The first light to shine from the Eddystone Lighthouse occurred over 320 years ago. The lighthouse was built to warn ships of the dangerous reefs off Plymouth Sound, one of the most important harbors of England. These reefs are submerged during high tide. Mariners were so afraid of the dangerous channel they would hug the coastline. However, this resulted in shipwrecks along the rocky coast.
Henry Winstanley, the first architect to build the Eddystone Lighthouse, began construction in 1696. Winstanley was so confident in the strength and design of the lighthouse he had written on the cornerstone “Blow, O ye winds! Rise, O ocean waves! Break forth ye elements and try my work!” These were the words of a fool. Less than five years later, a massive storm destroyed the lighthouse along with Winstanley and those who were doing repairs on the lighthouse at the time.
In the early 1700s, the Rudyard Lighthouse was built on the same location The first light to shine from this candle-powered lighthouse was in July 1708. Rudyard Lighthouse proved more durable than its predecessor and provided Marines safe passage through the reefs for forty years.
Unfortunately, in December 1755, the lighthouse caught fire and burned to the ground. In 1759, John Smeaton built the Smeaton Lighthouse. This architect dug down to the bedrock. On the corner-stone of the lighthouse, he engraved the words, “Except the Lord build the house it’s builders labor in vain.” Although the lighthouse has been modified and updated, it has withstood the stormy blasts for more than 263 years.
In 1763, while Augustus Toplady was taking a walk in Somerset, England, when he was suddenly overtaken by a thunderstorm of remarkable severity. The preacher looked for shelter and caught sight of some overhanging rocks. These rocks were leaning against each other and provided protection from the storm. As Toplady watched the storm pounding the countryside, his thoughts were reminded of a rustic Irish barn of a gospel preacher when he was 16. Augustus remembered hearing the message of salvation about how Jesus saves lost sinners from the storm of judgment. He smiled as he recalled the peace he felt when he received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
When the storm was passed, upon returning to his home, Augustus Toplady jotted down the lyrics to one of the best-known hymns of the Christian church. Toplady penned the words: “Rock of age, 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.”
On June 28, 1880, the boiler on a steamboat exploded while floating on the East River near Wards Island, New York. The explosion caused the boat to catch on fire, resulting in the death of 30 people. Before abandoning the burning boat and jumping into the water, a husband fastened on a life-preserver, which he shared with his wife. His wife wrapped her arms around him and held on. As the moments dragged on, her grip began to weaken. The weary wife said to her husband, “I can’t hold on much longer!” To which her husband said,” Don’t let go!” Then he said, “Let us sing, ‘Rock of Ages.’”
As the sweet strains floated over the troubled waters, these inspiring words breathed hope into others. As the couple sang, other people began raising their heads above the waves and joined in singing the song as a prayer: “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” With the singing of the song came renewed strength. Soon a rescue boat was seen approaching and they climbed aboard. The man later said he believed Toplady’s hymn saved him and many others that day.
Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.” The world has been blessed by ‘Rock of Ages,’ more than the words of the hymn is the wondrous reality that we can find shelter in the Lord Jesus, who is the firm foundation upon which we can build our lives. Jesus is the Rock of Ages. He is a hiding place from whatever storm this crazy world sends our way.