By Caleb Faires
Rudyard Kipling, inspired by Samuel Stone’s “The Church’s One Foundation,” wrote a hymn of his own called “Hymn Before Action.” It can be sung to the same tune, but I must warn you that its content is radically different from Stone’s. Kipling invokes God’s aid to support blatantly imperial aims.
Kipling’s message may hit a little closer to home than we’d like to admit. Have you ever sought God’s help for something that was really just a selfish wish? I have. We are naturally inclined to think opportunistically of our relationship with God. We have our own ideas about what we want and how God should help us fulfill our wishes. I am grateful that God is both faithful and gracious, dealing patiently even with my presumptuous and petty ways.
Unlike Kipling, Stone’s theme is not about the imperial aims of man, but the kingdom of God. It is part of a series of hymns which expound on the declarations of the Apostle’s Creed. In this hymn, Stone addresses the theme of the Church universal, and the communion of the saints.
This hymn is a reminder of what our forgetful hearts need to hear again and again: Christ is our all. He is the one foundation.
How often we build our lives on false hopes, false foundations, and the lure of worldly success. We seek to build the church on false visions of success—like size, numbers, facilities, and programs—while neglecting the preeminence of Christ. Our hearts are inclined to supplant Jesus and replace Him with our own designs.
It is precisely this “do-it-yourself” kind of faith that Christ confounds. Psalm 127:1 says, “Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” I think I read this verse over a thousand times before I noticed that God Himself was the builder. Somehow, I always read this and thought it meant that I should build on my own, after getting some architectural direction from God.
That’s not what the verse says. God is the builder. He has established the church. He builds it. And my communion with Him and with the saints is not rooted in what I have done, but in what He has done. Indeed, Peter declares that we are “living Stones” (1 Peter 2:5). Our chief duty is to rest in Christ and rest upon the foundation He has laid.
Any activity we invest in that is not fixed upon Christ is vanity. Any program we concoct, any relationship we foster, any prayer we utter is vain labor apart from Him.
Stone reminds us that only in Christ do we find peace, sustenance, hope, joy, life, beauty, glory, reconciliation, love, salvation, identity, comfort, endurance, strength, and grace. Christ alone fills all in all (Ephesians 1:23).
Written By Caleb Faires
The Church’s One Foundation
Samuel J. Stone, 1866
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
She is 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.
’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,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.
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!
For an added layer of worship during reading plan, we’ve created a Spotify playlist for Hymns! You can find the complete HRT Hymns Playlist here, or listen to the first track on the player below. Enjoy!