Rock of Ages

Augustus Toplady was born in England in 1740. His father was a Royal Marine and died on duty soon after his son’s birth, leaving the boy to be raised by his mother. Toplady had an interest in religion during his younger years, and showed this in spiritual journals and moralistic behavior. However, it wasn’t until his fifteenth year, while attending a Methodist revival in an Irish barn, that he felt “brought nigh to God.” It was at this point that he determined to go into ministry. Toplady wrote a number of hymns in his life, but “Rock of Ages” is by far his most famous. There is a common story of the hymn being inspired by (and even written from within) a rock cleft that Toplady once took refuge in during a storm in North Somerset, England, and it has a plaque on it with this claim to fame. However, the story is probably not true. Louis Benson persuasively argues Toplady was most likely inspired to write the hymn after reading the preface of John and Charles Wesleys’ Hymns on the Lord’s Supper (1745) which contains a prayer voicing many of the themes and words that are also found in the hymn1.

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.

Not the labours of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

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, Saviour, or I die.

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.

When I Survey Life’s Varied Scene

Anne Steele was born at Broughton, Hampshire in 1717. Her father was a timber merchant, and at the same time officiated as the lay pastor of the Baptist Society at Broughton. Her mother died when she was 3. At the age of 19 she became an invalid after injuring her hip. At the age of 21 she was engaged to be married, but her fiancé drowned the day of the wedding. This hymn was written after the death of her beloved. Caleb Evans, in his preface to Steele’s posthumous Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse and Prose (1780), noted that she had been bed ridden for “some years” before her death: “When the interesting hour came, she welcomed its arrival, and though her feeble body was excruciated with pain, her mind was perfectly serene. . . . She took the most affectionate leave of her weeping friends around her, and at length, the happy moment of her dismission arising, she closed her eyes, and with these animating words on her dying lips, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” gently fell asleep in Jesus.”1

When I survey life’s varied scene,
Amid the darkest hours,
Sweet rays of comfort shine between,
And thorns are mix’d with flowers.
Lord, teach me to adore Thy hand,
From whence my comforts flow;
And let me in this desert land
A glimpse of Canaan know.

Is health and ease my happy share?
O may I bless my God;
Thy kindness let my songs declare,
And spread Thy praise abroad.
While such delightful gifts as these,
Are kindly dealt to me,
Be all my hours of health and ease
Devoted, Lord, to Thee.

When present suff’rings pain my heart,
Or future terrors rise,
And light and hope almost depart
From these dejected eyes,
Thy pow’rful word supports my hope,
Sweet cordial of the mind!
And bears my fainting spirit up,
And bids me wait resign’d.

And oh, whate’er of earthly bliss
Thy sov’reign hand denies,
Accepted at Thy throne of grace,
Let this petition rise:
“Give me a calm, a thankful heart,
From ev’ry murmur free;
The blessings of Thy grace impart,
And let me live to Thee.”

O May the hope that Thou art mine,
My path of life attend;
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And bless its happy end.
‘Til then, whate’er my days shall bring
On Thee my trust is stayed.
Thy Love shall tune my heart to sing
And draw eternal praise.

Just As I Am

The spiritual seed behind this hymn by Charlotte Elliott (1789–1871) is sometimes regarded to be her conversion experience1. Charlotte had become an invalid in 1821, which brought her great mental distress. Her lifelong spiritual mentor César Malan, a Swiss minister and hymnologist, counselled her to replace her rage and inner conflict with peace, and simple faith in God; from that day on, she turned her literary talents to writing hymns. Although sometimes depressed by her condition, she always felt renewed by the assurance of salvation, and she responded to her Saviour in hymns with her “strong imagination and a well cultured and intellectual mind” (John D. Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892). She wrote about 150 hymns. Her most famous, “Just as I Am,” is widely used in English and North American hymnals today2.

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Day By Day

This hymn was suggested by a subscriber of the blog and was written in 1865 by Swedish hymn writer Carolina “Lina” Sandell Berg several years after she had witnessed the tragic drowning death of her father. Having been through that experience, she still could write about God, “He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what he deems best.” In the second stanza, she refers to Deuteronomy 33:25b: “as your days, so shall your strength be” (ESV)1. It is a hymn of assurance used in American congregational singing and started appearing in American hymnals in the latter half of the 1920s, and its popularity has increased since then. The hymn’s Swedish name is “Blott en dag,” its first three words in Swedish. The words mean “just one day” or “just another day.” In Sweden and Finland, it is popular at funerals. As this hymn is sung, remember that, though no human can accurately foretell the future, God knows what will happen and is also in complete control of all coming events.

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what he deems best–
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev’ry day the Lord himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares he gladly bears and cheers me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of his child and treasure
Is a charge that on himself he laid:
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure”–
This the pledge to me he made.

Help me then in ev’ry tribulation
So to trust your promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when, toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Born in 1864, Helen Lemmel moved to the United States around the age of twelve. From a young age, her musical ability was noticed by all those around her. In 1907, She moved to Germany for 4 years to undergo intensive music training. It was here that she would meet her husband. Together, they returned to the United States in 1911. While in America, she served faithfully in the Lord’s work. She dedicated herself to writing, arranging, and teaching songs and hymns of the faith. A few years after her marriage, a tragic illness caused her to lose her vision. Her husband, refusing to attend to a blind wife, left her. This time of hurt and loss weighed heavily upon Helen. Then, in 1918, Lemmel was introduced to a pamphlet written by Algerian missionary Lilias Trotter. Trotter was a well-known artist who had given up a rising and lucrative career to serve the Lord on the misson field. Her words stirred the heart of Lemmel, particularly “Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look…look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him” which inspired this hymn1.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Thro’ death into life everlasting,
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion–
For more than conqu’rors we are!


His Word shall not fail you–He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!


‘Tis So Sweet

Louisa Stead was born in Dover, England in 1850. As a teenager, Stead felt called to be a missionary. She went to America at age 21, and lived for a time in Cincinnati, Ohio. Attending a camp meeting in Urbana, Ohio, she felt the missionary calling even more strongly. Unfortunately, she was not able to go to China as she had intended, due to her frail health. She married a Mr. Stead in 1875 and moved to New York, where the couple had a daughter, Lily. When Lily was four years of age, the family decided one day to enjoy the sunny beach at Long Island Sound, New York. While eating their picnic lunch, they suddenly heard cries of help and spotted a drowning boy in the sea. Mr. Stead charged into the water. As often happens, however, the struggling boy pulled his rescuer under water with him, and both drowned before the terrified eyes of Louisa and her daughter. Out of her ‘why?’ struggle with God, during the ensuing days, glowed the meaningful words of the hymn1.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
and to take him at his word;
just to rest upon his promise,
and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
just to trust his cleansing blood;
and in simple faith to plunge me
neath the healing, cleansing flood!


Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
just from sin and self to cease;
just from Jesus simply taking
life and rest, and joy and peace.


Trust and Obey

Popular in Sunday School classes, worship services, revival meetings and other gatherings of the church, this hymn was inspired in 1886 when the composer of the music, Daniel B. Towner (1850-1919), was the music leader during one of Dwight L. Moody’s famous revivals. Towner provided the following account cited by Moody’s musical partner, Ira D. Sankey, in his biography, My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns: “One night a young man rose in a testimony meeting and said, ‘I am not quite sure—but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.’ I just jotted that sentence down, and sent it with a little story to the Rev. J. H. Sammis, a Presbyterian minister. He wrote the hymn, and the tune was born.” Sammis is said to have composed the lines of the refrain upon receiving the letter: “Trust and obey—for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”1

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of his word,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.


But we never can prove
The delights of his love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows,
For the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.


Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at his feet,
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do,
Where he sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.


Lord, It Belongs Not To My Care

This hymn I came across during my daily devotional as I was reading an old hymnal a friend lent to me. This hymn was written by well known Puritan pastor Richard Baxter in 1681. This hymn expresses the reliance and confidence believers place in Christ for their earthly and spiritual lives. Its simple but eloquent verses remind us of God’s love and provision for His children, the joy of living under His lordship, and the expectation of eternal happiness in Christ1. Enjoy reading the words to this hymn as a prayer today.

Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live:
To love and serve thee is my share,
And this thy grace must give.

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than he went through before;
He that into God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
For if thy work on earth be sweet,
What will thy glory be!

Then shall I end my sad complaints
And weary, sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Saviour’s praise.

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.