The Story Behind: Just As I Am

by Don Chapman

Charlotte Elliott’s hymn “Just As I Am” has become one of the most beloved and widely recognized hymns in Christian history. Written in 1835, this simple yet profound song has touched the lives of countless individuals, offering a message of hope, acceptance, and salvation through Jesus Christ.

Charlotte Elliott’s Early Life and Spiritual Journey

Charlotte Elliott grew up in a Christian home, surrounded by a family deeply committed to their faith. As a young woman, she gained fame as a poet, showcasing her literary talents and wit. Despite her upbringing and success, Elliott struggled with feelings of uselessness and depression, particularly after a serious illness left her disabled at the age of 32. It was during this time of inner turmoil that she encountered Swiss minister and hymnologist César Malan.

Malan’s gentle encouragement to “come to Christ just as you are” struck a chord with Elliott. His words would later inspire her to write the timeless hymn “Just As I Am,” expressing the profound truth that we can approach God without any pretense or plea, relying solely on His grace and love.

The Birth of “Just As I Am”

In 1834, while Elliott’s family attended a church bazaar to raise funds for a charity school, she found herself confined at home due to her illness. Alone and struggling with feelings of isolation and depression, Elliott recalled the words of César Malan, who had encouraged her to come to Christ just as she was.

In that moment of reflection and despair, Elliott penned the lyrics to “Just As I Am,” pouring out her heart’s cry for salvation and acceptance. The hymn’s simple yet profound message resonated with her own experience of coming to faith, not through any merit of her own, but through the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ.

Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou biddest me come to Thee
O Lamb of God I come I come

A Hymn of Comfort and Consolation

Elliott’s hymns, including “Just As I Am,” are known for their simplicity, devotion, and ability to bring consolation to those experiencing sickness and sorrow. Having faced her own struggles with illness and depression, Elliott understood the deep need for reassurance and comfort that many people face. This understanding led her to compile and edit “The Invalid’s Hymn Book,” a collection of hymns specifically designed to bring solace and hope to those dealing with physical and emotional trials.

The lyrics of “Just As I Am” speak directly to the heart of the listener, acknowledging the doubts, fears, and conflicts that often accompany the journey of faith. Yet, the hymn reminds us that we can come to Jesus just as we are, without any plea or pretense, and find rest in His love and acceptance.

William Bradbury: The Musical Soul Behind “Just As I Am”

“Just As I Am” is not only known for its powerful lyrics but also for its memorable and moving melody. The original tune, WOODWORTH, was composed by William Batchelder Bradbury, a prolific composer and publisher of sacred music in the 19th century.

Born on October 6, 1816, in York, Maine, Bradbury grew up in a musical family. His father, a church choir leader, nurtured young William’s love for hymns and melodies. His passion for music led him to study at the Academy of Music in Boston under the tutelage of Lowell Mason and George Webb.

Throughout his career, Bradbury authored and compiled an impressive fifty-nine books, starting in 1841. His collections, such as the Golden Trio, Golden Chain, Golden Shower, and Golden Censer, were immensely successful, selling over three million copies combined. Bradbury’s music touched the hearts of countless children and adults, drawing them closer to God through the power of song.

It was in 1849 that Bradbury composed the tune WOODWORTH, which was first published in the Third Book of Psalmody. Originally, the tune was used for the hymn “The God of Love Will Soon Indulge.” However, years later, Thomas Hastings adapted Bradbury’s tune for “Just As I Am,” creating a perfect marriage of lyrics and melody that would stand the test of time.

Billy Graham Preaching
Billy Graham Preaching

Billy Graham and the Global Crusade Impact of “Just As I Am”

While “Just As I Am” was already a well-known hymn before the 20th century, it was through the ministry of evangelist Billy Graham that the song reached new heights of popularity and influence. Graham adopted the hymn as his signature invitation song, using it at the end of his crusades to call people to make a decision for Christ.

Cliff Barrows, Graham’s longtime musical director, explained, “We always began with ‘Just as I Am’ because Billy felt it was the most effective invitation hymn, inviting people to make a commitment to Christ.” The hymn’s simple yet powerful message perfectly aligned with Graham’s approach to evangelism, which emphasized the unconditional love and acceptance of God.

Just as I am Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome pardon cleanse relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God I come I come

Graham’s use of “Just As I Am” was so integral to his ministry that when he decided not to use it during a 1966 crusade in London, opting instead for a moment of silent reflection, the press corps nearly revolted. They demanded the return of the beloved hymn, with reporters exclaiming, “Give us back ‘Just as I Am’! The silence is killing us!”

The incident highlighted the deep connection that people had formed with the hymn through Graham’s crusades. As Graham preached to millions around the world, “Just As I Am” became a global anthem, inviting people from all walks of life to come to Christ in faith.

A Legacy of Faith and Salvation

Today, “Just As I Am” remains one of the most frequently sung hymns in churches worldwide. Its inclusion in countless hymnals and its use in altar calls and communion services testify to its enduring impact on Christian worship.

The hymn’s legacy is a testament to the power of a simple, heartfelt message of faith. As Carl Daw Jr., former executive director of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, noted, “The refrain in each stanza — ‘O Lamb of God, I come, I come’ — is essentially a vehicle for moving people down the aisle to the point where the preacher is waiting to receive them.”

Through Charlotte Elliott’s own story of struggle and redemption, and through the countless lives touched by the hymn’s message, “Just As I Am” continues to invite people to experience the transformative love and grace of Jesus Christ. As we sing this timeless hymn, we are reminded that no matter our doubts, fears, or failures, we can come to the Savior just as we are and find the peace and acceptance we so desperately need.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is the meaning of “just as I am”?

A: The phrase “just as I am” signifies that we can come to Christ exactly as we are, with all our imperfections, doubts, and struggles, without the need to clean ourselves up first. It is a powerful reminder of God’s unconditional love and grace, and an invitation to accept His mercy and forgiveness, not based on our own merits, but on the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Q: Where did the song “Just as I Am” come from?

A: “Just As I Am” was written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835, inspired by her own spiritual journey and the words of Swiss minister César Malan, who encouraged her to come to Christ just as she was. Elliott penned the hymn during a time of illness and isolation, pouring out her heart’s cry for salvation and acceptance, creating a timeless message of God’s unconditional love and grace.

“Just As I Am” Lyrics Video

Download Just As I Am

Download sheet music, chord charts, tracks and multitracks for Just As I am exclusively here at and You won’t find this arrangement on any other websites.

Top Arrangements

Click title to listen:

Blessed Assurance
Christ Arose
Crown Him With Many Crowns
Jesus Paid It All 2018
Holy Holy Holy

Listen to demos of all hymncharts arrangements.

90 Day Money-Back Guarantee

Learn more.