Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spurgeon & "Just As I Am"


Charlotte Elliott's great hymn, "Just As I Am," was included in C. H. Spurgeon's OUR OWN HYMNBOOK, #546, giving it a very unique place in Christian hymnology associated with England's most famous Baptist minister and church. It was frequently sung at the Tabernacle and apparently was especially selected in evangelistic settings.

Next to "Amazing Grace" by John Newton, perhaps no other hymn has been sung in Baptist churches more frequently than "Just As I Am." C. H. Spurgeon relates the following about Charlotte Elliott's conversion and hymn:

>>Some have been cast by the providence of God into positions where they have met with Christian men, and a word of admonition has been blessed to them. A lady was one day at an evening party, and there met with Caesar Malan, the famous divine of Geneva, who, in his usual manner, enquired of her whether she was a Christian. She was startled, surprised, and vexed, and made a short reply to the effect that it was not a question she cared to discuss; whereupon, Mr. Malan replied with great sweetness, that he would not persist in speaking of it, but he would pray that she might he led to give her heart to Christ, and become a useful worker for him. Within a fortnight she met the minister again, and asked him how she must come to Jesus. Mr. Malan’s reply was, “Come to him just as you are.” That lady gave herself up to Jesus: it was Charlotte Elliott, to whom we owe that precious hymn —

“Just as I am — without one
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee —
O Lamb of God, I come.”

It was a blessed thing for her that she was at that party, and that the servant of God from Geneva should have been there, and should have spoken to her so faithfully. Oh for many a repetition of the story “of one Simon a Cyrenian,” coming, not with the intent to bear the cross, but with quite another mind, and yet being enlisted in the cross-bearing army of the Lord Jesus!>> [Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 31, Year 1885, page NO. 1853]

Here is another brief account of how the author, Charlotte Elliott, became a Christian:

>>Cesar Malan (1787-1864) urged Charlotte Elliott to come "just as you are." The Swiss evangelist and hymn writer always liked to speak a word for Jesus. One day, while visiting England, he spoke to a young women at his table, saying that he hoped she was a Christian. Charlotte Elliott bristled. She would rather not discuss that question, she said. Malan apologized if he had given offense. For Charlotte, however, Malan's witness was a turning point. She could not get his suggestion out of her head.

Three weeks later, she met Malan again and told him that ever since he had spoken to her, she had been trying to find Jesus her Savior. How could she come to Him, she wondered. "You have nothing of merit to bring to God. You must come just as you are," replied the minister. Rejoicing, Charlotte did. >>

The following biographical information on Charlotte Elliott is from the website

Born: March 18, 1789, Clapham, Surrey, England. Died: September 22, 1871, Brighton, East Sussex, England.Buried: St. Andrew’s Church, Hove, Sussex, England. Elliott became an invalid around age 30, and remained so for the rest of her life. About her physical condition, Elliott wrote: My Heavenly Father knows, and He alone, what it is, day after day, and hour after hour, to fight against bodily feelings of almost overpowering weakness and languor and exhaustion, to resolve, as He enables me to do, not to yield to the slothfulness, the depression, the irritability, such as a body causes me to long to indulge, but to rise every morning determined on taking this for my motto, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Elliott lived in Brighton, England, and for some 40 years, had an ongoing “spiritual” correspondence with Henri A. C. Malan. She wrote about 150 hymns.

C. H. SPURGEON, on the hymn, "Just As I Am":

>>It is unspeakably precious in hours of discouragement, then, to fly straight away to Jesus, with the contrite cry of—

"Just as I am—without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd'st me come to thee.
O Lamb of God, I come."

I have heard of persons boasting that they had outgrown that hymn, but I know I never shall. I must be content still to come to Jesus with no qualification for mercy except that which my sin and misery may give me in the eyes of his free grace. It is a thousand mercies that, although clouds may obscure other evidences, they cannot prevent our coming to the great propitiation, and casting ourselves upon its cleansing power.>>--Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 13, Year 1867, sermon #755, "Alive or Dead -- Which?" pages 332, 333.

In addition to the foregoing comment from Spurgeon, here is what is said in the Preface of Spurgeon's OUR OWN HYMNBOOK, the hymnal compiled by Spurgeon for use at the Tabernacle, page iv:

>>3. Hymns suitable for revivals, prayer-meetings, and earnest addresses to sinners, are given in larger numbers and greater variety than in any other selection known to the editor, and several popular verses whose poetic merit had not commended them to previous compilers, have been adopted in deference to the Great Spirit who has so frequently blessed the use of them both to saints and sinners.>> [Our Own Hymnbook has recently been reprinted by Pilgrim in Large Print].
Spurgeon's OUR OWN HYMNBOOK has the hymn, "Just As I Am," at No. 546 under the category or heading of, "The Gospel Received by Faith." So Spurgeon associated "Just As I Am" with the reception of the Gospel by faith.

In the March 1865 issue of The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon's magazine, page 128, there is a description of a large meeting of six to seven thousand in the congregation, during a period of intense, ongoing revival, with many being converted to Christ, and a fervent spirit abounding in the church. The report says:

>>Between six and seven thousand persons assembled . . . Mr. Spurgeon, after a few words of gratitude and joy for the return of such an occasion, gave out some verses of the 100th Psalm, that all might join in a song of praise. He then suggested that their next duty was to give thanks for the blessing which had attended the former meeting of the same kind, the effect of which, upon his own people, was that ninety-three [93] had sat down on the previous evening, for the first time at the table of the Lord. Mr. Marshall and Mr. Barnard presented the incense of praise. Mr. Spurgeon then gave out the hymn, commencing with --
"Just as I am, Without one plea."

This was a prelude to confession of sin, which, after a silent confession of two or three minutes of each for himself, was offered in the name of all by Mr. Clark. . . .Now came the direct reference to the unsaved. This was introduced by a most earnest and awakening address by Mr. Spurgeon, and was responded to in prayer by Mr. Stott and Mr. Varley. A hymn followed, commencing thus,
"Once a sinner near despair."

Mr. Teal and Mr. Burton then prayed, and Mr. Spurgeon closed with prayer. INQUIRERS were then encouraged to retire to the lecture hall, where ministers and elders would be glad to converse with them; and MANY RESPONDED TO THE INVITATION.

This was one of the most sober, the most impressive, and, we should judge, the most effective meetings we have ever witnessed. /p>

Here it is seen that during a period of great revival, with many being converted, "Just As I Am" was chosen by Spurgeon on this occasion as part of the service. Spurgeon was always concerned that he would select the proper hymns, as he indicates in the following comment:

>>I have constantly made it my prayer that I might be guided by the Spirit even in the smallest and least important parts of the service; for you cannot tell but that the salvation of a soul may depend upon the reading of a hymn, or upon the selection of a chapter. Two persons have joined our church and made a profession of being converted simply through my reading a hymn -- “Jesus, lover of my soul.”

They did not remember anything else in the hymn, but those words made such a deep impression upon their mind, that they could not help repeating them for days afterwards, and then the thought arose, “Do I love Jesus?” And then they considered what strange ingratitude it was that he should be the lover of their souls, and yet they should not love him. Now I believe the Holy Spirit led me to read that hymn.<< [From New Park Street Pulpit, Volume 4, Year 1858, sermon #201, page 293.] Available on the Internet at Spurgeon Archive and Spurgeon Gems

C. H. Spurgeon exhorted:
>>Salvation? Why thousands do not know what you mean by the term, and here, in this century of light and advancement as we boastfully call it, gross darkness covers the minds of a large proportion of our countrymen!Brethren, the time has not come for you to cease distributing the most plain tracts. The time has not arrived for you to be silent at the street corners even upon the first principles of the faith. You must still proclaim Atonement by the sacrifice of Christ, and the simple doctrine of Justification by Faith. Possibly there may come an age when it will be wise to expatiate mainly upon the deep things of God, but for this present distress we may wisely give our whole strength to telling out the foundation fact—that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Our sermons must repeat times out of number the story of the Cross. The hymns most commonly sung should be of the same order as—“Rock of ages, cleft for me.” “Jesus, lover of my Soul.” “Come, you sinners, poor and wretched.” and “Just as I am, without one plea.”

We have even need of such simple ditties as—“I do believe, I will believe, that Jesus died for me.” For upon that point ignorance and unbelief still cloud the mass of the people among whom we dwell. Let not the people be destroyed for lack of knowledge! Let none go down to Hell because they know not of a Savior. Let me say here that even with those who have heard the Gospel well preached, this ignorance may still remain—as it did in my own case.

I believe if I had known that all I had to do was to look to Christ and I should live. If I had really understood that there was nothing for me to be, nor feel, nor do—but I had only to rest in a finished work and take from God’s mercy that which Christ had completed—I think if I had known that Truth of God, I should have found peace with God much earlier. But I did not understand the Gospel, and therefore remained in distress of mind. Do, then, tell everybody about Jesus! Tell them of the Son of God made flesh! Tell them about Substitution! Speak the word plainly. Tell them—“He bore that we might never bear His Father’s righteous ire.”

Assure them that whoever believes in Him is not condemned, and that to believe is to trust. Open up that word, for even plain and simple words get to be technical and men dream that there is some other meaning in them than that which theyordinarily have. You cannot put the Gospel too plainly, but anyway, put it before them, and then roll away this stone from the mouth of the sepulcher.<<

>>Remember that hymn which ought to be sung every Sunday in our assemblies—“Just as I am—and waiting not, To rid my soul of one dark blot, To You, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come.”

Every verse begins with, “Just as I am,” and so must your prayers, your faith, your hope begin. The whole hymn commences, “Just as I am,” and so must your Christian life be started.<<

>>Brethren, whether you will do so or not, I flee to the cross again. In the Rock of Ages I again hide myself. Who among us dares to come forth from that divine shelter? “Jesus, lover of our soul, let us to thy bosom by.” Let all of us sing as though it were for the first time —

“Just as I am — without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.”

Dear friends, it is due to God, it is due to Christ, it is due to the gospel, that we should every day believe with like simplicity of undivided trust. Keep on believing in Christ, “to whom coming as unto a living stone.” We are to live by faith.<< [Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 30, Year 1884, page 671].

It is no marvel that Charlotte Elliott's inspiring and all-time favorite invitation hymn, "Just As I Am," was loved and used by Spurgeon at the Tabernacle where evangelism of the lost was the first priority of interest and endeavor. Of course, this hymn may not be appreciated by some of our very "rigid", anti-public invitation brethren who apparently are somewhat ambivalent about its use, but the fact is, this hymn has been greatly influential, its message so convicting and inviting, and so blessed of the Spirit of God during times of public invitations when those who have heard the Gospel are urged to trust Christ and be saved.

It is very likely that even many of those brethren who are like unto those whom Spurgeon once described as "doctrinal brethren" (Vol. 8, #465, page 460) may have professed faith in Christ during invitations where "Just As I Am" was used! That was of course before they apparently became so crystallized in "rigid doctrine" and "zeal for orthodoxy" that they lost some of their appreciation for the simple elements of the Gospel of Christ expressed in "Just As I Am."


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