Among many talents, Martin Luther was also a musician. When the Reformation began , he was determined to revive congregational singing. He worked with musicians to create new music to be sung in the vernacular. Sometimes he “borrowed” popular secular music for his hymns, though sometimes a tune brought criticism because it was too closely associated with bars and taverns and Luther was “compelled to let the devil have it back.”
“Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott”(A Mighty Fortress is Our God) is his most famous hymn. It is based on Psalm 46. In times of difficulty and danger, Luther would be comforted by this song, saying “Come … let us sing the 46th Psalm.” It has been called the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation.”
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Text: Martin Luther Trans. by Frederick H. Hedge
Music: Martin Luther Harmony from The New Hymnal for American Youth
Tune: EIN’ FESTE BURG, Meter: 184.108.40.2067
1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.2. Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.3. And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.4. That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.