'Just As I Am'
The revival was coming to the close. Each night the preacher asked if anyone wanted to come to the altar to receive Jesus as lord of their life. That night, a very special young man was there but he had other priorities. Billy Graham talks about that wonderful night in one of his books, “Crusade Hymn Stories.”
“When I was converted in 1937 under the ministry of the evangelist Mordecai Hamm, two invitation songs were used and a total of eight stanzas were sung,” said Graham. “I did not respond to the invitation until the final verse of the second song. I have always been grateful that the evangelist waited so patiently. One of these hymns was ‘Just As I Am.’ We use this hymn today in almost every one of our crusades.”
“Just as I am without one plea; But that thy blood was shed for me. And that thou bid’st me come to thee; Oh, Lamb of God, I come! I come!”
This hymn reinforces the words of Jesus in John 6:35 — “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” His bread and water can fill the spiritual hunger and thirst of every person, but it must first be recognized. That is what drove composer Charlotte Elliott to seek Jesus and be free of the angry depression that plagued her.
In 1822, at age 30, she was stricken with a disease that eventually led to paralysis. For one who had lived an active life in Brighton, England, she was in no way prepared for such an extreme change in her lifestyle. For three years she lay helpless in bed.
Then one day a visitor came to the family home. He was the dynamic Swiss evangelist Cesar Malan. Seeking his wise counsel,Elliott asked, “You speak of coming to Jesus, but how? I’m not fit to come.” However, as he prayed and read more Scripture, she understood the simple request of Jesus: “Come and follow me.”
The immediate change in her attitude was lasting. Every year after that day, she celebrated it as the beginning of her new life — her spiritual birthday. Fourteen years after her conversion, as an expression of what she called “a formula for faith,” she wrote the words to “Just As I Am.”
Together with many of her other poems, it was published in 1836 in a book titled, “The Invalid’s Hymnbook.” The beautiful music to this poem was written by American gospel musician William Bradbury.
Profits from its sales went to build a school for needy children. The director of the school, who was her brother and a minister said, “In the course of my work, I hope to see some fruit of my ministry. But I feel more has been done by the single poem written by my sister, ‘Just As I Am.’”
After her death in 1871 at age 82, more than a thousand letters of thanks were discovered in her papers from people around the world. Many expressed thanks that their lives had been re-directed by the words of her hymn.