Behind the Song Sunday: Just As I Am
Charlotte Elliott spent the majority of her life as an invalid. During this time she said the only thing she could do was “worship God.”
Ms. Eliott began her life with a lot of promise as a popular portrait artist and writer with a humorous voice. She was often in bad health and at the age of thirty became an invalid for life.
Feeling hopeless and helpless she met with Dr. Caesar Malan, the Swiss evangelist, in 1824. He told her “Charlotte, you must come just as you are—a sinner—to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Charlotte gave her heart and life to Christ and found the inner peace she was seeking. John 6:37, which says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” became her life verse.
In 1836, Charlotte’s brother, Rev. H. V. Elliott, held a charity bazaar to help pay for the education of the daughters of the clergymen supported by St. Mary Church. The night before the bazaar, Charlotte, was kept awake despondent over her uselessness. She began to question her own spiritual life and became easily disillusioned. She realized later that her troubles were only met “with such force that she felt they must be met and conquered in the grace of God.” Taking pen to paper the found comfort in writing the “the formulae of her faith. Hers was a heart which always tended to express its depths in verse. So in verse she restated to herself the Gospel of pardon, peace, and heaven. “Probably without difficulty or long pause” she wrote the hymn, getting comfort by thus definitely “recollecting” the eternity of the Rock beneath her feet. There, then, always, not only for some past moment, but “even now ” she was accepted in the Beloved Just as I am.”
The final verse of this hymn is taken from Elliott’s Hours of Sorrow Cheered and Comforted which she wrote in 1836. After writing the poem she sold it for the children at the school of these poor clergymen. The leaflet said “Sold for the benefit of St. Margaret’s Hall, Brighton: Him that Cometh to me in will in no way cast out.”
Charlotte lived to be eighty-two years old. Over the course of her life she wrote 150 hymns.
Just As I Am became very popular as an invitation during the Billy Graham crusades.