in the United States celebrate our National Holiday on July 4th.
That was the day, back in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was
signed. The actual signing was only one incident in the along sequence of
events that led to establishment of what became the United States, But we
recognize July 4th, 1776, as the birth of our nation.
other things happened that year – some significant, others trivial. For
example, a hurricane hit the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe,
resulting in the sinking of 100 French and Dutch ships, and over 6000 deaths.
Oh – and a New York bar decorated some mixed drinks with bird tails, which
coined the term cocktail.
England, Edward Gibbons published the first volume of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Also, that year, Adam Smith
published his Wealth of Nations,
widely considered the first modern work in the field of economics. It is still
widely influential today.
in 1776, there was something else published, something I think is far more
noteworthy. It was the famous hymn, Rock of Ages, written by August
Montagu Toplady. Historian Mark Noll suggests that it might actually be the
most consequential publishing event that year. Rock of Ages is one of
the two most reprinted hymns in Christian history. The words read like a good
sermon, or almost like Scripture:
Rock of Ages, cleft
for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Not the labours of my hands, Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone: Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy 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.