The opening line of this hymn quotes Psalm 87:3 “Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God” (ESV). The theme of these stanzas is the universal church, and its story. The text begins with a vision of the new city of God (Hebrews 12:22) in the first two stanzas, and then looks back to the early journey of the Israelites, with references in the third stanza to cloud, fire, and manna (Exodus 13:21, 16:31). We are reminded through this of the long history God has with His people, and of the wonderful future awaiting those who are, through grace, members of God's family.
Many American patriotic hymns extol the beauty and worth of the United States first, and treat God almost as an afterthought, which makes it difficult for some Christians to be comfortable singing them in the context of a worship service. This hymn puts God first, and is constantly addressed to Him as a prayer for the nation, without reference to American superiority. The second and third stanzas allude to a nation's need for God's law and guidance to maintain peace.
This hymn may be used as a call to worship, as in “Christians, We Have Come to Worship,” which contains a choral opening sentence from the first two lines of the text. A longer choral call to worship blends “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship” and “Come, Christians, Join to Sing” in “Come and Worship.” The later stanzas could be used after a sermon on evangelism as a call to action, as in the simple choral setting of this text to its traditional tune, “HOLY MANNA,” or a piano postlude, such as in “The Church Pianist's Library, Vol. 5.”
This hymn is a traditional spiritual, probably from the antebellum period in the American south. It may have been used by slaves to signal a secret gathering, since such assemblies were illegal. In that case, perhaps the original version of the song consisted of only the final stanza and the refrain. Some writers are of this opinion, and add that after the Civil War, the first two stanzas were added in order to make it a Communion hymn.
My name is Ian Riley, and I am writing on behalf of Hill St. Music, a group
of musicians from a home fellowship in Alplaus, NY.
We are a group of Christians who believe that there is power, and value in
music, and song-writing, but also realize that some of the more modern
worship music lacks the richness and depth that characterizes our favorite
hymns. In an effort to return to a style of worship that focuses more on the
integrity of the lyrics being biblical, rather than the catchiness of a tune,
or how upbeat a song may be, we have recently been hosting a hymn-writing
One of the most effective and simple costume changes is to put on a hat. When you walk off stage and return wearing a top hat, you are suddenly a different person. A “man of many hats” is someone who can be a different person in different contexts or crowds. This hymn declares that we are to crown our Lord with many crowns, but this does not mean that Jesus is a “man of many hats.” Christ was not simply a prophet, He was not simply the carpenter’s son, and He was not simply human, nor simply divine.
"Amazing Grace! (How Sweet the Sound)" by John Newton (1779)
"My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" by Isaac Watts (1719)
According to mythology, when St. Patrick was a missionary in Ireland in the 5th century, King Logaire of Tara decreed that no one was allowed to light any fires until a pagan festival was begun by the lighting of a fire on Slane Hill. In a move of defiance against this pagan ritual, St. Patrick did light a fire, and, rather than execute him, the king was so impressed by his devotion that he let Patrick continue his missionary work.
"Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun" by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Isaac Watts was quite the revolutionary. While his contemporaries stuck within the boundaries of hymnody and Scripture paraphrasing, Watts jumped outside of the box and used the Bible as a launching point for his hymn texts – the foundation upon which he placed his own thoughts. While we might think this to be fairly normal, it was a radical move back in Watts’ day.