February 04, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Glorious Things of You are Spoken” by Emu Music which was recommended to us via Twitter.
The past couple of weeks have been a bit frustrating with regards to our DiM posts both for CCM Radio songs and Evangelical Worship songs that were most popular in 2015. We have one more song on that second list, but I thought today we’d take a break and review an updated or modernized hymn. I enjoyed looking up the history of this hymn. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is on full display in this song. The focus is on the Kingdom that is to come, of which we who believe are already members, adopted by Grace through Faith, and the have the Hope of Salvation in Christ Jesus. There are several promises in this song that we look forward to in the day of Resurrection, and we would do well to resist the temptation to claim these promises for this temporal realm before Christ’s return.
Emu Music Video
1. Glorious things of you are spoken
Zion city of our God;
He whose word cannot be broken
Formed you for his own abode;
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake your sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
You may smile at all your foes.
2. See the streams of living waters
Springing from eternal love,
Well supply your sons and daughters
And all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to fade?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
Never fails from age to age.
3. Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them priests and kings to God.
Ne’er again will be a barrier;
All the guilt and stain are gone,
Free to walk beside the Saviour
In the glory of the Lord.
4. Saviour, since of Zion’s city,
I through grace a member am,
Let the world condemn or pity,
I will glory in your Name.
Fading is the worldly pleasure,
All its weak pretence and show.
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but those of Zion know.
© Words: J. Newton (1725-1807)
Music & additional words: © Luke & Vicki Woodhouse, 2009
CCLI song no. 6190404
A good resource for the history of this hymn can be found at Hymnary.org.
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)
One of the greatest strengths of traditional Church Hymnology is that it was not taken lightly or flippantly in days past. Not just any song was added to a Church’s Hymnal, it was a pain-staking process, for the role of the Hymns was to teach sound doctrine, confess Scripture, and to build up the Church in the Faith once and for all delivered to the Saints. It wasn’t merely a “mood setter” or a seeker-magnet. Since so much work has gone into these hymns, there is little I need to add to the discussion. Let’s look at some of the commentary available on this Hymn.
The title of Book I of the Olney Hymns, published in 1779 by John Newton and William Cowper, is “On Select Texts of Scripture,” containing hymns written on specific Scripture passages, arranged in biblical order. “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” written by Newton, is number 60 in this book. It is written on Isaiah 33:20-21, but there are plenty of clear references to other Scriptures, which Newton cited in footnotes, such as Psalm 87 (the first two lines of the hymn are nearly a direct quote of Ps. 87:3) and Isaiah 4:5-6 (which is closely paraphrased in the third stanza). This hymn has been called one of Newton’s finest hymns, and it is certainly one of his most popular, along with “Amazing Grace” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”
So, let’s take a look at these references.
Psalm 87 (ESV) | Glorious Things of You Are Spoken
A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. A Song.
87 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
“This one was born there,” they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah
7 Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”
And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”
In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
Isaiah 4 is very short. Notice that every mention of Zion is in that Great Day of Christ’s Return. The imagery in this hymn can by hijacked by dominionists who insist that the church will build Zion in order for Christ to Return and take His throne… that’s garbage. No, Zion is God’s City… in the New Heaven and the New Earth that He makes. Jesus prepared it for us.
I like that the English has been modernized without sacrificing the doctrine in the lyric. I’d like to see more of this sort of thing from Christian Musicians. Most importantly, we need to return Music to its proper place in Corporate Worship.
Romans 16:24-27 (ESV) | Doxology
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
In Christ Jesus,