The Doxology – Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow


Bishop Thomas Ken (1637–1711)

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

doxology1


Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

doxology4


The hymn we know as the Doxology is actually the last stanza of a very long song. Doxa means glory (Hebrews 1:1-3). The word itself derives from the Greek “doxa” (glory) and “logos” (word) and has come to mean a “short hymn of praise.” A doxology is therefore, a short hymn of praise to God in various Christian worship services. “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow” is a short hymn of praise is sung as the concluding prayer in many Evangelical services and may very well be the most popular English Christian hymn of all time. I first leant of the words of this song in my mother Tongue – Tonga. Tembaula leza mwini. Each week, around the world, thousands of Christian congregations raise their voices in worship:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

In countless languages this “Doxology” is treasured. Yet few know the story behind these words, first published in 1709, and fewer still the life of their composer, Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken (1637–1711). Ken wrote this hymn at a time when the established church believed only Scripture should be sung as hymns—with an emphasis on the Psalms. Some considered it sinful and blasphemous to write new lyrics for church music, akin to adding to the Scriptures. In that atmosphere, Ken wrote this and several other hymns for the boys at Winchester College, with strict instructions that they use them only in their rooms, for private devotions. Ironically, the last stanza has come into widespread use as the Doxology, perhaps the most frequently used piece of music in public worship. At Ken’s request, the hymn was sung at his funeral, fittingly held at sunrise.

Raised by “The Compleat Angler”: Thomas Ken was orphaned in childhood. He was raised by his older sister, Ann, and her husband, Izaak Walton, noted for his classic The Compleat Angler.

In 1651, Ken became a scholar of Winchester College and, in 1661, received his B.A. at New College, Oxford. Such Presbyterian schooling during times of political and religious turbulence only deepened his love for the Anglican heritage of his youth.

In adulthood, Ken held various church and academic positions. He even served as chaplain to Princess Mary until he stood firmly against, in George Crawford’s words, “a case of immorality at the Court.”

Later, Ken became chaplain to Charles II. But he would not let his house be used to lodge the royal mistress. This time, instead of being dismissed, Ken was rewarded for his courage with a bishopric.

Writing Hymns for Students:  Until becoming Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1684, Ken spent most of his life intertwined with Winchester, both College and Cathedral. There the small-statured prelate, through preaching and music, sought to uplift the spiritual lives of his students.

In 1674, Ken published A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College. In it, he charged his readers to “be sure to sing the Morning and Evening Hymn in your chamber devoutly.” These hymns were, evidently, already in private circulation.

In the 1695 edition, the words to these hymns (and a “Midnight Hymn”) were published as an appendix. The “Doxology” we sing today was the closing stanza of each of these three hymns (“Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun,” “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night,” and “My God, I Now from Sleep Awake”).

In a 1709 edition, Ken changed “Praise him above y’ Angelick Host” to “Praise him above, ye heavenly host,” and the lines reached their final form. The world had gained a priceless instrument of praise.

Final Lines of a Long Hymn:  Here are the first, ninth, and last stanzas of Thomas Ken’s “Morning Hymn,” which originally contained fourteen stanzas:

Awake, my Soul, and with the Sun,
Thy daily Stage of duty run,
Shake off dull Sloath, and joyful rise,
To pay thy Morning Sacrifice.

All Praise to Thee, who safe hast kept,
And hast refresh’d me whilst I slept,
Grant, Lord, when I from Death shall wake,
I may of endless Light partake.

Praise God from whom all Blessings flow,
Praise him all Creatures here below,
Praise him above, ye Heavenly Host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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