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.
Ending with a resounding “Amen”, this classic hymn has been a part of church tradition for decades, even centuries. It’s a song almost everyone knows, without knowing they know it and it won’t be dying out anytime soon.
The word doxology originates from two Greek words, doxa, meaning glory, and logos, meaning word. Doxology literally means, “a word of glory,” meaning we sing, pray, write, read, and meditate on doxologies to give glory and praise to God.
This doxology written by Thomas Ken is often met with heavy, dismayed, groans especially by the younger Christian generation. However, Isaiah 43:7 says God created us for His glory. So, when we look at this passage, the true meaning of the word doxology, and then at Ken’s purpose in writing his doxology, it’s not just made for one, much older, generation that only listens to classic hymns. It was penned specifically by Ken for his students, the younger generation, and meant to be carried into adulthood, into their old age, because it still contains the same rich promises, reminders, and truths about God. In fact, Scripture is filled with doxologies written by various authors, ultimately written by God, all for that same purpose - to cause people to glorify and be reminded of who He is. What God is saying through His word and what Thomas Ken is meaning to convey through his writing is that we were all created for doxology - we were made to glorify Him with our lives.
As we take a brief look into Ken’s life, we are better able to see how he made it a doxology to the Lord.
Ken’s Journey to Penning his Doxology
Ken was orphaned as a young child and raised by his older sister, Ann, who was married to Issak Walton (a familiar name to some as he was most famously noted for his classic The Compleat Angler).
When Ken was just fourteen years old, he began Winchester College and then four years later he began his studies at Oxford University. He later returned to Winchester College and took a position as the chaplain to the bishop.
It was during this time, in 1674, he wrote and published a book titled A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College. It contained several hymns, each for their own unique purposes. This manual, included the following instructions:
"As soon as ever you awake in the morning, . . . strive as much as you can to keep all worldly thoughts out of your mind, till you have presented the first-fruits of the day to God, which will be an excellent preparative, to make you spend the rest of it better, and therefore be sure to sing the morning and evening hymn in your chamber devoutly, remembering that the Psalmist, upon happy experience, assures you that it is a good thing to tell of the loving kindness of the Lord early in the morning, and of his truth in the night season."
Among the hymns included in Ken’s manual, was his Morning, Evening, and Midnight hymns written directly to his students at Winchester College and Oxford University to sing upon rising in the morning and going to bed in the evening. The Midnight hymn was added later as a song for students to rehearse when they were struggling to sleep at night. These songs, each over ten stanzas, ended with the now famous doxology.
As David Mathis wrote in his article The Best-Known Hymn in History: Why We Keep Singing "The Doxology" for Desiring God, “Each hymn was a confession of faith, and an invocation of divine blessing, tailored to its particular moment of the day.”
Ken wrote these hymns about a God he truly believed in and whom he loved. He hoped his students would have that same infatuation and devotion to God, looking to Him in their every waking, and even in their every restful or restless, moment.
While the doxology is only 25 words in its entirety, Ken was able to clearly communicate the gospel and the glory that God ultimately deserves from us through his lyrics (though our worship could never truly convey what God has done for us and who He is).
All Goodness and Blessings Flow From Him
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow”
God is the one from whom all blessings flow. In fact, as Mathis pointed out, in 1 Timothy 1:11 and also in 6:15, God is referred to as the Blessed One.
James 1:17 tells us that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” and in Ephesians 1:3 it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”.
He grants us every good thing we experience and treasure in our lives today. The fact that we can wake up and take a breath is a blessing from God that we don’t deserve and yet still receive. This is what John describes in John 1:16 as “grace upon grace”. Just in these few words, Ken is recognizing his life belongs to Christ and was given to him by God not because he deserves it, but as a blessing poured out from His grace.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Thomas Ken experienced many blessings in his life. He ended up becoming an Anglican minister, a royal chaplain to King Charles II, and eventually a Bishop of Bath and Wells.
But even he knew that God’s blessings are not for our own benefit, although they do bring us joy, can make life easier, and often fill our wants and needs. No, they are meant to remind us that He holds the universe and sustains us. Ken, in his instructions, reminded his readers that before anything else, we are to present our first fruits of the day to Him, before anything else can reach us, we are to go to Him. The ability to do so is a blessing made possible only through the blood of Christ alone. For that, He deserves all the glory.
Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
He is our morning, evening, and midnight. He is our Amen.
Praise God in Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
“Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”
We have the tendency to exclude, or only focus on, one person in the Trinity when we worship. While it’s not wrong or sinful to worship one of His persons, He is also glorified when He’s worshipped in all of his persons and in His entirety.
1 Corinthians 8:6 declares the Trinity as the Being in which we and everything that exists was created from. Paul says in this passage, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
He, in His goodness, even grants us every part of Himself, providing us with everything we need to glorify Him, to persevere in steadfastness, as well as giving us the grace to be forgiven (although it is not owed to us). Paul also says in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
His Trinity is beautiful and deserving of our worship. Every explanation, symbolism, and demonstration of the Trinity we come up with will always fall short because in our human capacity we cannot comprehend it, but we aren’t meant to know everything. We’re only to trust in the One who has bever left us, continues to guide us, and will always hold us. That is enough.
All Praise and Glory Belong to Him
As previously mentioned, we were all designed and created by our Father, as Isaiah 43:7 says, to glorify God - and to glorify Him with our whole selves.
Ken knew his very purpose and instructed his students and friends to be devoted to this same life of glorification. He said, “the Psalmist, upon happy experience, assures you that it is a good thing to tell of the loving kindness of the Lord early in the morning, and of his truth in the night season.”
All of Scripture is saturated with these praises. Exodus 15:2 says, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him my father's God, and I will exalt him.”
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” and likewise, in Hebrews 13:15, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
Finally, in James 5:13 it says, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.”
Mathis too exclaimed in his article that “we were made for doxology”.
“God is glorified in our heartfelt expression of praise. God made us for praise. He made us for doxology. He made the world that he might be praised. And these simple yet profound words serve that simple yet most profound human act of devotion — and all the more when we join our voices and sing together.”
Later in his life, Ken was one of seven bishops who refused to sign King James’ Declaration of Indulgence, meant to promote Roman Catholicism. For his decision to take a stand for his faith and for this act of rebellion, Ken was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He would later be tried and acquitted. In his refusal to sign the document, Ken let his life be a declaration of his doxology to God.
Let your life be a doxology to the Lord in your every waking and sleeping moment, go to the One who gives endless peace and joy. “We were made for doxology”, so let Him be your Morning, Evening, and Midnight.