Many families spend weekends together going hiking or to the movies. This weekend I’m traveling to a family reunion, which differs from a typical family visit in that extended family members are present. Reunions are a memorable time. Perhaps bonds will be formed with younger generations of cousins and fences mended. Naturally I’m enjoy seeing my relatives, but I can’t wait to step across the threshold and into our family church in Tyndall, Ohio. My maternal grandparents sat in these pews, my mother was baptized and married there, all of us were baptized there. We had several traditional hymns that are my “go-to” hymns when I need peace, however the one I requested most from my seat in the wooden pew was Rocks of Ages.
The author, born in England in 1740, was Augustus Montague Toplady. His father died in a war, his mother spoiled him, and his relatives disliked him.
Good thing Augustus was interested in the Lord. By age 12 he was preaching sermons to whoever would listen. At 14 he began writing hymns. And at 22 he was ordained an Anglican priest…that didn’t care much for Methodist theology. Ironically, this hymn that I grew up singing in Tyndall United Methodist Church, was part of an article Augustus wrote in 1776, intending it as a slap at John Wesley.
Oddly, it’s remarkable similar to something Wesley had written 30 years before in the preface of a book of hymns: “O Rock of Salvation, Rock struck and cleft for me, let those two Streams of Blood and Water which gushed from thy side, bring down Pardon and Holiness into my soul.”
Perhaps the two men weren’t as incompatible as they imagined. Please enjoy what has been hailed as “…the best known, best loved, and most widely useful” hymn in the English language: https://youtu.be/GAfAko5dwoM