It’s every Baptist’s favorite hymn today! Raise your hand if you’ve hummed along to this one while someone walked up the aisle. Just put it up quietly, nobody’s looking around… yes, I see that hand! Actually, today I must give fair warning: I’m breaking my pattern thus far and selecting an arrangement that pairs the words to a new melody. This is extremely unusual for this series. I can’t think of any other installment currently in the works where I’m planning to do this. However, in this particular case, the new tune really is that good.
The lyrics to this hymn were penned by Charlotte Eliot (1789-1871). In 1897, her nephew thankfully recorded the exact date and inspiration for them. They had their origins in Eliot’s physical sufferings, which as her nephew poignantly put it, “often caused her the peculiar pain of a seeming uselessness in her life while the circle around her was full of unresting service-ableness for God.” One night, she was struggling with an especially acute attack of depression. Her nephew recounts the following morning:
The troubles of the night came back upon her with such force that she felt they must be met and conquered in the grace of God. She gathered up in her soul the great certainties, not of her emotions, but of her salvation: her Lord, his power, his promise. And taking pen and paper from the table she deliberately set down in writing, for her own comfort, ‘the formula of her faith.’
While the hymn has become inseparable from the altar-call through its use in Billy Graham’s crusades, it’s interesting to note how it was conceived quietly, in a solitary moment, by someone who already knew Christ well. She simply needed to remind herself of exactly what that meant.
Just as I am, thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because thy promise I believe
Oh Lamb of God, I come, I come
My definitive version is performed by Glad, with music by Bob Kauflin. The only flaw in this arrangement is their persistent replacement of “thee” and “thou” with the modern “you.” For some reason, this is a slight annoyance common to most all of Glad’s hymn arrangements, and I’ve never quite understood why. However, the music is so gorgeous that I can forgive it.