This hymn was written in 1806 by Thomas Kelly. He was born in Kellyville, Ireland, on July 13, 1769, and was educated at the University of Dublin with the intention of being a lawyer. As a result of studying Hebrew, he felt compelled to pursue religious truth and began an earnest study of theology.
Kelly was ordained in 1792 but was silenced by the established church because his preaching of justification by faith was considered too spiritual. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1). He persevered and consecrated his musical and poetical abilities to the service of Christ. Thomas Kelly became one of Ireland’s finest preachers and spiritual poets of the 19th century.
As Christians become older and anticipate eternally being with the Lord, they often imagine what heaven will be like. Of course, streets of gold, crystal seas, and jeweled crowns are all envisioned, but this hymn also reflects the sounds of heaven. The singing of harps and voices with saints and angels unite in glorious praise to the Lord.
And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: (Revelation 14:2).
On May 14, 1855, at the age of 86, Thomas Kelly passed from this life into eternity, experiencing all the glory of heaven expressed in this hymn. “Not my will but Thine be done” were his last words. When someone repeated to him, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” he replied, “The Lord is my everything!”
Hark, ten thousand harps and voices
Sound the note of praise above!
Jesus reigns, and heav’n rejoices:
Jesus reigns, the God of love:
See he sits on yonder throne;
Jesus rules the world alone.
Well may angels bright and glorious,
Sing the praises of the Lamb;
While on earth, he proved victorious;
Now, he bears a matchless name:
Well may angels sing of him,
Heav’n supplies no richer theme.
Come, ye saints, unite your praises
With the angels round his throne;
Soon we hope our Lord will raise us
To the place where he is gone.
Meet it is that we should sing,
Glory, glory, to our King.
Sing how Jesus came from heaven,
How he bore the cross below;
How all pow’r to him is given;
How he reigns in glory now:
’Tis a great and endless theme:
O ’tis sweet to sing of him!
Jesus hail, whose glory brightens
All above, and gives it worth.
Lord of life, thy smile enlightens
Cheers and charms thy saints on earth:
When we think of love like thine,
Lord, we own it love divine.
King of glory, reign for ever,
Thine an everlasting crown:
Nothing from thy love shall sever
Those whom thou hast made thine own;
Happy objects of thy grace,
Destined to behold thy face.
Saviour, hasten thine appearing;
Bring, O bring the glorious day,
When the awful summons hearing,
Heav’n and earth shall pass away:
Then, with golden harps, we’ll sing—
“Glory, glory to our King.”