251

The Church's One Foundation

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The text portrays the Christian church as rooted in the Savior, Jesus Christ, through the water of baptism and the Word of God (st. 1). In accord with the ninth article of the Apostles' Creed, we confess through this text that the church is catholic (universal) and united by "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). As we sing, we lament the "heresies" that "distress" the church (st. 3); although this is a direct reference to the Colenso controversy, the stanza fits many other situations in church history as well. The final stanza ends on a hopeful tone: the church will finally be at peace and at rest.
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The words from stanza 1, “…she is his new creation by water and the Word” parallel Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21, Question and Answer 54, testifying that Christ “…through his Spirit and Word…gathers, protects and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith.”
 
Stanza 2 combines two powerful truths: the church is “elect” and the church is from “every nation.” The Canons of Dort I, 7 verifies both of these by teaching that “election is God’s unchangeable purpose by which he…chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race.”
 
Stanzas 3 and 4 acknowledge that the church will often suffer while she tries to be obedient. The Belhar Confession, Section 5 says that God’s people ought not to be surprised at this; it is to be expected.
 
Stanza 4 also speaks of the church “waiting the consummation of peace forevermore.” The Apostles Creed professes that we believe in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Questions and Answers 57-58 expand on this profession: “…after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forevermore.”
251

The Church's One Foundation

Hymn Story/Background

This well-known hymn arose out of a theological controversy in the mid-nineteenth century. John W. Colenso, Anglican bishop of Natal, South Africa, wrote a book that questioned some articles of the Christian faith, and challenged the historicity and authority of many of the Old Testament books.
 
Samuel J. Stone, a clergyman in Windsor, England, was one of the people who defended the orthodox Christian faith. He did so in part by publishing his Lyra Fidelium; Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles' Creed (1866). “The Church's One Foundation” was his hymn on the article "the holy catholic church, the communion of saints." Stone's text originally had seven stanzas, but he added three more in 1885 for processional use at Salisbury Cathedral.
 
The text portrays the Christian church as rooted in the Savior, Jesus Christ, through the water of baptism and the Word of God (st. 1). In accord with the ninth article of the Apostles' Creed, we confess through this text that the church is catholic (universal) and united by "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). As we sing, we lament the "heresies" that "distress" the church (st. 3); although this is a direct reference to the Colenso controversy, the stanza fits many other situations in church history as well.
 
Composed by Samuel S. Wesley, the tune, AURELIA (meaning "golden"), was pub­lished as a setting for “Jerusalem the Golden” in Selection of Psalms and Hymns, which was compiled by Charles Kemble and Wesley in 1864. Though opinions vary concerning the tune's merits (Henry J. Gauntlett once condemned it as "secular twaddle"), it has been firmly associated with Stone's text since tune and text first appeared together in the 1868 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. However, Erik Routley suggested rejuvenating this text by singing it to ST. THEODULPH.
 
Sing stanzas 1-3 in parts and stanza 4 and 5 in unison. Support with crisp organ articulation on the repeated soprano tones.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Samuel J. Stone (b. Whitmore, Staffordshire, England, 1839; d. London, England, 1900) attended schools at Charterhouse and Pembroke College in Oxford, England. Ordained in the Church of England in 1862, he became curate of Windsor, a position he held until he joined his father in ministry at St. Paul's in Haggerston, London, in 1870. He succeeded his father as vicar at Haggerston in 1874, staying until 1890. From 1890 until his death he served All-Hallow-on-the-Wall in London, which he turned into a haven for working girls and women. In addition to his collection of hymns, Stone's publications include Sonnets of the Christian Year (1875), Hymns (1886), and Iona (1898). He served as a member of the committee that prepared Hymns Ancient and Modern (1909). His Collected Hymns and Poems were published posthumously.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. London, England, 1810; d. Gloucester, England, 1876) was an English organist and composer. The grandson of Charles Wesley, he was born in London, and sang in the choir of the Chapel Royal as a boy. He learned composition and organ from his father, Samuel, completed a doctorate in music at Oxford, and composed for piano, organ, and choir. He was organist at Exeter Cathedral (1835-1842), Leeds Parish Church (1842­1849), Winchester Cathedral (1849-1865), and Gloucester Cathedral (1865-1876). Wesley strove to improve the standards of church music and the status of church musicians; his observations and plans for reform were published as A Few Words on Cathedral Music and the Music System of the Church (1849). He was the musical editor of Charles Kemble's A Selection of Psalms and Hymns (1864) and of the Wellburn Appendix of Original Hymns and Tunes (1875) but is best known as the compiler of The European Psalmist (1872), in which some 130 of the 733 hymn tunes were written by him.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

How beloved is this hymn? According to the Lutheran Hymnal Handbook, “Archbishop Temple is supposed to have once said that whenever he was called on to visit a country parish, he could always count upon two things: ‘cold chicken and “The Church’s One Foundation.”’”
— Laura de Jong
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