While there are dozens of hymns that I could point to as my favorite (“Come Thou Fount” was a contender), the top prize on my personal list has to go to “Rock of Ages” by Rev. Augustus Toplady. It was written in 1763, inspired by a storm that its author endured. When the storm hit, Toplady managed to find shelter in a rock formation (which can be found in Burrington Combe in England). As the storm beat down outside, Toplady was reminded of Psalm 94. In verse 22, the psalmist writes “But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” Soon after, he began to write his most famous piece.
The best part of a truly classic hymn is that good, Christ-centered theology was the most important part of the writing process. “Rock of Ages” displays all the features of the Gospel. Let’s look at a few of these in detail.
“Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
The song begins by acknowledging our sinful nature. It recognizes the power of sin and the guilt that we need deliverance from.
“Not the labour 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.”
Toplady reminds us that our own efforts cannot bring us closer to God. Our works, no matter, how much we do, can’t save us. Only Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection can bring us salvation.
“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;”
All we need is Jesus. We forget that at our own peril. Holding onto Christ is the foundation of our faith.
“While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”
Christ, the King of Kings, sits on his throne in Glory. If you are in Christ, there is a cleft in the Rock for you. Jesus will protect you from the storm. If you let him.