Story Behind The Hymn, “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken”

None of the Christian hymn-writers has had a history so remarkable as that of John Newton.

Newton was born in London. His mother was a pious woman, who taught him the Catechism and many other good things; but she died when the lad was only six years old.

His father was a sea-captain, and took the boy to sea when he was eleven years old. The young fellow learned to curse and blaspheme, and became very wild. At one time he was force into the navy, and he became a midshipman. But he was very restless and he deserted, was caught, stripped, whipped severely, and degraded to the ranks.

By this time he had become a thorough infidel, and was steeped in all kinds of sin. He fell into the hands of a slave-trade in Africa, and suffered all manner of hardship there, being continually insulted and almost starved. After many strange and hazardous adventures he became a slave-trader himself, and made several voyages to Africa in that shameful occupation.

The reading of Thomas À Kempis, the fearful experiences of a storm at sea in which his ship was almost lost, his deliverance from a severe fever in Africa, these, and other experiences, at last awoke in the sinful man the memories of the religion his mother had taught him. And he turned from his sins with true repentance.

He became a minister of the gospel. This was in 1764, when he was thirty-nine years old. He settled in Olney, England, and there it was that he formed the beautiful friendship with William Cowper which has given to the world so many splendid hymns.

Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken Hymn Lyrics

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 salvations walls surrounded,
Thou mayst 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 tassauge?
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 he gives them when they pray.

4 Blest inhabitants of Sion,
Washed in the Redeemers blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God.
Tis his love his people raises
Over self to reign as kings:
And as priests, his solemn praises
Each for a thank-offering brings.

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