“While I draw this fleeting breath, When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown, See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee. Amen”
This final verse of ‘Rock of Ages’ may seem a little morbid and distasteful to some, but I think the author had a good balance in his belief system. The gospel isn’t just about what we can get from God down here in this life, but its about dealing with the sin that separates us all from God. And, when we finally breathe our last, its about our eternal destiny in either heaven or hell. This author pleads, when that Day comes, “Let me hide myself in You!”
Thomas Hastings was the one who wrote the tune behind ‘Rock of Ages’. In its day, this tune touched the hearts of many learning to trust in Jesus. Here is verse three of this old hymn:
“Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy 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!”
There is nothing we have to offer that God desires (except our hearts), so we must cling to what He did on the cross for us. Stripped of all spiritual covering, we come to Jesus, the Rock of Ages, for that spiritual covering, received by grace. In my nature, I am foul, so I run to the cleansing fountain where my sins can be cleansed. Wash my sins clean or I’ll die in them! What a cry of desperation!
‘Rock of Ages’, verse 2: “Not the labors 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.”
This hymn was written in a time when the protestant Church of England had broken away, or split off, from the Roman Catholic Church. Roman-ism taught that deeds of repentance were necessary for sin to be forgiven. Toplady correctly noted that none of the works of my hands can satisfy the law’s demands. No matter how much zeal I can muster or how many tears of remorse I may shed, they have no effect on my sin that holds me in bondage. God and His grace are the only hope we have. “You must save, and You alone!”
The old hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ was written by Augustus Montague Toplady in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775. It has been a favorite hymn of the church ever since. Although rarely used in contemporary churches due to its music style, several contemporary artists have recorded it in a modern rendition, including Amy Grant. Its words have a power message:
Verse 1: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.”
The Rock of Ages, of course, speaks of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Rock. His prayer is that we may hide ourselves in Him. The water and blood flowing from His side refer to what occurred on the cross when Jesus died to set us free. The double cure refers to the double bondage of sin in our lives, that of God’s wrath and our uncleanness. When Jesus died on the cross, He purchased a double cure that sets us free.
When Amy Grant recorded her version, the words were changed to “Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
Do you prefer Toplady’s orginal wording or the new wording? There is a doctrinal difference.