Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
John Newton (1725-1807), the author of “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” was among the most influential Evangelical Anglicans of his day. A contemporary of the Wesleys, Newton learned the Bible at his mother’s knee but abandoned the faith.
Later he experienced a profound conversion, was ordained an Anglican priest, and accepted at Olney (1764). There Newton wrote hymns and enjoyed the friendship of the troubled but brilliant hymn writer and poet, William Cowper (“There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood”). In 1779, Newton and Cowper published some of their hymns in Olney Hymns. Animated by the evangelical piety of its authors, this three-part collection featured hymns on scripture, “occasional subjects” and the Christian life. Included in Book I (and exceptional in the collection because of its jubilant tone) was “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” which carried the title “Zion; or, The City of God.” Newton built this hymn around seven biblical passages. It quickly gained popularity wherever English-language hymns were sung.