Augustus Toplady (November 4, 1740 – August 11, 1778)

There are only a few hymns which reach the level of secular penetration like that of “Amazing Grace.” One of the few in that realm is Augustus Toplay’s “Rock of Ages.” So, who is this man? Did he write anything else?

His story reads like so many English writers from the 18th century. He grew up in the Anglican church, father was in the military, father died in the service while his son was still very young. He was raised by his mother whose family had some means to support them.

It is here that his story starts to get a bit colorful. As a fifteen-year-old, Augustus and his mother Catherine, moved to Ireland so he could attend Trinity College in Dublin. That August he attended a service held in a barn where a barely literate preacher by the name of James Morris (who may or may not have been a follower of John Wesley, more later) so convicted Augustus’s heart, he turned his life to Christ. He thought it was God’s hand which allowed this preacher who could “barely spell his own name” to lead to him to faith in Christ.

As was common in England at this time, the Arminian teaching of the Wesley’s held sway throughout the land. A few years after his conversion, through the reading of Dr. Manton’s sermons on St John, Toplady began to move away from the Arminianism of the Wesleys and began to embrace a Calvinistic faith. After his graduation, he and his mother moved back to Westminster where he fell under the influence of Calvinists such as George Whitefield and John Gill.

It was John Gill who encouraged Toplady to publish his translation of Girolamo Zachi’s Confession of the Christian Religion (1562). The work of translating this text cemented Toplay into the Calvinist camp. This brought forth the rapidly deteriorating relationship with Charles Wesley. They had been cordial, but in the end these two devout son’s of Christ could barely stand even the thought of the other. Hmmmm….

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