In 1674, Ken published A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College. In it, he gave instructions for the devotional use of a series of his new compositions of Morning and Evening Hymns, including “Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun” and “Glory to Thee, My God, this Night.” What we now commonly sing as the “Doxology,” was actually the closing stanza of each of these long hymn sequences. Interestingly, according to a long-held tradition, Ken may have first learned the text and the old Genevan tune setting from his adoptive father, Izaak Walton.
A doxology is a short chorus of praise to the Lord, often sung as a standalone piece or as a coda at the conclusion of psalms, hymns, or canticles. The word comes from the Greek doxa, meaning, “appearance” or “glory,” and logia, meaning, “study” or “declaration.” A doxology is thus a declaration of the glory of the Most High God; it is a joyous sung pronouncement of His praise.
Common doxologies include the Gloria in Excelsis Deo and the Gloria Patri. But of course, the most common of all is taken from Psalm 100 and sung to the tune of the Genevan Psalter’s “Old Hundredth.”
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.
This treasured doxology is sung every Sunday all around the globe in untold dozens of languages. It was composed by Thomas Ken, a fellow of Winchester College, a prebend of Winchester Cathedral, and later, the Bishop of Bath and Wells during the reigns of Charles II and James II.
Ken was tragically orphaned in childhood. So, his older sister, Ann, and her husband, Izaak Walton, brought him into their home raised him as their own. Walton was himself orphaned as a boy — his father died when he was just three, and he lost his mother when he was nine. Thanks to the beneficence of some distant relatives, he was able to train as a linen draper in the iron-mongers guild. Eventually, he set up a small shop in the busy neighborhood of Fleet Street near Chancery Lane in the London parish of St. Dunstan’s. It was there that he volunteered as a churchwarden and developed an enduring friendship with the pastor, John Donne — who of course would later gain renown as the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.