How Firm a Foundation


Performance Notes:

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = 1 Cor. 3:11
st. 2 = Isa. 41:10
st. 3 = 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.

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.

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. 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.

Other Resources:

  • Visit for more information on this song and additional resources.
  • The following are alternative accompaniments for this tune, FOUNDATION.

Alternative Harmonization for Organ and Descant Resources:

  • Burkhardt, Michael  As Though the Whole Creation Cried  vol. 2. Morningstar MSM-10-606 [2009]
  • Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings General. Set 2 Morningstar MSM-10-715 [1997]
  • Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
  • Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
  • Hancock, Gerre. Organ Improvisations for Hymn Singing. Hinshaw HMO-100 [1975]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008]
  • Wellman, Samuel. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]
Song Audio: 
Isaiah 43:1-5
Song Number: 
Projection and Reprint Information: 
  • Words: The Words are in the Public Domain; you do not need permission to project or reprint the Words.
  • Music: Permitted with a license from or from If you do not own one of these licenses, please contact the copyright holder for permission.
Public Domain