Heroes of Faith — 2014 marks 225th anniversary of ‘Just As I Am’ writer’s birthcomment (0)
April 17, 2014
By Joanne Sloan
Charlotte Elliott (1789–1871) was struggling with doubts about her salvation. A family friend, a notable missionary, admonished her simply to “come to Christ just as you are.”
That statement led not only to Elliott’s conversion but also to her writing a hymn known the world over — “Just As I Am.”
This year marks the 225th anniversary of Elliott’s birth March 18, 1789, in Clapham, England.
César Malan, a hymn writer of Geneva, Switzerland, visited Elliott’s father in May 1822. While speaking to Elliott, he asked her whether she was a Christian. She resented his question but later apologized for her rudeness. She confessed she wanted to come to Christ but didn’t know how. Malan told her, “You must come to Christ just as you are.” With his help, she trusted Christ for her salvation. For 40 years afterward until Malan’s death, Elliott wrote him a letter each year on May 9, her spiritual birthday.
Elliott did not write her famous hymn until 12 years after her conversion. By that time, now 45, she had become an invalid and was living with her brother, H.V. Elliott, in Brighton, England.
In 1834, family members were busy morning and night preparing for a bazaar that would benefit St. Mary’s Hall, a school Elliott’s brother had founded for the education of clergymen’s daughters. Elliott was eager to help, but because of her physical ailments she could not. The night before the bazaar, she was restless and wrestled with a sense of uselessness. She fell into a spiritual conflict and questioned the reality of her relationship with Christ.
The next day while the rest of the family worked at the bazaar, she wrote down for her own comfort the message of pardon and peace she had heard from Malan more than a decade earlier: “Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come.”
Little did Elliott know that her words of assurance — about Jesus loving her just as she was — would impact millions.
In 1836, she published a little volume containing the poem but without her name. An anonymous woman had the poem printed in leaflet form, and it circulated throughout England. Then in 1849, William Bradbury composed music for the lyrics and published the song.
The hymn has been translated into numerous languages all over the world. Evangelist Billy Graham used it as the invitation in his crusades. Countless stories have been told of the impact of the hymn upon people’s lives.
In Elliott’s lifetime, receipts for sales of the hymn were donated to St. Mary’s Hall.
Elliott went on to write approximately 150 hymns and many poems.
On Sept. 22, 1871, she died in Brighton at the age of 82. After her death, more than 1,000 letters were found among her belongings written by people who told her how her hymn had touched their lives.