To This Great Stage of Fools: Born November 4th

Augustus Montague Toplady, b. 1740. Toplady’s most famous hymn is Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me, but this one, A Debtor To Mercy Alone, is one we sing in my church frequently:

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now, nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo, or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in Heav’n.

'John Wesley Monument, Reynolds Square, Savannah, GA' photo (c) 2005, Jon Worth - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Toplady was a great opponent of the Wesleys, especially John Wesley, and he wrote many pamphlets and sermons in opposition to what he termed John Wesley’s “pernicious doctrines,” namely Arminianism. As Toplady was dying at age thirty-eight, he heard of rumors to the effect that he was sorry for the things he had said of John Wesley and wanted to apologize and beg Wesley’s forgiveness. Toplady got up almost literally from his deathbed in order to dispell those rumors and reaffirm his belief in Calvinism and his opposition to the Arminianism of John Wesley.

“It having been industriously circulated by some malicious and unprincipled persons that during my present long and severe illness I expressed a strong desire of seeing Mr. John Wesley before I die, and revoking some particulars relative to him which occur in my writings,- Now I do publicly and most solemnly aver That I have not nor ever had any such intention or desire; and that I most sincerely hope my last hours will be much better employed than in communing with such a man. So certain and satisfied am I of the truth of all that I have ever written, that were I now sitting up in my dying bed with a pen and ink in my hand, and all the religious and controversial writings I ever published, especially those relating to Mr. John Wesley and the Arminian controversy, whether respecting fact or doctrine, could be at once displayed to my view, I should not strike out a single line relative to him or them.”

We sing the hymn above by Toplady and this one by Charles Wesley both at my church. Are the three of them, John, Charles, and Augustus, in heaven amused at the proximity of their two hymns–which seem to my untutored brain to have much the same theme and theology?

Arise my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

J.C. Ryle on Augustus Toplady
Toplady’s Letter to John Wesley

So today I’m thanking God for John Wesley, his brother Charles, and for Augustus Toplady, and I’m asking Him to have mercy on us all–Arminians, Calvinists, and Fence-Sitters, like me.

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