Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
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, I come.
(Words by Charlotte Elliott, 1835. Music by William B. Bradbury, 1849)
So begins one of the most familiar old hymns–one which is most likely remembered because of its use as an “invitational song” at the close of many traditional church services and, most famously, in its use at the end of each service in the Billy Graham Crusades. Whether or not you know this hymn, you probably are not familiar with the history of its authorship and the story behind its writing. At least, I know I was not.
In his book My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns, Ira David Sankey writes, “Miss Charlotte Elliott was visiting some friends in the West End of London, and there met the eminent minister, César Malan. While seated at supper, the minister said he hoped that she was a Christian. She took offense at this, and replied that she would rather not discuss that question. Dr. Malan said that he was sorry if had offended her, that he always liked to speak a word for his Master, and that he hoped that the young lady would some day become a worker for Christ.
When they met again at the home of a mutual friend, three weeks later, Miss Elliott told the minister that ever since he had spoken to her she had been trying to find her Saviour, and that she now wished him to tell her how to come to Christ. “Just come to him as you are,” Dr. Malan said. This she did, and went away rejoicing. Shortly afterward she wrote this hymn.”
Just imagine! The author of this beloved hymn was herself saved after hearing the message “Just come to him as you are” and this led to the writing of the song which has spread that message to countless others who have come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ in the same way–just as they were.
Charlotte Elliott wrote over 150 hymns during her lifetime but few of us would recognize any but this one. However, referring to this one song, Miss Elliott’s brother said, “In the course of a long ministry, I hope I have been permitted to see some of the fruit of my labor, but I feel that far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that both Charlotte Elliott and this great hymn were anointed by God to bring the lost to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s look at the words of this old song to explore the power of its message.
“Just as I am, without one plea”
The word plea has a meaning both in the Law and in everyday life. Its various definitions include: an earnest request; an appeal: as in spoke out in a plea for greater tolerance. It also means an excuse; a pretext. In the Law, it can mean:
1. An allegation offered in pleading a case.
2. A defendant’s answer to the declaration made by the plaintiff in a civil action.
3. The answer of the accused to a criminal charge or indictment: entered a plea of not guilty.
4. A special answer depending on or demonstrating one or more reasons why a suit should be delayed, dismissed, or barred in equity law.
5. An action or suit.
But we have no real plea to make in our own behalf when it comes to our salvation:
“Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins. You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God’s anger just like everyone else.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NLT)
Guilty. Case closed; sentence delivered. But what’s this? But that Thy blood was shed for me.
In the book of Hebrews it says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (9:22 NIV)
And we read also, “He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation–he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.]” (John 3:18 Amplified Bible).
Not guilty becomes the plea. In fact, it’s more than that. There is no need for a plea because the case has been dismissed for lack of evidence. God says, “And I will forgive their wrongdoings, and I will never again remember their sins.” (Hebrews 8:12 Amplified Bible)
We have no plea but the blood of Jesus. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9 NIV)
And look at how 1 John 1:9 reads in the Amplified translation: “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].”
God forgives our sin condition. Our sins of the past have been forgiven and He continually cleanses us as we confess our ongoing lack of ability to live a sin-free life on our own.
Then we hear the third line of the first stanza: “And that Thou bidst me come to Thee”
The word bidst is, of course, the old form of the word bade, the past tense for bid. The meaning here is to issue a command to; direct, also to invite to attend; summon, as well as to make an offer to pay or accept a specified price.
Do you see the significance of these definitions when it comes to our salvation? God is the shepherd seeking the lost sheep; the woman searching for the lost coin; the father running to embrace the prodigal son (Luke 15).
And we are the sheep, the coin and the son! God is not standing idly by waiting for us to find Him. He is actively inviting us, commanding us, and summoning us.
Not only that. He also offers a deal we can’t refuse (or at least shouldn’t)! He makes a bid for us, making an offer to pay or accept a specified price: the death of His Son on the cross as payment in full for our sin.
Before we began to seek Him, He was seeking us:
“For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times.” (Romans 3:25 NLT)
“And then I will keep my covenant with them and take away their sins.” (Romans 11:27 NLT)
“Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17 NLT)
When we express faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and accept Him as Lord of our lives, God does it all.
“When people work, their wages are not a gift. Workers earn what they receive. But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.” (Romans 4:4-5 NLT)
Just as I am and waiting not. Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind. Just as I am Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve. O Lamb of God, I come!
Jesus, the Lamb of God, has come to take our sin. John the Baptist announced it:
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29 NLT)
If you are like Charlotte Elliott was, wanting to know how to come to Christ, just follow the advice of Dr. Malan and the words of the hymn they inspired: “Just come to Him as you are.”