Stand On a Sea of Glass
DESCRIPTION: Chorus: "O this union, Sing this union, I love this union, Stand on a sea of glass." Alternate lines in verses are "Stand on a sea of glass." Verses have Satan failing to take the singer's soul, and Jesus shaking "the manna tree" for you and me.
EARLIEST DATE: 1899 (Barton)
KEYWORDS: nonballad religious Jesus Devil floatingverses Bible
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Barton, p. 28, "Stand On a Sea of Glass" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "Oh! Jerusalem" ("sea of glass" theme)
NOTES [523 words]: Barton uses "Stand on a Sea of Glass," with its "this Union" chorus, as a likely example of a hymn with a Civil War "army origin."
[This is likely; the King James Bible never uses the word "union," although there are a few references to "unity." I could argue that the word usually translated "brotherhood" should properly be translated "union" or "fellowship," but it's unlikely the hymn-writer had the Greek to know that. The Greek word translated "glass," and a related word, occur only in these verses of the Apocalypse cited below and in 21:18-21. There are other references to "glass" in both the New Testament and Hebrew Bible, but they come from different roots. - RBW]
The "sea of glass" is cited on Revelation 4:2-10 ["And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne... And out of the throne proceeded lightenings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.... The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne ...."] and 15:1-2 ["And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.] [King James]
A pre-Civil War hymn that refers to Revelation 4:2-10 is Shaffer #97 ("My soul, come meditate the day") which has, "before a throne a sea of glass ... Four beasts, and elders twenty-four, Fall down before the throne" [Rev. Stephen D. Shaffer,Pilgrim Songster (Zanesville: Shaffer, 1848 ("Digitized by the Internet Archive")), pp. 166-168]
Marsh has a hymn that, in passing, refers to Revelation 15:1-2: "Behold I stand on the sea of glass, The sea of glass all mingled with fire" [J.B.T. Marsh, The Story of the Jubilee Singers Including Their Songs (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1903 ("Digitized by Internet Archive")), #130 p. 301, "Humble Yourself, The Bell Done Rung"]. Booth has a judgement day hymn that also refers to Revelation 15:1-2: "Then on a sea of glass shall stand King Jesus, with His conquering band, Safe-housed above the fire" [William Booth, Salvation Army Songs (London: The Salvation Army Book Department, 1911 ("Digitized by Internet Archive")), #157 pp. 108-109, ("Rejoice, ye saints, the time draws near")].
Barton's text refers directly to neither verse but seems to draw on the phrase for its apocalyptic imagery in war time. The verses are not connected to Revelation and include the floater, "Tallest tree in Paradise, Christian calls it the tree of life."
Where I have "this union" Barton has "dis union," and maybe "disunion" is what was intended. See abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison's article "Disunion" in June 15, 1855 The Liberator. - BS
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