Augustus Toplady is an Irish preacher of old that I first became acquainted with when I read his sermon, “Arminianism: The Golden Idol of Freewill.” It was only after reading this sermon that I “snapped” to the fact that it was Toplady who wrote one of the most famous hymns that the Church has ever sung – “Rock of Ages.”
I have recently read another of Toplady’s sermons. It is entitled “Standing Before God.” The sermon is based on the account of the return of the Ark of the LORD to Israel after it had been in the possession of the Philistines for seven months. (I Samuel 6). When the Philistines returned the Ark to Israel, they placed guilt offerings in it in an attempt to placate the judgment and wrath of God.
The Scripture records that when the Ark arrived in Israel, some of the men were “struck down” by the LORD when they dared to open the Ark to see what had been placed in it by their enemies. When this judgment fell on the people because of their presumption before the LORD, the Scripture records in verse 20,
“And the men of Beth-shemesh said, ‘Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?'”
The question is asked, “Who is able to stand before the LORD ….?
As I read this message, I was struck by a number of things that Toplady preached regarding God’s holiness and our stand before Him.
“With regard therefore to His own Omniscience and Omnipresence, we already stand before this holy Lord God.”
“If the Lord God, before whom each individual will shortly stand, is a holy God, a God of truth, and without iniquity, and of purer eyes than to behold sin with impunity; we may well ask, ‘Who is able to stand before Him?'”
“But what can qualify us thus to stand? Is our own goodness sufficient to cover our guilty souls, and ward off the blow of justice? Alas! it is insufficient; as the prophet says, ‘Our gold is dim, and our wine is mixed with water.’ Our purest obedience is sinful, and how can that which is sinful, save a sinner?”
“Yes, unworthy, totally so, in themselves; but worthy, completely so, of an eternity of bliss, through the blood of sprinkling and the imputation of Christ’s obedience, styled in Scripture, the righteousness of God, and elsewhere, the righteousness of the saints.”
” … concern for salvation is too generally ridiculed as superstition; and seriousness exploded as fanaticism. This is a melancholy but faithful representation of the state of religion, in this our day, nor will matters ever wear a brighter aspect, while gaiety and amusement, in ten thousand different shapes, and succeeding in endless rotation, are permitted to engross our time, and occupy the place of thought.”
“We are not pardoned and entitled to heaven on account of our holiness and good works; but are made holy, and abound in good works, in consequence of our acceptance in the Beloved, of our pardon and justification through the propitiation and perfect obedience of Jesus Christ the righteous; do you know any thing of this?
Toplady concludes his sermon on the holiness of God with these words:
“If it is in the merits of Christ alone that we can stand with safety before God, let us renounce self-dependence in every view, and rely for justification and everlasting life on Him, making mention of Him and of His righteousness only, in whom all the seed of Israel are justified, and shall glory.
Lastly; Is the Lord God we must appear before infinitely holy? then let us aim at holiness likewise.”
This afternoon I am reminded of three passages of Scripture that I believe are relevant to this message.
“And He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet,’ for the place on which you are standing is holy ground’.” (Exodus 3:5)
“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior, because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (I Peter 1:14-16)
Augustus Toplady (1740-1778) was an Irish pastor, preacher, and hymn writer.
You can read short biographies of Toplady here and here.
To read “Standing Before God” in its entirety, see here.
Please visit Monergism Books and WTS Books when searching for Reformed books and resource material.