One of the greatest evangelistic hymns of all time was written by a woman who knew well the release and peace that come from confessing one’s sins and failures to God.
“Just As I Am,” a hymn frequently sung at the close of evangelistic meetings, was written by Charlotte Elliott of Clapham, London. At one time she had been very bitter with God about the circumstances in her life.
Charlotte was an invalid from her youth and deeply resented the constraints her handicap placed on her activities. In an emotional outburst on one occasion, she expressed those feelings to Dr. Cesar Malan, a minister visiting her home.
He listened and was touched by her distress, but he insisted that the problems should not divert her attention from what she most needed to hear. He challenged her to turn her life over to God, to come to Him just as she was, with all her bitterness and anger.
She resented what seemed to be an almost callous attitude on his part, but God spoke to her through him, and she committed her life to the Lord. Each year on the anniversary of that decision, Dr. Malan wrote Charlotte a letter, encouraging her to continue to be strong in the faith. But even as a Christian she had doubts and struggles.
One particularly sore point was her inability to get out and serve the Lord effectively. At times she almost resented her brother’s successful preaching and evangelistic ministry. She longed to be used of God herself, but she felt that her health and physical condition prevented it.
Then in 1836, on the fourteenth anniversary of her conversion, while she was alone in the evening, the forty-seven-year-old Charlotte Elliott wrote her spiritual autobiography in verse.
Here, in the prayer of confession, she poured out her feelings to God – feelings that countless individuals have identified with in the generations that followed. The third stanza, perhaps more than the others, described her own pilgrimage.
OH - Just as I am, tho tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Many years later, when reflecting on the impact his sister made in penning this one hymn, the Reverend Henry Venn Elliott said, “In the course of a long ministry I hope I have been permitted to see some fruit of my labors, but I feel far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s - “Just As I Am.”
Indeed, by the time of her death in 1871, she had received over 1,000 letters from other telling of the spiritual help they had received through the words of her well-loved hymn.