Listening Through Lent: Cleft for Me

An English widow and her boy sixteen years old were visiting in a country place in Ireland. The mother was a member of the Church of England, and the boy was accustomed to its service. One night he wandered past a barn in which an uneducated but earnest layman was preaching. The text was Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the Blood of Christ.” Speaking of that text long after he said, “It was from that passage Mr. Morris preached on that memorable evening. Strange, that I who had so long sat under the means of grace in England, should be brought nigh unto God in an obscure part of Ireland, amidst a handful of God’s people met together in a barn, and under the ministry of one who could hardly spell his name.”   This boy was Augustus Montague Toplady, author of this hymn.

If any of us could have gone into a little parish Church in a quiet village in the eastern part of Devonshire, about the time our national Declaration of Independence was issued, we should have found a vicar leading the devotions of the people, who was thus described: “He had an ethereal countenance and light, immortal form. His voice was music. His vivacity would have caught the listener’s eye, and his soul-filled looks and movements would have interpreted his language, had there not been such commanding solemnity in his tones as made apathy impossible, and such simplicity in his words that to hear was to understand. From easy explanations he advanced to rapid and conclusive arguments, and warmed into importunate exhortations, till conscience began to burn, and feelings to take fire from his awe-kindled spirit, and himself and his hearers were together drowned in sympathetic tears.” This is a word picture of Augustus Montague Toplady and his preaching.

In the Gospel Magazine for March, 1776, there appeared an article on the National Debt of England. Its enormous amount was given, how much was the annual interest; and the article ended with these questions and answers: “How doth the Government raise this interest annually? By taxing those who lent the principal and others. When will the Government be able to pay the principal? When there is more money in England’s treasury alone than there is at present in all Europe. And when will that be? Never.” Following this article the editor, Mr. Toplady, proceeded to write what he called “A Spiritual Improvement of the Foregoing,” in which he tried to estimate how many sins each of the human race had committed, supposing he broke some law of God once a day, twice a day, once an hour, and so on, and then he asks the same questions concerning these debts we owe to God, that had been asked as to the debt owed by the Government of England. “When shall we be able to pay off this debt we owe to God? Never. But will not God accept of us less that we owe, and so enable us to pay? Impossible!” And then he turns to Christ as the only hope. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, and then he gives this hymn.”

Gladstone has translated this hymn into both Latin and Greek, but it has been also translated into a great many of the living languages of the world, as well as into the dead ones. Rev. Dr. Pomeroy, during a tour through Eastern countries, found his way into an Armenian Church in Constantinople, while the congregation was singing. The words he could not understand, but it was evident that the singers were singing “with the understanding”, and were in earnest in their song. All sang with closed eyes, as if in prayer, and as the melody proceeded, he saw that tears were starting here and there and trickling down the singers’ cheeks. He was interested to know what words could awaken such emotions, and found that it was a translation into their language of our English hymn “Rock of Ages.”

from “Stories of The Great Hymns of the Church” – Silas H. Paine

shared by Retha Rodenberger McAfee and Harry Rodenberger

 

ROCK OF AGES

Augustus M. Toplady   and Thomas Hastings

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.

 

Could my tears for ever flow,

Could my zeal no languor know,

These for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone;

In my hand no price I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

 

While I draw this fleeting breath,

When my eyes shall 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.

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