Sing a Hymn about the Church

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So far, the hymns featured in this series have followed the annual seasons. This installment, therefore, calls for a fall-related hymn.

But the theme of this BA issue compels deviation, providing an opportunity to highlight Samuel Stone’s classic “The Church’s One Foundation.” It is one of twelve hymns published by the English clergyman in 1866, aimed at capturing rich doctrinal truths in simple devotional language. Of the twelve, it is by far the most widely sung. A bishop once noted that he could always count on two things when dedicating a new church: fried chicken and “The Church’s One Foundation.”

A version of it even made it into our CoG7 Worship in Song hymnal (#7). Pause and read it. What wondrous love this is!

The observation that there’s nothing a man will not do for his bride when his heart is captured by her love, finds its ultimate expression in Christ’s love for His bride, the church. Stone writes, “With His own blood He bought her/And for her life He died.” No groom has ever paid so high a dowry!

Jesus is therefore the church’s one foundation — her most important understructure (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23). The church is His “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) by the “washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

The operative word in the church’s charter is one: “one Lord, one faith, one birth” (see Ephesians 4:5). So even when she isn’t acting like it, when “By schisms rent asunder/By heresies distressed,” the church is one. The call to oneness is thus a call to become what the church already is, to match belief and behavior, position and practice.

United, she is strengthened for the “toil and tribulation” that mark her history, fortified against those who would silence her voice, put out her light. The darker the night, the brighter her light shines, for “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Stone’s core message is Jesus’ passion for His bride; she means everything to Him. Soon He will “present her to Himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle . . .” (5:27). Meanwhile, awaiting her consummation, we protect her purity, preserve her beauty. She’s pure and beautiful when we are one.

 

The Church’s one foundation/Is Jesus Christ her Lord;/She is His new creation/By water and the word:/With all His heart He sought her/To be His holy bride;/With His own blood He bought her/And for her life He died.

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.

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!

‘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.

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