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‘Just As I Am’ Was Billy Graham’s Signature Hymn
For evangelist Billy Graham, it all came down to the “invitation,” the climactic point at the end of his crusades when he invited people to leave their seats and “make a decision for Christ.”
And it wouldn’t be a Billy Graham invitation without “Just As I Am,” the slow-moving, soul-moving hymn that accompanied millions down the aisle and became Graham’s signature anthem and title of his 1997 autobiography.
“Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me,” the hymn’s familiar first verse goes. “And that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
But “Just As I Am” was more than a favorite Graham hymn. It became — almost more than any other hymn — a sort of national anthem for evangelical Christians, a musical creed that laid out in simple terms the life-changing spiritual transaction between the sinner and the Redeemer.
“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,” Cliff Barrows, Graham’s longtime musical director, said in a 2005 interview.
The hymn was written in 1835 by a British woman, Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871), who had convinced herself that her physical disabilities left her nothing to offer God at midlife.
As one version of the story goes, Elliott was struck by the words of a minister who asked whether she had truly given her heart to Christ. The question at first bothered Elliot, and after some days she told the minister that she wanted to serve God but didn’t know how. He replied, “Just come to him as you are.”
Kevin Eckstrom | Religion News Service