In 1858, a great Christian revival – known as “the work of God in Philadelphia” – swept across that great American city
Of the participating ministers, it was said that none was more powerful than a twenty-nine year old Episcopalian minister, the Reverend Dudley Atkins Tyng – a bold and uncompromising preacher.
Dudley Atkins Tyng was a tireless advocate for the emancipation of slaves. He was ridiculed and persecuted for his view, and even criticized for bringing politics into the pulpit. Many of his congregation owned slaves, a common practice in those days, and they didn’t like him telling them plainly and bluntly that to hold a fellow human being in slavery was a sin.
In addition to preaching at his own church, the Church of the Epiphany in Philadelphia, Tyng began holding midday services at the downtown YMCA. Such was his power and dynamism that great crowds came to hear him preach, and on Tuesday, March 30th 1858, over 5000 men gathered for a mass meeting to hear him.
He took as his text these words from Exodus chapter 10 verse 11: “Go now ye that are men and serve the Lord”
Over 1,000 of the men were converted; the sermon was called “one of the most successful of the time”; the entire city was being stirred; a religious awakening was gaining force.
The next week Tyng returned to his family in the country. On Tuesday, April 13, 1858, he was watching the operation of a corn-thrasher in a barn. Raising his arm to place his hand on the head of a mule which was walking up the inclined lane of the machine, the young minister accidentally caught his loose sleeve between the cogs.
His arm was lacerated severely, the main artery severed and the median nerve injured. As a result of shock and a great loss of blood, he died on the 19th
His last words were “Stand up for Jesus, father; stand up for Jesus; and tell my brethren of the ministry, wherever you meet them, to stand up for Jesus.”
On the following Sunday, Tyng’s close friend, George Duffield, the minister of the Temple Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, preached on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the sixth chapter, beginning at the 14th verse:
“Stand, therefore, having your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”
Duffield closed his sermon by reading a poem that he had just written. It had been inspired by the dying words of his friend. His words are still with us, of course, known as the hymn “Stand up, stand up, for Jesus.”
As we’ve said, Dudley Atkins Tyng was a vigorous campaigner for the emancipation of slaves. He stood up in protest against inequality and injustice
– and so must we, wherever God’s will is ignored, wherever wrong and evil flourish….and by doing so, we stand up for Jesus.
We Christians stand up to powers of oppression, we stand firm in our faith, and we stand down when violence becomes the only option, because what we stand for is the very peace Jesus proclaims to his disciples.
Stand up for God’s justice, mercy, and truth. Stand up to protest against something—such as the obscene bonuses paid to failed bankers at this time of economic recession. Stand up against the disintegration of society; stand up for decency, honour and worth in our country. Stand up to affirm something—like the importance of traditional morality, the need for peace and cooperation in Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and so many other troubled countries in the world,, or hope for the future of humankind..
When we encounter evil, hypocrisy, corruption, or anything else that is counter to the world of truth, beauty, peace and justice that is God’s will, let us, with righteous indignation, take an aggressive stand for God. Let us, too, ‘Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!’
Let me finish by quoting a verse from the original version of the hymn:
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.