The Church's one foundation

Full Text

1 The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

2 Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth;
her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.

3 Though with a scornful wonder the world see her oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up: “How long?”
and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

4 Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation of peace forevermore,
till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.

5 Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly, may live eternally.

Source: Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #251

Author: S. J. Stone

Stone, Samuel John, a clergyman of the Church of England, the son of Rev. William Stone, was born at Whitmore, Staffordshire, April 25, 1839. He was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he was graduated B.A. in 1862. Later he took orders and served various Churches. He succeeded his father at St. Paul's, Haggerstown, in 1874. He was the author of many original hymns and translations, which were collected and published in 1886. His hymns are hopeful in spirit and skillfully constructed. He published several poetic volumes. He died November 19, 1900 --Hymn Writers of the Church, 1915 (Charles Nutter)… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: The Church's one foundation
Author: S. J. Stone (1866)
Meter: D
Language: English
Liturgical Use: Songs of Response


Scripture References:
st. 1 = Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20, Eph. 5:26-27
st. 2 = Eph. 4:4-6
st. 3 = Rev. 6:10

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 expressed critical views of the historicity of parts of Scripture and questioned some articles of the Christian faith. Samuel J. Stone (b. Whitmore, Staffordshire, England, 1839; d. London, England, 1900), 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. Of those ten stanzas, 1, 2, 4, and 5 are the usual stanzas included in modern hymnals.

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.

Stone 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.

Liturgical Use:
With Lord's Day 21; Reformation celebrations; church festivals; ecumenical services; in times of theological controversy.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

The Church's one Foundation. S. J. Stone. [Processional for Festivals.] The impression made upon the author's mind by Bishop Gray's (Capetown) noble defence of the Catholic Faith against the teachings of Bishop Colenso, was in chief the origin of this magnificent hymn. It has thus associations of historical value, to which special reference is made in the stanza:—

”Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore opprest,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distrest;
Yet saints their watch are keeping
Their cry goes up,”How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song."

The hymn was written in 1866, and is based on the ninth article of the Apostles' Creed. It is known in three forms, (1) the original, which was published in the author's Lyra Fidelium, 1866, in 7 stanzas of 8 lines, and headed "The Holy Catholic Church: The Communion of Saints. ‘He is the Head of the Body, the Church'"; (2) the revised form in 5 st.anzas of 8 lines, made in 1868 for, and published in the Appendix to Hymns Ancient & Modern, No. 320 (the form in universal use); and (3) the expanded text in 10 stanzas of 8 lines, made in 1885 for Processional use in Salisbury Cathedral.

Further reference to the full text shew that the 1868 version of the hymn is the finest of the three, and that which will live in the hymnbooks of the future. The use of this form of the text is most extensive in all English-speaking countries. It has also been translated into several European and other languages. The versions in Latin include "Nobis unum est fundamen," by the Rev. E. Marshall, 1882 (and circulated as a card); and "Qui Ecclesiam instauravit,” by the late T. G. Godfrey-Faussett, in Memorials, 1878. In reference to the fact that this hymn was chosen as the Processional at each of the three great services at Canterbury Cathedral, at Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's Cathedral, when all the Bishops of the Lambeth Conference of 1888 assembled, the following lines were written by Bishop Nelson, of New Zealand. They appeared in Church Bells of Nov. 30, 1888.

"Bard of the Church, in these divided days
For words of harmony to thee be praise:
Of love and oneness thou didst strike the chords,
And set our thoughts and prayers to tuneful words.
The Church's one Foundation thou didst sing,
Beauty and Bands to Her thy numbers bring.
Through church and chancel, aisle, and transept deep,
In fullest melody thy watch-notes sweep;
Now in the desert, now upon the main,
In mine and forest, and on citied plain:
From Lambeth towers to far New Zealand's coast,
Bard of the Church, thy blast inspires the host."

-- Excerpts from John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



Composed by Samuel S. Wesley (PHH 206), 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…

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