Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken

Representative 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 t'assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.

3 Round each habitation hov'ring,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a cov'ring,
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 he gives them when they pray.

4 Savior, if of Zion's city
I, thro' grace, a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name;
fading is the worldling's pleasure,
all his boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasure
none but Zion's children know.

Source: Trinity Psalter Hymnal #403

Author: John Newton

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… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Glorious things of thee are spoken
Title: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
Author: John Newton (1779)
Meter: D
Language: English


Glorious things of Thee are spoken. J. Newton. [Church of Christ.] First published in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Bk. i., No. 60, in 5 stanzas of 8 lines, and entitled, "Zion, or the City of God," Is. xxxiii. 20, 21. It has attained to great popularity in all English-speaking countries, and ranks with the first hymns in the language. It is used, however, in various forms as follows:—
1. Original text in Snepp's Songs of Grace & Glory People's Hymnal.
2. A cento composed of stanzas i., ii. and v. This appeared in Cotterill's Selection, 1819, from whence it has passed into a great number of collections. It is by far the most popular arrangement of the hymn in use, and may be found in fifty or more hymnals, as in Hymnal Companion, No. 234, and sometimes with Cotterill’s slight alterations, as in the Rev. F. Pott's Hymns, &c, 1861-67.
3. A cento composed of stanzas i., iii. and v., given in Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Hymns, 1852, but not popular.
4. A cento, stanzas i., ii. and doxology in four lines, not by Newton, in the Cooke and Denton Hymnal, 1853.
5. A cento, in 4 stanzas of 4 lines, beginning, "Glorious things of old were spoken," is given in Isaac G. Smith's Hymn Book, 1855-57. It is thus composed: stanza i., Newton altered; ii., I. G. Smith; iii., Newton; iv., dox. from Cooke & Denton. This is the least successful of any arrangement.
6. The whole hymn revised by J. Keble for the Salisbury Hymn Book, 1857, and included therein, as No. 130, with the four-line doxology from Denton. This, with slight returns to the original in two places (stanzas i., v.), and the omission of the doxology, was repeated in the Sarum Hymnal (broken into two parts, pt. ii. beginning "Blessed city, holy nation), 1868; and a cento therefrom again altered, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines in T. Darling's Hymns, &c, edition 1887. Another cento, also with alterations, is given in the Hymnary, from which it passed into the New Mitre Hymnal, 1875.
7. Cento of stanzas i., ii., iv., v., unaltered as in the Book of Praise Hymnal, Thring's Collection, and others.
8. In the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Church Hymns, stanzas i.-iv. with slight alterations in stanzas i., ii., and iii.
In the American collections the same diversity of use prevails as in Great Britain. Sometimes the hymn is broken into two parts, with pt. ii. beginning, "Blest inhabitants of Zion." In addition other arrangements of minor importance are given in collections of less importance; but in most cases the original text is maintained. Stanzas i., ii., v., have been rendered into Latin by the Rev. R. Bingham, and included in his Hymnologia Christiana Latina, 1871, "Dicta do te sunt miranda."

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



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