1 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.
2 Not the labors 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.
3 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.
4 While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close 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.
United Methodist Hymnal, 1989
|First Line:||Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee|
|Title:||Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me|
|Author:||Augustus Toplady (1776)|
|Notes:||Polish translation: See "Skało zbawcza, otwórz się"> by Paweł Sikora|
|Liturgical Use:||Confession Songs|
Rock of ages, cleft for me. A. M. Toplady. [Passiontide]. In the October number of the Gospel Magazine, 1775, in an article on "Life a Journey," and signed Minimus (one of Toplady's signatures), the following occurs at p. 474:—
"Yet, if you fall, be humbled; but do not despair. Pray afresh to God, who is able to raise you up, and to set you on your feet again. Look to the blood of the covenant and say to the Lord, from the depth of your heart,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee!
Foul, I to the fountain fly:
wash me, Saviour, or I die.
Make those words of the apostle, your motto: 'Perplexed, but not in despair; cast down, but not destroyed.'"
2. In the Gospel Magazine for March, 1776 (of which Toplady was then the editor), there appeared a peculiar article entitled, A remarkable Calculation: Introduced here, for the sake of the spiritual Improvement subjoined. Questions and Answers, relative to the National Debt.
A. "We can only admire and bless the Father, for electing us in Christ, and for laying on Him the iniquities of us all:—the Son, for taking our nature and our debts upon Himself, and for that complete righteousness and sacrifice, whereby he redeemed his mystical Israel from all their sins:—and the co-equal Spirit, for causing us (in conversion) to feel our need of Christ, for inspiring us with faith to embrace him, for visiting us with his sweet consolations by shedding abroad his love in our hearts, for sealing us to the day of Christ, and for making us to walk in the path of his commandments.
"A living and dying Prayer for the Holiest Believer in the World.
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Let the Water and the Blood,
From thy riven Side which flow'd,
Be of Sin the double Cure,
Cleanse me from its Guilt and Pow'r.
“Not the labors 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 thy Cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for Dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly :
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!
"Whilst I draw this fleeting breath—
When my eye-strings break in death—
When I soar through tracts unknown—
See Thee on thy Judgment-Throne—
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!—A. T."
3. In his Psalms & Hymns, 1776, No. 337, this text was repeated as "A Prayer, living and dying," with the changes given in italics in st. iv.
“While I draw this fleeting breath,
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.”
In tracing out the subsequent history of this hymn we shall deal with its Text, its Use, its Translations, and its Merits and Usefulness.
4. The Text. In the above quotations we have Toplady's original, and his revised text. Of these we must take the latter as that which he regarded as authorised, and indicate subsequent changes by that standard alone. These changes include:—
(1.) The change of st. iii. 1.2 from "Simply to Thy Cross, &c." to "Simple to Thy Cross, &c," first appeared in Walter Row's edition of Toplady's Psalms & Hymns, 1787.
(2.) "Rock of ages shelter me." This was given in Rippon's Baptist Selection , 1787, and others.
(3.) In the 1810 ed. of Rowland Hill's Collection of Psalms & Hymns, No. Ill, st. i.-iii. are given as "Smitten on th' accursed tree."
(4.) The most important rearrangement of the text, and that which has gained as great if not a greater hold upon the public mind than the original, is that made by T. Cotterill, and included in his Selection of Psalms & Hymns , 1815. This reads (the italics indicate the alterations made by Cotterill):—
1. “Rock of ages! cleft for me:
Let me hide myself in Thee:
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flow'd,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath, and make me pure.
2. "Should my tears for ever flow,
Should my zeal no languor know,
This for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone;
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
3. "While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eye lids close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of ages! cleft for me!
Let me hide myself in Thee."
(5.) In the 8th ed. of his Selection of Psalms & Hymns 1819, Cotterill repeated this text with the change in st. i. 1. 4, from "From Thy wounded side which flow'd," to "From Thy side, a healing flood.” This text was repeated in J. Montgomery's Christian Psalmist, 1825, and is found in a large number of hymn-books both old and new.
(6.) The next important change was that made in the 1830 Supplement to the Wesleyan Hymn Book This text is:—
St. i. Cotterill’s of 1815, as above.
St. ii. Cotterill's, 1815, with 1.1, "Could my tears," &c. (Toplady); 1. 2, "Could my zeal," &c. (Toplady)\ 1. 3, "These for sin," &c.
St. iii. Cotterill's, 1815, with 1. 2, "When my eyes shall close in death."
This is the recognised Methodist version of the hymn in most English-speaking countries.
(7.) In 1836 another version was given by W. J. Hall in the Mitre Hymn Book, No. 99, as follows:—
St. i. Cotterill, of 1815.
St. ii. "Merit I have none to bring,
Only to Thy cross I cling:
Should my tears for ever now,
Should my zeal no languor know,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone."
St. iii. Cotterill, 1815, with 1. 4, "See Thee on Thy judgment throne" (Toplady).
This text is repeated in The New Mitre Hymnal, 1875.
(8.) The crucial line of the original, “When my eye-strings break in death” has been altered as:—
1. "When mine eyelids close in death." Cotterill, 1815, as above.
2. "When my eyes shall close in death." Wesleyan Hymn Book, 1830, as above.
3. "When my heartstrings break in death." Williams's and Boden's Collection, 1801.
4. " When my eyelids sink in death." J. Kempthorne's Psalms & Hymns 1810.
(9.) Other changes in the text of the hymn might be indicated; but being of minor importance nothing will be gained by their enu¬meration.
5. Its Use. From 1776 to 1810 this hymn is found in a very limited number of hymn-books. After that date the interest therein grew rapidly until at the present time it is omitted from no hymn-book of merit in the English language. Until Sir R. Palmer's (Lord Selborne) vigorous protest at the Church Congress at York in 1866, most of the altered texts as given above were in common use. Since then in most new hymn-books Toplady's authorised text from his Psalms & Hymns, 1776, has been adopted.
6. Translations. In translating this hymn into other languages (and these translations are very numerous and in many languages), the text used has varied with the materials in the hands of the translator, some taking the text direct from Toplady, some from Cotterill, and others from the Wesleyan Hymn Book, or other sources. The following are the first lines of some versions in Latin:—
(1.) "Jesus, pro me perforatus." By W. E. Glad¬stone, made in 1848, and published in Translation by Lord Lyttelton, and the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone . London, 1861. This is from Toplady's text.
(2.) "Mini fissa, Rupes diva." By C. I. Black, in Biggs's Annotated ed. of Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1867. This is from the Hymns Ancient & Modern 1861 text.
(3.) "0 rupes aeterna, mihi percussa, recondar." By R. Bingham from Toplady's full text, slightly altered, in his Hymno. Christi Latina, 1811.
(4.) "Rupes aevum fissa quondam." By H. M. Macgill, from Toplady's full text, in his Songs of the Christian Creed and Life, 1876.
(5.) "Saeculorum, pro me fissa." By G. S. Hodges, from the Hymns Ancient & Modern text, in his The County Palatine, 1876.
(6.) "Rupes Saeculorum, te." By Silas T. Rand, in Burrage's Baptist Hymn Writers, 1889.
7. Merits and Usefulness. The merits of this hymn are of a very high order whether regarded as a sacred lyric, or as a metrical epitome of certain well-known passages of Holy Scripture. The influence which it has had upon the minds of men, especially amongst the more learned, has been very considerable. The fact that it was quoted by and gave great consolation to the late Prince Consort in his last illness is well known. This is one, however, of numerous instances of more than ordinary importance, where it has been a stay and comfort in days of peril, and in the hour of death. No other English hymn can be named which has laid so broad and firm a grasp upon the English-speaking world.
--Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)
Rock of ages, cleft for me, p. 970, ii. Another translation of the full text (but slightly altered) by Bishop Charles Wordsworth, is in his Series Collectarum . . . Selecti Hymni Psalmique . . . Lond., J. Murray, 1890, as "Fissa mei causa, saeclorum conscia, Rupes."
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, Appendix, Part II (1907)
Rock of Ages, cleft for me , p. 970, i. In the Times, June 3, 1898, Dean Lefroy of Norwich has a letter respecting this hymn, together with one from Sir W. H. Wills on the same matter, The burden of this correspondence is a claim made by Sir W. H. Wills as to the origin of this hymn. His statement is:—
"For some years be [Toplady] was Curate in sole charge of my parish of Blagdon, on the Mendips, about eight miles from Wells and four miles from Wrington, where Hannah More long resided at Barley Wood.
"Toplady was one day overtaken by a heavy thunder¬storm in Harrington Coombe, on the edge of my property, a rocky glen running up into the heart of the Mendips range, and there, taking shelter between two massive piers of our native limestone rock, he penned this hymn,”Rock of Ages.'"
On turning to p. 970, i., we find that the first stanza of this hymn was printed in the Gospel Magazine for Oct. 1775, and the full text in the same magazine for March 1776.
Toplady was Curate at Blagdon from April 1762 to April 1764. This gives some twelve years or more from the alleged circumstances of its composition to the printing of the first stanza in 1775, and of the full hymn in 1776 in the Gospel Magazine. To this element of delay in the printing of the hymn we must add that it was used by Toplady, not as an illustrtion of a providential deliverance in immediate danger in a thunderstorm, but as an argument against John Wesley's doctrine of the possibility, if not certainty, of absolute holiness in man. Its title—"A living and dying Prayer for the Holiest Believer in "the World," is clear evidence of Toplady's object in first printing the hymn.
From another source we were informed that the tradition concerning its composition in Blagdon during Toplady's residence there from 1762 to 1764, and during a thunderstorm, was old and widespread. We have put this to the test, and find that the alleged composition, as so fondly believed in, was never heard of in the parish until the advent of Dr. John Swete as Rector in 1850, that is, 75 years after its first stanza appeared in the Gospel Magazine. Our witness is the schoolmistress who was teaching in the parish school when Dr. Swete came to the parish and who is still (1907) alive. Dr. H. B. Swete, now Reg. Prof, of Divinity, Cambridge, who was Curate to his father at Blagdon from 1858 to 1865, cannot trace the tradition beyond his father's statement. Beautiful as the tradition is, we must have clearer and more definite information concerning it before we can accept it as an undoubted fact.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)
The first four lines of “Rock of Ages” appeared in the October 1775 issue of
Toplady published “Rock of Ages” in his Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Worship, also in 1776. Thomas Cotterill altered Toplady's text to three stanzas by combining lines from the middle two stanzas for his Selection of Psalms and Hymns in 1815. These two versions are both well-known. The line with which Toplady originally concluded the first stanza was “cleanse me from its guilt and power,” but Cotterill wrote “save from wrath and make me pure.” Various hymnals contain other minor variations, but none of these affect the meaning of the text in any significant way.
Each stanza elaborates on a truth about salvation. The first stanza describes the redemption that can be found in Christ. The second lists various ways in which human effort is inadequate to atone for sin, and the third is a declaration of dependence on the Savior and a plea for His cleansing. The final stanza looks forward to heaven.
This hymn is usually sung to TOPLADY by Thomas Hastings. Written for this text, it was first published in Spiritual Songs for Social Worship, edited by Hastings and Lowell Mason, in 1832. The tune's name comes from the author of the text, Augustus Toplady. Dotted rhythms and a rising and falling shape in each phrase characterize the melody.
An alternate tune is REDHEAD 76, written by Richard Redhead for “Rock of Ages,” and published with this text in 1853 in Church Hymn Tunes, Ancient and Modern. The name REDHEAD 76 comes from the composer's last name and the tune's position as number 76 in the original publication. It is also called GETHSEMANE after “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” with which it is now best known, or PETRA, after “Rock of Ages.” Its doleful mood accents the themes of human inadequacy and need quite well.
TOPLADY and REDHEAD 76 have a similar structure: the first and last phrases are nearly identical, as are the two halves of the middle phrase. Both tunes are well-suited to congregational singing, especially in parts. Keep the tempo up to avoid an excessively melancholy feeling. The accompaniment should be somewhat restrained, though a brighter mood is appropriate to the final stanza.
Holy Week is an especially appropriate time to sing this hymn. It is also suitable for a Communion service, where it could be sung with another hymn such as “Just as I Am, without One Plea” or “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.” For a time of meditation during a Communion service, an organ setting of TOPLADY, such as in “Great Victorian Hymns,” or REDHEAD 76 in “Five Lenten and Holy Week Hymn Settings” is suitable. An a capella setting of the third stanza (“Nothing in my hand I bring”) is found in “Five Choral Stanzas, Set 2” which may be used as an interlude during congregational singing of this hymn.
Tiffany Shomsky, Hymnary.org