Monthly Archives: February 2013

Hymn History: Augustus Montague Toplady and “Rock of Ages”

Augustus Montague Toplady1We do know that Augustus Montague Toplady wrote this most beloved of  Gospel hymns. And, I will share with you the “traditional/historical” story of how this great hymn came to be written. While there have been doubts over the years whether the “tradition” story was accurate (and even different
stories about the actual writing) we can say with some certainty that it was written around 1763, but not published by Augustus Toplady until 1775. What I did not know was that the actual “Rock of Ages,” the actual “Rock” really existed, and you can visit it today. It is located in Burrington Combe in Somerset, which is in Southern England. I have taken great pleasure of being able to find photographs of the actual “Rock” in which Toplady sought out a cleft, for safety and protection.
The actual Rock of agesAugustus Montague Toplady was born at Franham in Surrey, England, on Nov. 4, 1740. His father was killed in battle a year later. Augustus was a sickly child; he suffered from tuberculosis, “consumption” as it was then known, and would only live 38 years.Rock of ages locationAugustus was educated at Westminster School in London and at Trinity College in Dublin, where he graduated in 1760. Toplady received his degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from  Trinity College. While in Ireland, he was converted at a revival in a barn after listening to a sermon by James Morris, a Methodist preacher. At a very young age he showed a keen interest in developing a relationship with God. By age 12 he was preaching sermons, and at age 14 he began writing hymns. He was ordained as an Anglican priest at the age of 22. His first published work was “Poems on Sacred Subjects” published in Dublin in 1759. He would also write highly regarded religious books.
Ordained deacon in 1762, he was licensed to the curacy of Blagdon. Two years later, he was ordained as a priest.
Rock of agesIt was while serving as Curate of Blagdon that he wrote his beloved hymn, “Rock of Ages.”
Here is the commonly accepted story of how the hymn came to be written:
While walking along the road outside of Blagdon, near the village of Somerset, he was caught in a rapidly approaching thunderstorm, a loud, thundering storm with dangerous lightning. For a brief moment, the lightening showed his escape to safety. It was the rocky landscape of Burrington Combe, complete with crags, cliffs, and caves! Burrington Come climbs 250 feet toward the sky, with the Mendip Heights on one side, and Cheddar Gorge on the other. Anyone who has been caught out in a raging thunderstorm can easily picture the scene. He would have to act fast, as you can imagine the torrents of rain streaming down the cliff-sides.
Quickly, he found a cave … in the cleft of the rock, and waited the storm out. Augustus knew he had been blessed to find such a hiding place so quickly. While waiting for the storm to pass, he could easily picture the rock being a shelter from the storms of life. He would scribble down the opening lines to the song, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me, Let Me Hide Myself in Thee … ”
early picture of rock of agesThe power of those opening words … I can feel, right now, as I sit here (albeit safe and secure), waiting out the latest Winter Storm, a late February/Early March ‘Noreaster. I feel the power of those opening words, and it has now been 250 years since they were first scribbled, on a rocky cliff in England.  After going through a major “Storm of Life” just too recently, with great loss, my tears won’t allow me to clearly see the rest of the words.
He is the “Rock of Ages.” Praise His Holy Name!
At the rock of agesAugustus Montague Toplady wrote over 100 poems and hymns.
As his death neared, he sensed God’s presence. “O what a day of sunshine this has been to me! I have not words to express it. It is unutterable. O my friends, how good is God!” The day he died, he was calling, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” He told his friends that he could not live much longer, for no mortal man could live after seeing the glories of God that he had seen.” Not yet 38 years old, he died on August 11, 1778.
Augustus Montague Toplady2“I should think no account of English religion in the last century
complete, which did not supply some information about this remarkable man. In some respects, I am bold to say, not one of his contemporaries surpassed him, and hardly any equaled him.”
From: Christian Leaders of the 18th Century
Toplady and His Ministry
By Bishop J. C. Ryle

Here are the words of “Rock of Ages:”
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,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

As a side note, to show how times have changed … try a “Google Image Search” for “Rock of Ages.”
Blessings, Ted

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From Richard.Vincent.Rose.: Jesus: Of Rock and Role

Well, it started with me working on a new poem about Jesus being the Rock … Then, I started to investigate the story behind the great Gospel hymn “Rock of Ages.” … Then, I never knew just how many Scripture verses specifically call God “the Rock,” culminating with Paul’s declaration “that Rock was Christ.”

In studying the Scriptures, one thing really stands out:
The “Role” that the “Rock” plays is the most important fact in your life.
I can say with total confidence that if your life has the “Rock” as its foundation, if you are grounded in the Rock, that makes all the difference-especially when those cold, hard winds of life try to blow you
away. The old Gospel hymn is right: If you don’t stand on “Christ the Solid Rock, all other ground is sinking sand.”

After just having gone through a tremendous time of pain, mourning, and grief, I can tell you with the most realistic certainty that, without Jesus, how could we make it through? Plain and simple: We can’t.
Is your “house,” your life, built upon the Rock? What “Role” does the “Rock” play in your “house?” in your life?  

Here are the verses declaring the “Role” of “The Rock:”

Deuteronomy 32:4   He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

 Deuteronomy 32:15   But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.

1 Samuel 2:2   There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

2 Samuel 22:2   And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

2 Samuel 22:3   The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.

 2 Samuel 22:32   For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?

2 Samuel 22:47   The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.

2 Samuel 23:3   The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

 Job 28:10   He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing.

Psalms 18:2   The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Psalms 18:31   For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
 
Psalms 18:46   The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

Psalms 27:5   For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

Psalms 28:1   Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.

Psalms 31:2   Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.

Psalm 31:3   For thou [art] my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

Psalms 40:2   He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

Psalms 42:9   I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Psalms 61:2   From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalms 62:2   He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved.

Psalms 62:6   He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. 
(Note this is one of few times which an exact Scripture is repeated, word for word, in the same chapter).

Psalms 62:7   In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.

Psalms 71:3   Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

Psalms 78:35   And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.

Psalms 89:26   He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

Psalms 92:15   To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalms 94:22   But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.

Psalms 95:1   O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
(Ever notice that all of the altars were made out of rock? They were, yes fire-proof.)

Isaiah 17:10   Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:

Isaiah 51:1   Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.

Matthew 7:24   Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
(This really begs the question:  Is your house, is your life, built upon the Rock?)

Matthew 7:25   And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
(This is what happens when you build your house, your life, upon the Rock.)

Luke 6:48   He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
(You might say His Role is the Rock.
What role does the Rock play in your life?)

Romans 9:33   As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

1 Corinthians 10:4   And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Now, that is what I call “Old Tyme Rock and Role!”

Blessings,
Richard.Vincent.Rose.

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Heroes Of The Faith: David Brainerd

David Brainerd on horsebackDavid Brainerd: The very name brings so many images to mind. Courage, bravery, faith, prayer, service, and unselfishness. I have no doubt I should have mentioned prayer first. A man who devoted so much time to prayer and intersession. No wonder there were so many miracles. There are so many stories of his miraculous missionary ministry. A life devoted to prayer, and so often alone and against all odds, he effectively brought
the Gospel where it had never been heard before, to peoples whom language he did not even know. So many stories and images. His suffering and service, while battling terminal illness, giving his life to preach the Gospel. No wonder his favorite message, his favorite Bible passage, was Isaiah 53. Here in New England, and especially “down” in southern New
England, it seems every Pastor has a favorite David Brainerd story.

My own personal favorite, and I will paraphrase as best I can from memory, was when David Brainerd was scheduled to preach to a large group of Indians, and as was usually the case, he did not know, nor speak their language. His interpreter showed up completely and totally, “falling down” drunk, almost unable to speak coherently. But, there was no one else available who spoke both English and the Native Indian language.
Somehow, the interpreter managed to stay awake and standing long enough to stammer through the message. What happened? God’s Word was so powerful that many, many of the Indians came forward to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord.
David Brainerd preachingMy first knowledge of David Brainerd came through the many references made to him in E.B. Bounds’ many books on prayer. David’s story, and the stories about his life as missionary, astounded me. Please be advised, that any book about his life and his work, will fill you with the same amazement, and encouragement. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any one that is planning and wanting and willing to serve others on Christ’s behalf, regardless of the office or capacity, should read all he can about the life of David Brainerd, and especially his diary, which he devoutly kept throughout his missionary life. Both his Diary and Journal (which he kept from June 19,
1745, to June 19, 1746) are full of ministry and miracles that read like The Acts of the Apostles. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd has had a life-transforming effect upon many, motivating them to become missionaries, evangelists, preachers, and people of prayer and power. John Wesley said, “Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd.” He is remembered not only as the great Apostle to the North American Indians, but also as a chief source of inspiration in the lives of thousands who have been challenged from ease and selfishness to lives of holiness and sacrifice, as they have prayed and wept over his Journal.
Everyone should read about David Brainerd. Everyone. Oh, and then compare your hardships to his. He is called “The pioneer of modern missionary work.”
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards=Phillip HowardMost of the biographies condense like this:
Missionary to the American Indians in New York, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. Born in Connecticut in 1718, he died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine, on October 9, 1747, while staying at the home of Jonathan Edwards, in Northampton, Massachusetts. Jonathan Edwards preached his funeral sermon and published the diary which David had kept. David Brainerd’s life reached out and touched the whole world, challenging more people into Christian service than perhaps any other man that ever lived. The mere mention of the name, Brainerd, automatically triggers the mind to think of dedication in a way that perhaps has never been equaled. His ministry to the Indians was contemporary with Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards as they ministered to the English-speaking people during the period called in English and American history the “Great Awakening.” Brainerd’s centuries-spanning influence for revival is positive proof God can and will use any vessel, no matter how fragile and frail, if it is only sold out to souls and to Jesus. “His story,” said J. M. Sherwood, “has done more to develop and mold the spirit of modern missions, and to fire the heart of the Christian Church, than that of any man since the apostolic age.”

“We should always look upon ourselves as God’s servants, placed in God’s world to do His work; and accordingly labor faithfully for Him. Let it then be your great concern, thus to devote yourself and your all to God.”

David Brainerd was born in Haddam, Connecticut on April 20, 1718, the sixth of nine children of Hezekiah and Dorothy (Mason) Brainerd. His father was a local justice of the peace, and both David’s parents were Christians. His father died when he was nine, and the death of his mother in March, 1732 brought additional great grief to 14 year old David. By 1739, he was setting aside whole days of secret fasting and almost
incessant prayer as he strove for acceptance with God. On July 12, 1739, at 21 years old, he returned to his secret place of prayer, where God spoke to him as the day dawned, and he had a glorious salvation experience.

From his youth, David Brainerd was frail and sickly. By August, 1740, he was weak and spitting up blood. Consumption or tuberculosis of the lungs was the plague of colonial New England, and would plaque David every day thereafter, for the rest of his life. He was very intelligent, and would attend Yale for a time. On April 19, 1741, Ebenezer Pembertson visited Yale and gave a stirring address about missionary work to the Indians. The next day, on his 23rd birthday, Brainerd vowed “to be wholly the Lord’s, to be forever devoted to his service.”
David Brainerd-A Love for the Lost by Brian CosbyOn July 29, 1742, he was licensed to preach as a Presbyterian at Danbury, Connecticut. Brainerd’s first sermon was on July 30th at Southbury, Connecticut, using I Peter 4:8 as his text and his first message to the Indians was soon after, on August 12, near the Connecticut-New York border. He traveled as an itinerant preacher for several months. David would travel over 15,000 miles on horseback, often in great pain. He preached from place to place that first winter, then served as a supply preacher at East Hampton, Long Island, New York for six weeks. On his last Sunday there, March 13th, although he could hardly stand up, he preached for an hour and a half. The next day, he left for work among the Indians. He said later, “I never, since I began to preach, could feel any freedom to enter into other men’s labours and settle down in the ministry where the gospel was preached before.” He felt he had to preach where Christ was not named nor known. He left for his life’s work March 25, 1743.

Here is one story of many, this one from his first visit to Indian tribes on the Forks of the Delaware River: Arriving the night before he would begin his work, he camped just outside the Indian settlement. He did not know, until the next morning (when he safely entered the Indian village) that he was being watched by warriors who were sent to kill him that night. The warriors made their move, approaching David’s tent, when they saw their target, on his knees, praying. Then, they saw a rattlesnake crawl up to David’s side, and lift up his head to strike. David did not even see the snake, even when the rattlesnake’s forked tongue almost touched his face. Then, suddenly, for no reason, the snake froze, and then quickly slithered away into the woods. David had no idea he was inches from sure death-one way or the other. However, the Indians ran back to the village and proclaimed that “The Great Spirit is with the paleface!” And, they gave David Brainerd a prophet’s welcome.
His short life with the Indians would be full of miraculous interventions of God on his behalf, and of the great ministry and revivals that would follow.
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan EdwardsHe was frequently in distress for lack of suitable food, exposed to hunger and cold, lost in the forests, caught in storms with no shelter available, obliged to ford raging streams and to spend the night in the woods, in peril from wild beasts and wild savages. He realized, however, that he had at most a year or two longer to live, and concluded, after much struggle of soul, that he should “burn out to the last” as a traveling missionary. Falling on his knees in his resignation, he cried: “Farewell friends and earthly comforts; farewell to the dearest, the very dearest of them all. I will spend my life to my latest moments in caves and dens of the earth, if the kingdom of Christ may thereby be advanced.”

After five years of arduous travel, manifold hardships, and almost constant pain, David Brainerd, spitting blood and almost delirious with fever, stumbled down the road to Northampton to die in the home of Jonathan Edwards. He was not yet 30, but he had no regrets. “Now that I am dying,” he exclaimed, “I declare that I would not for all the world have spent my life otherwise!”

From his diary: “Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service, and to promote Thy kingdom.”
The last words written in his diary, on Oct. 2, 1749: “My soul was this day, at turns, sweetly set on God: I longed to be with him, that I might behold his glory. I felt sweetly disposed to commit all to him, even my dearest friends, my dearest flock, my absent brother, and all my concerns for time and eternity. O that his kingdom might come in the world; that they might all love and glorify him, for what he is in himself; and that that blessed Redeemer might “see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied! Oh, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly! Amen.”

The 53rd chapter of Isaiah was exceedingly precious to David Brainerd. When preaching to the Indians, his favorite theme was Isaiah 53. And, when he came to the end of his life, the last entry he made in his Diary contained a quotation from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah.

His last words were “He will come, and will not tarry. I shall soon be in glory; soon be with God and His angels.”

David Brainerd-Teepee

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