Just as I am, without one plea

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.

This hymn was written in 1834 by Miss Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871). She was the grand-daughter of Rev. Henry Venn, one of the Clapham Sect who supported William Wilberforce. In her youth she wrote humorous poems, but following a grave illness in 1821 she lived for her last fifty years as an invalid in Westfield Lodge, Brighton. It has been said that "more than half a century of suffering went into the making of Miss Elliott's hymns". Over two hundred hymns bear her name. This hymn first appeared in leaflet form in 1835, and then in The Invalid's Hymn Book (1841). In Hours of Sorrow Cheered and Comforted (1849) it is prefaced by a quotation from John 6:37.

Her brother Rev. H V Elliott, and other members of her family were invited to a bazaar to raise money to build a college in Brighton for the daughters of poor clergymen, but she was unwell and could not go. Instead she wrote this hymn as a confession of faith in the face of her disability. The opening phrase of each verse draws on words addressed to her twelve years earlier by the evangelist Dr. César Malan of Geneva, with whom she corresponded for forty years. She had claimed to be unworthy to come to Christ, but he told her to "come to Him just as you are". There were originally six verses with a seventh added by her later in the same year, although the original verse two is now omitted. Biblical references include John 1:29 (the last line of every verse), 2 Corinthians 7:5 (verse 2 line 3), Luke 4:18 (verse 3 lines 1-2), Ephesians 2:14 (verse 5 line 2) and Ephesians 3:18 (verse 6 line 2).

Tune - Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden is the best-known of the tunes associated with this hymn. It was written by Arthur Henry Brown (1830-1926), a supporter of the Oxford Movement and a pioneer in the restoration of plainchant and Gregorian music in Anglican worship. It was originally written for another of Elliott's hymns, "O holy Saviour, Friend unseen". This music and "Just as I am" were first associated in the English Hymnal (1906). Brown remained an organist until his death at 95.

Nigel Day

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997