John Rippon was pastor of Carter’s Lane Baptist Church in London for more than half a century. Rippon loved hymns, and his hymnal, A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, became a best-seller among Baptist churches in England and America.
You would think that a title touting “Best Authors” would be careful to acknowledge the author’s names. However, this hymn— “How Firm a Foundation”—had only the initial K where the author’s name should be. We think that the author was Robert Keene, the music director for Rippon’s congregation—but we can’t be sure.
In most hymnals, quotation marks enclose all the words except verse 1. That is because most of the words are quoted from the Bible—a line from here and another from there. The hymn relates a series of Godly assurances. “Fear not, I am with thee,” it says—and then promises, “When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.”
This has been an exceedingly popular hymn. At Robert E. Lee’s request, it was sung at his funeral. It was also one of Theodore Roosevelt’s favorites, and was sung at his funeral. But it shouldn’t be reserved for funerals, because its assurance of God’s help meets our needs through every chapter of our lives.
— Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan