Toplady's collected works, including many items that had only just been saved from the flames where they were to be placed at Toplady's behest, was published in 1794 and contained the first biography of Toplady "Memoirs of the Rev Augustus Montague Toplady" that has since been republished countless times under many separate titles.The collected works can be considered on two levels.
On one level it is a marvelous collection of work, that ensured Toplady's literary bequest was preserved to the extent that it had been.
On another level it is a poor publication, comprised of butchered works presented in no particular order. Row did republish certain of the works in his "Select Works" of 1813 that are a vast improvement on the original 1794 edition. It must be said that part of the improvement is due to a more modern typeface and alphabet, and the 1794 edition can hardly be faulted for the limitations of literary standards at that time.
A superior edition of the six volumes was published in 1825 and rather regrettably a one volume edition was published 1837 that was again very difficult to get to grips with, in fact it makes the much reviled 1794 edition seem positively luxurious. The modern "Sprinkle" reprint copies this 1837 edition and it is not a pleasant edition to read.
As I have examined the 1794 edition I have come to appreciate its qualities, it includes a fine engraving of Toplady, it is well indexed and apart from its antiquated font it is quite pleasant on the eye. It is far superior to the one volume editions.
Row was aware of his editions deficiencies and his message to his readers is touching and humble:
SOON after Mr. Toplady's decease, many per sons who loved his principles and revered his memory, expressed an earnest desire to have a complete edition of his works. Nothing, however, of the kind was attempted until fourteen years after his death, namely, in the year 1792, when the undertaking was finally determined upon; materials were accordingly collected, and application made to some gentlemen of literary character and respectability, whose principles in some degree coincided with the author's, to Undertake the arrangement for publication. They promised their assistance, but the conditions were found to be such as could not be assented to, without proving injurious to the work, and giving it an appearance of an imposition on the public. Apprehensive that the religious community would thus be deprived of a considerable part of the writings of a justly admired author, the editor was determined to proceed in the undertaking, however inadequate his abilities were, and disproportionate for the superintendence of such a task. He is satisfied with doing what no one would do, of securing from oblivion, a large portion of valuable compositions, and throws himself upon the candour of the public, without any studied or affected apologies.
It is proper to premise that the editor has no thing to do with the order of the clergy; he is only a private solitary individual, prompted by no partial or pecuniary motives whatever; he presents the memoirs of the author and his disquisitions, to the world from a thorough conviction, of the value of the memory of the worthy author, who was an ornament and an honour to the Christian profession, and whose writings are in unison with the truths of revelation. Indeed, few men have been so competent to stand forth for the honour of the inspired pages as Augustus Toplady. He was eminently set apart by the great head of the church, as a defender of those inestimable important truths revealed in Scripture, which the pride of the human heart naturally militates at. As a polemic divine, it must be confessed, he had every possible advantage, that a combination of powers, so rare and conspicuous, could afford. His imagination was fertile and brilliant, attended with a mature and sound judgment. He had a happy facility, in conveying his thoughts, in a language clear and simple, at the same time animated and grand; always varying with the. subject, and joining elegance to propriety, in a strain of affecting, but masculine writing, which enlightens the understanding and captivates the heart.
While the few years he resided on earth, he was a friend to truth, and an avowed enemy to error; he was above dissimulation, and that exposed him to the attacks of bigotry. He died as lie lived, exhibiting a magnanimity of spirit, which was never surpassed in a dying hour, therein illustrating, that the principles he had embraced, were not only his comfort in life, but his support when the vital system was destroying.
The peculiar object in the writings of our much honoured friend, was to bring vital Christianity to view, and to display its principles defended with arguments drawn from the same source. His admirable pages are a masterly and consistent defence of the divine attributes, in unison with the writings of the Old and New Testament. For it will be self-evident to those who will only consider, that the perennial opposition made to the doctrines of discriminating grace, in the absolute love of the everlasting Father, proceeding forth from him in his beloved Son, and communicated to a peculiar people by the Holy Spirit, are the identical objections reiterated against the purposes of the Almighty, respecting the restriction of the volume of revelation.
It must be perceivable, that the very reception of the Scriptures among any people, cannot be supported but on the principles of our author. For the question has been asked, and often repeated, If the divine records are acknowledged to be " a light to them who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death," and a directory " to guide their feet in the paths of peace,'' how is it to be accounted for, that millions of the in habitants of the globe are without its saving and salutary influence ? Taking a survey of human nature, what reason can be given that so many of our fellow creatures are worshipping the idols of their imagination with obscene and barbarous rites, and others sunk into the very dregs of brutal voluptuousness ?
Why is the Vedam, the Zend-avesta, the Sadder, and the Alcoran, received and acknowledged with all their fanciful conjectures, and chronological chimeras, and the deposit of sacred writ, not so much as heard of in the midst of the rubbish of those absurdities; and where the vivifying beams of revelation are displayed, as they are in this country, and at this period of time, how is it that the intellectual darkness of the mind not dissipated so as to perceive its radiance ? Who upon earth can give a satisfactory reason for these facts, or develope to the human mind the various dispensations of God, in denying or withholding the light of revelation, without resolving it into the divine will, and ultimately to take up the words of him who spake as never man did? " Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight."
These weighty investigations, which the importance of the subject brings under consideration, were some of the principal topics which employed the abilities of our author. From those who are not influenced by a saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, nothing is to be expected in the perusal of these writings, but the most inveterate opposition, hasty censure, and unbridled licence of declamation; while those who are taught from above, cannot be brought to abandon a belief so full of enlivening consolations, and attested to their consciences by irrefragable documents, they will be induced to contemplate the inconceivable greatness, the inaccessible height, the un fathomable researches and unmeasurable extent of those heavenly excellencies, and exclaim with the apostle Paul, " O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." While meditating in this preliminary state on these things, the thoughts will expand with an earnest de sire to that eventful period, when a far nobler scene shall be opened, when this faint twilight shall be pre ceded with the blaze of an eternal day, and when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
This new edition of the following sheets is now presented to the public with considerable enlargement, and as the editor is not a professional writer, he has to acknowledge his gratitude, and to make an avowal of his thanks, for that full latitude of forbearance which he has met with in the generous judgment of the discerning, which ever distinguishes the liberality of superior and general education.