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  • Writer's pictureDr. Roger D Duke

The Hymn-“Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus!” One Use of the Hymn

“Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus!”

“The Story Behind the Hymn”


Roger D. Duke ©

Scripture Portions:

Nehemiah 9: 5

“Then the Levites . . . said Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever; and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (KJV).

I Corinthians 16: 13

Stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong” (KJV).

Part I

One Use of the Hymn

There is no doubt “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was the most beloved, memorized, and sung refrain of the Union armies during the War-Between-the-States. A close second, however, was “Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus.” This is one account of the use of and story behind that beloved hymn.

During the American Revolution as well as the War-Between-the-States, patriotic preaching urged heroism and self-sacrifice for both diametrically held opposing American ideals. The principles of the Loyalists juxtaposed the Patriots during the Revolutionary War; the principles of the Union juxtaposed those of the South during the Civil War. Christian ministers, on both religious and political sides, believed it their duty to inspire and persuade parishioners onward in the struggles in what was described as God’s “holy cause.” Each assumed a level of self-righteousness believing God to be on their vindicator. This phenomenon occurred during the Revolution and historically reoccurred in the War-Between-the-States. We will consider one minister as a prime example of the religious and patriotic rhetoric whipped up by the pulpit. For one to refuse to fight, declared George Duffield, Presbyterian minister of Philadelphia; “mad[e] a man ‘less a Christian than he might have been,’” and “‘less a lover of his country.’”[1] If one refused his place in the war effort; he was not considered to be a “good Christian” and what was even worse, a coward. Both beliefs and deportment were examined in the eyes of his family, church, friends, community, and even nation.

To add a sharp persuasive effect to his preaching,

Duffield. . . [would hold] up a Bible from the American Revolution. “This very copy that I now hold in my hand, is one of the rare edition [sic] published by authority of the old Continental Congress in 1781.” He knew this Bible was authentic—Duffield’s great-grandfather had been a chaplain to the Continental Congress. This Bible had supported a war to found [sic] the nation, and it would support a war to rescue the nation “now that it is in such imminent peril.”[2]

He vehemently reiterated; for one to be unpatriotic or unmanly was to be unbiblical.[3] He exclaimed as he closed! ‘“THE LAST OF ALL PLACES IN THE UNIVERSE, BEHIND WHICH FOR COWARDICE TO SKULK[4] OR FIND REFUGE, IS THE HOLY BIBLE.’”[5] This he “proclaimed, using all caps for emphasis.”[6]

In this War-Between-the-States sermonizing, Duffield carefully selected militant sounding Scriptures from the Old Testament as proof-texts to rouse his congregants to the Northern-cause. Amongst these were: Jeremiah 48: 10, “Cursed is he that keepeth back his sword from blood”; David’s declaration in Psalms 144: 1, “Blessed is the Lord, my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight”; and “Deborah’s curse of ‘Meroz’ for refusing to wage war against God’s enemies” found in Judges 5: 23.[7]

As the cultural and societal milieu shaped Duffield’s patriotic ethos, “it makes sense that Duffield wrote the popular hymn ‘Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.’”[8] But most Christians who sang the anthem considered it to be a spiritualization and not a literal “call to arms.” Parishioners believed “Christ’s army was the spiritual power of the church, and the war was against sin, not an actual army on the battlefield.”[9] But in those times the War-Between-the-States forged a union between spiritual and military warfare parallel to what occurred during the Revolution. “In both wars, preachers called on a militant Christ for inspiration in military as well as spiritual struggles.”[10] As President Lincoln wisely observed, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”[11] This irony of conviction and action was spurred on by the clergy of the two respective factions.

Many historians (as well as ministers) have referred to the Civil War as the “second American Revolution.” There is an understandable reasoning in this assertion. The dynamics of religion coupled with patriotism, both considered personally and culturally, added fuel to the fire that brought all sides to a fever pitch and eventual conflict. The extreme fringe groups were known as “fire-eaters” on one side and radical abolitionists on the other. As the nation was torn asunder by sectionalism and slavery, “[b]oth sides claimed to be following those heroic patriots of the nation’s founding, and both sides used the Bible to make those claims.”

Evangelical Preachers in both camps recalled how the Bible was employed historically and rhetorically just prior to the Revolution. It was one engendering agent to Loyalists and Patriots alike to take-up-arms for their respective “holy causes.” Many ministers “knew how critical the Bible was in the Revolution, and they enlisted that legacy in this new fight.” An irony of sorts lay before them: Both the Revolutionary war and the present conflict provided Followers of Christ a golden opportunity that would never be available to them again. A laboratory of sorts to improve their spiritual and physical courage. And too—to demonstrate their masculinity[12

“Not only could Christians [sic] fight in this war, but they should fight, because Christian soldiers were the best fighters.”[13] Like Duffield, C.D. Helmer, a Congregational minister from Milwaukee, Wisconsin declared his “The War Begun” sermon: “The hand of the Lord is in” [the war]. And “It is the Lord of Hosts who is mustering our armies.” And again, “Let us fight like Christians.” Because “[t]here is no such warrior as” those who “enter the battle-field fresh from communion with God. There is something fearfully sublime in the thought of a Christian hero, arming himself, not for spiritual, but physical victories.”[14] It is most difficult for a contemporary mind to fathom, if unfamiliar with the ante-bellum and Abolitionists religious and political milieu, that the pulpits would be occupied by the beat of a Christian war-drum.

[1] George Duffield, “Courage,” 4; the Revolutionary War sermon cited by Duffield was by Cooper; cited in James P. Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood: The Bible & the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 76. [2] Duffield, “Courage,” 8; cited in James P. Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood: The Bible & the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 72. [3] Duffield, “Courage,” 8. [4] To “skulk” during the War-Between-the States was to desert, to loaf, to get around doing one’s duty, to turn and run in the face of the enemy, to play dead on the battlefield, or to otherwise show cowardice. [5] Duffield, “Courage,” 8. [6] Duffield, “Courage,” 8, 18. [7] Duffield, “Courage,” 17-20. [8] Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood, 76. [9] Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood, 76 [10] Diana Hochstedt Butler, Standing Against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episcopalians in Nineteenth Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 136-137; cited in James P. Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood: The Bible & the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 77. [11] Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address,” 4 March 1865. The address is in the Public Domain. Please see Scott Culpeper’s “They Both Prayed to the Same God,” In All Things, retrieved 20 July 2022 from [12] Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood, 77. [13] Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood, 77. [14] C.D. Helmer, “The War Begun,” in Robert R. Mathisen, ed., The Routledge Sourcebook of Religion and the American Civil War: A History of Documents (New York: Routledge, 2015), 30-31; cited in James P. Byrd, A Holy Baptism of Fire & Blood: The Bible & the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021), 77.

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