplady's Works "strength was given him to do both." Nor did he ever appear more triumphant than when, almost with his dying breath, he made so honourable and so successful an effort to repel the attacks of calumny and maintain the cause of truth.
On Lord's-day, June 14th, less than two months before his death, he came from Knightsbridge, and after a sermon by his assistant, the Rev. Dr. Illingworth, he ascended the pulpit, to the utter astonishment of his people, and delivered a very short but a very effective discourse from 2 Peter 1:13,14, Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this, my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.' When speaking of the abundant peace he experienced, and the joy and consolation of the Holy Ghost, of which for months past he had been a partaker, together with the persuasion that in a few days he must resign his mortal part to corruption, as a prelude to seeing the King in His beauty, the effect produced was such as may, perhaps, be conceived, but certainly cannot at all be described. His closing address was in substance the same with the following paper which was published the week after, and entitled, 'The Rev. Mr. Toplady's Dying Avowal of His Religious Sentiments.'
Concerning Toplady's end we are told,
All his conversations, as he approached nearer and nearer to his decease, seemed more heavenly and happy. He frequently called himself the happiest man in the world. 'O!' (says he) 'how this soul of mine longs to be gone! Like a bird imprisoned in a cage, it longs to take its flight. O that I had wings like a dove, then would I flee away to the realms of bliss and be at rest for ever!' .... Being asked by a friend if he always enjoyed such manifestations, he answered, 'I cannot say there are no intermissions; for, if there were not, my consolations would be more or greater than I could possibly bear; but when they abate they leave such an abiding sense of God's goodness and of the certainty of my being fixed upon the eternal Rock Christ Jesus, that my soul is still filled with peace and joy.'
Within the hour of his death he called his friends and his servant… and said,
It will not be long before God takes me; for no mortal man can live (bursting while he said it into tears of joy) after the glories which God has manifested to my soul.' Soon after this he closed his eyes and found (as Milton finely expresses it)—'A death like sleep, A gentle wafting to immortal life' on Tuesday, August the 11th, 1778, in the 38th year of his age. (pp. 119, 120).
Toplady was not long in his grave when John Wesley publicly asserted that "the account published concerning Mr. Toplady's death was a gross imposition on the public; that he had died in black despair, uttering the most horrible blasphemies, and that none of his friends were permitted to see him." Sir Richard Hill, a friend of Mr. Toplady's, and also the Rev. J. Gawkrodger publicly wrote John Wesley and accused him of vilifying the ashes and traducing the memory of the late Mr. Augustus Toplady," and affirming that "many respectable witnesses could testify that Mr. Toplady departed this life in the full triumph of faith." (Vol. I, pp. 121-128).
The report continues that a pious dissenting minister expostulated in a pamphlet with Mr. Wesley on his unjust assertions in the following words:
Mr. Wesley and his confederates, to whom this letter is addressed, did not only persecute the late Mr. Toplady during his life, but even sprinkled his death-bed with abominable falsehood. It was given out, in most of Mr. Wesley's societies, both far and near, that the worthy man had recanted and disowned the doctrines of sovereign grace, which obliged him, though struggling with death, to appear in the pulpit emaciated as he was, and openly avow the doctrines he had preached, as the sole support of his departing spirit. Wretched must that cause be, which has need to be supported by such unmanly shifts, and seek for shelter under such disingenuous subterfuges. O! Mr. Wesley, answer for this conduct at the bar of the Supreme. Judge yourself and you shall not be judged. Dare you also to persuade your followers that Mr. Toplady actually died in despair! Fie upon sanctified slander! Fie! Fie!
Those who have read the preceding letters (by Sir Richard Hill and Rev. J. Gawkrodger) astonished as they must have been at their contents, will yet be more astonished to hear, that to the loud repeated calls thus given to him to speak for himself, Mr. Wesley answered not a word. Nor is it too much to say, that by maintaining a pertinacious silence in such circumstances, the very vitals of his character were stabbed by himself. He thus consented to a blot remaining on his name, among the foulest that ever stained the reputation of a professed servant of Christ.
Why should Toplady who kept the faith and finished his course in this world with joy be the target of the shafts of Wesley's venom?
It is because he refuted on Scriptural grounds the Arminianism of Wesley, and fearlessly stood in defence of the eternal truths of free and sovereign grace?
"By what spirit," writes Toplady: "this gentleman and his deputies are guided in their discussion of controversial subjects, shall appear from a specimen of the horrible aspersions which, in 'The Church Vindicated from Predestination,' they venture to heap on the Almighty Himself. The recital makes one tremble; the perusal must shock every reader who is not steeled to all reverence for the Supreme Being. Wesley and Sallon are not afraid to declare that on the hypothesis of divine decrees, the justice of God is no better than the tyranny of Tiberius. That God Himself is 'little better than Moloch.' 'A cruel, unwise, unjust, arbitrary, a self-willed tyrant.' A being devoid of wisdom, justice, mercy, holiness, and truth.' 'A devil, yea, worse than the devil.' Did the exorbitancies of the ancient ranters, or the impieties of any modem blasphemers, ever come up to this? ... Observe, reader, that these also are the very men who are so abandoned to all sense of shame, as to charge me with blasphemy for asserting with Scripture, that God worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will, and that whatever God wills is right."
"… being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Ephesians 1:11).