Great Women: Charlotte Elliott

A Woman of Character and Capability

These articles about great women express a genuine burden and an appeal to sisters, particularly younger ones. They can perpetuate in our day what earlier heroines accomplished with their God-given talents. Each sister can contribute to the spread of the gospel and the advancement of the kingdom of God. The talented people of this world – the singers, poets, writers – waste their lives and talents and then are forgotten in a few fleeting years! The Marys, the Elizabeths, the Hannahs, the Miriams, and the Deborahs are remembered throughout all generations. The Lord is ready to raise up such women today, yet we fear some lie dormant in the shadows of uselessness, their talents wasted! Charlotte Elliott’s life, suffused with great suffering, leaves a rich spiritual heritage that believers have enjoyed for over one hundred and sixty years.

What, beloved sister, are you leaving behind? You have God-given abilities! Will you use and consecrate them? You may never land on foreign soil, far-flung islands of earth, or lonely habitations of the unreached, but, if yielded to the claims of the risen Christ just where you are, you can be a vessel sanctified and equipped for the Master’s use, “You in your small corner and I in mine!”

A single sister, a married sister, or a widow can be of tremendous value in the work of the Lord. We recall the words of Deborah, “Blessed above woman shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be” (Judges 5: 24). In “that day,” the Lord will evaluate the lives of true heroines who radiated a heavenly glow and were a blessing to a lost world.

Charlotte Elliott is one of those. Her name has become famous worldwide! Her brother H.V. Elliott, a minister, is known only in the context of his “invalid sister” Charlotte. Many will rise and call her blessed for her contribution to hymnology, especially one gospel song:

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

Charlotte Elliott was undoubtedly a chosen vessel! Her birthplace was in the West End, London. Born in 1789, she lived eighty-two years and passed into the presence of her Lord on September 22nd 1871. She became an “invalid” in her early thirties, but what flowed from her heart and pen was mighty and was used by God. Before conversion, Miss Elliott was carefree, a popular artist and a writer of humorous verse. Salvation changed all that! Her conversion at 33 was not dramatic. While seated at supper she met an eminent minister, Dr. Cesar Malan. In conversation, he said to Miss Elliott that he hoped she was a Christian. This offended her and she hastily terminated the discussion. Three weeks later, Miss Elliott told the good doctor that ever since he had spoken to her she had been trying to find her Savior. She wished him to tell her how to come to Christ. Dr. Malan’s terse yet timely reply was, “Just come to Him as you are.” Charlotte Elliott did just that and went on her way rejoicing. Shortly afterward she penned the hymn, “Just As I am.” It was first published in 1836 in the “Invalid’s Hymn Book,” a collection of 115 of her original works.

One of the finest hymn writers in Church history, she composed approximately 150 hymns. Even more important is her character. Her motto from conversion’s day was, “If a man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” On one occasion she wrote, “God sees. God guides. God guards me. His grace surrounds me, and His voice continually bids me to be happy and holy in His service just where I am.” Such commitment bears fruit to God and blessing to the world. With deep devotion to her Savior, she give Him ALL.

Another hymn from her pen sums up the story of her tremendous character.

If Thou should’st call me to resign
What most I prize – it ne’er was mine.
I only yield Thee what is Thine:
Thy will be done.

Her conflicts were many, particularly in health. This thorn in the flesh brought severe and great trials. The quote, “His most loved are His most tried,” could well fit her. She never enjoyed normal health and often experienced seasons of great physical suffering with crippling fatigue! She wrote, “He knows, and He alone, what it is day after day, hour after hour, to fight against bodily feelings of almost overpowering weakness, languor, and exhaustion.” This wonderful lady resolved never to yield to those feelings. She avoided slothfulness, depression, and instability, but arose every morning to live for her Lord.

Her contributions have transformed lives from every strata of humankind. Many, from titled lords to the wretched, from older to younger, have found salvation, strength, and solace through Charlotte Elliott’s hymns. Her compositions are sermons, reaching lost sinners and comforting weary saints. Her brother’s testimonial of his sister is outstanding: “In the course of my long ministry, I hope to have been permitted to see some fruit of my labors; but I feel more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s.” During the singing of some hymns, John B. Gough the great orator sat beside a man most repulsive in appearance due to a disease that disfigured his face and form. John B. Gough was almost driven to frenzy by the harsh and discordant tones of this man by his side. But when they came to, “Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind,” this disfigured man lifted his sightless eyes to heaven and sang with his whole soul. The orator, in his inimitable way, said, “I have heard the finest strains of orchestra, choir, and soloist this world can produce, but I never heard music until I heard that blind man sing, ‘O Lamb of God, I come, I come.’”

Charlotte Elliot’s courage amid failing health and physical disabilities should be of great encouragement to tried saints. Among her papers found after her death were over one thousand letters from believers around the world, testifying to what this one hymn had meant in their lives!

And when on earth I breathe no more,
The prayer oft mixed with tears before,
I’ll sing on heaven’s blissful shore,
“Thy will be done.”