Wednesday, March 21, 2007


In the Anglican liturgical calendar, today is the memorial of Thomas Ken (1637-1711), Bishop of Bath and Wells. I mention it because the man deserves to be remembered even if only for this hymn he authored:

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.

The last verse, commonly known simply as the Doxology, is one of the most commonly sung hymns for public worship in the entire English-speaking world. (That may seem an exaggeration, but I have heard it sung not just by Anglicans but by Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians; and I'm sure there are more than a few others.) Ironically, Ken wrote it at a time when the Church of England frowned on hymns: only Scripture was to be sung in Church. So when Ken taught it to the boys at Winchester College, he had to charge them strictly to sing it only in their rooms for private devotions. He has had his vindication, a resounding sockdolager.

Ken was profoundly anti-Catholic; he seems to have refused to sign James II's Declaration of Indulgence, which established a general religious tolerance precisely because he thought it unwise to allow Catholics such freedom. For this he was charged with high misdemeanor and thrown in the Tower, but he was acquitted. However, when the Glorious Revolution occurred, Ken became a Non-Juror -- having sworn allegiance to James, he refused to swear allegiance to William of Orange. This shows a good deal of integrity, because one reason for the Revolution was James's Catholicism; when James had a son, it made it highly likely that James was the beginning of a Catholic dynasty. Bringing William over was a way to guarantee a Protestant England. But Ken wouldn't back down on his oath of allegiance to James, so he was forced to retire as Bishop.

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