Breedloves's Folk Songs



“Rock of Ages” is a popular Christian hymn by Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady.
The words of the hymn were written in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine
in 1775, with the music added in around 1830. According to a famous but largely
unsubstantiated story, Rev. Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the famous
gorge of Burrington Combe, a Mendip gorge close to Cheddar Gorge in England.
Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was travelling along the gorge when
he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title
and scribbled down the initial lyrics on a playing card. The fissure that is believed to have
sheltered Toplady is now marked as the ‘Rock of Ages’, both on the rock itself and on
some maps, and is also reflected in the name of a nearby tea shop.
Others have viewed the hymn as a criticism of the theology of John Wesley and the early
Methodists, citing the line, ‘Thou must save, and Thou alone’. This line was believed to
refer to the Wesleyan notion that human beings may exercise free will and thus play a
role in salvation, an idea which Toplady and his Calvinist colleagues rejected.
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 can 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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