Saturday, September 06, 2014

A mighty fortress is our God

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.
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.
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.
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 forever.

Words & Music: Mar­tin Lut­her, 1529 (MI­DI, score); trans­lat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Fred­er­ic H. Hedge, 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.

Sankey, p. 106


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