in the course of his lifetime was both rewarded and punished for his firm adherence to principle. He was born in 1637 and reared by his half-sister Anne and her husband the well-known angler Izaak Walton. He became a clergyman and served for a year at the Hague as chaplain to Mary, Princess of England and Queen of Holland, niece of King Charles II of England and wife of the Dutch King William of Orange. During this year he publicly rebuked King William for his treatment of his wife the said Mary, which may be why he was chaplain there for only a year.
Upon his return to England, he was made Royal Chaplain to King Charles. The King had a mistress, Nell Gwyn, and for his convenience wished to lodge her in his chaplain's residence. Thomas sent the King a sharp refusal, saying that it was not suitable that the Royal Chaplain should double as the Royal Pimp. Charles admired his honesty and bluntness, and when the bishopric of Bath and Wells became available soon after, he declared, "None shall have it but that little man who refused lodging to poor Nellie!" Ken was accordingly made a bishop. When Charles was on his deathbed, it was Ken whom he asked to be with him and prepare him for death.
Under the next king, James II, brother of Charles, matters were different. James converted to Roman Catholicism, the religion of his mother, and political turmoil followed. James issued a decree known as the Declaration of Indulgence, which decreed that various public offices formerly open only to Anglicans, should thereafter be open to all persons. It was feared that the King would appoint large numbers of Roman Catholics to positions of power, and eventually transfer to them the control of the government. When the King commanded the bishops to proclaim the Declaration of Indulgence, seven of them refused to do so and were by the King's command imprisoned in the Tower of London. The people of London rioted, and the bishops were freed and carried in triumph through the streets of the city. Soon after, Parliament offered the crown to the King's daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange (see above) and James fled into exile.
William and Mary naturally began their reign by demanding oaths of allegiance from all persons holding public positions, including the bishops. Thomas Ken and others (known as the Non-Jurors -- the older meaning of "juror" is "one who takes an oath," hence "perjurer" as "one who swears falsely") refused to take the oath, on the grounds that they had sworn allegiance to James, and could not during his lifetime swear allegiance to another monarch without making such oaths a mockery. They were accordingly put out of office.
Although Ken wrote much poetry, besides his hymns, he cannot be called a great poet; but he had that fine combination of spiritual insight and feeling with poetic taste which marks all great hymnwriters. As a hymnwriter he has had few equals in England; it can scarcely be said that even John Keble, though possessed of much rarer poetic gifts, surpassed him in his own sphere. In his own day he took high rank as a pulpit orator, and even royalty had to beg for a seat amongst his audiences; but his sermons are now forgotten. He lives in history, apart from his three hymns, mainly as a man of unstained purity and invincible fidelity, to conscience, weak only in a certain narrowness of view which is a frequent attribute of the intense character which he possessed. As an ecclesiastic he was a High Churchman of the old school.
Propers for Thomas Ken - Bishop and Non-Juror
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, we give thee thanks for the purity and strength with which thou didst endow thy servant Thomas Ken; and we pray that by thy grace we may have a like power to hallow and conform our souls and bodies, to the purpose of thy most holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - Philippians 4:4-9.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
The Gospel - St. Luke 6:17-23.
And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
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