Miss Charlotte Elliott

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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MISS Charlotte Elliott, the author of the hymn, "Just as I am," was born near Brighton, England, March 18, 1789. The celebrated preacher, Henry Venn, was her grandfather; her father, too, was a godly man, at whose house the servants of Christ were often entertained. It was through a visit of one of these, Dr. Cesar Malan, of Geneva, that Charlotte was converted, and later wrote her celebrated hymn, "Just as I am." The story is as follows: One evening, as they sat conversing, the servant of God turned the subject to our personal relation with God, and asked Miss Charlotte if she knew herself to be really a Christian. She was in poor health, and often harassed with severe pain, which tended to make her irritable. A severe illness had left her a permanent invalid. She resented the question thus pointedly put, and petulantly answered that religion was a matter she did not wish to discuss. Dr. Malan replied, in his usual kind manner, that he would not pursue a subject that displeased her, but would pray that she might give her heart to Christ, and employ in His service the talents with which He had gifted her.
It seems that the Holy Spirit used her abrupt and almost rude conduct toward God's servant to show her what depths of pride and alienation from God were in her heart. After several days of spiritual misery, she apologized for her unbecoming conduct, and confessed that his question had troubled her greatly. "I am miserable," she said. "I want to be saved; I want to come to Jesus; but I don't know how."—"Why not come just as you are," answered Malan. "You have only to come to Him just as you are.
Little did Dr. Malan think that his simple reply would be repeated in song by the whole Christian world!
Further conversation followed, and this good man was enabled to make perfectly clear to the once proud but now penitent young lady, God's simple way of salvation through Christ: that on the ground of His blood shed for us, all who from their heart believe, are accepted of God. Miss Charlotte came as a sinner to Christ, and in commemoration of this event wrote the hymn that has made her name famous everywhere.
"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, though tossed about,
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind,
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come!
Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken ev'ry barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come!”
Miss Elliott was possessed of rare literary gifts, and when in the year 1836 she assumed the editorship of The Yearly Remembrancer, she inserted in the first number this now long-famous hymn—without her name. A commentator says of this hymn, "With its sweet counsel to troubled minds, it found its way in magazines and other publications, and in devout persons' scrap-books; then into religious circles and chapel assemblies; and finally into the hymnals of the church universal.”
Some time after its publication a lady, struck by its beauty and spiritual value, had it printed in leaflet form for circulation in cities and towns of the kingdom. Miss Elliott, in feeble health, was then at Torquay in Devonshire, under the care of an eminent physician. One day the doctor, who was an earnest Christian man, put one of these leaflets into his patient's hands, saying it had been helpful to him, and felt sure she would like it. The surprise and pleasure were mutual when she recognized her own hymn, and he discovered that she was the author. We know not which to admire most, the beauty of the composition, or the lovely modesty of its author, who for so many years forebore to divulge its origin.
Many notable occasions are recorded in which this hymn was the means of blessing and of bringing souls to Christ. It has been translated in many tongues and sung on the banks of the Ganges in India, and even by Congo-land peoples.
Miss Elliott, always in feeble health, loved poetry, and music was her delight. This seems to have given to her poems that sense of exquisite finish in rhythm. She offered only about one hundred and fifty hymns to the public; but almost all of these are now in wide and common use.
Her father died in 1833, and ten years later her mother and two sisters. Then the home at Brighton was given up, and Charlotte went to live with her only surviving sister on the Continent. Later, they lived for fourteen years at Torquay. After this they went again to Brighton to live, where our author remained till her home-call, September 22, 1871, at the advanced age of eighty-two. She wrote:
"Lord, till I reach you blissful shore,
No privilege so dear shall be
As thus my inmost soul to pour
In prayer to Thee.”
Now, "on you blissful shore" her prayer is turned to praise.
We give two more hymns by this gifted poetess:
The Christian's Desire
Let me be with Thee where Thou art,
My Savior, mine eternal rest;
Then only will this longing heart
Be fully and forever blest.
Let me be with Thee where Thou art,
Thine unveiled glory to behold;
Then only will this wandering heart
Cease to be treacherous, faithless, cold.
Let me be with Thee where Thou art,
Where spotless saints Thy name adore;
Then only will this sinful heart
Be evil and defiled no more.
Let me be with Thee where Thou art,
Where none can die, whence none remove;
There neither death nor life will part
Me from Thy presence and Thy love.
Clinging to Christ
O holy Savior! Friend unseen,
Since on Thine arm Thou bid'st me lean,
Help me throughout life's changing scene,
By faith to cling to Thee!
Without a murmur I dismiss
My former dreams of earthly bliss;
My joy, my recompense, be this,
Each hour to cling to Thee!
What though the world deceitful prove,
And earthly friends and hopes remove;
With patient, uncomplaining love,
Still would I cling to Thee.
Though oft I seem to tread alone
Life's dreary waste with thorns o'ergrown,
Thy voice of love, in gentlest tone,
Still whispers, "Cling to Me!”
Though faith and hope are often tried,
I ask not, need not, aught beside;
So safe, so calm, so satisfied,
The soul that clings to Thee!