Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Farmer

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O Lamb of God, I Come, I Come

Folks have at times requested me to address some current topic of concern for the broader Christian community, than just we Baptists. I usually resist, because I am sure that we Baptists have problems enough of our own, without becoming experts in whom, what and how other mainline denominations should act, and/or worship.

You see my faith informs me that I am personally accountable to God, through the shed blood of his only son, Jesus. That sacrifice was for the forgiveness of my sins and is the only way to salvation and life eternal. Standing in the shadow of Easter makes what he did for me so very special.

There is always so much homework I need to do about my own salvation, regeneration and Christian walk, that I dare not cast stones at co-pilgrims on their journey. Mind you, if you read the Bible, it will narrow the choices one makes and redefine the destination to which we are being drawn.

Way back in 1834, in Brighton, England, a family was busy getting ready for a fund-raising bazaar for St. Mary’s Hall. One young woman, who lived at Westfield Lodge (sister of the Anglican priest) of St. Mary’s parish was ill, and far too weak to work, or even to travel there. Note this though, she didn’t bemoan her plight.  She counted her blessings, inventoried her shortcomings and wrote them down in poem form. Her name was Charlotte Elliott (b. Clapham, England, 1789, d. Brighton, 1871). Charlotte was too weak even to sit up. But her soul was disturbed by “many a conflict, many a doubt.”

Young Charlotte was a gal of good faith. But like all of us, she recognized areas in which she could improve. So she used the meditative period while her family was off serving God and community, to fix herself.

Let’s read the words, penned from her sick bed: “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, 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 within, and fears without, o lamb of God, I Come, I come.

“Just as I am, poor wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all I need in thee to find, o lamb of God, I come, I come.

“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.

“Just as I am, thy love unknown hath broken every barrier down; now to be thine, yea thine alone, o lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Without Charlotte’s knowledge a friend published the poem in a leaflet in 1835. By 1836 it was included in the Invalid’s Hymnbook as six four-line stanzas. It was eventually married to the tune Woodworth, arranged by William B. Bradbury (b. York, Maine, October 6, 1816, d. Montclair, N.J., January 7, 1868).  All totaled, Charlotte’s poems graced over 100 pages, across a variety of hymnbooks.

Later still, Charlotte wrote a seventh verse, which I don’t believe is included in most popular, current hymnals. Read along: “Just as I am – of that free love, ‘the breadth, length, depth and height to prove, here for a season, then above—o lamb of God, I come, I come.”

One of my 1970s seminary music teachers, Dr. Phillip Landgrave, used Charlotte’s poem in a work titled “Purpose,” while teaching at Southern and serving our Lord as music minister at the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky. Thus his version carries the title Tabernacle.

Certainly anyone who has ever cast an ear to the revival fires of the late evangelist Billy Graham (1918 – 2018) has heard the hymn. Oh, I can still hear George Beverly Shea with Cliff Barrows leading and the crusade choir singing. It is one of the most successful hymns in getting Christians to consider their eternal plight.

I would like to suggest that every reader meditate upon the words. Make the song a first person narrative of how we all fall short of God’s expectations. Then work yourself through the message until you reach an understanding of all that God, through Christ, has done for us.