Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rock of Ages

      After the death of my father last year and my mother's move to a retirement community this year, our family have been sorting through my parents' library.  In some cases this has meant also sorting through books that belonged to their parents.  One such book, from my maternal grandfather, was a little book published in 1934 by General Mills no less. How he came by it is unknown to me.   Entitled The Story of Fifty Hymns, it has write-ups of many familiar hymns. 

     Amazon has this description of the book "The Story of Fifty Hymns published by the millers of Gold Medal "Kitchen-tested" Flour Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Copyrighted by General Mills, Inc. in 1934 and 1939.  This booklet was presented through the courtesy of General Mills in commemoration of the 6th Annual Marshall County Church of Bible School Day featuring "Hymns of All Churches Parade", June 26, 1940, Marshalltown, Iowa.  It has a Preface about a group of artists and musicians headed by Joe Emerson, a nationally known figure in radio in 1934, who started a program of morning hymns with every faith represented, and Gold Medal "Kitchen-tested" Flour was the sponsor of the radio show. "

Here is the text concerning Rock of Ages which we sing at Church tomorrow.

"In the 31st Psalm, we read these words:  'Be thou a strong rock...a house of defense to save me...' This is the thought of the hymn, 'Rock of Ages,' familiar to many churches,  It was written in 1776 by Augustus M. Toplady, priest of the Church of England.   An interesting sidelight on the steadfast faith expressed in the hymn is found in the words of the writer as he lay dying, "I cannot tell you the comforts I feel in my soul; they are past expression.  My prayers are all converted to praise..."  On the one hundredth anniversary of the writing of 'Rock of Ages', more than ten thousand people gathered at the place where it is supposed to have been written, to pay homage to this great symbol of faith expressed in song."

Of this hymn Wikipedia says "Traditionally, it is held that Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the gorge of  the Mendip Hills in England. Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was travelling along the gorge when he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title and scribbled down the initial lyrics.
The fissure that is believed to have sheltered Toplady is now marked as the "Rock of Ages", both on the rock itself and on some maps, and is also reflected in the name of a nearby tea shop.

See below for a nice rendition of this hymn.  It is interesting to compare our hymnal version with The Rev. Toplady's text. 


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