It has been too long since the first Hymn Awareness Bulletin, and I’ve realized that, if we are ever to make any significant progress in learning these wonderful hymns together, I’ll have to quicken my pace a bit. I have a more traditional/substantial post simmering on the back burner at the moment, but I suppose that’ll have to wait a few days more. The problem of having too much to say and too many sources to consider is a good one, to be sure, but I’ll not suffer this hymn post to be delayed any longer because of some British shenanigans surrounding the 10 Commandments. Thus we turn to the nineteenth century once again.
“The Church’s One Foundation” was written by Samuel J. Stone in 1866 and traces the salvation, perseverance, and glorification of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” by Christ Jesus:
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.
Though 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;
though there be those that hate her, and false sons in her pale,
against or foe or traitor she ever shall prevail.
‘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.
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.
As is evident in the text, Stone was particularly concerned to declare the essential identity of the church in Christ, her unity in Christ, and the certainty of her success in Christ despite internal and external obstacles.
The verses have long been accompanied by Samuel S. Wesley’s “Aurelia” tune (1864), an appropriately strong setting with skillful drama both in its incorporation of accidentals and in its melodic arc through each verse.
The first of the two videos below is the best non-schmaltzy non-home-video vocal recording I could find (an unfortunately difficult task regarding hymns on YouTube), followed by a beautiful instrumental rendition of Wesley’s tune.
Oh man, you found the secret text! Good going, gumshoe!
One of the most profound testaments to Stone’s call for unity is the hymn’s historically wide usage across traditions and denominations–from Roman Catholic to Southern Baptist and everything in between. May we always understand our life and our work together through the lens of our “union with God the Three in One” and our “sweet communion” with one another! Amen.