Glory to Thee, my God this Night
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,” Psalm 92:1-2.
Thomas Ken (1637-1711) lived through a period of great turmoil in this country which saw a monarch beheaded, a republic set in place, that monarchy restored and then overthrown in favour of a Dutch monarch and his wife. During that time you would have though the sensible thing to do was to keep you head down. Not so Bishop Thomas Ken.
Once, when Ken was Dean of Winchester, Charles II visited with his notorious mistress, Nell Gwynne. Wanting to house her in some comfort, the King asked Ken to give up his house and allow Gwynne to stay in the Deanery. Ken refused and, surprisingly, the King didn’t seem too put out. He was evidently fond of this stubborn Dean and used to say that he would visit him and hear “little Ken tell him his faults”.
Charles II later made Ken bishop of Bath and Wells, and the bishop was present both when Charles II died and James II was crowned. He was no more accommodating to James, though, and refused to order his clergy to read the ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ which favoured the Catholics. He was tried - and acquitted - of this ‘crime’ and resigned his post.
He was a man who was aware of his mortality, and it may well be that the knowledge that he would have to answer to God for his conduct gave him this stubborn strength. For many years he would carry a burial shroud around with him and, when his doctor told him he was close to death, he even put it on himself.
We mainly know the good bishop now as the author of “Glory to Thee, my God this night” which was written for the pupils of Winchester School along with a morning hymn. He wrote to the young boys: “ 'Be sure to sing the Morning and Evening Hymn in your chamber devoutedly, 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.'
Keep God in your heart and you might even stand up to kings!
Glory 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.
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.
Teach me to live, that I may dread
the grave as little as my bed;
teach me to die, that so I may
rise glorious at the awful day.
O may my soul on thee repose,
and with sweet sleep mine eyelids close;
sleep that shall me more vigorous make
to serve my God when I awake.
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.
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.