The Church’s one Foundation

Hymn #396
Text: Samuel John Stone (1839-1900)
Music: Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
Tune name: AURELIA



In 1863, John Colenso, the Bishop of Natal in South Africa, was deposed by his metropolitan, Bishop Robert Gray of Cape Town, because of various heretical views inspired by higher-critical approaches to Scripture. As Ian Bradley notes in The Book of Hymns, “The Colenso affair reopened long-standing divisions between liberals and conservatives within the Church of England.”

A recently ordained curate in Windsor (the home of Windsor Castle) was deeply disturbed by the controversy. Three years later, at the age of twenty-seven, the young priest, Fr. Samuel John Stone, expressed his concern about divisions in the Church by publishing Lyra Fidelium: Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles Creed (1866). The ninth article is “The Holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints.” “The Church’s one foundation” was the hymn Stone wrote to reinforce the Creed’s statements about the Bride of Christ.

The hymn originally included seven stanzas, which were reduced to the present five when the hymn was published in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868) and set to the present tune, AURELIA. The hymn was shortened by eliminating the original third stanza (displayed in italics below) and by combining the first four lines of stanzas six and seven into a single stanza.

Below are the original seven stanzas.

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.

2. 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.

3. 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 both foe and traitor
she ever shall prevail.

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.

5. ’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.

6. Yet she on earth hath union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won,
with all her sons and daughters
who, by the Master’s hand
led through the deathly waters,
repose in Eden land.

7. O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with Thee:
there, past the border mountains,
where in sweet vales the Bride
with Thee by living fountains
forever shall abide!

In 1885, three additional stanzas were inserted between the original fifth and sixth stanzas to make a ten-stanza processional hymn for us in Salisbury Cathedral.

So, Lord, she stands before thee,
for evermore thine own;
no merit is her glory,
her boasting this alone;
that she who did not choose thee
came, chosen at thy call,
never to leave or lose thee
or from thy favour fall.

For thy true word remaineth;
no creature far or nigh,
no fiend of ill who reigneth
in hell or haunted sky;
no doubting world’s derision
that holds her in despite,
shall hide her from thy vision,
shall lure her from thy light.

Thine, thine! in bliss or sorrow,
as well in shade or shine;
of old, today, tomorrow,
to all the ages, thine!
Thine in her great commission,
baptized into thy name,
and in her last fruition
of all her hope and aim.



The grandson of Charles Wesley, Samuel Sebastian Wesley was the most accomplished English organist of his time and possibly the greatest English composer of church music between Henry Purcell and Charles Stanford

Wesley wrote this his best-known hymn tune in 1864, intending it to be used to sing “Jerusalem the golden” (#597). In his book English Church Music (1935), fellow organist and composer Kendrick Pyne recounted the circumstances of the tune’s birth:

I was in the drawing room in the Close, Winchester, as a lad of thirteen, with Mrs. Wesley, my mother and Mrs. Stewart [the mother of the distinguished English General J. D. H. Stewart]; we were all discussing a dish of strawberries when Dr. Wesley came rushing up from below with a scrap of manuscript in his hand, a psalm tune just that instant finished. Placing it on the instrument, he said, “I think this will be popular.” My mother was the first ever to sing it to the words “Jerusalem the Golden.” The company liked it, and Mrs. Wesley on the spot christened it Aurelia.

Here is the hymn sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.