Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England

Augustus Toplady

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740–1778)

Published in 1774, The Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England is Augustus Toplady’s magnus opus, a massive study that has never been refuted. Read online»

For anyone interested in learning more about the doctrine or history of Calvinism, The Works of Augustus M. Toplady (6 vols.) from Logos Bible Software is highly recommended and now available for pre-order. For more info click here»

For a brief biographical summary of Augustus Toplady’s life and works click here»

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8 Responses to “Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England”

  1. calvinandcalvinism Says:

    Ive actually read a good bit of this work. I found it to be pretty bad. His treatment of Latimer was exceptionally bad.

    Thanks,
    David
    Calvin and Calvinism

    • RJ Endresz Says:

      David,

      Augustus Toplady was an uncompromising Calvinist (though not a hyper-Calvinist) and stood firmly against the rising tide of Arminianism.

      As regards to Latimer’s Calvinism, he wrote:

      “Though we must not always expect to find in the discourses of Latimer, that exactness of logical accuracy, and that strictness of systematic harmony, which mark the performances of more accomplished divines; still we shall be sure to meet with genuine signatures of a gracious heart, and with lively vestiges of the knowledge that comes from above. And, notwithstanding the Arminians affect to claim this reformer for their own, the absolute want of truth, on which that claim is founded, will abundantly appear from the many striking and decisive passages, which I shall shortly lay before the reader.”

      He then proceeds to produce upwards of a hundred passages from Latimer himself, in support of the assertion that “he was, in reality, a Calvinist, a strict Calvinist, a zealous Calvinist, and, in most respects, a consistent Calvinist.” (Section XIII)

      I do not wish to weigh in on the debate about Latimer’s Calvinism. It is sufficient to say he was no Arminian.

      It’s also worth bearing in mind that Augustus Toplady had a great appreciation for Latimer, irrespective of any differences, counting him among the “divines, to whom, under God, this kingdom [England] is chiefly indebted for its reformation from Popery.” (Section XIII).

      Thanks for your comment.

      Have a good day!

  2. calvinandcalvinism Says:

    hey there,

    This is your blog so feel free to delete this. My assumption is that folk post on blogs (and with comments section open) with the intention of inviting conversation (though not belligerency or trolls). If you want to delete this please do, I will not be offended. All I ask is that you read it and perhaps check out the sources from Latimer directly.

    With respect, a few things which may help

    1) Toplady just asserts that when Latimer used terms like “whole world” he meant the elect alone.

    Take his example on page 316, he reads Latimer in a way that is unnecessary and unnatural. He truncates the quotation from Latimer and ignores that Latimer means to speak of two aspects, the remedy and the deliverance. The deliverance is limited to the believers, but the remedy is of such a nature that it equals the sins of the whole world.

    You can see this in another comment from Latimer which is very similar:

    “for he only satisfies for the sins of the whole world; so that all that believe in Christ be clean from all the filthiness of their sins. For St John Baptist saith, Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.”

    Earlier in this, he repeats the phrase ‘Christ dying for us.’

    2) From the foonote (h) on p316, he asserts that when Latimer said Christ shed his blood as much for Judas as he did for Peter, he spoke only of the sufficiency of the satisfaction. But this A) flies in the face of earlier a secondary source near-contemporary authors who refer to this comment of Latimer, B) Toplady just asserts it. When the immediate context clearly says that its an oblation for the sins of the world; and C) it puts Latimer at odds with Cranmer and his own prayer book.

    3) Then the second quotation on the same page. ‘Christ died for me’ (my paraphrase) as meaning Christ died only for me. But that is a double fallacy there. A) he inserts a negation into Latimer where there is none; B) he assumes that a simple positive entails a universal negation (eg: John loves Jane entails John loves Jane only).

    This is actually quite common expression at times. Latimer refer so the truth that we must not rest on generalities, but, for true saving faith, I must also believe that Christ died for me. This fact puts Latimer out of the Toplady camp, as true saving faith cannot carry the assumption that Christ died for you in particular. That knowledge is only part of what was later called reflexive faith (Turretin).

    4) Regarding Latimer’s sufficiency, Toplady converts that to a simple intrinsic sufficiency. This is doubtful given A) Toplady’s statements and B) the sufficiency formula was not revised until after Latimer’s death (see Berkhof, Cunningham et al).

    5) as to the 100 passages, if the footnotes are something we can go by, 30 citations after page 316?

    6) Also you may be confusing Calvinism (as defined by you or even by Toplady) with the Augustianism of the English Reformers. All the English Reformers were Augustinian. They held to unconditional election, total depravity, eternal security, the effectual call, etc. But yet all held to unlimited expiation: Christ died for all. Latimer was, as it were, a precursor to groups like the Sydney Anglicans.

    Toplady conflates his version of Calvinism with that of the original English Reformers. This is an assumption that itself needs to be assessed. He precludes the possibility of variations of Reformed Augustinian theology. Richard Muller is specific on varieties of Reformation theology and trajectories.

    7) Lastly, statements like this are clear:

    “and so, at the Father’s will, Christ took on him human nature, being willing to deliver man out of this miserable way, and was content to suffer cruel passion in shedding his blood for all mankind.” Hugh Latimer, Sermons by Hugh Latimer, Sometime Bishop of Worcester (Cambridge: CUP, 1844), 1:7.

    You can see more of Latimer here: Hugh Latimer (1487-1555) on the Death of Christ

    Toplady’s treatment of Hooper and Cranmer suffer from the same sort of misreadings.

    Thanks for your time and patience,
    David

  3. calvinandcalvinism Says:

    A correction if I may.

    I had said: “This is doubtful given A) Toplady’s statements and…” I should have said, Latimer. Sorry about that.

    Thanks,
    David
    Main Index

    • RJ Endresz Says:

      David,

      I think such a view fails to harmonize the writings of Latimer.

      Toplady makes a valid point:

      “[Latimer] peremptorily affirms, that Christ did not die for such as shall be eventually lost. “Mark here,” says he, “Scripture speaketh not of impenitent sinners: Christ died not for them; his death remedieth not their sins.” Now, if there be any, for whom Christ “died not,” and whose sins his death “remedieth not;” it follows, that, in this reformer’s idea, redemption is not universal.

      His frequently affirming, that Christ expiated the sins of “the whole world,” does by no means clash with his doctrine in the above passages. Indeed, it is saying no more than the Scripture has repeatedly said before him. The point of enquiry is, what does that phrase, the whole world, import?” (Section XIII)

      So what is Latimer’s view of the atonement? I’m inclined to agree with Toplady:

      “But, though he believed redemption not to be absolutely universal, this belief of his did by no means arise (any more than ours) from a diminutive idea of the worth and value of Christ’s atonement. He acknowledged its intrinsic sufficiency to redeem every individual of the human species, though he denied its actual universality. Thus he speaks. ‘Notwithstanding his death might be sufficient for all the whole world, yet, for all that, no man shall enjoy that same benefit, but only they that believe in him.'” (Section XIII)

      I grant that the terminology can be misleading [see “Sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” from Theopedia]. But I do not agree that the doctrine of definite or limited atonement is a Calvinist peculiarity or that the doctrine of limited atonement was a later scholastic innovation, and not original to Calvin himself. Indeed, Augustine of Hippo taught most of the elements of limited atonement (see (Some) Patristic Views of Atonement).

      I appreciate your thoughts.

      But I think we might just have to agree to disagree on this one.

  4. calvinandcalvinism Says:

    Hey RJ:

    David:

    If you take Latimer’s statment that Christ shed his blood as much as he did for Judas as he did for Peter for example, Toplady just makes an assertion. On what basis does he make the assertion? Have you ever read or heard an limited expiation proponent make such a statement? No. If later merely referred to the sufficiency of the satisfaction, how is that he says, “as much for Judas, as for Peter.”

    You say:
    Toplady makes a valid point: “[Latimer] peremptorily affirms, that Christ did not die for such as shall be eventually lost. “Mark here,” says he, “Scripture speaketh not of impenitent sinners: Christ died not for them; his death remedieth not their sins.” Now, if there be any, for whom Christ “died not,” and whose sins his death “remedieth not;” it follows, that, in this reformer’s idea, redemption is not universal.

    David: But look again at Toplady’s gloss in his footnote:

    By “Impenitent Sinners,” he necefTarily means the finally Impenitent: such as shall actually be banished from the Prefence of the Lord, and from the Glory of His Power, when Christ comes to judge the World in Righteousness.

    Where does Toplady get that from? He just inserts “finally” as a gloss.

    Latimer says:

    But mark here: scripture speaketh not of impenitent sinners; Christ suffered not for them: his death remedieth not their sins. For they be the bondmen of the devil, and his slaves; and therefore Christ’s benefits pertain not unto them.

    Notice that he does not say reprobate or non-elect, but impenitent. He is not speaking in elect/reprobate categories or eternal destinies directly, but in faithful/unfaithful categories. Indeed this is the context. He compares the faithful to receives the benefit of Christ’s death with the unfaithful who cannot receive it.

    The use of the colon as explicative is clear, He suffers not for them, in that his death is not a remedy for their sins.

    You quote Toplady:

    His frequently affirming, that Christ expiated the sins of “the whole world,” does by no means clash with his doctrine in the above passages. Indeed, it is saying no more than the Scripture has repeatedly said before him. The point of enquiry is, what does that phrase, the whole world, import?” (Section XIII)

    David: Toplady goes on to say “whole world” ‘could not mean every single person without exception, who did, does or shall exist, in that of the phrase, it seems impossible’ (my paraphrase). But this a caricature. It assumes that the term could only mean all men who have lived, live and shall live, or all the elect (or some cognate of that). Why could not Latimer mean, all living men, alive at any given point in time? The expiation is for all the sins of living men. Once a man dies, and goes to hell, however, there is no expiation for that man. Nonetheless, while he was in life, there was an expiation for him.

    So Toplady’s logic is thus: 1) Inquire as to the meaning of world in Latimer, offer an impossible option, which on its own terms must be precluded, and then conclude he meant the elect or something like that.

    You say:

    So what is Latimer’s view of the atonement? I’m inclined to agree with Toplady:

    “But, though he believed redemption not to be absolutely universal, this belief of his did by no means arise (any more than ours) from a diminutive idea of the worth and value of Christ’s atonement. He acknowledged its intrinsic sufficiency to redeem every individual of the human species, though he denied its actual universality. Thus he speaks. ‘Notwithstanding his death might be sufficient for all the whole world, yet, for all that, no man shall enjoy that same benefit, but only they that believe in him.’” (Section XIII)

    David: But again, all this is based on naked assertion. It would be great if he could have presented an example where Latimer uses the same phrase with Toplady’s “explanation.” After all, that’s what exegesis is all about. If we applied Toplady’s “hermeneutic” to Scripture, we would flunk exegesis class.

    Toplady begs the question at each step.

    1) he just asserts that in the critical places, “whole world” for Latimer does not mean all men alive at a given point of time.
    2) he inserts a negation where there is none.
    3) he converts the term ‘impenitent’ into finally impenitent, thereby inserting an elective/reprobative category.
    4) he nakedly modifies Latimer’s ‘Christ died for Judas’ statement, against its prima facie meaning.
    5) he ignores all of the positive statements, that Christ died for all mankind.

    You say:
    I grant that the terminology can be misleading [see “Sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” from Theopedia]. But I do not agree that the doctrine of definite or limited atonement is a Calvinist peculiarity or that the doctrine of limited atonement was a later scholastic innovation, and not original to Calvin himself. Indeed, Augustine of Hippo taught most of the elements of limited atonement (see (Some) Patristic Views of Atonement).

    The prima facie evidence is clear.

    Latimer says Christ shed his blood as much for Judas as he did for Peter.
    He says he shed his blood for all mankind.

    And you have other points as well, such as when Latimer speaks of souls purchased by the blood of Christ damned in hell for ever. This latter was a common expression, found in Tyndale,Lever, Gualther, and others.

    Anyway, the bottom line is, if one could show me an Owen, or a Turretin, or a Witsius, etc, stating that Christ shed his blood as much for Judas as he did for Peter, I would take Toplady’s claim a little more seriously.

    Thank you for your time,
    David
    Calvin and Calvinism

  5. calvinandcalvinism Says:

    If I may, let me respond to the last point.

    You say: Indeed, Augustine of Hippo taught most of the elements of limited atonement (see (Some) Patristic Views of Atonement).

    David now. Firstly the original author of the list of patristics was David King, an acquaintance of mine. King added the qualifier that he was not sure that all these quotations proved that all of the listed men held to limited atonement. Turretinfan who lifted King’s post from the Puritan Board, deleted that important qualifer from King. He didnt even credit King as the orginal author.

    The problems are, Ambrose clearly held to universal expiation and redemption. Augustine said that even Judas had been redeemed by Christ. He also said that the whole world has been redeemed. Chrysostem likewise held to unlimited expiation, and so Prosper. You can click on this link, For Whom Did Christ Die?, and see a lot of their statements in context. What is more, the Chrysostem comment is taken out of context. There are no secondary sources who hold that Chrysostem held to limited atonement. Indeed, there is so much historical evidence to the contrary. Its always good to read the primary sources and not just secondary ones.

    Thanks,
    David

    • RJ Endresz Says:

      David,

      I find your argument unconvincing because it relies upon a selective reading or misreading of the source materials.

      Augustine’s position on this issue is, at the very least, disputed. W. Robert Godfrey has noted:

      “Augustine did not express clearly or discuss at length the doctrine of the definite or limited atonement… [But] he did come very close to [explicitly teaching] this doctrine… [Augustine] interpreted one of the key passages of Scripture, 1 John 2:2, in a way that was adopted by those who later taught the doctrine of limited atonement… Augustine argued that the sense of this verse in 1 John was not that Christ died indiscriminately for every individual in the world but for the Church in all times throughout the world.” [W. Robert Godfrey, Reformed Thought on the Extent of the Atonement to 1618, Westminster Theological Journal 37:2 (Winter 1974), 134.]

      To put it simply, Augustine does not share your definition of the phrase “whole world.”

      Augustine on 1 John 2:2:

      “For he that has said, ‘We have Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins:’ having an eye to those who would divide themselves, and would say, ‘Lo, here is Christ, lo, there;’ Matthew 24:23 and would show Him in a part who bought the whole and possesses the whole, he immediately goes on to say, ‘Not our sins only, but also the sins of the whole world.’ What is this, brethren? Certainly ‘we have found it in the fields of the woods,’ we have found the Church in all nations. Behold, Christ ‘is the propitiation for our sins; not ours only, but also the sins of the whole world.’ Behold, you have the Church throughout the whole world; do not follow false justifiers who in truth are cutters off. Be in that mountain which has filled the whole earth: because ‘Christ is the propitiation for our sins; not only ours, but also the sins of the whole world,’ which He has bought with His blood.” [Augustine, Homily 1 on 1 John].

      What about the comments of Augustine and Latimer regarding Judas? As Toplady says and Calvinism affirms—not that Christ actually died for Judas; but that the mediator’s blood was as much sufficient (so infinite was its value) to have redeemed any other person.

      Finally, I couldn’t imagine a four-pointer saying “Christ died not for them; his death remedieth not their sins.” The phraseology is more common to five-point Calvinism.

      As I said from the outset, I do not wish to weigh in on the debate about Latimer’s Calvinism, neither do I wish to engage in a lengthy debate on limited atonement. But I sincerely hope that you expend as much energy on refuting the errors of Arminianism as you have trying to debunk any and all forms of limited atonement.

      In the end, I agree with the sentiments of C.H. Spurgeon:

      “I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of men be joined with it.” [Sermons, Vol. 4, p. 70]

      Thanks again for your comments.

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