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of interment. And though the funeral was meant to have been as private as possible, several thousands of persons were nevertheless collected, to witness the solemnity.
It was Mr. Toplady's particular request, that no funeral sermon should be preached for him. The Rev. Rowland Hill, however, then in the vigour of life, though now as venerable for his years, as he has always been distinguished for his zeal and piety, could not repress his feelings so far as to be silent on the occasion. Trespassing for once, but trespassing very innocently, and very properly, on the wish which modesty led his deceased friend to express, he, in his best style of eloquence, pronounced a funeral oration, which is said to have produced a very powerful impression on the minds of those, to wbom it was addressed. The funeral service was read by the Rev. Dr. Illingworth; and a suitable hymn having been sung, the body was entombed in the family grave of his friend, and executor, Mr. Hussey. Over the grave, which is under the gallery, and opposite the pulpit, in the above named chapel, is laid a plain stone, on which, nothing more than his name and age, are inscribed.
The bitter enmity with whichi some had pursued Mr. Toplady, through the greater part of his public life, not only continued its virulence, as we have already seen, during his last illness, but even, as must now reluctantly be told, followed him to the grave. After the account which has just been given, on the most indubitable testimony, of his joy and peace in believing, during his sickness, and at bis death, will it be credited, that his old antagonist, Mr. Wesley, publicly asserted, that he died blaspheming, and in the horror of despair !
It was, at first, our design, to have suppressed any account of this most outrageous attempt to disturb the ashes, or, at any rate, to disgrace the memory of a man, eminent for piety, above most men that have
lived since the days of the apostles. But as it is possible, that some may still retail the story, to blacken the reputation of this celebrated Calvinist, and thus to give a thrust at the heart of Calvinism itself; a regard to the memory of the dead, to the welfare of the living, and to the honour of the truth itself, seems imperiously to require, that the matter be fairly and fully stated. And this can be done with the greater confidence, that the fact of the cruel and calumnious report, together with its complete and triumphant refutation, rest on evidence altogether irrefragable.
Sir Richard Hill, equally a friend of Mr. Toplady, and of the truth as it is in Jesus, indignant at the conduct of Mr. Wesley, on this occasion, addressed to him an anonymous letter, in one of the newspapers of the day, calling upon him to deny the report, referred to, if unfounded. No reply having been made to this letter, Sir Richard, in a few weeks after, published another, in the form of a small pamphlet, to which he annexed bis name, and in which he avowed himself the author of the preceding letter, signed, VERITAS. Both these documents shall now be given at full length,
Letter addressed to the Rev. John Wesley, which
appeared in the Magazines of that period.
Rev. Sir, “I give you this public notice, that certain persons who are your enemies, perhaps only because you keep clear of their Calvinistic doctrines, have thought proper to affirm, that you and some of your preachers, have been vilifying the ashes, and traducing the memory of the late Mr. Augustus Toplady. Nay, it was even positively alleged, that you told Mr. Thomas Robinson of Hilderthorpe, near Bridlington in Yorkshire, and the Rev. Mr. Greaves,
curate to Mr. Fletcher of Madeley, that the account published concerning Mr. Toplady's death, was a gross imposition on the public; for that he died in black despair, uttering the most horrible blasphemies; and that none of his friends were permitted to see him. All which was repeated at Bridlington, by one of your preachers, whose name is Rhodes, who further compared Mr. Toplady's case, to the awful one of Francis Spira: and added, “ that the dreadful manner in which he died, had caused a woman who attended him to join your societies.”
“ Now, sir, as many living respectable witnesses can testify that Mr. Toplady departed this life in the full triumph of faith, and that the account published to the world of the state of soul he was in during his long illness, and at the hour of dissolution, was strictly and literally à true one, you are earnestly requested, for the satisfaction of your friends, thus, publicly to assure the world, that you never advanced any thing of this sort to Mr. Robinson, Mr. Greaves, or to any other person; or else that you will produce your authority for your assertions; otherwise, it is to be feared, that your own character will suffer much, for having vented a most gross malicious falsehood against a dead man who cannot answer for himself, in order to support your own cause and party.”
I am, Rev. Sir,
Letter to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, Hawkstone,
Nov. 29, 1779. Rev. Sir, “The cause of my thus publicly addressing you, is owing to an information I received, that you wished to know who was the author of a letter, which appeared in the General Advertiser, on Friday the 8th
of October last, wherein were some queries put to you concerning certain reports which it was supposed you had spread, relative to the illness and death of the late Mr. Augustus Toplady. I was further given to understand, that you had declared your intention of answering that letter, if the writer would annex his name to it. This being the case, though no names cannot at all alter facts, yet as I really wish to be rightly informed myself, and as the reports which have been propagated about Mr. TopJady have much staggered and grieved many serious Christians, I now (under my real signature) beg with all plainness, and with no other design than that the real truth may be known, again to propound those questions to you which were put in that letter, of which I confess myself to have been the sole author. And as I hear you have been pleas. ed to call the letter a scurrilous one, I should be glad if you would point out to me wherein that scurrility consists ; for though it were anonymous, I am not in the least conscious that there was any thing in it unbecoming that respect which might be due to a gentleman of your venerable age and function; and when you have shown me wherein I have been culpable, I shall then readily and submissively ask your pardon. The letter itself I shall annex to this. The queries contained in it may be reduced to the following:
1st. Did you, sir, or did you not tell Mr. Thomas Robinson, of Hilderthorpe, near Bridlington in Yorkshire, that Mr. Toplady died in black despair, blaspheming; and that a greater imposition never was imposed on the public than that published by his friends relative to his death ?
2dly. Did you ever tell the same in substance to the Rev. Mr. Greaves *, curate to Mr. Fletcher of Madeley, or to any other person ?
* I hope this worthy gentleman, for whom I profess a sincere esteem, will pardon my having introduced his name without asking his permission.
3dly. Did you, or did you not say, that none of Mr. Toplady's friends were permitted to see him during his illness ?
I now beg leave to tell you, that the cause of my offering these queries to you was owing to the following letter, which I received just before, from a kind friend, and worthy minister of the gospel at Burlington (or Bridlington) in Yorkshire.
“ Honoured and dear friend, “ Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied unto you from the Father, and from Jesus Christ, by the blessed Spirit. On the 21st day of August, 1779, I received from Mr. Thomas Robinson, of Hilderthorp, the following awful, and no less shocking, aocount, respecting the death of Mr. Toplady. He said, Mr. J. Wesley told him, that Mr. Toplady died in black despair, blaspheming; and that a greater imposition was never imposed on the public, than that published by his friends relative to his death. He added also, that none of his friends were permitted to see him in bis illness: and that one of Mr. John Wesley's preachers, whose name is Rhodes, did, on the 20th instant, declare, that Mr. Toplady's case was equal to that of Francis Spira; and that the servant who waited upon him did, after his death, join Mr. Wesley's societies, signifying that there was something very awfult. Now, dear Sir, as I know nobody more capable of giving me some satisfaction respecting this heart-affecting report than what you are; please to excuse the liberty I have taken in troubling you ; wishing and beseeching you, to give me if you can, a true account of this gloomy story,
+ I cannot believe so ill of Mr. Rhodes, as to suppose he himself invented this borrid tale. He best knows whence he had it. But Mr. Wesley and he being at Burlington about the same time, there is reason to suppose he received it from the same quarter Mr. T. Robinson did.