Hymn Study: Rock of Ages

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Augustus M. Toplady, author of “Rock of Ages,” was born on November 4, 1740, in Farnham, England. He became a Christian at the age of sixteen while on a trip to Ireland.

After attending Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, Toplady was ordained an Anglican priest in 1762. He left the Ang­li­can church in 1775 and be­gan preach­ing at the French Cal­vin­ist Chapel in Lei­ces­ter Fields. He was noted for his powerful evangelistic preaching.

Mr. Toplady published the text for “Rock of Ages” in 1776 under the title “A Living and Dying Prayer for the Holiest Believer in the World.” Although apparently written as a result of a doctrinal disagreement between Toplady and John Wesley, “Rock of Ages” has become one of the most popular hymns ever written.

Thomas Hastings, composer of the tune for Mr. Toplady’s text, was born on October 15, 1784, in Washington, Connecticut. He grew up on a farm, walking six miles to school. He was an albino and, as a result, suffered eye problems throughout his life.

Although he had little musical training, he spent his life training choirs and writing sacred music. He wrote almost one thousand hymn tunes and six hundred hymn texts during his lifetime.

Hymn Lyrics

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

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2 Comments

  1. Lea VanMerkestyn says:

    Have you ever heard of the song “Maoz Tzur”? It is a traditional Hannukuh song that has the tune for “Rock of Ages.” You can find recordings on Youtube. The history of this tune is older, going back to the 1400’s. I teach at a Jewish dayschool and this is ALWAYS sung during the Hannukuh season. I recognized the tune as the Christian “Rock of Ages” but hadn’t delved into the history until I came across your page. The Hebrew words in the title mean “stronghold of rock”

  2. Milton Creque says:

    This is truly the gospel in song.