Hymns - Jewels From Augustus Toplady
July 5, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Augustus Toplady (1740-1778) wrote hymns and published a large hymnal during the First Great Awakening in the same era as Charles Wesley, Philip Doddridge (“Grace! tis a Charming Sound,” “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World”), and Samuel Stennett. (“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand”). Like Wesley and Isaac Watts, Toplady held the doctrine of premillennialism.

Toplady had a good understanding of the power and sufficiency of Christ’s vicarious atonement, and he wrote of this great theme in majestic, lovely terms.

The following is from
Hymnwriters of the Church by Charles Nutter: “Augustus Toplady was born at Farnham, Surrey, November 4, 1740. His father was an officer in the British army. His mother was a woman of remarkable piety. He prepared for the university at Westminster School, and subsequently was graduated at Trinity College, Dublin. While on a visit in Ireland in his sixteenth year he was awakened and converted at a service held in a barn in Codymain. The text was Ephesians ii. 13: ‘But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.’ The preacher was an illiterate but warm-hearted layman named Morris. Concerning this experience Toplady wrote: ‘Strange that I, who had so long sat under the means of grace in England, should be brought nigh unto God in an obscure part of Ireland, amidst a handful of God's people met together in a barn, and under the ministry of one who could hardly spell his name. Surely this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous.’ In 1758, through the influence of sermons preached by Dr. Manton on the seventeenth chapter of John, he became an extreme Calvinist in his theology, which brought him later into conflict with Mr. Wesley and the Methodists. He was ordained to the ministry in the Church of England in 1762, and in 1768 he became vicar of Broadhembury, a small living in Devonshire, which he held until his death. The last two or three years of his life he passed in London, where he preached in a chapel on Orange Street. His last sickness was of such a character that he was able to make a repeated and emphatic dying testimony. A short time before his death he asked his physician what he thought. The reply was that his pulse showed that his heart was beating weaker every day. Toplady replied with a smile: ‘Why, that is a good sign that my death is fast approaching; and, blessed be God, I can add that my heart beats stronger and stronger every day for glory.’ To another friend he said: ‘O, my dear sir, I cannot tell you the comforts I feel in my soul; they are past expression. ... My prayers are all converted into praise.’ He died of consumption August 11, 1778. His volume of Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Worship was published in 1776. Of the four hundred and nineteen hymns which it contained, several were his own productions.
“A Debtor to Mercy Alone”
By Augustus Toplady (1740-1778)
Tune: Trewen by David Evans

“A Debtor to Mercy Alone” is a marvelous hymn of rich theological depth. It proclaims God’s great salvation, His mercy and grace, His sure covenant, His goodness, His power, His faithfulness. A major theme is the certainty of redemption. It describes the imputed righteousness of Christ by which the believing sinner is accepted before God. It describes salvation through Christ’s obedience and blood.

The tune is cheerful, fitting the subject, and easy to learn.

The words are beautiful, memorable. Consider the last two lines: “Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n; more happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in heav’n.” The hymnodist knows that he is not yet as happy as the saints in heaven, but he is just as secure!

Robert Kauflin revised “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” for Sovereign Grace Music. He changed the last two lines to the weaker, “Yes I, to the end shall endure, until I bow down at your throne. Forever and always secure, a debtor to mercy, alone.”

1. A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing; nor fear, with your righteousness on, my person and off’ring 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.

2. The works 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, nor all things below or above, can make him his purpose forgo, or sever my soul from his love.

3. My name from the palms of his hands eternity will not erase; impressed on his heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace. Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n; more happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in heav’n.

Tune audio
Printable Score

“Rock of Ages”
By Augustus Toplady (1740-1778)
Tune: Redhead No. 76 (also called Ajalon)

Toplady’s edition has four stanzas. In 1815, Thomas Cotterill altered the hymn to three stanzas by combining lines from the middle two stanzas. Both editions are still in use.

“Rock of Ages” glorifies God’s great redemption through the blood of Christ. It proclaims salvation all of grace. The believing sinner is hidden in Christ, saved from wrath and made pure. There is absolutely nothing he can do to save himself, not by zeal without respite or tears forever flowing. He brings nothing to God but the cross. He wants no clothing but Christ. He looks forward to soaring to worlds unknown.

The tune is upbeat but solemn, fitting to the message. It has a slight enlivening syncopation, but it is not a rock rhythm. It always resolves nicely.

1. 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.

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.

3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the 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.

4. While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

Tune audio, music score, midi

Printable Music score

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