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.





William Wilson 'Willie' Whitehead, with one of his three daughters, Alice.... circa 1910.

"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."        

---- 1 Corinthians 15:53

The date was 1835.  Miss Charlotte Elliott (at left) was vi­sit­ing some friends in the West End of Lon­don, and there she met the em­i­nent min­is­ter, Cé­sar Ma­lan. While seat­ed at sup­per, the min­is­ter said he hoped that she was a Christ­ian. She took of­fense at this and re­plied that she would ra­ther not dis­cuss that quest­ion. Dr. Ma­lan said that he was sor­ry if he had of­fend­ed her, for he al­ways liked to speak a word for his Mas­ter, and he hoped that the young la­dy would some day be­come a work­er for Christ. When they met again three weeks later at the home of a mu­tu­al friend, Miss Ell­i­ott told the min­is­ter that ev­er since he had spok­en to her she had been try­ing to find her Sav­ior, and that she now wished him to tell her how to come to Christ. “Just come to him as you are,” Dr. Ma­lan said. This she did, and went away re­joic­ing. Shortly af­ter­ward she wrote this hymn, "Just as I am." Then a year later, in 1836 she became editor of "The Christ­ian Re­mem­branc­er" and it was there that she first published her new hymn, "Just as I am."  It would be another 13 years later  (1849) that William B. Bradbury (at right) would compose and publish the music that has long since been linked to Charlotte Elliott's beautiful phrasings.

Charlotte Elliott's brother was a Christian minister in their time, and after Charlotte's death in 1871 it was he who would pay his respects best by saying...

"In the course of a long min­is­try, I hope I have been per­mit­ted to see some of the fruit of my la­bor, but I feel that far more has been done by a sin­gle hymn of my sis­ter’s."

And it was during the period leading up to the Civil War of the 1860's when the principal characters of my "Raisins and Almonds---a Civil War Story," --- John and Emily Ellen Clarke Whitehead --- first came to know and love this hymn, "Just as I am."  For those who may not yet know of their story that I am in the midst of writing:--- John Whitehead --- my Great, Great Grandfather---  an ordained Presbyterian Minister and Chaplain in the Union Army --- was captured by the Confederates in June, 1864 when his unit was overrun at The First Battle of the Weldon Railroad.  And with their surrender and capture, the officers were separated from the men they led.  The officers were destined to spend the duration of the war in Libby Prison in Richmond, VA, while all the others were herded into cattle cars bound for Andersonville, GA--- never to be heard from again. 

But it was this very hymn, "Just as I am," that John would carry with him throughout his ministry to These Men of Libby.  While Charlotte Elliott wrote her hymn, "Just as I am," in a time well before the Civil War, it would be her very words "Just as I am" that would come to describe These Men of Libby.  As their months of captivity and despair began to take their toll, they would huddle together in groups of five or six, each suffering unabatedly from disease and malnutrition, clothed in tattered blankets covering the rags they once called uniforms.  And it was under such inhumane conditions as these that These Men of Libby came to know their Christ, for it was only through Christ that they would come to be judged by their God.  And it was under such desperate circumstances as these that all too many of them did come to their Judgment Day--- and when they came, they came "Just as I am." 

While a great many of their number did not, John survived Libby Prison.  But within just a few short months following his liberation from Libby in early March, 1865, John too would succumb to the typhoid he had first contracted while at Libby--- forever at peace with His Maker for his ministry to These Men of Libby so that each might come to know their Christ--- the Son of God and the Savior of their soul:---

"Just as I am, without one plea ... Oh Lamb of God, I come, I come."




< A survivor --- not of Libby --- but of Andersonville.  In all, at the conclusion of the Civil War, there would be only one Confederate Officer ever tried and hanged for war crimes --- and that was Captain Henry Wirz, Commandant of the Prison at Andersonville.  In contrast, conditions at Libby were desperate, but not as desperate as those suffered at Andersonville.  And in all fairness, the Union Prisons holding captured Confederates were not much better.  Still, nothing comes close to Andersonville...then Libby.


POSTSCRIPT:  Pictured at right is John Whitehead's gravesite in    Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, bearing the date of August 5, 1865.  His wife Emily, one of so many Civil War widows from both North and South, would live on without John until 1897, when she too was buried beside him.  As John and Emily's Great, Great Grandson, I would not be born until some 37 years later (1934 )--- but in my time I would curl up and sit on the lap of John and Emily's son, Willie, and whenever I did so, my mother would later tell me that his crusty exterior would simply melt away.

Willie's colorful life is itself the stuff of which sequels are made of.  Willie was only 9-years old when his father, John Whitehead --- the hero of my "Raisins and Almonds---A Civil War Story" --- died in 1865.  Later, young Willie would become known as William Wilson Whitehead--- a man of some means as a tool and die consultant and designer of early automobiles.  But as William Wilson, Willie led a scandalous life, putting his first wife, Maria, into a mental hospital so that he and the woman next door, Lilly, could run off



together.  William brought his and Maria's four children, including my Grandmother, Ellen Susan Whitehead, into the mix, but Lilly simply ran off and left her own children for their own father to care for.  

 Together, William and Lilly would have one illegitimate child--- Bertha.  But Lilly died three months after childbirth, and then, purely by chance while visiting Lilly's grave, William would meet yet a third woman, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was a widow, then visiting the gravesite of her husband.  In time William Wilson Whitehead married Elizabeth but did so without telling her that he was already married to Maria.  By then my Grandmother, Ellen Susan Whitehead, and her two sisters, Della and Alice, were old enough to be on their own.  At that time my Grandmother was all of 16 years old, working in a candy store on the South Side of Chicago, when in walked Michael Edward Downey from Cohoes, NY on his way to make his fortune in the Alaskan gold rush of 1898-1901.  Michael never left Chicago.

But back to the sequel to my story, after Lilly's untimely death, William put Bertha, then a 3-month old infant, and Robert James Whitehead, the youngest of his and Maria's four children, into a boarding house because he could not care for them on his own.  He never told Elizabeth anything about either Maria or these two children.  Eventually, Elizabeth would learn the truth--- that Maria was in a mental hospital and that two of his children were in a boarding house.  Once married, albeit illegally, William Wilson Whitehead did tell his new wife, Elizabeth, about Robert, at which point she told him to go and get Robert out of the boarding house.  But it would be Robert, and not his father, who would tell Elizabeth that there was another child still at the boarding house, and again Elizabeth told Robert's father to go back and bring home baby Bertha too.  Then Robert told Elizabeth about his mother, Maria, and that she was still at the mental hospital.  Realizing that her new husband was an outright bigamist, Elizabeth became furious over all his lies and deceit, and so she threw William Wilson Whitehead out of the house.  As for Robert and Bertha, Elizabeth gave them the home they never had, raising them from that day forward as though they were own.  Elizabeth died on October 23, 1930, but she never told Bertha, who by then was 30-years old, that she was not her mother.  Bertha never found out about her true parentage until after Elizabeth's death, and she was devastated by this revelation.

William Wilson Whitehead drifted in and out of bars throughout the Great Depression of the early 1930's, but toward the end of his days he would quit his drinking and become a self-proclaimed evangelist, putting all his remaining wherewithal into a rescue mission for the poor and indigent in Toledo, Ohio.  My Uncle Bill (William Wilson Black ---now deceased) wrote down this part of the story which I now repeat using his words:---  "In a drunken stupor at a hotel in Toledo, he suddenly heard an 'angel' choir singing.  He looked out of the window of his room and saw 10-12 people of earlier acquaintance, now 'angels,' and was converted on the spot!  He quit drinking and started preaching, opening a rescue mission where he happened to be working.  He lived on almost nothing, saved his money, and when he had quite a bank account for those days, he would devote full time to his mission." 

As with all sequels, there has to be an ending, but William Wilson Whitehead's colorful life would come to a violent ending. Having closed his rescue mission for the night, he was on his way back to his dingy, one-room hotel in Toledo when he was mugged in an alleyway.  At 84 years old he was severely beaten about the face and head, then robbed and left in a heap, like the trash that was littered about him.  Willie died within hours after he was found.


William Wilson "Willie" Whitehead (1856-1940):--- Such a violent and inglorious death --- occurring well into the 20th century --- the son of a Civil War veteran, trying to atone for the sins of his earlier days by retracing his father's footsteps --- 'with Christian charity for all.'  And so it was that Willie too would come to be judged"Just as I am"  --- as shall we all, each and every one ---

"Behold, I tell you of a mystery...
   We shall not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
       In a moment, in the twinkling of the eye..." 
         For we are who we are, and not who we once were,
           and when we come, we come "without one plea--- Just as I am." 
              Ah, the mystery of it all!
                  And what of its keys, this mystery that is ours for all eternity?
                      Why, there are but two, brethren:---
                        And the first of these is our 'acceptance of faith and grace through Jesus Christ.'
                           And the second is ''our own forgiveness'  --- not just of our sins,
                              but only as we too forgive one another,
                                And how is it that we can be so sure of this mystery that awaits us?
                                   Be still, 'for the Bible tells us so...'

First this beautiful passage of assurance, found within Paul's Letter to the Corinthians:---

This--- from one who himself was an admitted persecutor of the early Christians and the only Apostle who never saw Jesus in his lifetime--- when, on the Road to Damascus in 36 AD, Jesus reveals himself to Paul "in a blinding light", confronting him with but a single question, "Why doest thou persecute me?"

And from that defining moment on, Paul became --- as he would later describe himself in all humility --- "the least of  the Apostles" devoting the remainder of his life to teaching gentiles everywhere --- those who, like he, were of non-Jewish heritage --- that absolution of sin and life everlasting can be ours by faith and grace through a personal commitment to and belief in Jesus Christ. The very magnitude of Paul's own transgressions, i.e. his earlier attempts to completely eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth, indicate that for the sinners we are, each and every one of us may also be forgiven, no matter how terrible our sins might have been:---

"But by the grace of God I am what I am... 
    Now this I say, brethren...
       Behold, I shew you a mystery;
         We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
           In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:
             for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
 For this corruptible must put on incorruption,
    and this mortal must put on immortality.
       So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption,
          and this mortal shall have put on immortality,
              then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
    The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
        But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
       ...from 'Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians' (15:10,50, and 51-57) 
                                                            and when their time came, 'These Men of Libby'  each received such assurance as this
                                                                              from their Chaplain, John Whitehead, in "Raisins and Almonds---A Civil War Story"

And then this condition, found within the Lord's Prayer from 'The Sermon on the Mount':---

"...and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us,

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

for Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, Forever.  Amen."

...from the 'Lord's Prayer' (Mathew 6:9-13) 
                                                          just as 'These Men of Libby' were taught to pray in their daily devotions
                                                                                 by their Chaplain, John Whitehead, in "Raisins and Almonds---A Civil War Story"


Now singing "Just as I am", made so recognizable in our time by the Reverend Billy Graham, is yet another of our contemporaries--- Tony award winner, Kristin Chenoweth.  Kristin is so versatile.  She is a coloratura soprano, trained in the classical tradition, and as you might suspect, has sung with the NY Metropolitan Opera.  But she is also a Broadway, TV and Hollywood movie actress and has performed several times on Garrison Keiler's Prairie Home Companion.  She has only two recording albums out, but one of them, "As I Am," is devoted exclusively to Christian/Gospel music.  And from that recording, here now is one of them--- her signature hymn: "Just as I am"...

Windows Media Player--- 


QT player---








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.

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!