Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence. Robert Fripp
Over the centuries, there have been numerous times when well-meaning voices, both inside and outside the Church, raise questions about the validity of the basic tenants of the Christian faith. From the very beginning, before the first generation of Christ-followers died out, there were numerous voices raising very serious questions about the claims of Christ.
Was Jesus of Nazareth actually all that He said He was? Did Jesus truly die on the cross and rise from the dead? How can Christ’s blood on the cross become a complete atonement for all of the world’s sin? Are we all really sinners? Aren’t there many ways back to God?
In truth, the questions never stop, and, as I see it, I don’t expect that will ever change. Yet while some of God’s faithful are angered by those who question what we, as Christ-followers believe, church history indicates to us that when people start to question or doubt the authority of Christ or the validity of His Church, this pushback often forces us, the Church, to re-think and re-evaluate those things that we truly believe. Take the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed, for example. These amazing doctrinal statements that so succinctly state the basic tenants of the Christian faith, were only created when outside voices began to question the validity of what Jesus of Nazareth actually asked us to believe.
So it is with today’s hymn, The Church’s One Foundation Is Jesus Christ, Her Lord. In the mid-1800’s there was an Anglican bishop in South Africa who wrote a controversial book that was finding a growing amount of acceptance from other church leaders outside South Africa. His name was John W. Colenso, and he was extremely critical of the Church’s traditional views on the authority of the Scriptures, questioning many of the articles of the Christian faith found in the early creeds of the Church.
One brave leader, a Bishop Gray of Cape Town, South Africa, wrote a stirring response to Colenso’s book, defending the basic foundational truths of the historical Church. Gray’s article of defense eventually found its way to England, where the Colenso controversy was brewing up a storm. One Anglican clergyman, faithfully serving his parish in Windsor, England, had read Colenso’s controversial book, but as he sat in his study, pondering Bishop Gray’s glowing response, he felt the deep need to throw his voice into the controversy as well. So in 1866, clergyman Samuel J. Stone composed a series of ten hymns he entitled, Lyra Fidelium; Twelve Hymns of the Twelve Articles of the Apostle’s Creed. In these ten songs, he created a way for the people of God to sing their way through one of the most important creeds ever established in the long history of the Church!
Article Nine of the Creed found a particular sweet spot in the heart of the people of God, and as they say in the newspaper business, the rest is all history. As the story goes, one Anglican arch-bishop who was asked once to comment on the lasting power of Samuel J. Stone’s masterpiece, quipped, “There’s two things I know I will always find when I go to bless a new congregation…cold chicken and the people singing The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ Her Lord!”
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.
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.
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.
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!
My prayer: Jesus, as the one and only true foundation of Your Church, I thank You that You have always had men and women of faith who weren’t afraid to stand boldly for Your Truth when other voices were crying out for alternatives. May Your Spirit empower those of us in our generation to bravely stand for Your Truth as well. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So where are well-meaning (and sometimes not well-meaning!) voices trying to water down (or destroy) the basic truths that have held the Church united on and in Christ for nearly two thousand years? What role am I to play, like Samuel S. Stone in his generation, in standing firm with the whole truth of God?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?
Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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