The Old 100th

Praise God from whom all blessings flow’ is, perhaps, the most well-known and is frequently referred to as ‘The Doxology’ especially when it’s sung to the tune of Old 100th.

DoxologyI have very strong memories of singing it in church when I was a child. It was rarely, if ever, formally announced. Quite simply, having sung the final hymn, the congregation were still on their feet to receive the benediction and then, occasionally, just as the Pastor pronounced ‘Amen’, the organist would play a few notes and that was the signal to sing the Doxology.

I never did find out if this was pre-arranged between the Pastor and the organist, or whether they simply exchanged a nod towards the end of the service or even if it was the organist who decided. Whatever the case, I always felt thrilled whenever we heard those few introductory notes. It also fascinated me that there was no mention of hymnbooks. People just knew the words!

The musical accompaniment was quite understated – just enough to keep us in time and in tune – and, having a good number of choir-trained voices in the congregation, this let the beautiful harmony come through. It was probably as close to a cappella singing as we got. And I loved it!

I would leave the church building with the echo of the last line ringing in my ears and, indeed, in my heart. ‘Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.’

Even as a small child, this awoke in me a tremendous awe and reverence for God. It has stayed with me always as an example of the very best of congregational song; the fitting response of a grateful, redeemed assembly of God’s people raising hearts and voices as one in worship, praise and adoration. It also, of course, underlined the doctrine of the Trinity.

The words were penned by Rev. Thomas Ken (1637-1710) and are most frequently sung to the tune of the Old 100th. This melody was composed by Louis Bourgeois (1510–1559) a French composer and music theorist of the Renaissance. Because this music is, perhaps, one of the most well-known melodies in the Christian Church, the Doxology is also sometimes known as the Old 100th.

As much as the Doxology is eminently suitable for corporate worship, it can also serve in smaller settings such as a house group or Church retreat. I’ve heard it used in these situations to give thanks before meals and at home we used to sing it occasionally before eating, especially whenever there was a large family gathering. Whether it’s accompanied or a cappella, in unison or in harmony, it makes a wonderful grace as it draws our attention to the fact that ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ (James 1:17)

It can also be a delightful element of private worship. To sing it aloud, or silently in our heads, can help us to calm our thoughts and come before God with grateful, worshipful hearts.

Note: This tune is frequently used for the hymn ‘All people that on earth do dwell’.  Based on Psalm 100, it was was recorded in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter (1561) and it is attributed to the Scottish clergyman William Kethe.

See also : What is a doxology?