Augustus M. Toplady and John Wesley : their theological controversy on predestination
Ryan, Colin Philip
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During the turbulent period from 1769 to 1778 the Christian Church in Britain witnessed a veritable war of written words; books and pamphlets flew off the press and engulfed many of the well-known churchmen of that time. This was to have a detrimental effect upon the progress of the 18" Century Revival. Surprisingly, the problem started with the prominent, revivalist preacher, John Wesley. He published a short pamphlet ridiculing a recently published book on Predestination by the Italian Reformer, Jerome Zanchi. This book had been translated into English and published by Augustus M. Toplady. When Wesley distributed his pamphlet he did not place his own name on it, but signed it A-T-. As these were Toplady's initials, this led many people to believe that Toplady was attempting to undermine his own work. Thus, began the events that form the focus of this research. The confrontation was to engulf the whole Church, with individuals like the Rev John Fletcher, Walter Sellon and Mr. Thomas Olivers, amongst others, publishing works in support of John Wesley. The Rev. John Berridge, John Gill, Rowland Hill and most of the Evangelical Wing of the Church of England supported Toplady. The last pamphlet in this 'war of words' was 'fired' from the press after the death of Toplady, some nine years later. This research provides a short biographical account of each of the three main protagonists -Wesley, Toplady and Zanchi - together with a study of the teaching of the Church of England at the time. Apart from the writings of the three men mentioned above, there is some consideration given to the other participants in this confrontation: T. Olivers, John Fletcher, John Berridge, Rowland Hill, and to the four sermons by the American, William Cooper. The various Christian Doctrines embraced by the protagonists are examined comparatively and a concluding review is undertaken to determine if such a very public problem may be avoided in the future.
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