Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Katrina DowlingUncategorizedLeave a Comment

In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, there’s a moment at which the previously sickly Colin becomes freshly aware of his blossoming vitality and he can’t help calling out:

“I’m well! I’m well! I feel – I feel as if I want to shout out something – something thankful, joyful!”

Responding almost as impulsively as Colin, Ben Weatherstaff suggests he sing “The Doxology”:

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.

Doxology means words (whether sung, spoken or shouted!) that ascribe glory to God, so Ben Weatherstaff has instinctively chosen just the right thing for Colin when he wants to shout something thankful and joyful. Of all the possible ways to ascribe glory to God, there are two traditional formulations that are called the Greater Doxology (Gloria in excelsis Deo – discussed in Glory in the highest) and the Lesser Doxology (Gloria Patri). In the story quoted above, Dickon is singing a version of the Lesser Doxology.

But the doxology did not arise with the Christian Church. Many of the doxologies in the New Testament are modelled closely on Jewish doxologies, for example in these passages:

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
Romans 11:36 [1]

The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he for ever!) knows that I do not lie.
2 Corinthians 11:31

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Philippians 4:20

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:17

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,
‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might
for ever and ever!’
Revelation 5:13

There is also a Gospel passage that is not itself a doxology, but which seems to have been a shaping influence on the Lesser Doxology:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:19

The Lesser Doxology (Gloria Patri) incorporates this baptismal formula to refer to the Trinity:

Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
as in the beginning, so now and forever. Amen.

A metrical version of this doxology is often appended to hymns… which brings us back to the doxology sung in The Secret Garden. Although it’s frequently sung as a stand-alone doxology, it began as the final verse of Thomas Ken’s “Evening Hymn,” which begins “All praise to thee, my God, this night.” Either way, we usually sing it to music that predates the hymn. As a separate doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” is associated with Old 100th from the Genevan Psalter:

And “Evening Hymn” is well-known to Tallis’ Canon:

In The Secret Garden, Dickon explains “The Doxology” by saying that they sing it in church and his mother says the skylarks sing it when they get up in the morning. Perhaps we could sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” first thing in the day and “Evening Hymn” last thing in the day!

[1] All Scripture references New Revised Standard Version.

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