Feast of Charles Kingsley (January 23)   3 comments

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Above:  Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest, Novelist, and Hymn Writer

Charles Kingsley, son of an Anglican priest, witnessed the Bristol Riots of 1831 when he was a boy.  The riots were related to denied demands to redistribute parliamentary seats, to establish proper representation.  Violence followed frustration and led to the destruction of property and the loss of life.  The riots made a deep depression on the young Kingsley, who had a sensitive nature.

Kingsley continued his education, which terminated formally at Magdalene College, Cambridge.  He, ordained priest in 1842, served as Curate of Eversley until 1844, when he became Rector there.  Later positions included chaplain to Queen Victoria (1859-1860), Professor of Modern History, Cambridge (1860-1869), Canon of Chester (1869-1873), and Canon of Westminster (1873-1875).

Kingsley, a British liberal, supported Darwinian Evolution (even in 1859, making him an early defender of the great scientist) and advocated for Christian Socialism.  Needless to say, he was no stranger to controversy.  He, a skilled novelist who wrote very descriptive passages, published Christian Socialist novels, including Acton Locke (1850) and Yeast (1851).  The politics of these novels led to Kingsley’s temporary inhibition by the Bishop of London.  The priest also wrote historical novels, including Hypatia (1853) and Westward Ho (1855).

James Moffatt, in his companion volume to the 1927 Scottish Presbyterian Hymmary, struggled with Kingsley’s Christian Socialism.  Moffatt commended Kingsley for being a

chivalrous friend of the poor (page 393)

yet wrote in a cautious tone regarding Christian Socialism.  Nevertheless, Moffatt did leave a final verdict:  Kingsley was a

courageous idealist

who sought to act kindly.

Yet, reality being as complicated as it is, acting out of idealism can prove difficult sometimes.  In 1865, in Jamaica, economic injustice mixed with frustrations led to riots in which innocent people died.  Finally, the colonial governor, Edward Eyre, sent in troops to end the uprising.  This action led to the threat of legal jeopardy for Eyre.  Some people sought to scapegoat Eyre, in fact.  Kingsley joined a committee to oppose this attempted scapegoating.  Perhaps nobody in the Jamaican events was on the side of the angels.  I suppose that Kingsley’s memories of the 1831 Bristol Riots influenced his thinking in 1866.  And I leave the final verdict to God.

Kingsley also debated with John Henry Newman; the latter was the superior controversalist.  But Kingsley did have a sensitive nature, one not well attuned to debating.  Yet, if you, O reader, ever found Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua helpful, you have the debate with Kingsley to thank for that book’s existence.

On December 4, 1871, at the laying of the foundation for a new wing of Queen’s Hospital, Birmingham, a thousand-voice choir debuted a new hymn by Kingsley.  Hymnals omit the first two verses and entitle the hymn “From Thee All Skill and Science Flow.”  Robert Guy McCutchan, in his 1937 companion volume to the U.S. Methodist Hymnal (1935), quoted an unidentified source which called this hymn

the epitome of his [Kingsley’s] life, and a mirror of his mind and heart.  (page 453)

The full lyrics follow:

Accept this building, gracious Lord,

No temple though it be;

We raised it for our suffering kin

And so, good Lord, for Thee.

Accept our little gift, and give,

To all who here may dwell,

The will and power to do their work,

Or bear their sorrows well.

From Thee all skill and science flow,

All pity, care and love,

All calm and courage, faith and hope:

O pour them from above!

And part them, Lord, to each and all,

As each and all shall need,

To rise, like incense, each to Thee,

In noble thought and deed.

And hasten, Lord, that perfect day

When pain and death shall cease,

And Thy just rule shall fill the earth

With health and light and peace;

When ever blue the sky shall gleam,

And ever green the sod,

And man’s rude work deface no more

The paradise of God.

Charles Kingsley’s legacy is one of caring for others.  Jesus and the Hebrew prophets would have approved.





Almighty God, we praise you for hour servant Charles Kingsley,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up, in our own day, teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2o06), page 60


Revised on November 21, 2016


3 responses to “Feast of Charles Kingsley (January 23)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Thomas Hughes (March 22) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of Frederick Denison Maurice (April 1) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  3. Pingback: Feast of Walter Rauschenbusch (July 24) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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