Rock of Ages

Words: Au­gus­tus M. Top­la­dy, 1776.

Music: Toplady, Thom­as Hast­ings, 1830. Al­ter­nate tunes:

  • Cuyler, J. Hy­att Brew­er (1851-1931)
  • Redhead, Ri­chard Red­head, 1853

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.

Jones

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.


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,
[originally When my eye-strings break 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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