Augustus Montague Toplady

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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ROCK OF AGES, cleft for me,"is, perhaps, the best known hymn in the “ English tongue. An able writer says of it, "In spite of its confusion of thought and incongruity of figures, it remains one of the most popular and helpful of all the great hymns of the Church.
Mr. Gladstone, the great prime minister of England, made a beautiful translation of it in Latin, so highly did he esteem it.
Its author, A. M. Toplady, was born at Farnham, Surrey, England, Nov. 4,1740. He was yet an infant when his father, Major Richard Toplady, was killed at the siege of Carthagena, a seaport of Columbia, in South America. His mother," one wrote, "seems to have been a woman of character and force," and he grew up under her pious care. When he was sixteen years old, she took him to Cody-main, Ireland, on a visit to friends. While there he was attracted to a religious meeting held in a barn, under the preaching of an illiterate man named James Morris. The text was, "But now, in Christ Jesus, e who sometime were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:1313But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)). "Under that dear messenger and his sermon," wrote Toplady in later years, "I was, I trust, brought nigh by the blood of Christ; in August, 1756—in a barn and under the ministry of one who could hardly spell his name. The excellency of such power must be of God—not of man.”
Yes, it is God's word that does the work in souls, whoever it be that speaks the message. And that verse has a wonderful message. It shows our ruin by sin, "far off," far from God. It speaks, too, of the only means of redemption from sin—"the blood of Christ." And it says that we who believe are not only saved from the wrath to come, but are "made nigh to God"—which means, near to Him as His children, not as servants in bondage and fear, but in the happy liberty of love. God's word says, "In Adam all die," but "in Christ Jesus," we live, and live to God. Ask yourself, honestly, Amos 1 in Adam, or in Christ? If not "born again," you are in Adam; if you have been converted, as was young Toplady, you are "in Christ Jesus, where "there is no condemnation." (Rom. 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1))
Toplady commenced to write his hymns while still quite young. The following was composed by him while yet in his teens:
"Surely Christ thy griefs hath borne,
Weeping soul, no longer mourn:
View Him bleeding on the tree,
Pouring out His life for thee:
There thy every sin He bore;
Weeping soul, lament no more.
Weary sinner, keep thine eyes
On the atoning sacrifice:
There, the incarnate Deity,
Numbered with transgressors, see!
There, His Father's absence mourns,
Nailed, and bruised, and crowned with thorns!
Cast thy guilty soul on Him,
Find Him mighty to redeem;
At His feet thy burden lay,
Look thy doubts and cares away.
Now, by faith, the Son embrace—
Plead His promise; trust His grace!”
Varying accounts are given of his preaching. Some say, "He was harsh and bigoted." Others insist that "his heart was warm, and his zeal was unquenchable." So it fares with most of God's servants, and with most of His children, too. Some speak of them disparagingly, while they are praised by others. But it is God’s approval we are to seek and then be thankful if others are pleased with us. But if otherwise, we may still take comfort in the Lord's approval. Only let us do that which is good and right; and then we can say as we sometimes sing:
"Then let the world approve or blame;
We'll triumph in our Savior's name.”
Mr. Toplady, like many of God's choicest servants, was never very robust or strong; his zeal far exceeded his strength. In hope that a change would be beneficial, he removed to London, where he preached occasionally in a French Calvinistic church. But the seeds of consumption were deeply rooted; his light frame rapidly wasted away, and he died in London, at the age of forty-nine. To a friend who had asked how he was, as he lay dying, he said, "Oh, my dear sir, I cannot tell the comforts I feel in my soul—they are past expression. The consolations of God are so abundant that He leaves me nothing to pray for. My prayers are all converted into praise. I enjoy a heaven within my soul." And just before he passed away, he asked his friends. if they were willing to give him up; and when they answered, "Yes," tears of joy and thankfulness coursed down his cheeks, while he said, "Oh, what a blessing that you are made willing to give me over to the hands of my dear Redeemer and part with me; for no mortal can live after having seen the glories which God has manifested to my soul!”
Dear reader, make this dear Redeemer yours, that your "last end may be like his.”
Confidence in God's Grace—by a. M. Toplady
A debtor to mercy alone,
Of heavenly mercy I sing;
Nor fear drawing near to the Throne,
My person and offering to bring.
The terrors of law and of God,
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.
The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from His love.
My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace.
And I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The spirits departed to heaven.