Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Wisdom of Augustus Toplady for Today's SBC

My friend Dr. George Ella was commissioned in the 1990's by the British Historical Society to write a definitive biography biography on the great Anglican pastor, theologian and poet Augustus Toplady. Most Southern Baptists would only know of Toplady through the hymn 'Rock of Ages,' which he wrote. I have recently reread Ella's excellent biography and supplemented my desire to know more of Toplady by reading the beneficial one volume book entitled The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications: 1987). I found myself gleaning golden nuggets of counsel from Toplady's written wisdom regarding ministers, principles he articulated nearly 300 years ago. The following examples are relevant for Southern Baptist pastors and leaders today. In a time when some Southern Baptists seem to grasp for the choice morsels of denominational praise and acceptance, leaving the choicest meats of principles, heartfelt convictions, and necessary reform on the convention's plate, the words of Augustus Toplady provide the needed fuel for evangelical, reform-minded pastors to keep the faith.

(1). When the minister is falsely or slanderously accused.

"Gospel ministers should not be too hasty and eager to wipe off every aspersion that is cast on them falsely for Christ's sake. Dirt on the character (if unjustly thrown), like dirt on the clothes, should be let alone for a while, until it dries; and then it will rub off easily enough." (Augustus Toplady, Observations and Reflections, The Complete Works of August Toplady, Sprinkle Publications, page. 550).

(2). The passion of the preacher's life and message.

"Gregory Nazianzen says, in his euologium on Basil, 'Thy word was thunder and they life was lightening.' Such should the preaching and lifestyle of every minister be." (Ibid, p. 550).

(3). On pastors not responding to the trivial and trite criticisms of colleagues.

"Were evangelical preachers and writers to stop, and give a lash to every spiteful noisy cur that yelps at them in their way to the kingdom of God, they would have enough to do before they got to their journey's end." (Ibid, p. 550).

(4). The courage of conviction in the heart of the leader.

"The best clock in the world will be spoiled, if you are perpetually moving the hands backwards and forwards, and altering it in order to make it keep time with a variety of other clocks; it will hardly ever go regularly and well. So a minister, who shapes and accommodates his sentiments and discourses to the tastes and humours and opinions of other people, will never be happy, respectable, or useful."(Ibid, 550).

(5). On the preaching of the pure gospel.

"Among the great variety of preachers, some give the pure gospel wine, unadulterated and undashed. Others give wine and water. Some give mere cold water, without a drop of wine among it. The weight of opposition will always fall heaviest on those who sound the gospel trumpet loudest." (Ibid, p. 550).

This is food for thought for any evangelical Southern Baptist pastor who wavers between his desires for the favorable opinions of men and his faithful fulfillment of God's calling, regardless of any human endorsement.

In His Grace,



Robin Foster said...


It sounds like Dr. Patterson is fulfilling all of these admonitions.

God Bless!!!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the quotes.

Augustus Montague Toplady is quite an intriguing minister, and makes for a good historical study. His relationship with the Wesleys was turbulent, which may seem strange in light of how many hymnals place "Rock of Ages" and "Jesus Lover of My Soul" across the pages from one another (how many people know these men). Perhaps we often aren't as far apart as we seem.

One interesting work of Toplady that often is unnoticed was his translation of Jerome Zanchius' The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination from the Latin. Toplady was only 38 years old when he died. said...


I am certain that Dr. Patterson displays these qualities too, Robin. I'm not sure what your purpose is in redirecting the comment section in writing your comment, but I wish the Lord's blessings to you as well. Toplady also remarked that 'pastors who play only one note on their ministry trumpets often fail to produce sweet music for the soul.'

In His Grace,

Wade said...

Mr. Vaughn,

I wonder if anyone else besides me has ever noticed how many great men and women of God died at either 38 or 53?



Robin Foster said...


I haven't redirected. I showed an example of what Toplady was presenting. It was on topic with your post.

I am also glad that you agree that the need to remain faithful to our calling takes precedent over the opinions (endorsements) of men.

God Bless!!!

Blackhaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blackhaw said...

Bro. robin,

Your post was just what I was thinking. Although I am not a Patterson apologist of any sort, but I think his treatment of the criticisms of Ben Cole are just what Toplady suggested.


on comment #2 from Toplady (I think) it would have been better just to go the Theologian himself than get the words from one like Toplady. No offense to Toplady but Nazienzen was the man! And he has a lot to say to contemporary pastors.


Anonymous said...


It is good to see that Dr. Patterson has your endorsement.

Anonymous said...

Alright! I have found my role in religious life!
To be a "... spiteful noisy cur that yelps...."

See? Seek and ye shall find!

Steve Austin

Debbie Kaufman said...

Ha ha Steve. :)

Wade: This spoke to me as well. I am not a theologian nor a pastor, but those words were applicable personally nonetheless.

irreverend fox said...


Thank you for your recent emphasis on missions and pastoral ministry! Your insights into those arenas are far more valuable to me than sbc politics.

I wish I had a whole day of your time…you could help me be better at both!

But like every great and beautiful Kingdom has an underground sewer system...that for everyone’s benefit must function is sbc politics in the Kingdom of Christ I believe.

Unfortunately you’ve been “forced” to deal with such stinking problems…but we all at the end of the day are thankful to you for it.

Anonymous said...

Give me that good wine anyday.Hearing the teaching of the Word of God and how it relates to us is much more gratifying to me than making me feel good. If it steps on my toes maybe there's something in my life that needs changing. I am thankful to be involved in a church where the Pastor teaches and preaches biblical principles, and his life reflects his those principles. I won't mention his name but his initials are W B

rick t

Anonymous said...

Bro. Robin,

Great minds think alike. I was thinking the exact same thing as I was reading the post this morning. Dr. Patterson has demonstrated a tremendous amount of integrity as everybody from him, to his wife, to his dog has been unjustly attacked. Wade, thank you for sharing this with us to show us that the character of Toplady is alive and well today in the lives of such men as Dr. Patterson.

In Christ,
John B. said...

John B.

You're welcome. Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. This post was right on time for me today.

Danny Cabaniss

Anonymous said...

soooooooooo....describe several examples of 'trivial and trite' that preachers(and assumably other Christians) in #3 should ignore.
Then describe some criticisms(constructive) that are worth listening to...
be specific...
Does the same list apply to minister and laymen(in other words, all Christians) alike?...or are there some unique things about ministers that should allow them to ignore some critics that others need to pay heed to?

Anonymous said...

Toplady didn't say to ignore anything. He advised us to not always "give a lash."

Danny C.

Anonymous said...


We've had our disagreements and differences. In fact, some probably would put me on the other side. But..

Gentlemen, its about Toplady, not Patterson. :)

Good post Wade I enjoyed it.


Anonymous said...


It is not about Toplady. It is about "Today's SBC" according to Wade's title.

John B.

Robin Foster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin Foster said...

Bro. Dougald

I Thought it was about Toplady's wisdom, not him personally.

Dr. Patterson was only presented as an example of Toplady's wisdom.

I apologize if this has thrown everybody off.

So everybody, let's get back on target and talk about Toplady's wisdom for today's SBC and leave personalities out of it.

Kevin Bussey said...

Congrats Wade!

You been Peter Lumpkins in the "Who's Now?" contest 6701 votes to 61.

Rex Ray said...

My 5 year old nephew was scolded for hitting a small girl and was asked again and again why, but he never said a word.
My father said, “Now, you answer your grandmother!”
“My mouth’s tired of talking.”

It’s interesting out of 22 comments, Patterson’s name is in 8—that’s 36% off topic.

After making his third ‘yea, yea’ for him, Bro. Robin apologizes and says, “So everybody, let’s get back on target…”

BTW, Robin, since your blogger profile is not available, would you be kin to Patterson?

I believe Toplady might have some wisdom for my nephew.

Rex Ray