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Words: Thomas Ken (b. July ___, 1637; d. Mar. 19, 1711)
Music: Tallis’ Canon, by Thomas Tallis (b. circa 1505; d. Nov. 23, 1585)
Note: In his boyhood, Bishop Ken had attended Winchester College in England–a school, still going strong today. It has been educating young men for over six hundred years. It was for the college of his boyhood that Bishop Ken wrote several hymns, three centuries ago. Each of three of them, to be used at different times of day, ended with the now-familiar Doxology.
In that era, the Anglican church did not allow congregational hymn singing. Only the Psalms were to be sung in churches. Anything new was looked upon as trying to add something to the Bible! Not everyone agreed with this restriction, of course. It was about this time that the great hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674-1748) began to produce some wonderful new congregational hymns. But to comply with the view of the organized church, Thomas Ken instructed the boys only to use his hymns in private, saying, “Be sure to sing the morning and evening hymns in your chamber devoutly.”
CH-1) All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.
CH-2) Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done,
That with the world, myself, and Thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.
Night time means different things to different people. For some it brings rest, and peaceful slumber. But for others that’s all too often not the case. Without the diversion of activity, a sleepless night can seem endless. Shakespeare speaks, in Henry V, of “the foul womb of night,” the time that gives birth to loneliness and fear, and a sense of lurking dangers.
The Bible’s more than three hundred uses of the term are likewise diverse. On the first day of creation God called Night into being as a counterpoint to Day (Gen. 1:5). In the night, the starry heavens “declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1-2). Many of the animals spend the night foraging for food (Ps. 104:19-23), while it is often the time when man’s workday ends in rest–though not for all (Jn. 9:4; cf. Lk. 5:5).
The Word of God also recognizes that, for others, the night brings restlessness and disquieting dreams. That was so for Job, in his time of suffering. The nighttime brought no easing of his severe and painful physical condition. “Wearisome nights have been appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, and the night be ended?’ For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn” (Job 7:3-4).
CH-4) O may my soul on Thee repose,
And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
Sleep that may me more vigorous make
To serve my God when I awake.
CH-5) When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest.
Blessedly, there’s divine help for the struggles we face in the night. God is not only the God of Day, but of Night. As the psalmist says, “darkness and light are both alike to You” (Ps. 139:12). And Elihu was right: “God…gives songs in the night” (Job 35:10). Two missionaries, Paul and Silas, proved that to be true. By His grace they were able to sing hymns of praise to God, at midnight, in a prison cell (Acts 16:25).
Many of God’s people have found likewise the nearness of God, and His loving care, a relief in those long hours between dusk and dawn. In faith they’ve found, “the night shines as the day” (Ps. 139:12), claiming the Lord’s promise that “He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11).
CH-6) O when shall I, in endless day,
For ever chase dark sleep away,
And hymns divine with angels sing,
All praise to thee, eternal King?
CH-7) 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.
1) What practical wisdom or spiritual help from this hymn particularly impresses you?
2) Is there someone who has trouble sleeping with whom you can share these thoughts?