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Story Behind the Hymn 'Just As I Am'


The hymn ‘Just As I Am’ must be one of the most famous in the world. It has The been sung by tens of millions of Christians at Billy Graham Crusades the world over, just for starters! Yet it was not written by a professional who was ‘aiming’ at a specific market, as many songs seem to be written today. Instead, it was written by an artist in Victorian times
Her name was Charlotte Elliott, and she was born in Clapham in 1789. She grew up in a well to do home, and became a portrait artist and also a writer of humorous verse. All was well until Charlotte fell ill in her early 30s, and slid into a black depression. A minister, Dr Caesar Malan of Switzerland, came to visit her. Instead of sympathizing, he asked her an unexpected question: did she have peace with God? Charlotte deeply resented the question and told him to mind his own business
But after he left, his question haunted her. Did she have peace with God? She knew that she did not, that she had done some very wrong things. So, she invited Dr Malan to return. She told him that she would like to become a Christian, but would have to sort out her life first
Dr Malan again said the unexpected: “Come just as you are”. The words were a revelation to Charlotte. She had assumed that she would have to put her life in order before she could hope to be accepted by God. Instead, she realized that Jesus wanted her just as she was - and He would take care of the sin. Charlotte became a Christian that day
14 years later, in 1836, Charlotte wrote some verses that summed up how it had been between her and Jesus that day. They ran:

JUST AS I AMJust as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bids’t me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, tho tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Charlotte could not have dreamed that 150 years into the future, her verses would be sung by millions of people all over the world, as they responded to the Gospel presented at many great Billy Graham crusades, and made their way forward to do just as the hymn describes - to come to Jesus Christ, despite sin and fear and doubts, to come ‘just as I am’


this article also appeared in Parish Life



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