Young Charlotte loved art and music.
As she built her career as a portrait artist and satirical poet she ran in social circles where God’s name was never mentioned.
But when a chronic illness at the age of 32 sentenced her to permanent bed rest, her promising art career came to an end and a deep sense of uselessness sent her into battle with depression.
That was until a traveling preacher named Dr. Cesar Malan visited from Switzerland and said something that changed her life forever.
Born into a preacher’s family on March 18, 1789 in Brighton, England, Charlotte grew up with a strong sense of God’s perfect righteousness and her own sin.
She visited various preachers and other devout Christians for help who advised her to pray more, study the Bible and help the needy.
Yet her relationship with the Lord was never truly at the center of her life.
Charlotte chose to focus on her talent for art and music — perhaps through frustration with pleasing God in what she understood as a works-based faith.
Then a bout of terrible sickness left her permanently weak, confined to bed and forced to live with family.
During this time, Charlotte met visiting preachers who came to her home.
One of them, Dr. Cesar Malan, asked her an important question. He asked if she was at peace with God.
Charlotte grew resentful and refused to answer that evening.
A few days later, she spoke to Dr. Malan and apologized. “I am miserable. I want to be saved. I want to come to Jesus, but I don’t know how.”
“Why not just come just as you are?” asked the preacher. “You have only to come to Him just as you are.”
Charlotte realized trying to fix her own life was futile. God wanted her life just as it was. She became a Christian that day.
She still struggled with a sense of uselessness in addition to the chronic pain from her physical ailments. One night, she barely slept at all from an inner agony.
Her brother, Rev. H.V. Elliott was holding a fundraiser for the school their church ran. Charlotte wanted to help. But she was bedridden.
Her emotional conflict grew into a crisis of faith. Charlotte doubted her salvation on the grounds that she no longer felt saved.
Determined to believe God’s word rather than her feelings she took out a pen and paper and wrote down these words:
Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!
Charlotte Elliot called the lyrics to this hymn her “formula of faith.”
Later that day, her sister-in-law came to her room to check in on her. She read the verses and asked for a copy.
“Just as I Am” was first published in the Invalid’s Hymn Book, 1836.
This book was edited by Charlotte Elliott. The six stanzas of the song were under the text, “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.”
This song has been set to four different tunes and is still sung at altar calls. Billy Graham said that he remembered it being sung at the tent revival where he was saved. It was also sung at almost every one of Graham’s crusades.
Elliott eventually wrote over 150 songs as well as many poems. Since the Lord had humbled her through her illness, as He has countless saints in the past, she published many anonymously.
In 1834, she took over editing the annual periodical The Christian Remembrancer Pocket Book, a position she held for many years.
Elliott kept up a correspondence with Dr. Malan and others and spent a great deal of time in intercessory prayer before her death in 1871.
Although her life was often unhappy from a worldly point of view, Charlotte Elliott was of more use to God chronically ill than as a famous artist. She remained weak, helpless and dependent for fifty years. Because of this God used her to publish great hymns that are sung to this day.
As He used the Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh to glorify Himself, He has used Charlotte Elliott and others. He can use anyone, regardless of how weak or flawed. His strength is perfected by our weakness.
Listen to her hymn, Just as I am:
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