“The Church’s One Foundation”, The Story Behind the Song

a view of yildiz hamidiye mosque tower in besiktas istanbul turkey

A Song of Affirmation to Sing

“Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).

“And Jesus said to His disciple, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

The Church is a glorious institution, though not a perfect one. The glory of the Church is made manifest when she loves Jesus Christ, her Lord. The more Christ is loved, the more His life shines through His disciples resulting in moral purity, doctrinal soundness, essential unity, and love for others. Because all of this is true, the Church shall never perish but grow from year to year as the Lord adds daily to the number of the elect those who will be the heirs of salvation. There is a song of affirmation for the Church to sing about its creation, persecution, and eventual victory and exaltation.  Lift now your voice and join in a song of encouragement, faith, and victory, with this understanding.

“The Church’s One Foundation” was composed as a primary answer to the division within the Anglican Church of South Africa generated by John William Colenso (Jan 24, 1814 – June 20, 1883), first Bishop of Natal, who denounced much of the Bible as untrue. This issue is referenced to within the fourth verse of the lyrics,

“Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed,

by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.”

When Bishop Colenso was dismissed for his teachings defending polygenism, African polygamy, and the fallibility of Scripture, he pleaded to the higher religious authorities in England. It was then that Samuel John Stone, an English poet, hymnodist, and a priest in the Church of England, became included in the discussion. It sparked him to draft a set of hymns based on the Apostles’ Creed in 1866. He titled it, Lyra Fidelium; Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles’ Creed. “The Church’s One Foundation” is based on the ninth article, “The holy Catholic* [universal] Church; The Communion of Saints.” (God Tube Staff, on the web)

“The church’s one Foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is His new creation,
by water and the Word;
from heav’n He came and sought her
to be His holy bride;
with His own blood He bought her,
and for her life He died.

Elect from ev’ry 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 ev’ry grace endued.

Tho’ with a scornful wonder,
men see her sore 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.

The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord, to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish,
is with her to the end;
tho’ there be those that hate her
and false sons in her pale,
against the foe or traitor
she ever shall prevail.

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

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,
on high may dwell with Thee.”

~Samuel John Stone

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