STAND UP STAND UP FOR JESUS

The Strange Case of Dudley Tyng


What exactly is a “hymn”? The word is used several times in the Bible (e.g. Col. 3:16), where it identifies a song that praises God. Our Christian hymns are fundamentally poetry, a lyrical blending of devotion and doctrine. At times they capture profound truths with colourful imagery or a neat turn of phrase. When the words are set to an appropriate and singable tune, they have the ability to stick in the memory, refreshing the soul again and again.

Most hymns that have stood the test of time have such qualities. They are part of our Christian heritage. Reflecting on them can broaden our spiritual vocabulary, giving us fresh ways to commune with God, and share with one another. A case in point is a gospel song given to the world over a century ago.

The winter of 1857-58 witnessed the igniting of revival fires, especially in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the centre of this great work was a 33-year-old servant of God named Dudley Tyng. Yet the spiritual harvest was clearly the Lord's doing, not the result of one person's ability. Working men used to gather, day after day, during the noon hour, to hear the Word of God. One day, 5,000 men packed into a local hall. They listened as Mr. Tyng preached a powerful message of commitment.

In the course of his sermon, he made this declaration: "I must tell [fulfil] my Master's errand. And I would rather that this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short in my duty to you in delivering God's message." When the service reached its close, over a thousand men committed their lives to Christ.

Shortly after, Mr. Tyng went to visit a local farm, where he watched the operation of a corn-shelling apparatus worked by mule power. But suddenly, as he was standing near, the sleeve of his coat caught in the gears, and his arm was pulled into the machine. He was severely injured, and soon infection set in.

In those days before antibiotics, that was a life-threatening condition. Several days later Tyng died. His friend, Pastor George Duffield was at his bedside. He asked the dying man if he had any message for the men back in the city. "Tell them to stand up for Jesus," he replied.

It was for a memorial service in honour of Dudley Tyng that George Duffield wrote the hymn poem that echoes that phrase. It begins, "Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross, / Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss; / From vict'ry unto vict'ry, His army shall He lead, / Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed."

The third verse includes an allusion to the strangely ironic accident: "Stand up, stand up for Jesus; stand in His strength alone: / The arm of flesh will fail you; ye dare not trust your own: / Put on the gospel armour, and watching unto prayer, / Where duty calls, or danger, be never wanting there."

Duffield’s hymn provides a soul-stirring reminder that the Christian life involves a battle against the forces of wickedness. If we are to have victory, we will need "the whole armour of God" (Eph. 6:10). Further, we cannot expect to succeed by relying on our own wits and our own efforts. We must "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:10). "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [the arm of flesh] but mighty in God" (II Cor. 10:4).

A century and a half later, there is still a need for Christians who will stand up and be counted. But it can only be done as we live by faith. In the words of Paul, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves...but our sufficiency is of God" (II Cor. 3:5).