“On Zion’s Glorious Summit”

"ON ZION’S GLORIOUS SUMMIT"
"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come" (Rev. 4.8)

     INTRO.: A hymn which draws its language from those great scenes in Revelation where the heavenly hosts and victorious sants surround the throne of God with praise is "On Zion’s Glorious Summit" (#48 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #664 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by John Kent, who was born at Bideford in Devonshire, England, around Dec. 28, 1766. A shipwright by trade, he acquired only a limited education but became known for his hymns which were strongly worded, very earnest, and simple. Several of them appeared in Samuel Reece’s 1799 Collection, but this one was included in Kent’s own 1803 Collection of Original Gospel Hymns, which by 1809 had 264 hymns and 15 longer pieces.

     Kent died on Nov. 15, 1843, most likely in Bideford, but in 1861 his Collection was still being published in its tenth edition, which included "The Author’s Experience" and a biography of Kent by his son. The English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon made use of Kent’s hymns in his collections employed in his Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. The origin of the text of the Sanctus, which usually accompanies the hymn and is to be sung after the third stanza, is unknown. The tune (Skene or St. Louis) was composed by Robert Skene (19th c.). Very little information is available about this composer.

     It is believed that he was the son, or grandson, of Benjamin Skene, a longtime advocate of religious reform who died in 1859 and whose obituary was given ample space in the April issue of Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger that year. Benjamin Skene had a son Robert who lived in Louisville, KY, and composer Robert Skene edited The Concordia at Louisville in 1861. Also he edited The Christian Psaltery in 1867 with Augustus Damon Fillmore, father of James Henry Fillmore and Fred Augustus Fillmore. This melody, which may date from 1869, was first published in the 1872 New Harp of Zion, edited by A. D. and J. H. Fillmore with an abbreviated form of the Sanctus. The full version of the Sanctus is found in Hermon: A New Collection of Sacred Music, published in 1873 by Rigdon McCoy McIntosh.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1–no Sanctus), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 (with the Sanctus separate), and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song describes the praise offered to God in the book of Revelation.

I. Stanza 1 pictures that numerous host redeemed by blood
"On Zion’s glorious summit stood A numerous host redeemed by blood!
They hymned their King in strains divine; I hear the song, and strove to join."
 A. Throughout the Old Testament, Zion prophetically refers to the Messianic kingdom but can also be understood to find its final
fulfillment in the heavenly kingdom: Rev. 14.1
 B. The numerous host refers to those who washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb: Rev. 8.13-14
 C. These redeemed ones who stand on that heavenly Zion will forever hymn their King in strains divine: Rev. 5.9-10

II. Stanza 2 pictures that host as the victorious saints who suffered for their faith
"Here all who suffered sword or flame For truth, or Jesus’ lovely name,
Shout victory now and hail the Lamb, And bow before the great I AM."
 A. In the book of Revelation, those who suffered sword or flame are those martyrs who had been slain for the word of God and their testimony: Rev. 6.9-11
 B. However, that number who stand on the heavenly Mt. Zion will include all who have suffered persecution for righteousness’ sake: Matt. 5.10-12, 2 Tim. 3.12
 C. They will shout victory, having overcome all evil, and hail the Lamb: Rev. 15.1-3

III. Stanza 3 pictures these redeemed as enjoying eternal love and new scenes of bliss forever
"While everlasting ages roll, Eternal love shall feast their soul,
And scenes of bliss, forever new, Rise in succession to their view."
 A. In this world to come Jesus promises His followers everlasting life: Matt. 19.29, 25.46
 B. While these everlasting ages roll, the same eternal love will feast their soul which washed them from their sins and made them kings and priests to God: Rev. 1.5-6
 C. The scenes of bliss will be the new heavens and new earth where all will be new forever and ever: Rev. 21.1-5

CONCL.: The Sanctus concludes by offering praise to the great I AM who gives us our victory.
"Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts, on high adored!
Who like me Thy praise should sing, O Almighty King!"
"Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts, on high adored!
Holy, holy, holy."
It is the hope of every Christian someday to praise the God of hosts with the redeemed of all ages and the heavenly choir as we stand "On Zion’s Glorious Summit."

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4 thoughts on ““On Zion’s Glorious Summit”

  1. The rhyme scheme of the song “On Zion’s Glorious Summit,” indicates that “divine” in verse one should rhyme with “join.”
    But it doesn’t! Would you address the Old and/or Middle English pronunciation of “join” that does rhyme with “divine”?

    Reply
    • In some areas of the south of England they still pronounce “divine” as “divoine” in a way which rhymes with “join”

      Reply
  2. I don’t think that you really have to go back to Old or Middle English to answer the question, although there may be some basis for an answer there. Rhyming in poetry isn’t an “exact science.” Some words are considered “close enough” to be acceptable for a rhyme, even though they don’t always have the exact same sound. Consider Isaac Watts’s “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” 2nd stanza: “Save in the death of Christ, my LORD….I sacrifice them to His BLOOD.” And that is considered by some to be the greatest hymn ever written in the English language.

    Reply

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