In this section, we present short biographical sketches about the men and women who wrote the hymns we all know and cherish. The credit for this research belongs to a devoted member of our congregation and decidedly not to the webmaster.
ROCK OF AGES
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778
Thomas Hastings, 1784-1872
This fervent plea for Christ, our eternal rock, to grant salvation through His sacrifice and to be a place of refuge for the believer, is one of the most popular hymns ever written. Augustus Toplady’s strong and passionate lines were actually written to refute some of the teachings of John and Charles Wesley during a bitter controversy over doctrine. Toplady, as a staunch Calvinist, despised Wesley’s Arminian theology (which stresses man’s free will) just as he embraced John Calvin’s doctrine of election (that salvation is elected by God).
Augustus Toplady was born in Farnham, England. From a young age, Augustus was interested in the Lord. By age 12 he was preaching sermons to whoever would listen and at age 14 he began writing hymns; at 16 he was dramatically converted to Christ while attending a service in a barn. At 22 he was ordained an Anglican priest and, in time, became a powerful and respected minister of that church. Although Toplady wrote many hymn texts, few survived, but “Rock of Ages” outlived him by more than 200 years and has been called the “best known, best loved, and most widely useful” hymn in the English language.
Thomas Hastings, the composer of the melody for “Rock of Ages” was born in Washington, Connecticut. Later, he moved to Clinton, New York and began his career as a singing teacher, being largely a self-taught musician. In 1831, along with Lowell Mason, he complied a hymn book, which included his most well-known hymn “Rock of Ages”, then moved to New York City, where he served as a choir master for 40 years. In addition to his composition and compliling of tunebooks for use in the ‘singing schools’, Hastings founded Musical Magazine, a periodical he edited from 1835 to 1837.
Hastings was a prolific composer, writing some 1000 hymn tunes in what Mason called the “simple, easy and solemn” style which remains a major influence on the hymns of the Protestant churches to this day.
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.
Could my tears forever flow, could my zeal no languor know, these for sin could not atone-Thou must save and Thou alone: In my hand no price I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.
While I draw this fleeting breath, when my eyes shall close in death, when I rese to worlds unknown and behold Thee on Thy throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.
Morgan, Robert 2003, “Then Sings My Soul”
Osbeck, Kenneth W.1990, “Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily
(Photo credit-Organ keyboard: LENS-68/Shutterstock)