Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778)

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Hymns #47 (verses 2, 3, 4), 117, 120, 166, 177, 232, 326.
Who, as a Christian or as attending gospel meetings, has never sung that precious hymn “Rock of Ages”? The man used to write it, A. M. Toplady, was born at Farnham, Surrey, England, November 4, 1740. His father Major Richard Toplady was killed in the siege of Carthagena, Colombia, South America while Augustus was yet an infant. His mother’s maiden name was Catharine Bate. His parents had been married on December 21, 1737 and their first child, Francis, died in infancy, so that Augustus was the second son. Having been a bright and promising student at Westminster School, he was able at sixteen to assist his mother, a pious woman, in settling the question of an estate in Ireland. But while there at a place called Codymain he heard a man who was not ordained preach the gospel. In 1768 Toplady recounted the incident; the preaching was on Ephesians 2:1313But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13), “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” He says: “By the grace of God, under the ministry of that dear messenger (a Mr. Morris) and under that sermon, I was, I trust, brought nigh by the blood of Christ, in August 1756. Strange that I, who had so long sat under the means of grace in England, should be brought near to 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....
The excellency of such power must be of God, and cannot be of man.” How wonderfully does God work in drawing sinners to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ!
Between ages 15 and 18 he wrote some poetic pieces. He entered the ministry June 6, 1762 at Trinity Church, Dublin. In 1768 he began laboring in Broad Hembury, Devonshire and continued there until his death.
He was frail and sickly as has been the case with many dear servants of the Lord. The moist and cold atmosphere of Devonshire no doubt helped on sickness of consumption. He did spend time in London toward the end and last preached there. On April 19, 1778, he attempted to preach, but was so hoarse that after naming his text as Isaiah 26:1919Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. (Isaiah 26:19) he had to descend from the pulpit. He did, however, preach four more times. He was but 38 when he “rose to worlds unknown” on August 11, 1778. It is said that “his death couch seemed flooded with the sunbeams of the glory-land. Said he with sparkling eye, ‘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 to praise. I enjoy heaven already in my soul’.” What a testimony to the grace of God!
“While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”