Church's One Foundation, The

DESCRIPTION: "The Church's one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord, She is his new creation." The church draws people from everywhere. Jesus died for it. The singers hope to be taken to heaven
AUTHOR: Words: Samuel John Stone (1839-1900) / Music: Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
EARLIEST DATE: 1926 (The Parish School Hymnal); reportedly written1866
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Gainer, pp. 206-207, "The Church's One Foundation" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Charles Johnson, One Hundred and One Famous Hymns (Hallberg, 1982), pp, 58-59, "The Church's One Foundation" (1 text, 1 tune)
Robert J. Morgan, _Then Sings My Soul, Book 2: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories_, Nelson, 2004, pp. 106-107, "The Church's One Foundation" (1 text, 1 tune)
John Julian, editor, _A Dictionary of Hymnology_, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), pp. 1146-1147, "The Church's One Foundation" (1 text, with variant readings from two other versions)

Roud #5433
NOTES [1198 words]: According to Johnson, this hymn was one of a series written by Samuel John Stone based (very loosely) on the Apostles' Creed. Morgan declares that Stone based it on the portion of the creed which reads, "I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints...." (Julian, p. 1146, gives the source as the ninth article of the creed, and tells us that the hymn, written in 1866, was revised in 1868 and 1885, with the 1868 version being the most widespread).
It should be noted that the Apostles' Creed is not apostolic; Boer, p. 73, declares "it is called the Apostles' Creed because it faithfully sets forth the central teachings of the Apostles" -- but he admits that it took at least three centuries to assemble. Most scholars would say it took even longer. Bettenson, p. 24, says that the oldest text of the final Latin form of the Apostle's Creed exists in a document from c. 750. The earliest ancestor known to Bettenson is the creed of Marcellus of Ancyra, known as an Arian heretic; this version dates from c. 340.
McKim, p. 305, Johnson, and Morgan all report that Stone did his writing in response to the works of John William Colenso (1814-1883), the Anglican Bishop of Natal from 1853 (at least, that's the date on p. 329 of LarousseDict, p. 98 of Douglas/Elwell/Toon, and p. 217 of Ellis; Carroll/Gardner, p. [47], says 1846); Julian, p. 1146, clarifies that "The impression made upon [Stone's] mind by Bishop Gray's (Capetown) noble defence of the Catholic Faith against the teaching of Bishop Colenso, was in chief the origin of this magnificent hymn." According to McKim, p. 305, the direct response to Colenso is in the third stanza.
If the name "Colenso" is vaguely familiar today, it is probably from Lewis Carroll. Before becoming a bishop, Colenso had written a popular set of books on mathematics. If you look at Henry Holiday's original illustration to "The Beaver's Lesson," chapter five of The Hunting of the Snark (p. [49] in Carroll/Gardner), you will observe that one of the books shown there is Colenso's Arithmetic.
Once he became a Bishop, Colenso turned the analytical skills which he had previously used for mathematics to examining the Bible. One of his missions was to the Zulus, whose language he learned (a very unusual act for an Englishman of the time); he published a grammar and dictionary of the language, and began to translate the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into Zulu.
This proved rather embarrassing, because the Zulus had a lot of tricky questions about his teaching (Carroll/Gardner, p. [47]). He began to analyze the Old Testament in mathematical and scientific terms (Ellis, p. 218). His results were published in The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua Critically Examined (completed 1879, according to LarousseDict, p. 329). Carroll/Gardner, p. [47], says that Colenso "reduced to absurdity the literal interpretation of the Bible." Among his calculations was an estimate that, to make the Bible literally true, six men would have had a combined 2748 sons, and that priests would have been forced to consume 88 pigeons daily (Green, p. 281).
Morgan considers his views to be part of a "poisonous fog" generated by German theologians, and Ellis, while avoiding the gratuitous insult, agrees that he was largely inspired by Germans. Green, p. 281, although more sympathetic, admits that he found these books no more inspired than "Cicero, Lactantius, and the Sikh Gooros."
Colenso also championed the rights of the Blacks of South Africa (supposedly to the point of defending polygamy in his book Remarks on the Proper Treatment of Polygamy).
WalkerEtAl, p 641, seems to associate Colenso with the "broad-church" movement (defined by Ellis as those who "believed the love of God was for all, not just for Christians"), with which WalkerEtAl also associates three of the greatest scholars of the nineteenth century, Brooke Foss Westcott, Joseph Barber Lightfoot, and Fenton John Anthony Hort. Almost every Bible translation published today is largely founded on the work of Westcott and Hort, and Lightfoot's influence on Biblical commentaries is immense. To be associated, even indirectly, with such great men is a strong testimony to the quality of Colenso's work.
So too is the list of subscribers to a fund which supported him: T. H. Huxley the evolutionary biologist, the brilliant naturalist Joseph D. Hooker, and the great geologist Charles Lyell, as well as writers including Trollope and Dickens; Tennyson also seems to have supported him.
Still, Ellis, p. 217, says that Colenso "has been described as the sharpest prickle in the Anglican rose," who "preferred confrontation to compromise." So much so, in fact, that he forced the first great international Anglican gathering, the 1867 Lambeth Conference (Ellis, p. 218).
For the great crime of being 100% right, Colenso was found guilty of heresy in 1864, although he was reinstated by the Privy Council in 1865 (Douglas/Elwell/Toon, p. 98). Excommunicated by the Archbishop of Capetown in 1866, he was deposed from his bishopric in 1869 -- although Douglas/Elwell/Toon say that he managed to keep the income of the diocese until his death.
Colenso is now largely forgotten (not even my several dictionaries of heresy mention him). There is an 1888 biography by George William Cox which was in print in 2016; I have not seen it. The song he inspired managed to make it into many hymnals, though it is not one of the more popular ones in tradition. To be sure, I can't see anything in the song that in any way relates to Colenso and his doctrines (and very little that really derives from the Apostle's Creed).
Colenso does have one other faint connection with folk music: He was one of the many guests who knew Lady Jane Franklin in the last years of her life, after Sir John Franklin's fate was known (McGoogan, p. 395).
Julian, p. 1095, gives these facts about Samuel John Stone: "s[on] of the Rev. William Stone, M.A., was b[orn] at Whitmore, Staffordshire, April 25, 1839, and educated at the Charterhouse; and at Pembroke College, Oxford, B.A. 1862; and M.A. 1872. On taking Holy Orders he became Curate of Windsor in 1862, and of St. Paul's, Haggerston, 1870. In 1874 he succeeded his father at St. Paul's, Haggerston." Thus, like many British clergymen, his career seems to have been secured largely by family and connections. Perhaps this makes it less surprising that he opposed ideas associated with evolution and science. At least he brought some originality to the post, although not enough to actually look at the data Colenso brought forward. Reynolds, p. 438, says he was involved in the 1909 edition of the famous collection Hymns Ancient and Modern.
Stone's hymns on the Apostle's Creed were published in 1866 in Lyra Fidelium; Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostles' Creed (Stulken, p. 417). The tune "Aurelia" is also used, e.g., for "The voice that breathed o'er Eden" and "O Living Bread from Heaven" (Stulken, p. 281); Reynolds, p. 211, says it was written by Samuel S Wesley (the grandson of Charles Wesley) for the text "Jerusalem the Golden"; it was called "Aurelia" because "aurum" is the Latin word for gold. - RBW
BibliographyLast updated in version 4.2
File: Rd005433

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.