Scripture Verse

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer. Psalm 18:2

Introduction

illustration
Rock of Gibraltar, Frederick R. Lee (1798–1879)

Words: Au­gus­tus M. Top­la­dy, 1776.

Music: Top­la­dy Tho­mas Hast­ings, 1830 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tunes:

This hymn was played on an or­gan in the 1983 mo­vie The Big Chill, which re­ceived sev­er­al Acad­e­my Award nom­in­a­tions, inc­lud­ing Best Pic­ture.

portrait
Toplady writing Rock of Ages

Anecdote

In the ju­bilee year of [Queen Vic­tor­ia] em­bass­ies from the chief courts of the world came to do her hon­our. Among these was an em­bas­sy from the mon­arch of Mad­a­gas­car.

One of those in the em­bas­sy was a Ho­va, a man of years, dark skinned and in­tel­li­gent, and de­sir­ing for his people’s sake to make a good im­pres­sion, he, in of­fer­ing his con­gra­tu­la­tions re­called ma­ny in­ci­dents of his long jour­ney around the Cape in a sail­ing ves­sel; and when he had told all he could re­col­lect, he asked if it would be agree­a­ble that he should sing—that he had one song in his heart that had whiled away ma­ny a wea­ry hour in his pil­grim­age through life.

The ex­pec­ta­tion was that the ven­er­a­ble Ho­va would sing some­thing hea­then­ish and na­tion­al—some­thing so­cial or con­vi­vi­al—but to the as­ton­ish­ment of all, he be­gan in a thin sweet te­nor:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!

He sang it through all its stan­zas, each verse grow­ing more sub­dued and ten­der. At the close there was pro­found, awk­ward si­lence, which was dif­fi­cult to break, for some were af­fect­ed to tears in see­ing the com­ing back of seed sown on the wa­ters in mis­sion­a­ry faith and zeal—all were tak­en by sur­prise, lit­tle ex­pect­ing to hear from the lips of the Ho­va on this grand oc­ca­sion the sweet­est of the songs of Zi­on.

His name, says the re­port­er of the day, was as start­ling in length as his per­for­mance was sur­pris­ing:—Right Hon. Lord Rain­i­fer­on­gal­a­ro­vo.

Morrison, pp. 95–96

Lyrics

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.

Not the labor 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 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.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
[originally 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.