"AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY
A DEBTOR TO MERCY ALONE"
George M. Ella
A Review Published by Gospel Magazine Trust & Go Publications. Fully illustrated, 800 pages
THOSE of us who have enjoyed George Ella's biographies of Gill, Huntington, Hervey and Cowper, will not be disappointed with this inspiring account of the life of Augustus Montague Toplady. As Ella points out, Toplady is among the most neglected and forgotten of the great men of the Evangelical Revival. Most of those who know anything of him today are aware that he wrote Rock of Ages and possibly that he was in contention with John Wesley - Wesley being the 'good guy' and Toplady 'the baddie'. They might also be under the impression that he was an extreme 'hyper-calvinist' and therefore not worthy of further consideration. Even Bishop Ryle under-valued him.
Dr Ella sets the record right, with ample proof from the publications and letters of the period. The result being that Toplady shines as one of the great lights of our English evangelical history, not only in the example of his life, but also in the wealth of his writings.
Augustus Montague Toplady
As one who left the Church of England ministry in 1975 after 21 years - when the 39 Articles were 'downgraded' - it came as a surprise to discover how Toplady in his day had put the case for the recognition of the Church of England as the best example of a 'Reformed' church. He saw it as being defined by her Articles and the Homilies. (As an aside, I would venture to suggest that not one in 1,000 of the Clergy of the Church of England today, has read even one of the Homilies, much less agree with any of them!) Toplady's fellowship with all who held to the Doctrines of Grace, whether they were Independents, Congregationalists, Baptists or Presbyterians, was very evident, but with the proviso that he saw the Church of England, with all its 'false shepherds', as being the most biblical of churches. What would he think of it today, I wonder?
The book is in two main sections, firstly the Biography and secondly the Anthology. The Biography reveals a man who came to a deep appreciation of the Doctrines of Grace and saw how these were essential to the preservation and proclamation of a Gospel of Grace - hence his controversy with John Wesley and his Arminianism. In this matter Toplady is revealed not only as a man concerned for the defence of the gospel but also a very gracious man. Sadly, the same cannot be said for his opponent. However, while many have identified Toplady solely with this matter, Ella reveals a man who is far from negative. He shows him to have been a very attractive and effective preacher of the gospel, whose pastoral example in country parishes and whose preaching gifts at Orange Street* and other London
churches compare favourably with that of his contemporaries - Gill, Hervey, Madan and Romaine.
The second section of the book, the Anthology, is a rich source of Hymns, Poetry, Biographies, Christian Doctrine and many other 'gems' from his writings. The book is more than worth the asking price for this section alone! As usual with Ella, the Indexes and References are excellent.
Dr Ella reveals an extraordinarily fruitful life of one who did not enjoy robust health and who lived for only 37 years. Oh, that God would raise up such for us today! His life was an example of pastoral care and powerful preaching with a gift of clear teaching. Ella has restored this example to our generation in another of his fine biographies. If through reading this book, Toplady becomes one of your heroes of the faith - you will be blessed.
*Orange Street Congregational Church
Frederick Serjeant, Bridport, Dorset
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