Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

Full Text

1 Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
He, whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
thou may'st smile at all thy foes.

2 See, the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.

3 Round each habitation hovering,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near.
Thus deriving from their banner
light by night and shade by day,
safe they feed upon the manna
which God gives them on their way.

4 Savior, since of Zion's city
I through grace a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in your name.
Fading are the world's best pleasures,
all its boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasures
none but Zion's children know.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text uses the metaphor of Zion, the (new) city of God (see Heb. 12:22) for the church or people of God. Founded securely on Christ's salvation, God's people experience his presence, protection, and guidance, and share in his glory. 


Psalter Hymnal Handbook


Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

Additional Prayers

Fount of every blessing,
all we have or ever hope to possess,
all we accomplish or ever hope to achieve, comes from you.
In the assurance of your salvation and the joy of your unfailing care,
help us call all peoples and nations back to you.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

Tune Information

E♭ Major
Meter D



Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

Hymn Story/Background

Inspired by Isaiah 33:20-21 and the Old Testament psalms that focus on Zion as the city of God, John Newton also included many New Testament allusions in this text, which he published in the Olney Hymns. There it was part of a group of hymns inspired by Scripture passages (Newton referred to Isa. 33:20-22). The original stanzas 1-3 and 5 are included. The hymn has been de­scribed as the "one truly joyful hymn" in the Olney collection and the evangelical equivalent to the more catholic “The Church's One Foundation.” John Julian ranks “Glorious Things” with the finest hymns in the English language.
The text uses the metaphor of Zion, the (new) city of God (see Heb. 12:22) for the church or people of God. Founded securely on Christ's salvation, God's people experience his presence, protection, and guidance, and share in his glory.
Joseph Haydn initially wrote the tune, AUSTRIAN HYMN, to be used as the Austrian national anthem, and the Nazis used it for their anthem, but it migrated into various hymnals early in its history and has remained a worthy hymn tune today.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

John Newton (b. London, England, 1725; d. London, 1807) was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumul­tuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape he himself became the captain of a slave ship. Several factors contributed to Newton's conversion: a near-drowning in 1748, the piety of his friend Mary Catlett, (whom he married in 1750), and his reading of Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. After becoming a tide-surveyor in Liverpool, England, Newton came under the influence of George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley and began to study for the for the ministry. He was ordained in the Church of England and served in Olney (1764-1780) and St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807). His legacy to the Christian church includes his hymns as well as his collaboration with William Cowper (PHH 434) in publishing Olney Hymns (1779), to which Newton contributed 280 hymns, including “Amazing Grace.”
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Franz Joseph Haydn’s (b. Rohrau, Austria, 1732; d. Vienna, Austria, 1809) life was relatively uneventful, but his artistic legacy was truly astounding. He began his musical career as a choirboy in St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, spent some years in that city making a precarious living as a music teacher and composer, and then served as music director for the Esterhazy family from 1761 to 1790. Haydn became a most productive and widely respected composer of symphonies, chamber music, and piano sonatas. In his retirement years he took two extended tours to England, which resulted in his "London" symphonies and (because of G. F. Handel's influence) in oratorios. Haydn's church music includes six great Masses and a few original hymn tunes. Hymnal editors have also arranged hymn tunes from various themes in Haydn's music.
— Bert Polman
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