Luther’s best known hymn is, “Ein Fest Berg”. It is translated into English and known as“A Mighty Fortress”. Luther both wrote the words and music. The general form of the melody was taken from a folk tune, but Luther adapted it for the words which were inspired by a Psalm.
“A Mighty Fortress” was written at a time when Luther and his followers were experiencing severe opposition to the Reformation by the Emperor, Charles V, who desperately tried to stamp out the new movement. Luther turned to the Word for encouragement and Psalm 46 became very real and alive to him. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1-8)
Luther’s composition became very popular very quickly and it was not uncommon to hear it sung in the streets and sung as the martyrs were led to their deaths. What encouraging strains on which to exit this life! Luther had been a Catholic from birth, a priest by calling, and later a doctor of theolgy. But praise God, when the light of the Gospel shined in his heart God gave him a new song to sing, founded upon justification by faith alone in Christ's atoneing Blood alone. His writings led to the salvation of the Wesley brothers who filled England, Ireland and America with their Hymns.