The writing of this song was motivated by a life given wholly to God.
The person whose life inspired this hymn was Rev. Dudley Tyng.
He preached boldly at his church and at the YMCA, until, on March 30, 1858 (Tuesday), over 5000 came out to a meeting. Rev. Dudley Tyng preached on the text “Ye that are men, go and sere the Lord,” Exodus 10:11. He said, “I must tell my Master’s errand, and I would rather that this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God’s message.” One thousand were saved and an awakening began.
A couple of weeks later, April 13, 1858 (Tuesday), while at home on his farm, he went to the barn where they shelled corn. While there, the right sleeve of his study jacket got caught in the cogs of a wheel, and his arm was thrust though, pulling it apart (literally) at the roots, Four days later it had to be amputated. Two days after that, the shock being so great, he was on his way Home. As he was preparing for the trip, he asked his wife to use her influence to see that their boys were brought up in the ministry. He took his father’s hand saying, “Stand up for Jesus, Father, stand up for Jesus, and tell my brethren wherever you meet them, to stand up for Jesus.” These were his closing words.
On Monday, April 19, 1858, between one and two o’clock, he departed his course, his race run; and he was Home!
When Rev. George Duffield heard of his friend’s home going he said, “Tyng was one of the noblest, bravest and manliest men I have ever met.”
The next Sunday morning, he preached from Ephesians 6:14, “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” In closing, he read the six stanzas he had written, inspired by Tyng’s witness.
An editor of a hymnal put these words together with a tune written by George Webb. He was born on June 24, 1803 in Wiltshire, England and died on October 7, 1887 in Orange, New Jersey.
It is said, “…in death, Dudley Atkins Tyng preached more widely and more successfully than ever he did in his life,” because of the untold thousands whose lives have been challenged to stand up for Jesus!
The hymn could suggest a theological misunderstanding. The prayer spoken of in the hymn is to be done continuously by the child of God. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) and other verses bear this out. The hymn says: “each piece put on with prayer,” suggesting that individual momentary prayer is to be made while equipping oneself with the armor of God. The Greek however, (in the passage used to form the poem, Ephesians 6:18), states that prayer and standing firm is a continuous action, that is not broken. Prayer and standing firm are to be a once-for-all action. They refer to the entering into a spiritual and holy lifestyle that is always taking a stand and always in prayer.
There us a second problem. Because this hymn was written during the War Between the States, there was a belief among Americans that those that fight for the secular causes will win the victory. The hymn stays: “the strife will not be long. This day the noise of battle; the next the victor’s song.” This forgets that the winning of physical battles is assured in the fight the Lord Jesus Christ and His saints wage from heaven on the nations of this world when Christ returns to the earth. It is not granted to the physical battles that we fight here and now. In fact, seeming (physical, earthly) victory is often illusive to the child of God as can be understood from the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, the many plaintiff Psalms, throughout the Scriptures, and in the history of Baptists since the Apostles.
The hymn was used, not only in Young Men’s Christian Association meetings across America; it became the marching hymn of the anti-slavery movement and its rallies. People entered these rallies because they felt a need to fill the gap left by the death of Dudley Tyng. It would have been better if they joined because of a firm conviction from God's Word instead.
Miss Macomber's sources have been lost.
Ernest Best, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians (Edinburgh: T&T Clark International, 1998), page 604.
Maxie Dunnam and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Preacher's Commentary Series: Exodus, Formerly The Communicator's Commentary, The Preacher's Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987), Vol. 2, p. 334.
Alan Johnson, “The Bible and War in America: An Historical Survey,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (Lynchburg, VA: The Evangelical Theological Society, 1985) Vol. 28, No. 2, p. 175.
Logos Hymnal. 1st edition. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997), March 30.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1982) p. 237.
K.W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990. Page 310.