Toplady's Song in the Storm

diane severance, Ph.D.

Toplady's Song in the Storm

As the young minister traveled through the rugged country near England's Cheddar Gorge, the clouds burst and torrential sheets of rain pummeled the earth. The weary traveler was able to find shelter standing under a rocky overhang. There, protected from the buffeting wind and rain, Augustus Toplady conceived one of the most popular hymns ever written, "Rock of Ages, Cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee."

In March, 1776 Toplady published the hymn as part of an article in The Gospel Magazine, which he edited. He wrote that just as England could never pay her national debt, so man could never by his own merits satisfy the justice of God. In the middle of the article he burst into song, printing for the first time the hymn "Rock of Ages", which so ably describes Christ, the Rock of Ages, as the remedy for all our sin.

Augustus Toplady died of consumption at the age of 38. As he neared the end Toplady proclaimed, "My heart beats every day stronger and stronger for glory. Sickness is no affliction, pain no cause, death itself no dissolution...My prayers are now all converted into praise."

DISTANT DATELINE: Titus Quells Revolt, Devastates Jerusalem City in Flames, Jewish Temple Destroyed

JERUSALEM, 70 AD. The valiant Titus, son of emperor Vespasian, triumphantly completed the work begun by his esteemed father and decisively defeated the revolt of the Jews in Jerusalem against our noble empire.

Jerusalem lies in ruins, its revered temple burned to the ground. Flavius Josephus, a Jewish leader who earlier took part in the revolt, repeatedly and unsuccessfully pled with fellow Jews to desist. He estimates the Jewish death count at a staggering one and a half million. In addition, thousands were captured to be enslaved.

The Jews refused repeated offers of mercy, preferring to fight against all reasonable hopes, some expecting a divine deliverer to intervene for them. Josephus described the almost unimaginable carnage the Jews brought upon themselves. Titus' forces "choked the alleys with corpses and deluged the whole city with blood, in so much that many of the fires were extinguished by the gory stream."

One interesting sidelight, a small sect known as "Christians" that recently emerged from within Judaism refused to join the revolt. They follow the teachings of the condemned criminal Jesus, who was crucified at Jerusalem some forty years ago. His followers are said to have fled to the fortified city of Pella in central Palestine. They claim that Jesus, a generation ago, had actually predicted the destruction of the temple.

One of the victorious centurions commented to this reporter that Jerusalem has been a trouble spot for centuries, captured by a succession of invaders from the Jebusites, to the Jews, to Nebuchadnezzar, to the Seleucidae. "Finally," he exulted, "and forever, this city will be under the control of Rome, never again to cause such havoc."

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