Posted by: rcottrill | November 11, 2011

The Church’s One Foundation

Words: Samuel John Stone (b. Apr. 25, 1839; d. Nov. 19, 1900)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Cyber Hymnal gives the seven stanzas of this hymn. Of these, CH-1 and 2 are used, and sometimes CH-4, along with CH-5. As a closing stanza, the first half of CH-6, and of CH-7 are combined as a single stanza. Samuel Wesley, who authored the fine tune Aurelia, was the grandson of famed Methodist hymn writer, Charles Wesley.

This magnificent hymn was written by a twenty-seven-year-old pastor, during a time of great doctrinal controversy in the Church of England. A book had been written challenging the accuracy of the first five books of the Bible, and Samuel Stone joined those who defended the trustworthiness of the Word of God. The now unused third stanza focuses particularly on this attempt to discredit the Bible, and thus harm the body of Christ.

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 who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

The author wrote a book entitled Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles Creed. The present one concerns the statement in the creed, “We believe…in the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints.” (“Catholic” is used here in the sense of universal. It’s not a reference to Roman Catholicism. Some have substituted the word “Christian,” to avoid confusion.

CH-1) 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.

The word foundation is used a couple of times in the Epistles, in a theological sense. First, we are told, “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11). But then, Paul writes that “the household of God [has been] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20).

This is not a contradiction. It’s simply an example of imagery being used in two different ways. The latter is a reference to the holy Scriptures, the Word of God, communicated to us by apostles and prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:20-21). It is through the written Word of God that we learn of the saving work of the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the two are inextricably linked. Samuel Stone’s hymn shows that he fully understood this link.

CH-4) 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 words of the Lord Jesus will not fail to be fulfilled: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades [i.e. the power of death and the grave] shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

1) What do you consider to be the greatest threat to the church of Jesus Christ today?

2) What various means does God use to defend the church?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. I really enjoy the message of this hymn.


%d bloggers like this: