“All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”

"I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4.8)

     INTRO.: A hymn which expresses the safety of the Lord in which we can lay ourselves down and sleep is "All Praise To Thee, My God, This Night." The text was written by Thomas Ken (1637-1711). There is some dispute as to its original date, but it was produced in twelve stanzas likely around 1693 as the second of his "Morning, Evening, and Midnight Hymns," each of which concluded with the familiar doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow…," to be published in his 1694 Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College (although they were apparently not printed until the second edition of 1695). Ken himself revised it in 1709 for republication.

     The tune with which it is almost always used (Tallis’ Canon) was composed by Thomas Tallis, also spelled Tallys and Talys, who was born around 1505 to 1510 and certainly before 1520, probably in Leicestershire, England, and has been called England’s leading composer of sacred music in the Tudor era. It is likely that as a child he was a member of a boy choir in some metropolitan church, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral. In 1532, he became an organist at Dover. In 1537 he moved to London, and in 1540 began serving at Canterbury Cathedral. In 1543, he became a "Gentleman of the Royal Chapel" and continued in that position the rest of his life. While it is believed that Tallis remained a Roman Catholic, he seemed to have the ability to stay in the good graces of both the Protestant and Catholic sovereigns who ruled England during his lifetime. This tune was produced in 1557 and was first published with Psalm 67 in Matthew Parker’s The Whole Psalter of 1561-1567, along with eight other tunes by Tallis.

     Tallis composed Roman Catholic liturgical works in Latin but was one of the first to compose Anglican sacred music in English. He is credited with only a few instrumental works, exclusively for keyboard instruments.  In 1575 he and William Byrd jointly published Cantiones Sacrae. Tallis died at Greenwich, England, on Nov. 23, 1585 (some sources give the date of 1588). Tallis’s canon was originally in eight phrases, and the four-phrase form first appeared in The Whole Book of Psalms, published in London, England, in 1621 by Thomas Ravenscroft (c. 1592-c. 1635). It was first used with Ken’s text in the Harmonious Companion of 1712 (one source says 1732) by Smith and Prellieur. Some of our books use a more melodic arrangement known as Tallis’ Evening Hymn, probably taken from George Whitefield’s Divine Musical Miscellany of 1754.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 (with three stanzas and the doxology using the Tallis’ Evening Hymn version) edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal (with four stanzas using the Tallis’ Canon version) edited by J. N. Slater; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal edited by Tillit S. Teddlie (copied from Great Songs of the Church). Today, it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, both using the Tallis’ Canon; as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The six commonly used stanzas are to God for His watchfulness during the night.

I. Stanza one is a request for protection
"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."
 A. When we pillow our heads to go to sleep is an excellent time to praise God for all the blessings of the light: Psa. 42.8
 B. It is also a good time to ask God to keep and protect us during the night: Psa. 25.20
 C. And God has promised to hide us beneath the shadow of His wings: Psa. 17.8

II. Stanza two is a request for forgiveness
"Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son, The ills that I this day have done;
That with the world, myself, and Thee, I, ere I sleep, at peace may be."
 A. As we lay ourselves down to sleep, it is a good time as well to ask God’s forgiveness for all our sins: Matt. 6.12
 B. Thus, having confessed our sins, we can be right with the world, with ourselves, and with God because we have been cleansed from all unrighteousness: 1 Jn. 1.9
 C. And knowing that we are right with God, we can have the peace of God that passes all understanding: Phil. 4.6-7

III. Stanza three is a request for guidance
"Teach me to live that I may dread The grave as little as my bed;
To die, that this vile body may Rise glorious at the awful day."
 A. God teaches us through the scriptures, which are given for instruction in righteousness: 2 Tim. 3.16-17
 B. The scriptures teach us to live in such a way that we can have no fear of death: Heb. 2.14-15
 C. And they teach us how to die so that our vile bodies can be raised to everlasting life: Phil. 3.20-21

IV. Stanza four is a request for rest
"O may my soul on Thee repose, And may sweet sleep my eyelids close;
Sleep that may me more vigorous make To serve my God when I awake."
 A. We can have spiritual rest as our souls repose on the Lord: Matt. 11.28-30
 B. But we also need physical rest for our bodies as well that we might keep them healthy to serve God: Mk. 6.31, Rom. 12.1
 C. And such rest will help to make us more vigorous to serve God during our waking hours: Heb. 12.28

V. Stanza five is a request for help in controlling our minds
"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."
 A. There are times when things may occur in our lives which keep us from sleeping: Psa. 6.6
 B. During such times, it is easy to allow the evil of this world to influence our mind, so we should seek to fill our minds with heavenly thoughts: Psa. 16.7
 C. We should strive to remove all evil thoughts that would reflect the powers of darkness because God hates those who devise mischief upon their beds: Psa. 36.4

VI. Stanza six is a request for an eternal home in heaven
"O when shall I in endless day For ever chase dark sleep away,
And hymns with the supernal choir Incessant sing, and never tire!"
 A. Our hope is for that place of endless day and eternal life which God has prepared before the foundation of the world: Matt. 25.31, 46
 B. There we shall forever chase dark sleep away, because we will have the sweet rest from our labors: Rev. 14.13
 C. And we can join with the angels and the redeemed of all ages around the throne to sing everlasting praise to God: Rev. 15.2-4

     CONCL.: While this hymn was written over three hundred years ago, it still expresses the heart’s desire of each true Christian as he or she retires to bed for the night. Therefore, as I prepare for the evening’s sleep, I should address the Lord and say, "All Praise To Thee, My God, This Night."

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