500. How Firm a Foundation

1 How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

2 "Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
for I am your God and will still give you aid;
I'll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

3 "When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
for I will be with you in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

4 "When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace all-sufficient shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

5 "The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"

Text Information
First Line: How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord
Title: How Firm a Foundation
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ;
Topic: Comfort & Encouragement; Deliverance; Temptation & Trial (5 more...)
Source: J. Rippon's Selection of Hymns, 1787, alt.
Tune Information
Harmonizer: Dale Grotenhuis (1985)
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Key: G Major
Source: J. Funk's A Compliation of Genuine Church Music, 1832
Copyright: Harmonization © 1987, CRC Publications

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = 1 Cor. 3:11
st. 2 = Isa. 41:10
st. 3-4 = Isa. 43:2
st. 5 = Rom. 8:35-39, Heb. 13:5, Deut. 31:6

Based on Isaiah 43: 1-5, this text was given the heading “Exceeding great and precious Promises. II Peter 3:4” in John Rippon's A Selection of Hymns (1787). The author was listed simply as "K" Although some scholars are not convinced of this attribution, "K" presumably refers to Richard Keen, song leader in the London church where Rippon was minister. With minor alterations, stanzas 1, 3-5, and 7 are included from the original seven stanzas.

"How Firm a Foundation" is a noble text, full of comfort for God's people whose "foundation" of faith is rooted in the Word (st. 1) and whose lives experience divine protection when they face "deep waters" and "fiery trials" (st. 2-4). The final stanza clearly moves beyond the text's Old Testament source and proclaims the certainty of redemption in Christ.

A Baptist minister, Rippon (b. Tiverton, Devonshire, England, 1751; d. London, England, 1836) was called to the Baptist Church in Carter Lane, London, in 1772 as an interim pastor. After becoming head pastor, he stayed in that position for sixty-three years. He also edited the Baptist Annual Register (1790-1802). His main contribution to hymnody was his compiling of A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended As an Appendix to Dr. Watts' Psalms and Hymns (1787) and A Selection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1791). These publications became popular in both England and America. However, later hymnologists have often been frustrated by Rippon's work because he frequently did not indicate the authors of the hymns and often altered the texts without acknowledging his changes.

Liturgical Use:
Many occasions of worship that focus on redemption and providence; as a hymn of comfort for those in difficult or tragic circumstances; baptism; profession of faith; prior to reading of Scripture.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

The anonymous tune FOUNDATION first appeared in Joseph Funk's A Compilation of Genuine Church Music (1832) as a setting for this text (there it was called PROTECTION). The tune was also published with the text in Southern Harmony and Sacred Harp.

The ancestors of Joseph Funk (b. Lancaster County, PA, 1778; d. Mountain Valley, a.k.a. Singers Glen, VA, 1862) were German Mennonites who had settled in eastern Pennsylvania. Around 1780 the Funk family moved to the Shenandoah Valley close to Harrisonburg, Virginia. Funk became a farmer and a teacher in a schoolhouse on his property. An itinerant singing-school teacher and music publisher, he also issued the monthly music journal Southern Musical Advocate and Singer's Friend before the Civil War (the journal was continued later by his sons). Funk published Choral-Music (1816) and A Compilation of Genuine Church Music (1832). The revised twenty-fourth edition (1980) is still in use by Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley today. Funk's life was the focus of Alice Parker's opera Singers Glen (1978).

The harmonization is by Dale Grotenhuis (PHH 4). There are several options for singing: congregation throughout, soloists on the middle stanzas, or in canon. Like many folk tunes, FOUNDATION is pentatonic and should be sung with vigor. It can be sung either in two-part canon (two measures apart) or in four parts (one measure apart). Try having the choir's men and women sing in canon on the inner stanzas, perhaps following a soloist. For the final stanza, try dividing the entire congregation into four groups for a stirring conclusion. When singing in canon, sing unaccompanied or use the Busarow settings for canon in All Praise to You, Eternal God (Augsburg, 1980), do not use the hymnal accompaniment.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

MIDI file: MIDI Preview
(Faith Alive Christian Resources)
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