“When In Our Music God Is Glorified”
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.
This hymn from the 18th century is perhaps one of the most beloved hymns of our time. It is included in almost every modern hymnal and is a staple in Christian hymnody. Rock of Ages was written in 1776, not out of inspiration or a moment of religious fervor, but rather it comes from a spirit of passionate controversy. The writer of this hymn, Augustus Toplady, was debating with the Wesley brothers over theology and ultimately published this hymn as a rebuttal.
Toplady became a Christian at a young age and was intrigued by the Wesley brothers and the Methodist movement. Over time however, Toplady began to study John Calvin and became convinced that the Wesley brothers were wrong about a few things, particularly sanctification. Toplady disagreed with the Wesley’s Armenian theology so vehemently that he wrote a hymn opposing their view, then had it published. The second verse particularly is pointed towards the Wesleys:
Could my tears forever flow, could my zeal no languor know; these for sin could not atone, thou must save and thou alone.
It is interesting to note that Toplady actually plagiarized his hymn from a hymn written 30 years prior by Charles Wesley. Regardless of the original intent of this hymn, it is beloved by many and held in high regard as part of the “standard” repertoire of the church. May our prayer be Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.
Grace and Peace, Dakota