A Mighty Fortress

One of the ways we can educate ourselves about the worldview of the Founding Fathers is to explore their hymns. The hymns of that era were full of passion and theology, and provide an experiential understanding of their state of mind.

Author: Martin Luther, written in 1529.

Translated from German to English by Frederic H. Hedge in 1853. This song has been called “the greatest hymn of the greatest man of the greatest period of German history” and the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation.” This hymn was sung at the funeral of American president Dwight Eisenhower at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, March 1969.

In 1720 a remarkable revival began in a town in Moravia. Jesuits opposed it, and the meetings were prohibited. Those who still assembled were seized and imprisoned in stables and cellars. At David Nitschmann’s house, where a hundred and fifty persons gathered, the police broke in and seized the books. Not dismayed, the congregation struck up the stanzas of Luther’s hymn,

“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.”

Twenty heads of families were for this sent to jail, including Nitschmann, who was treated with special severity. He finally escaped, fled to the Moravians at Herrnhut, became a bishop, and afterwards joined the Wesleys in 1735 in their expedition to Savannah, Georgia.

Tune:Ein’ Feste Burg

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
Through 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 for ever.

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