Toplady, Augustus Montague

, a strenuous champion for the Calvinism of the church of England, was born | at Farnham, in Surrey, Nov. 4, 1740. His father was Richard Toplady, esq. a captain in the army, and his mother, Catharine Bate, sister to the late Rev. Julius Bate, and to the rev. Mr. Bate, rector of St. Paul’s, Deptford,by whom they were married, at the said church, on Dec. 31, 1737. They had issue one son, Francis, who died in his infancy, and afterwards the subject of our memoir. His godfathers were Augustus Middleton, and Adolphus Montague, esqrs.; in respect to whom, he bore the Christian name of the one, and the surname of the other. His father died at the siege of Carthagena, soon after his birth. He received the rudidiments of his education at Westminster school; but, it becoming necessary for his mother to take a journey to Ireland to pursue some claims to an estate in that kingdom, he accompanied her thither, and was entered at Trinity college, in Dublin, at which seminary he took his degree of bachelor of arts. He received orders on Trinity Sunday, the 6tli of June, 1762; and, after some time, was inducted into the living of Broad Hembury in Devonshire. Here he pursued his labours with increasing assiduity, and composed most of his writings. He had for some years occasionally visited and spent some time in London; but, in 1775, finding his constitution much impaired by the moist atmosphere of Devonshire, with which it never agreed, he, removed to London entirely, after some unsuccessful attempts to exchange his living for another, of equivalent value, in some of the middle counties. In London, by the solicitation of his numerous friends, he engaged the chapel, belonging to the French reformed, near Leicester-fields; where he preached twice in the week, while his health permitted, and afterwards occasionally, as much as, or rather more than, he was well able to do. He died Aug. 11, 1778. His body was buried, agreeable to his own desire, communicated to some friends, in Tottenham-court chapel. It is supposed that his intense application to study, which he frequently pursued through the night to three and four o’clock in the morning, was the means of inducing his disorder, and of accelerating his end. From this severe pursuit, so long as his body was able to bear it, he could not be dissuaded.

He had no preferment in the church besides the vicarage of Broad Hembury, which, as his mind could never? brook the idea of living in animosity with his parish upon the account of tithes, did not amount, coinmunibus annis, to | eighty pounds a year. For this living he exchanged another, not far distant from it, which had been procured for him by his friends in a mode which (though usual enough) his conscience could not approve; and therefore, when he became acquainted with the manner of their diligence, which was not for some time afterwards, he could not rest satisfied till he had parted with it.

His publications were, 1. “The Church of England vindicated from the charge of Arminianism; and the case of Arminian Subscription particularly considered; in a Letter to the rev. Dr. Nowell,1769. 2. “The Doctrine of absolute Predestination stated and asserted; with a preliminary discourse on the Divine Attributes: translated in great measure, from the Latin of Jerom Zanchius; with some account of his Life prefixed,1769. 3. “A Letter to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, relative to his pretended abridgment of Zanchius on Predestination,1770, 2d edit. 1771. 4. “A Caveat against unsound Doctrines: a Sermon preached at Blackfryars, April 29, 1770.” 5. “Jesus seen of Angels; and God’s mindfulness of man: three Sermons, preached at Broad Hembury, Devon, Dec. 25, 1770.” 6. “Free Thoughts on the projected Application to Parliament for the Abolition of Ecclesiastical Subscriptions,1771. 7. “More work for Mr. John Wesley: or a vindication of the Decrees and Providence of God from the defamations of a late printed paper, entitled ‘ The Consequence proved/ 1772.” 8. “Clerical Subscription no grievance: a Sermon, preached at the annual Visitation of the archdeaconry of Exeter, May 12, 1772.” 9. “Historical Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England,1774, 2 vols. 8vo. 10. “Free-will and merit fairly examined; or men not their own Saviours: a Sermon preached at Blackfryars, May 25, 1774.” 11. “Good News from Heaven or, the Gospel a joyful sound a Sermon, preached at the Lock-chapel, June 19, 1774.” 12. “The scheme of Christian and Philosophical necessity asserted, in answer to Mr. John Wesley’s tract on that subject,1775. 13. “Joy in Heaven, and the Creed of Devils: two Sermons, preached in London,1775. 14. “Moral and Political Moderation recommended” a Sermon, preached on the general fast, Dec. 13, 1776. 15. “Collection of hymns for public and private worship,1776. 16. “His dying avowal, dated Knightsbridge,July 22, 177S. | Since his death, a complete edition of his Works has been printed in 6 vols. 8vo, besides a volume of posthumous pieces, concerning the authenticity of which some doubts had been entertained, but these were removed by a letter from his executor, Mr. Hussey of Kensington, to whom he gave permission to publish them. How far this was done with judgment has been doubted. It is certain that some of Mr. Toplady’s posthumous works have placed his character in a different point of view from that in which his followers and admirers were wont to contemplate it.

The chief object of his writings, as well as of his sermons, was the defence of Calvinism, and the proof that Calvinism was to be found in the articles, &c. of the church of England. His creed, says one of his reviewers, (we suspect Mr. Badcock) was Calvinism in the extreme; and when he reasoned on some of its distinguishing principles, particularly predestination, he discovered no mean talent for disputation. He understood all the niceties of that article; and if his arguments could not convince, his subtleties would confound an Arminian. He would take his adversary on his own ground, and make his own concessions contribute to his defeat. Of this we have a remarkable example, related by himself, in a letter to Mrs. Macauley, in which he tells her of a debate he once had with Mr. Burgh, author of the “Political Disquisitions.” “I should have had,” says he, “a sharp onset if he had been in perfect health. Even as it was, he could not forbear feeling mv pulse on the article of free will. In the course of our debate, I drove him into this dreadful refuge, viz. 6 that God doth all he possibly can (these were Mr. Burgh’s own words) to hinder moral and natural evil: but he cannot prevail, men will not permit: God to have his wish.’” On Mr. Toplady’s asking him, if this would not render the Deity an unhappy being? he replied, “No, for he knows that he must be disappointed and defeated, and that there’s no help for it: and therefore he submits to the necessity, and does not make himself unhappy about it.

As Mr. Toplady had thus laboured in all his works ‘for the revival of Calvinism, he passed with the generality, and particularly with the public critics, for an enthusiast, with all its supposed accompaniments of austerity, bigotry, and separation from the enjoyments of life and from all society but that of his immediate followers. When therefore in his posthumous works it was discovered that he was | much more a man of the world than ever had “been suspected, the opinion of many of his admirers was in some measure altered. It appeared indeed that he mixed very freely in all the habits of social intercourse with persons of all persuasions and denominations; and we have seen a letter of his in print, in which he not only enters on an elaborate defence of card-playing, but speaks even with gentleness on the subject of theatrical and other public amusements. His admirers thought all this might be candid, or liberal, but they could not conceive it to be consistent with the spirit and tendency of his works, nor indeed discoverable in them. Of his defences of Calvinism, his ’ Historical Proof” is by far the most able, and although the same arguments or proofs have been more recently repeated in a memorable controversy, excited by Mr. Overton’s publications, they have not been placed either in a more fair or more clear light than by Mr. Toplady. As a controversialist, in his disputes with Wesley and others, he has been blamed for a degree of acrimony unworthy of his cause; but he possessed a warm and active imagination, and a degree of zeal which was not always under the guidance of judgment. Against Wesley he may be said to have had a confirmed antipathy, and employed ridicule as well as argument in opposing his opinions and conduct. The last act of his life was to publish what he called his “Dying Avowal,” in which he contradicted a report circulated by Wesley or his followers, respecting his having changed his sentiments. In this short “Avowal,' 7 he informs us that his Arminian prejudices received their first shock from reading Dr. Manton’s sermons on the xviiih chapter of St. John’s Gospel. Besides the works abovementioned, Mr. Toplady was the editor, for some year?, of” The Gospel Magazine,“began in 1774; and in it, under the article,” Review of Books, 1 * will be found some of his bitterest philippics against Wesley. Upon the whole, however, he must be considered as one of the ablest of modern writers in defence of Calvinism, and brought a larger share of metaphysical acuteness into the controversy than any man of his time. 1


Life published in 1778, 8vo.—Works, passim.—Month. Rev. vol. LXX.