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George Duffield Jr.: Hymn writer, Union advocate

Mug-Duffield150George Duffield Jr. (1812-188), a zealous advocate of abolition and Union causes during the U.S. Civil War, is best remembered as the author of the words to the familiar hymn, “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus.”

The poem was written in 1858, while Duffield was pastoring in Philadelphia. The words “Stand up for Jesus,” were the last words spoken by the Rev. Dudley A. Tyng, an abolitionist and minister with the Young Men’s Christian Association. Only days before his death, Tyng had preached a rousing sermon to 5,000 men packed into Jaynes’ Hall in that city.

On the following Wednesday Tyng was working in his study but left for a moment and went out to his barn where a mule was harnessed to a machine for shelling corn. Reading out his arm to pat the mule on the neck, his sleeve was caught in the machinery and his arm was pulled off. A few hours later he was found in the barn bleeding to death.

Duffield wrote these words as the conclusion to a sermon in which he memorialized the abolitionist’s last words. The poem was later printed on a flyer, which made its way into a Baptist newsletter and then was popularized around the world.

Duffield says, “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 salve.’ (Luke 5:18)”

Duffield himself was the author of numerous hymn lyrics and produced hymnbooks. Educated at Yale University and Union Theological Seminary, graduating in 1840, he became an ordained Presbyterian minister, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him.

Throughout his career, Duffield ministered at several churches all in Northern states, starting with the Fifth Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York, where he remained for save years. He went next to the First Church of Bloomfield, New Jersey (1847-1852), and then the Central Presbyterian Church of the Northern Liberties in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1852-61).

Duffield left the Philadelphia church in 1861, saddened by the heavy mortgage on the church building, made heavier by the dwindling of a congregation beset by war conditions and westward migration pressures.

He later pastored at Adrian, Michigan, from 1861-5, at Galesburg, Illinois, from 1865-9, in Saginaw City, Michigan, in 1869, and after 1869 in Ann Arbor and Lansing Michigan.

Four sermons on Civil War themes are available for Kindle Readers: National Union: The Test of American Loyalty (1864), The Dark Night and The Glorious Morning (1865), Courage in a Good Cause (1861), and The God of Our Fathers (1861).