King's Business - 1928-04



K i n g ’ s

B u s i n e s s

April 1928

Toplady and His Great Classic B y 'P rof . J ohn B isski . l T rowbridge ,

BR IEF study o f any standard hymn book reveals the surprising fact that many of our greatest hymns were written by men who are to be remem­ bered by one hymn only— and they are- usually found to have been mighty men of prayer. Top- lady wrote 133 hymns. O f this number’ only a few are found in common use today, and out o f this small number, only one has been accorded a place in the highest rank, and that is “ Rock of Ages.” This hymn is classed as one

“ Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.” ',;

Wm . Ewart Gladstone loved the hymn and was often heard humming it in the House of Commons. He also; translated it into Gatin, Greek and Italian. The Italian translation is especially beautiful. Rev. Julian, author of “ Dictionary o f ITytnnology,” Says of it, “ No other Eng­ lish hymn can be named which has laid so broad and firm

a grasp tipon the English-speak­ ing world.” And yet critics have 'attacked it and declare that the literary standard of the hymn Is low, and that “ cleft rock” and “ riven’ side;” “ to Thy cross I cling,” and “ to the fountain fly,” are decidedly “mixed meta­ phors.” But the believing or troubled soul is satisfied, and thus the real purpose o f a true hymn is attained in spite of all adverse literary speculations. “ Rock of Ages” first ap­ peared in March 1776, append­ ed to a strange article in the current issue o f The Gospel Magazine, o f

o f the “ Great Four” by the Rev. James King in his “ Ang­ lican HymnOl'ogy,” the other three being Bishop Ken’s “ All Praise to Thee, my God, this N i g h t ” ; • Charles Wesley’s “ Hark ! the Herald Angels Sing” ; and “ Lo 1 He Comes with Clouds Descending,” writ­ ten by Cennick and rearranged by Wesley. Dr, .Louis Benson of Philadelphia; the g r e a t American authority on hymnol- ogy, in his “ The Best Church Hymns,” gives it first place in popularity and use among all English hymhs. In arriving at this conclusion he made a test in which he examined 107 differ­ ent hymn books and found “ Rock o f Ages” to have been selected by the compilers of 106 o f these books; no other hymn was found in more than 104. In the opinion of the writer the primacy of this hymn is dis­ puted only by. Watts’ “ When T Survey the Wondrous Cross;” The reason for this popu­ larity is easily accounted for. The hymn, founded on Isa. 32: 2, together with the marginal reading of .Isa. 2.6:4, has a strong appeal' to the humble “ rank and file” Christian, as


well as to the most cultured. It touches life at the place of need that comes daily, in some form, to every one. It has a somber tone, but the sad songs, either sacred or so-called secular, are the best loved. With this sad touch, however, there is the undertone o f confident hope and glorious triumph. Few hymns, if any, have ever been used so widely, and in such a striking way, to bring comfort in sorrow, solace to deathbeds, strength in daily trials and extreme hardship, calmness and security in danger and battle. The hymn was the dying prayer of Prince Albert, the husband o f Queen Victoria. It was sung by the Armenians during the time of the awful massacres in Constantinople. When the steamer London was lost in the Bay o f Biscay in 1866, the last passenger rescued heard those remaining "bravely singing,

cludes the article with the hymn, “ Rock of Ages,” show­ ing the remedy for sin, and giving it the title, “ A living and dying prayer o f the holiest believer in the world.” How T he H ymn W as S uggested The writing of “ Rock o f Ages” is said to have been suggested by an incident in which the author, walking through a wooded part of his parish, was overtaken by a storm. Taking shelter in a great fissure o f a rocky cliff,- he wrote the words o f the hymn on a scrap o f paper. The people o f the parish firmly believe that this is the origin of the hymn, and there is no reason to doubt it except the uncertainty regarding the traditional stories that often grow up around a popular hymn. The accompanying picture is reproduced from a photograph of the “ Rock

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