Controversy followed Toplady throughout his short 38 years of life, but he did not let that stop him. At a very young age he showed a keen interest in developing a relationship with God. By age 12 he was preaching sermons, and at age 14 he began writing hymns. He was ordained as an Anglican priest at the age of 22. Although some thought him to be arrogant and obstinate, excerpts from his writings verify that he was a devoted and humble follower of Christ.
An example of one of the many poems Toplady wrote between the ages of 15 and 16 years:
Refining Fuller, make me clean,
On me thy costly pearl bestow:
Thou art thyself the pearl I prize,
The only joy I seek below.
An excerpt from his personal journal, at age 27:
O, my Lord let not my ministry be approved only, or tend to be no more than conciliating the esteem and affections of my people to thy unworthy messenger; but to do the work of thy grace upon their hearts: call in thy chosen; seal and edify thy regenerate; and command thy everlasting blessing upon their souls! Save me from self-opinion, and from self-seeking; and may they cease from man, and look solely upon thee.
Toplady was a staunch Calvinist, and a very outspoken opponent of John Wesley's Arminian theology. In 1776, two years before his death, he wrote an article on God's forgiveness. The purpose of this publication was to rebut statements made by Wesley. The article concluded with Todlady's poem, Rock of Ages; a poem that would many years later find its way into the very same hymnals as many of John's brother, Charles Wesley's (Arminian) songs.
Rock of Ages
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 labors 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, Savior, 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.
“The Lord is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer.” (Psalm 18:2)