Saturday, January 16, 2016
Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus -- George Duffield
George Duffield was still grieving his friend’s untimely demise, and evidently wrote something that was therapeutic for himself and others a week later. “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” was actually not his idea, but his dying friend’s, and also a more ancient author’s whose words he examined in the wake of the tragedy that took his friend. Death is not a kind visitor, and it must have seemed especially unwelcome for the Philadelphians who had known the minister whose life they were remembering that early spring of 1858. How unfair it was, but they must have reasoned that there was once another unjust casualty, one with an influence that spanned many more years than their departed friend’s. Even their friend knew this as he slipped into the next world.
The 40-year old George Duffield and his 33-year old friend Dudley Tyng were fellow servants of God in the city of brotherly love in the 1850s when the latter was helping to stimulate a revival there. Tyng was described as a dynamic speaker, whose message once stirred a crowd of 1,000 men to commit themselves to Christ the same day. This was just days before an accident and its aftermath that took the young minister’s life. He’d said giving up his right arm was preferable to curbing the message that God compelled him to deliver. And, so it was, as a piece of farm machinery hooked his sleeve and crushed his arm a few weeks later. As he suffered from the loss of blood and the accompanying shock, Tyng whispered to his father the words that sparked Duffield’s imagination. ‘Stand up for Jesus’, Tyng urged, just before he expired a few days hence. Both ministers had witnessed the results of the church’s work in the city, and must have felt they were winning the spiritual warfare, so it wouldn’t have been unusual for either man to have been reading about how to engage the enemy. With Tyng’s dying words, the apostle’s words (Ephesians 6) that George read a few days after his friend’s death had magnified meaning and impact. George’s sermon that next Sunday concluded with the six verses from his heart, as he mused about what had happened the preceding week, and considered how to move forward. His friend’s voice would not be stilled, after all, because his was just an echo. And, it was not a lonely, solo voice, either.
One could say that Dudley Tyng and George Duffield knew how to fight, though they were disciples of the Prince of Peace. Perhaps their time had no small influence on their perspective. Both men were ardent abolitionists, and as the American Civil War loomed, both knew their stand put them at odds with others, even in the free northern states. With a heightened awareness of the morals of slavery and their spiritual calling, how could Dudley and George do anything else, we might ask. As he eulogized his friend George’s poem rings with the battle cry, with words like ‘soldiers’, ‘army’, ‘victory’, ‘foes’, ‘conflict’, ‘armor’, ‘battles’, and many more, perhaps amplified by what he and others could see affecting their world, as well as what they thought lay ahead. Paul, the Apostle, felt the battle went on, as did George Duffield who echoed his departed friend’s final thoughts. We long for tranquility, but where would you and I be without the call to arms?
See more information on the song story in these sources: The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, 2006; Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1990; 101 Hymn Stories, by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1982; and Then Sings My Soul – 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.
See biography here of composer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Duffield,_Jr.
See this link for biography of the composer’s friend, whose last words inspired the hymn: http://bereanbibleheritage.org/extraordinary/tyng_dudley.php