September 12: Rev. George Duffield

This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus

Most of us in worship and hymn-sings have sung this stirring song to take our stand for our Lord and Savior.  But how many of you know the background to the popular hymn?

Upon his birth on September 12, 1818, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, George Duffield inherited a rich spiritual heritage. Both his grandfather and father were Presbyterian ministers.  It is no wonder then that after graduating from Yale in 1837 and Union Theological Seminary in 1840, he too became a Presbyterian minister.  For the remainder of his life, he served as pastor for eight Presbyterian churches, from 1847 until his death in 1888.  But  it was during his ministry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1852 and 1861, that he wrote this hymn which we remember to this day.

The Rev. Dudley Tyng was a close friend of his, who served as rector of the Epiphany Church in Philadelphia.  Rev. Tyng took a strong position against slavery in his preaching, and regularly preached abolitionist messages from the pulpit.  There was only one problem with his preaching in this particular church. Many of the leading families of the church were slave owners.  Eventually, they forced  his resignation from the church.

Rev. Tyng went on preaching at Jayne Hall before the Young Men’s Christian Association in Philadelphia, before very small crowds at first, but eventually larger and larger crowds. Soon the numbers typically reached five thousand men, often with as many as a thousand men coming to sign pledges that they had been converted to Christ.

During a break in that preaching series, Rev. Ting went to his farm for further study.  Taking a break during  his studies, he went out to the barn to check on a mule harnessed to a corn shucking machine, but somehow his sleeve was caught in the machine.  His arm was mangled in the process and a few days later, he died.  His last words were spoken to our subject of this devotional, the Rev. George Duffield, who asked him if he had any final words to say.  He replied, “Tell them to stand up for Jesus.”

The following Sunday, Pastor Duffield preached before his Presbyterian congregation on Ephesians 6:13, which reads, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (KJV)  For the application of his message, he then read a poem which he had composed that week, entitled “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.”  Music was added later, and Christians the world over have been challenged through the years with this message to stand up for Jesus.

Words to live by: In addition to the four stanzas which we regularly sing, Pastor Duffield had added two others stanzas.  Stanza 2 originally read,

“Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the solemn watchword  hear;
If while ye sleep He suffers, away with shame and fear;
Where’er ye meet with evil, within you or without,
Charge for the God of battles; and put the foe to rout.” 

Stanza 5 originally read,

“Stand up, stand up for Jesus, each soldier to his power,
Close up the broken columns, and shout through all the host.
Make good the loss so  heavy, in those that still remain,
And prove to all around you, that death itself is gain.” 

We can see why this hymn was a favorite in both North and South during the Civil War.  But it has endured the test of time to remind us all in Christ that we are in a spiritual battle, and need to take our stand for Christ.  Are you standing for Jesus?

Through the Scriptures:   Ezekiel 4 – 7

Through the Standards: The third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Larger Catechism

WLC 192 — “What do we pray for in the third petition?
A.  In the third petition, (which is, Thy will be done in earth as it is in  heaven,) acknowledging, that by nature we and all men are not only utterly unable and unwilling to know and do the will of God, but prone to rebel against his word, to repine and murmur against his providence, and wholly inclined to do the will of the flesh, and of the devil: we pray, that God would by his Spirit take away from ourselves and others all blindness, weakness, indisposedness, and perverseness of heart; and by his grace make us able and willing to know, do, and submit to his will in all  things, with the like humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy, as the angels do in heaven.”

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