« PreviousContinue »
very much oblige one who wishes you the peaceable enjoyment of every temporal and spiritual good. Believing, nevertheless, that the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Sion, &c.
“ Dear Sir, believe me to be
J. GAWKRODGER." Bridlington, Aug ist 30, 1779.
Methinks, sir, this letter breathes the language of real Christianity, and of an heart deeply concerned and interested in the welfare of one from whose works I know, that Mr. G. had received the highest delight and satisfaction. He had read the account of Mr. Toplady's illness and death; he rejoiced to see the doctrines of the gospel confirmed and established in the experience of that eminent servant of Jesus Christ; and his own heart found strong consolation whilst be meditated on the triumphant victory, which his late brother in the ministry had obtained over the king of terrors, through faith in our glorious Immanuel.
Amidst these views and meditations, he is told, by a pious friend and neighbour of his, that Mr. John Wesley had assured him, “ that Mr. Toplady died blaspheming, in black despair ; that none of his friends were permitted to see him in his illness; and that the account of his death, published by his friends, was a gross imposition on the public; and that a preacher of Mr. Wesley's had moreover asserted the same, with this further circumstance, that the person who attended Mr. Toplady in his illness,
struck with horror at his awful departure, had joined the methodists."
Overwhelmed with grief and amazement at this declaration, and the authority produced in defence of it (an authority which he dares not call in 'question), he writes to me to be further informed of the matter. Upon the receipt of this letter, I thought it best to go to the fountain head, in order to investigate the truth, and therefore called upon you, in the public papers, to know whether you did, or did not, assert the things which are charged upon you. If you did not assert them, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Greaves, and several other persons, have treated
you in a manner the most injurious, by making use of the sanction of your name for the propagation of a most wicked and malicious lie. If you did assert them, either you had, or had not authority for your assertions; if you had no authority, then you, yourself, must have been the inventor of them. If you had authority, then you must know whence that authority came. In order, therefore, to exculpate your own character before the world, be pleased now to name that authority. Tell us how you became so well acquainted with what passed in Mr. Toplady's sick chamber, and on his dyingbed, when even his most dear and intimate friends were not permitted to see him ? Did his nurse, Mrs. Sterling, who attended him, and was with him when he died, communicate this intelligence? I hear she has called upon you on purpose to vindicate herself, from the charge of any such assertion; and is ready to declare to all the world, that throughout Mr. Toplady's long illness, to the hour of his dissolution, prayer and praise, joy and triumph in the God of his salvation, were the continual employments of his lips and heart. But as your conduct will probably make one of the many friends who were permitted to see Mr. Toplady in his illness, think it necessary to give the public some further particulars, relative to the
state of his soul in that trying season; I shall only, in this place, present you with a short abstract, from a letter which I received from a worthy clergyman, a friend of Mr. Toplady's, soon after his departure; his words are as follow:
“ You will be pleased with the two following remarks made by Mr. Toplady, not long before his death : “ To a person interested in the salvation of Christ, sickness is no disease, pain no affliction, death no dissolution.” The other was an answer to Doctor Gifford, in consequence of the Doctor's expressing hopes that Mr. Toplady might recover, and be again useful. Mr. Toplady heard what his friend had to say, and then expressed himself nearly in the following words: “ I believe God never gave such manifestations of his love to any creature, and suffered him to live.”—Thus far, my friend.
We can now look to no other source from whence these reports may have flowed, than to the most de . liberate malice of Mr. Toplady's avowed foes, among whom, notwithstanding your continual preaching about “ love, love; peace, peace, my brethren,” I fear you are chief. Till therefore you produce your authority for what you told Mr. Thomas Robinson and others, I have full right, nay, I am absolutely necessitated to fix upon you, Rev. Sir, as the raiser, and fabricator of this most nefarious report; which I cannot look upon merely as a common falsity, but as a malicious attempt to invalidate and set aside the testimony which God, the eternal Spirit himself, was pleased to bear to his own truth, and to his own work, upon the heart of a dying believer; and eyen to turn that testimony into the blasphemies of satan. And in this view of it, how far short it falls of the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, must be left to your awful consideration.
When one Jane Cowper, a person belonging to your societies, died, you were ready enough to give your imprimatur and recommendation to every wild
flight of fancy she uttered, as “ all strong sterling sense, strictly agreeable to sound reason.”.
“Here, (says Mr. Wesley in his preface) are no extravagant flights, no mystic reveries, no unscriptural enthusiasm. The sentiments are all just and noble.”. The cause is plain. The Lord (it seems) had promised this Jane Cowper, " that Mr. J. Wesley's latter works should exceed his former,” therefore she must be canonized *; but Mr. Toplady, in his dying avowal, had borne his open testimony both against Mr. Wesley and his principles ; therefore, "the devil himself could not have invented any thing worse than what he had uttered,” and he must be sent blaspheming and despairing into the bottomless pit. Behold! Sir, what self partiality and a desire to make known your own importance leads you to. The like spirit runs throughout all your publications, whether sermons, journals, appeals, preservatives, Arminian magazines, &c. &c. in all of which, it is too evident, that the grand design in view is that of trumpeting forth your own praises. Tedious and fulsome as this appears in the eyes of men- of sense and judgment, yet à gentleman of Mr. Wesley's cunning and subtlety can, from hence, suck no small advantage, as there are multitudes amongst your own people, who, through a blind attachment to your person, and a no less blind zeal to promote your interests, look upon it as perfectly right and proper; and are at all times, and upon all occasions, ready to pay the most implicit obedience to your ipse dixits, and to believe, or disbelieve, just as you would have them. But I have nothing to do with
* Notwithstanding this young woman might, in some instances, be under the influence of a spirit of enthusiasm, yet far be it from me to affirm, that the whole of her experience was a delusion. On the contrary, I am persuaded she was a sincere devoted Christian, and believe that she is now in heaven. VOL. I.
such bigots: to endeavour to open their eyes by argument, would be as vain as to attempt to wash the Æthiopian white, or to change the leopard's spots. There are, however, many persons of good sense and true piety in your societies, who, in spite of all your artifices, begin to form a judgment of you according to facts. It is for the benefit of such persons, as well as to vindicate the memory of a departed saint from your foul aspersions, that you are presented with this epistle; though I confess I was some time before I could bring myself to write or print it. I considered, that a misjuding, prejudiced world would be happy to take advantage from its contents, and to cry “there, there, so would we have it;" “ the methodists * are all fallen together by the ears, and are discharging their artillery at one another.” I considered again, that as to expose you was not my motive, so to bring you to any submission was never in human power. I had well nigh resolved to be silent. On the other hand, I perceived that the sealing testimony, which God vouchsafed to his own truths in the experience of Mr. Toplady, during his illness, and at the time of his death, was not only denied by you, but even construed into a gross imposition of his friends to deceive the public, and thereby the good effects which might justly have been hoped for, were in great measure counteracted; that his enemies were
* I observed, upon a former occasion, that the name of Methodist, as it is indiscriminately given by way of reproach, to all who have more zeal for religion than is consistent with the fashion of the times, I have no desire to shake off; on the contrary, I would glory in it, as the badge which every real Christian is allotted to wear; and I would
pray that I might deserve it much more than I do. But as it conveys the idea of an attachment to the tenets of Mr. Wesley, in opposition to the word of God, and to the doctrines of all the protestant churches, that of this nation in particular ; in this view of it, I desire totally to renounce it.