n. (from the Greek, literally “a word of praise”] a hymn or form of words containing an ascription of praise to God.
Thomas Ken (1637-1711) was orphaned when he was nine years old. He was raised by his stepsister Ann and her husband, author Izaak Walton. Walton coincidentally gained a fair share of fame for his book, The Compleat Angler, considered today a classic work about fishing.
When he was fifteen years old, Ken entered Winchester College and later studied at Oxford. He was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church in 1662. After serving at a handful of parishes, he returned to his alma mater, Winchester College, to serve as chaplain.
There Ken sought to improve the devotional life of his students. He composed three hymns – one to be sung when the student awoke, one before going to bed and one if the student had a difficult time sleeping. Each hymn ended with the same verse, a doxology. Two of the hymns: Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun and All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night became popular hymns of the day and are still sung today.
But neither became as famous as the last verse. It became a hymn unto itself. Today most churches simply refer to it as The Common Doxology.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The Common Doxology is a simple word of praise. Its message isn’t complex or deep or profound. It simply praises God because he is the source of every good thing.
Every year come Thanksgiving, we hear a lot about being thankful. On TV, on the news, at work, people talk about being thankful, but rarely do you hear them say to whom they are thankful.
You can’t be thankful without having someone to thank. Thomas Ken recognized from whom all blessings flow.
But that’s not the end of his story. Due to his ability as a chaplain and preacher, Ken was appointed by King Charles II to be chaplain to his sister Mary and her new husband, William of Orange. He lasted less than a year in her court because he insisted that a relative of William keep a promise of marriage made to an English noble woman.
Ken returned to England and continued to serve in King Charles’ court, until he was asked to move because his home was to be used for the king’s official mistress, Nell Gwynne. Thomas Ken refused the king.
Later, when Charles’ brother, James II, ruled as England’s last Catholic king, Ken was imprisoned in the Tower of London for refusing to sign James’ Declaration of Indulgence. When William and Mary succeeded in removing James from the throne, Ken once again found himself in deep water because he would not support the new monarchs. Even though he disagreed with him, Ken had sworn an oath of allegiance to King James II and would not break an oath he made to God.
Throughout his life, Ken boldly stood up for what he thought was right. He not only talked the talk of faith. He walked the walk.
It’s easy to thank and praise God with our words and songs in church. God wants more. He wants lives lived in fearless service to him.
Thomas Ken’s life was his greatest doxology.