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Just As I Am: The Story Behind The Song

Charlotte Elliott was born in Chapham, England on March 18, 1789. As a young lady, she led a carefree life, gaining popularity as a portrait artist and a writer of humorous verse. By the time she was thirty though, her health began to fail rapidly, and soon she became bedfast, and was for the rest of her life. She never regained good health, and frequently was in a lot of physical pain. With her failing health, she became very despondent.

In 1822, when she was 33 years old, Dr. Caesar Malan, a preacher from Switzerland, visited the Elliott's home in Brighton, England. His visit was a turning point in Charlotte's life. Dr. Malan counseled Charlotte about her spiritual and emotional problems.

He told her "You must come just as you are — a sinner, to the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." From this visit, for the rest of her life, she always celebrated the day of her visit with Dr. Malan as her spiritual birthday.

She wrote "God alone knows what it is, day after day, hour after hour, to fight against bodily feelings of almost overpowering weakness and exhaustion, to resolve not to yield to slothfulness, depression and instability." She also wrote "God sees, God guides, and God guards me. His voice bids me to be happy and holy in His service just where I am."

She evidently never forgot the words of her Swiss friend, as they are the basis of the most popular song that she wrote, even though she did not write the poem Just As I Am until 1836, 14 years after Dr. Malan's visit. It was published that year in the second edition of The Invalid's Hymn Book, a collection of 115 of her works.

She wrote Just As I Am hoping that the proceeds from it would aid financially in building a school for the children of poor preachers, which her own preacher brother was trying to build there in Brighton. As it was, this one song brought in more money than all the bazaars and other fundraising events that her brother held for the school.

Charlotte died at age 82 in 1871. The music most often used for Just As I Am was composed by an American, William Bradbury (1816-1868).

Adapted from 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck