“The Lord is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:4

Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778)Words: Augustus Montague Toplady, 1776. An unsubstantiated story says the lyrics were inspired when Toplady took shelter from a storm under a rocky overhang near England’s Cheddar Gorge; he reportedly wrote the words on a playing card.

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.”

Francis Arthur Jones relates another story in Famous Hymns and Their Authors (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1902):

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.

Music: “Toplady,” Thomas Hastings, 1830 . Alternate tune:

  • “Redhead (Petra),” Richard Redhead, 1853

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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