Posted by: rcottrill | September 22, 2010

Today in 1858 – Clara Williams Born

Miss Clara Tear served as the pastor of Wesleyan Methodist churches in the United States. She also worked as a circuit-riding preacher, visiting small and remote communities (a most unusual ministry for a woman in those days). She married a Reverend Williams in 1895 and continued to work as an evangelist and a co-pastor with her husband until 1920. George Beverley Shea speaks of meeting her when he was a small boy.

Only a single hymn from Clara Tear Williams remains in common use. It is Satisfied, written in 1875. Mrs Williams says,

I was helping in meetings in Troy, Ohio, where Professor R. E. Hudson conducted the singing. Just before retiring one night, he asked me to write a song for a book he was preparing to publish. Before sleeping, I wrote Satisfied. In the morning, he composed the music.

All my life long I had panted
For a draught from some clear spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.

Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.

Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.

(2) Today in 1871 – Charlotte Elliot Died
The English poetess and hymn writer lived to the age of 82, but she had been a virtual invalid from around the age of 30. About her condition she 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” [Lk. 9:23].

For about 40 years, Charlotte Elliot carried on a correspondence about the Christian life with Henri Cesar Malan, a Swiss Bible teacher, evangelist, and hymn writer.

Elliot herself wrote about 150 hymns. Several are still in use, but one is known far above all the rest. Hymn historian Robert Guy McCutchan says Just As I Am “undoubtedly ranks with the finest hymns in the English language.” The song has been fixed in the public mind through being the standard invitation hymn used for some 60 years by the Billy Graham organization.

It was actually a comment of Cesar Malan’s that led to the writing of it. Miss Elliot was visiting some friends when she first met him. She was filled with bitterness toward God because of her illness, and subject to angry outbursts. At the supper table, when she showed some temper, Henri Malan pointedly said he hoped she was a Christian. Elliot took offense at his questioning of her spiritual condition, but his words stuck in her mind.

When they met again, three weeks later, she told him she wanted to know how she could be saved. She said she was ready to become a Christian, but supposed she would first have to make herself worthy of coming to Christ. But Mr. Malan replied, “You must come just as you are, a sinner, to the Lamb of God, with your fightings, fears, hates, quick temper and pride, and He will give you His great love in their place.”

Charlotte Elliot trusted Christ as her Saviour that day, coming to Him just as she was. It was out of that new understanding of grace that she wrote her famous hymn shortly after. The original was headed by the text, Jn. 6:37, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Though it has a major application to sinners seeking the Saviour, much of it applies to Christians as well. We too are to come to Him in our need, without pretense, just as we are.

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.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Another hymn from Charlotte Elliot’s pen is Thy Will Be Done (not to be confused with Jennie Hussey’s song of the same name). Miss Elliot’s song appears in Ira Sankey’s Sacred Songs and Solos (#718), set to a tune by James McGranahan. It says in part:

My God, my Father, while I stray
Far from my home, on life’s rough way,
O teach me from my heart to say,
“Thy will be done.”

What though in lonely grief I sigh
For friends beloved, no longer nigh,
Submissive still would I reply,
“Thy will be done.”

Renew my will from day to day:
Blend it with Thine; and take away
All that now makes it hard to say,
“Thy will be done.”


  1. Thank you for your comment on my blog. I am so thrilled to find your site. Our church has been doing hymn history on Sunday mornings, and I have truly enjoyed learning about the history behind these songs. You are a new bookmark! Blessings!

    • Thank you for your kind words, and for providing a link to my site. About 40 years of experience have taught me that folks who know a bit of background on our hymn writings, or how a particular hymn came to be written, sing it more meaningfully afterward.

  2. […] Elliot, author of the hymn Just As I Am. (For the story behind this hymn, see the second item under Today in 1858.) Malan had many gifts and skills in addition to those mentioned. He was an artist, author, […]

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