Thomas Ken

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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Thomas Ken is known chiefly by his long meter doxology,
"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.”
which is sung wherever the English language is spoken. He was born in Hertfordshire, England, July, 1637, and died in March, 1711. He entered Winchester College at 15 years, and his name may still be seen cut on one of the stone pillars. He began preaching at the age of 25, and continued a faithful servant of the Lord up to his death at 74.
Of his boyhood and conversion the historians say nothing, but that he was a very conscientious, godly man. One says, "He acted as curate in one of the lowest districts;" and later in life he was made a bishop. Being faithful in this lowly position, he was entrusted with what men consider an important post in the Anglican Church. Let us learn from his example to do faithfully and diligently whatever it is our duty to do.
But, like all true servants of Christ, Ken had his trials; some severe and long enduring. "In 1679 he was appointed by Charles II chaplain to the Princess (afterward wife of William of Orange)," a writer says. "In 1684 he was appointed bishop, and one of Ken's first duties was to attend the deathbed of Charles, where his wise and faithful ministrations won the admiration of everybody." We may be sure he was faithful to the soul of the dying king, for, some years before, when this dissolute prince visited Ken's town with his gay and loose court, he wished to quarter some of them in the residence of the worthy minister. "Not for the king's kingdom!" was Ken's resolute reply, which has become historic for its boldness. Instead of taking offense at his bold stand, and having Ken punished, Charles advanced him with an appointment. How true is God's word by Samuel, "Them that honor Me, I will honor, and they that depise Me shall be lightly esteemed." Of course, we should be very sure we are doing God's will in refusing to obey those in authority; for the Scriptures not only command us to fear God, but to "honor the king." (See 1 Peter 2:1717Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17).)
Ken was one of the celebrated "seven bishops," who, in 1688, refused to publish the "Declaration of Indulgence," by which James, the king, intended to help the Church of Rome in England. For their refusal, the seven bishops were committed to the Tower on the charge of "high misdemeanor." But like Moses' parents, they were not "afraid of the king's commandment;" and when tried they were acquitted, amidst the great rejoicings of the nation. The next year the Revolution occurred, and Ken's trials with Romanizing powers were ended; but having sworn allegiance under James, he thought he could not conscientiously take the oath under the new government, to William of Orange, so was deprived of his office.
It has been said of Ken, "It is something to follow the course of a good man, who, amid the strife of parties, is faithful to himself and to his God: who desires not high position, yet accepts it when it falls to his lot, and when conscience forbids him to retain it, can leave it without a wistful look behind.”
But God did not let His faithful servant want. Lord Weymouth, a friend of Ken, granted him a pension of £80 a year; and under Queen Anne, at Bishop Hooper's suggestion, he was given £200 annually out of the public treasury.
“On March 19, 1711," says a biographer, "he peacefully breathed his last. Twelve poor men bore his body to the quiet grave in Frome Selwood. His funeral and his tomb were of the humblest description, in accordance with the character of His life, and his own desire." He was buried at sunrise, and according to his own request his morning hymn, "Awake, my soul, and with the sun" was sung.
During the last years of his life, this good man, in traveling, carried his funeral shroud in his portmanteau. When asked the reason, he replied that, "It might be as soon wanted as any other of his habiliments.”
Yes, dear reader, we do not know when death may claim us; and tile true preparation is to have Christ, the robe of righteousness.
We quote the following interesting note relating to Ken's Doxology: "Chaplain McCabe has related how the Doxology saved prisoners in Libby, the Confederates' prison at Richmond, Va., from despair. Day after day they saw comrades pass away, and their numbers were replaced with living recruits for the grave. One night about ten o’clock, the tramp of coming feet was heard, and stopped before the prison door. In the company was a young Baptist minister whose heart almost fainted as he looked on the cold walls and thought of the suffering within. Tired and half sick, he sat down, put his face in his hands, and wept. Just then a lone voice of deep, sweet pathos, sang from an upper window,
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,”
and a dozen voices were heard taking it up on the second line; and before the last line was reached the prison was alive with song, and lonesomeness and despair were dispelled for the night by this splendid verse of praise.
"The Doxology is truly a wonderful verse. It has been the death song of martyrs and the 'mean of victorious armies. When peace was sealed at Appomattox the Doxology rolled like the voice of mighty thunder from State to State and from ocean to ocean. Whenever the spirit of spontaneous praise takes hold of large public assemblies, the Doxology is usually the song by which expression. of gratitude is made.41,
Morning Hymn—by Thomas Ken
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.
Awake, lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
Glory to the eternal King.
Glory 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 life partake.
Direct, control, suggest this day,
All I design, or do, or say;
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy blest service may unite.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host: