1 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.
2 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.
3 Though with a scornful wonder the world see her 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.
4 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.
5 Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly, may live eternally.
The text portrays the Christian church as rooted in the Savior, Jesus Christ, through the water of baptism and the Word of God (st. 1). In accord with the ninth article of the Apostles' Creed, we confess through this text that the church is catholic (universal) and united by "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). As we sing, we lament the "heresies" that "distress" the church (st. 3); although this is a direct reference to the Colenso controversy, the stanza fits many other situations in church history as well. The final stanza ends on a hopeful tone: the church will finally be at peace and at rest.
Psalter Hymnal Handbook
The words from stanza 1, “…she is his new creation by water and the Word” parallel Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21, Question and Answer 54, testifying that Christ “…through his Spirit and Word…gathers, protects and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith.”
Stanza 2 combines two powerful truths: the church is “elect” and the church is from “every nation.” The Canons of Dort I, 7 verifies both of these by teaching that “election is God’s unchangeable purpose by which he…chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race.”
Stanzas 3 and 4 acknowledge that the church will often suffer while she tries to be obedient. The Belhar Confession, Section 5 says that God’s people ought not to be surprised at this; it is to be expected.
Stanza 4 also speaks of the church “waiting the consummation of peace forevermore.” The Apostles Creed professes that we believe in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Questions and Answers 57-58 expand on this profession: “…after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forevermore.”