BEHIND THE SONG: Before the Throne of God Above

In Dublin, Ireland, Charitie Smith, a young woman of 22, wrote one of the finest hymns that has ever been written.

She was born on June 21st, 1841. Her father was a preacher in the Church of Ireland, and she was saved by the grace of God at an early age. She was one of seven children, and was raised in a godly home. Her father had a great love for children, and at one time, conducted seven Sunday schools, teaching over 800 children. His gospel preaching and his love for souls was legendary. During the years of his active ministry, there was great revival in the North of Ireland. One historian wrote of it: [there was] “… the awakening of souls dead in sin to newness of life, the conversion of sinners, and the reclamation of backsliders.” Another wrote that “many careless sinners were awakened, enlightened, justified, sanctified, saved, who after a consistent life, died in the full assurance of the hope of eternal glory.”

It was during these years of awakening and revival that Charitie’s first poem appeared in leaflet form. In 1860, scarcely 19, she wrote “O For The Robes Of Whiteness,” and it is preserved today as hymn #193 in the Believers Hymn Book. It is obvious in her writings that she was a deeply spiritual young lady, who knew her Bible and her heavenly Father.

However, Charitie found within herself, what all of us find, perhaps on a daily basis. She realized she had a propensity to sin. Have we not all had far too many times in our lives when we have bowed our hearts at the throne and confessed sin and failure to our God and Father? Have there not been many occasions, when, with remorse and shame, we have acknowledged to heaven, our faults, failings, and failures? Where do the people of God go when we have failed our Father? Our hearts turn toward Him instead of running away, as we sometimes feel like doing. Why? What is the reason that we know we can fall upon His grace, be reassured of His forgiveness, and be thrilled by His eternal willingness to bring us back to Him again? The answer is this, and nobody has put it into words like Charitie Smith did: we have a Savior, in the glory, “now appearing in the presence of God, for us” (Heb 9:24). He is our Mediator; our Advocate; our Great High Priest; our Defense Attorney; our Daysman (Job 9:33); and our Friend. He is there, and He is there for us. Our very acceptance with a Holy God is our Savior, the Man of Sorrows, the Christ of the cross. The first title she gave to this hymn, was “Advocate.”

Her words are timeless, profound, and eternal. They are full of hope, forgiveness, reassurance, and courage. They are published as #15 in the Believer’s Hymn Book, with one verse of her original six stanzas missing. That verse may be one of the best. But, no doubt, these six verses comprise one of the finest hymns ever written. This hymn has been published in over 40 hymnals. After having been sung to many tunes over the years, it was given several new tunes in recent years, and has achieved a renewed appreciation, by younger generations of Christians.

Before the throne of God above, I have a strong, a perfect plea;
A Great High Priest, Whose Name is Love, Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there, Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied to look on Him, and pardon me.

Behold Him there – the risen Lamb! My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great, unchangeable “I AM.” The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself, I cannot die; my soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ, my Savior and my God.

The spiritual truths expressed in this hymn are immense. Satan does, and will, attack us. The flesh does, and will, betray us. But in all of our trip-ups and transgressions, our Savior is there, in the presence of God, for us. One has said “His acceptance there is my acceptance there.” He ever lives, He ever pleads, He ever represents … and He has, once and forever, “made an end of all my sin.” Another hymn writer has put it this way. “Now when God looks at me, He no more sees the things I’ve done – He only sees the blood of His crucified Son.” Charitie included all of these blessed truths in one small, but exceptionally spiritual hymn.

Charitie married twice, and outlived both husbands. She moved to California with her second husband, and even late in her life, was still writing hymns and poetry. When she was 80, she wrote a hymn called “Redemption – Resurrection – Restoration,” and her gift as a wordsmith was still very evident. When she was 82, in the year 1923, she went home to be with her Lord, and was buried in Oakland, California.

 

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