People love Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me, with good reason. Together, the text (written through Augustus M. Toplady) and also the many often-used melody (entitled “Toplady,” written by thomas Hastings) make a fitting hymn because that obeying God’s command:

Let words of Christ dwell in girlfriend richly, teaching and admonishing one one more in all wisdom, to sing psalms and also hymns and also spiritual songs, v thankfulness in her hearts come God. — Colossians 3:16 (ESV)

Let’s research it to watch what we can learn together songwriters, praise leaders, and also disciples of Jesus.

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Like countless old hymns, the text has actually survived (and sometimes benefitted from) lyrical revision at the hand of separation, personal, instance poets and also hymnal committees. I will use the variation my church (Sojourn) sings, due to the fact that I feeling it is the best. It’s a popular version, but I will suggest out some equally renowned textual variants. You have the right to listen come it together sung (and arranged) by my girlfriend Brooks Ritter:The Basics: chant Meter and Subject Matter:

Church on The rock in Cracow, Poland

“Rock that Ages” is a 77.77.77 meter hymn. Together I disputed here, hymns through 7-syllable present are typically trochaic, an interpretation the vocal focus falls top top the strange syllables once sung or spoken. This 7-syllable trochaic lines room abrupt, starting with a bang, and are thus suitable for conveying solid emotions, such together excitement, remorse, love and repentance. “HELP me!” is a trochaic cry.

So Toplady has actually chosen a good hymn meter, provided that his subject issue is plaintive and pleading: “Jesus, permit me hide in you.” Let’s failure the main thought of every verse:

Save and cleanse meI can’t carry out it on mine ownI can’t also help, or market anything. I bring nothing come the table.This will finish badly because that me if friend don’t intercede. I’m guilty as can be.

Notice the herbal progression of believed in these verses. A common problem amongst songwriters is the they compose verses in which every verse past the an initial merely repeats the information or story line of the first, rather than shed new light or advance the plot. Not so with “Rock that Ages.”

As for the melody, Hasting’s tune evokes these lyrics well. And if I deserve to put in a word for a friend, i think Brooks’ chord structure boosts upon it by tying the melody even closer come the poetry.

Verse by Verse:

Rock the Ages, cleft because that me,Let me hide myself in Thee:Let the water and also the blood,From your wounded side which flowed,Be the sin the double cure;Save indigenous wrath and also make me pure.

The rhyme system for these six lines (and the remainder of the hymn) is AABBCC, definition that each couplet (unit of 2 back-to-back lines) rhymes. Notice how solid action verb propel the story: cleft, hide, save, make. Discover from Toplady; use solid verbs.

We also get the immediate, colorful an allegory “Rock the ages.” absent is a common biblical an allegory for God, used over 20 time this means in the publication of Psalms alone. However Toplady’s use of this an allegory stems native an previously source: Moses, who had requested to check out God’s “glory.”

God described that his glory to be too great for frail, fallen meat to see. Moses would die at the sight of it. So God says:

and while mine glory overcome by i will put you in a slit of the rock, and I will cover you v my hand until I have passed by. — Exodus: 33:22 ESV

rock cleft in ~ Hyam’s Beach, brand-new South Wales, Australia. Big enough because that hiding.

So Toplady identifies v Moses. He to know we should all appear before the judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10). We will certainly stand there naked, helpless, foul (words Toplady will use in a later verse). There is just one equipment — “Hide me in the cleft of the rock!” and also if over there is any kind of doubt, he reveals the identification of this rock, cleft because that us: “Let the water and also the blood/ From her wounded next which flowed” — it’s Christ. The is speak “Credit the justice of Christ to my account, now and also on that referee day.”

The other reason he came up through “rock” as a metaphor is that a bad storm had rained under on Toplady if he to be traveling one day, therefore he hid in a cave. Purportedly, the picture of a rock together a sanctuary from storms of life developed to that there, and also he began to compose the text on a playing card he’d uncovered on the floor of the cave. This is regularly the way it works v worship songwriters today: biblical witness combines with life experiences to give us ideas.

The first verse ends on a masterful note, however Toplady can’t take credit. His original ending read:

Be of sin the double cure,Cleanse me native its guilt and pow’r.

When Toplady wrote “Rock of Ages” in 1763, “cure” and also “power” rhymed. This is other many people don’t realize — as soon as you look in ~ old hymns the seem come contain a lot of imperfect rhymes, that is often because pronunciation has changed over the centuries.

In 1815 cutting board Cotterill improved the happiness of the couplet by changing the last line to “Save indigenous wrath and also make me pure.” This, then, is the “double cure.” yet he aimed to do an ext than adjust the rhyme. He provided us a depths meaning: Christ not just saves us, he sanctifies us.

On to the 2nd verse:

Not the labors of mine handsCan meet thy law’s commands;Could mine zeal no respit know,Could my tears forever flow,All because that sin might not atone;Thou need to save, and thou alone.

This is a repudiation of works-based theology and also emotional excess. He probably meant lines three and also four together a shot on the Wesleys, through whom the feuded, gift contemptuous of the “zeal” and “tears” that were hallmarks of Wesleyan revivals. Toplady’s own zeal because that the gospel — and his proud — sometimes got the much better of him. Yet these lines room true. Us can’t knife salvation through a show of emotion, even if it is contrived or real.

The singer doesn’t go almost everywhere in this verse. He speak of his insufficiency, conscious that just God have the right to save. We’ll see movement in the following verse:

Nothing in my hand i bring,Simply come the cross ns cling;Naked, pertained to thee for dress;Helpless, look to thee for grace;Foul, I as well the fractional fly;Wash me, Savior, or ns die.

The words “Naked,” “Helpless,” and “Foul” are important here. Toplady names our state in three succeeding lines that carry us ago to the Garden of Eden after the Fall. However while ours forbears hid in vain native God, he comes forward, understanding the futility the hiding in anything however the cleft of the rock:

We space naked, in require of dress. Our fig leaves will certainly not suffice.We space helpless. The serpent who beguiled us has no comfort for us now, together judgment nears.We room foul, stained come the core by sin.

All that is left for us, as we cling to the cross, is come plead “Wash me Savior, or ns die.”

Note his strong, quick verbs in this crucial turning-point that the hymn: “bring/ cling/ come/ look/ fly/ wash/ die.” and also now the end:

While I draw this fleeting breath,When mine eyes shall nearby in death,When i soar to worlds unknown,See thee on thy judgment throne,Rock the Ages, cleft for me,Let me hide myself in thee.

Toplady concludes his poem v the exact same couplet v which he began it, pass us full circle come the just thing that can save: Jesus Christ, the rock of ages.

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Many hymnals contain an change of Toplady’s original line 4. The change reads: “And behold Thee on thy throne.”

This is unfortunate because it weakens the whole suggest of this hymn: We space helpless in the challenge of sure, perfect justice and judgment. Of course we know God will certainly judge from his throne, however Toplady cd driver the point home v “See thee on thy referee throne.”

Again, Toplady’s verbs are succinct and also strong: draw, close, soar, see, cleft, hide. And the currently contain many of internal rhyme, like “mine/eyes,” “soar/worlds,” “See/ thee,” “hide, myself.”

Memorable, evocative, theologically astute — “Rock that Ages” has rightfully taken its place amongst the great hymns the the Church. This is a song that can sing you home.