The Story Behind the Hymn: Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus

I enjoy new worship songs as much as the next person but I’m always amazed at some of the stories behind some of the old hymns. One of the songs we are singing this week is Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus which I probably haven’t sung in at least 25 years and I came across this small bit of history about the song’s origins:

“I caught its inspiration from the dying words of that noble young clergyman, Rev. Dudley Atkins Tyng, rector of the Epiphany Church, Philadelphia, who died about 1854. His last words were, ‘Tell them to stand up for Jesus: now let us sing a hymn.’ As he had been much persecuted in those pro-slavery days for his persistent course in pleading the cause of the oppressed, it was thought that these words had a peculiar significance in his mind; as if he had said, ‘Stand up for Jesus in the person of the downtrodden slave.”

So that led me to dig further into who Rev. Tyng was. In 1856 he was forced out of his position as rector of the Church of the Epiphany of Philadelphia after not bowing to pressure to stop preaching against slavery. Two years later he was holding a rally in Philadelphia in which 5,000 men came. Tyng reportedly said during his message, “I would rather this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God’s message.”

Two weeks later he was at his family farm and his shirt got caught in a mule powered corn sheller and his arm was badly injured. The doctors amputated the arm but Tyng didn’t recover and his dying words were “Tell them to stand up for Jesus: now let us sing a hymn.”

A week after the funeral, Rev. Duttfield read a poem at the end of his sermon entitled Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus and that later became the familiar hymn we still sing today. Verse 3 even alludes to the loss of Rev. Tyng’s arm,

“Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone; The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.”

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