Keeping the Hymns Close By

Doxology – Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow

Author – Thomas Ken, 1637 – 1711
Composer – Louis Bourgeois, c.1510-c. 1561
Tune Name – “Old Hundreth”
First mention of the hymn was in 1674

I will praise Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: And I will glorify Thy name forevermore. Psalm 86:12

 

Before Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts, there was Thomas Ken who has been called “England’s first hymnist”. He was born in 1637 in Little Berkhampstead on the fringes of greater London. When his parents died, he was raised by his half-sister and her husband who enrolled him in Winchester College, an historic boys’ school. Later Ken attended Oxford University and was ordained in 1662 and returned to Winchester as a chaplain.

To encourage the devotional habits of the boys, Thomas wrote three hymns in 1674. This was revolutionary because English hymns had not yet appeared. Only the Psalms were sung in public worship. Ken suggested the boys use the hymns privately in their rooms. One hymn was to be sung upon waking, another at bedtime, and a third at midnight if sleep didn’t come. His morning hymn had thirteen stanzas, beginning with:

Awake, my soul and with the sun they daily stage of duty run;

Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise, to pay thy morning sacrifice.

 

His evening hymn, equally meaningful, included this verse:

All praise to Thee, my God , this night, for all the blessings of the light!

Keep me, O keep me, King of kings, beneath Thine own almighty wings.

 

All three hymns ended with the familiar four lines we now know as the Doxology.

The tune for Ken’s text, “Old Hundreth” is said to be the most famous of all Christian hymn tunes. It was composed or adapted by Louis Bourgeois, born in Paris, France, c.1510. In 1541, Bourgeois moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he became an ardent follower of the Reformed Reformation Movement. Here he was given the responsibility to provide the tunes for the new metrical psalms which were being prepared at that time. The tune was prepared originally for the French version of Psalm 134 in 1551. The first English words to which it was wedded were William Kethe’s version of Psalm 100, “All People That on Earth Do Dwell.”

In 1680, Thomas was appointed chaplain to England’s King Charles II. During the reign of the next king, James II, Thomas, by now a bishop, was sent to the Tower of London for his Protestant convictions. After his release, Thomas retired to the home of a friend, where he died on March 11, 1711. The Doxology was sung at his funeral.

 

 

Other hymns by Isaac Watts include “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”, “Jesus Shall Reign,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World!”

Taken from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2003 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson
Taken from 101 Hymn Stories Copyright © 1982, 2012 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.