|Words: Augustus M. Toplady, 1776.|
Music: Toplady, Thomas Hastings, 1830. Alternate tunes:
Sir William Henry Wills, in a letter to Dean Lefroy, published in the [London] Times in June, 1898, says ‘Toplady was one day overtaken by a thunderstorm in Burrington Coombe, on the edge of my property, Blagdon, a rocky glen running up into the heart of the Mendip range, and there, taking shelter between two massive piers of our native limestone rock, he penned the hymn,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
There is a precipitous crag of limestone a hundred feet high, and right down its centre is the deep recess in which Toplady sheltered.’
Telford, p. 257
This hymn was sung at the funeral of William Gladstone in Westminster Abbey, London, England. Prince Albert of Britain asked it be sung to him as he lay dying. In Hymns That Have Helped, W. T. Stead stated:
…when the London went down in the Bay of Biscay, January 11, 1866, the last thing which the last man who left the ship heard as the boat pushed off from the doomed vessel was the voices of the passengers singing “Rock of Ages.”
In another story:
A missionary…complained of the slow progress made in India in converting the natives on account of explaining the teachings of Christianity so that the ignorant people could understand them. Some of the most beautiful passages in the Bible, for instance are destroyed by translation. He attempted to have [Rock of Ages] translated into the native dialect, so that the natives might appreciate its beauty. The work was entrusted to a young Hindu Bible student who had the reputation of being something of a poet. The next day he brought his translation for approval, and his rendering, as translated back into English, read like this:
Very old stone, split for my benefit,
Let me absent myself under one of your fragments.
The hymn was also reportedly sung at the funeral of American President Benjamin Harrison because it was his favorite hymn, and the only one he ever tried to sing.