One of my favorite hymns of the church is "Rock of Ages" - a powerful statement of a sinner's total reliance upon God for salvation. Every line, every stanza speaks of the sinner's self-awareness of his guilt before God and his sense of total incapability to redeem himself. Likewise, every word points beyond the sinner's deeply-felt inability to God's free, but costly, provision of salvation.
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.
Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778), the author of this hymn, was a devoted Calvinist, convinced of the total depravity of man and the singular action of a sovereign God in providing human salvation. His outspoken Calvinist views often put him at odds with his contemporaries, the Wesley brothers - John Wesley, the itinerant preacher and founder of the Methodist faith, and Charles Wesley, a staunch supporter of his brother's ministry and one of the best known song writers in all Christian history. This disagreement led to public debate and lasting hard feelings between Toplady and the Wesleys. This dispute mirrors the debate that lingers even today between Calvinists and Wesleyans.
But here is something I find quite interesting. One couplet in Toplady's song - "Be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure" - is a thoroughly Wesleyan sentiment. John Wesley - and his Methodist followers - stressed both the centrality of prevenient grace - grace that comes before anything else - in turning sinful man toward God and the absolute necessity of the sanctification process - the growth toward true righteousness and holiness - in the life of the Christian after this conversion experience.
This powerful song seems to accomplish what years of discussion and debate - both friendly and otherwise - never could. It brings together the strongest affirmations of both Calvinism and Wesleyanism in one place.
Sometimes, a song accomplishes things that nothing else can do.