Thomas Ken

Bishop of Bath and Wells,


see caption
Thomas Ken
Bishop of Bath and Wells,
Poet, Portrait by F. Scheffer

Public Domain

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.

Usually every week, around the world, thousands of Christian congregations raise their voices in worship and sing or recite the much loved words above. Those words were written by Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken.

Thomas Ken’s long life spanned a period of many changes in England and within the Church of England. In 1657 he became a fellow of New College, Oxford, and was a teacher at Winchester College from 1672. He was a man of real moral strength and devotion, whose commitment to God and the church was the foundation of his life. His well-known hymns, “Awake my soul and with the sun”, and “Glory to thee, my God, this night”, show the simple clarity of his faith. The well loved lines quoted above we call the doxology, and he added them to the bottom of both hymns.

In 1683 Thomas became chaplain to King Charles II. Thomas found life in the Royal Court difficult, the lack of morals and possibly the intrigue and political manoeuvring were almost painful for this devout man. Thomas maintained his integrity and the king respected him for this and in 1684 appointed him Bishop of Bath and Wells. The link of affection must have remained strong, for in 1685 Bishop Thomas gave the king absolution on his death-bed.

After Charles II’s death, James II came to the throne. James, was the last Roman Catholic king of England, and Thomas opposed moves by him to permit Roman Catholic and Nonconformist worship in England. For this he was, with 6 other bishops, arrested and tried, but acquitted. The Anglican Church of England had gained so much influence that the people would not stand for another round of the religious roller-coaster that had caused the death of so many martyrs in the past. James II was deposed in a bloodless revolution and his protestant daughter Mary and her husband were offered the crown.

Bishop Thomas felt that he could not in good conscience swear allegiance to them. He had already sworn to James and could not ignore or recall the oath. The authorities would not accept this, and Thomas was fired as Bishop. He then lived quietly without complaint, refusing reinstatement after the death of his successor.

BORN: July 1637, Little Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, England.

DIED:19 March 1711, Longleat, Wiltshire, England.