Charitie (Smith) Bancroft was born June of 1841 in Dublin, Ireland. Her father was a Reverend at the Colebrooke Church in Dublin, and her “talent for poetic composition” arose early in her life. Charitie’s first poems and hymns were published before she was even twenty! Outside of her writing, little is known about her life besides that she married an Arthur Bancroft and died in California in 1923. “Before the Throne of God”was written in 1863 and published shortly in Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymn Book, among other hymnals, though arranged into six stanzas and under the title “Jesus pleads for me.” Though this hymn has been set to many tunes, the one that is in common use today was arranged by Vikki Cook in 1997.
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 heav’n He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.
As we stand before God and His throne, we offer nothing more than Christ. We acknowledge that nothing we do could make us righteous in God’s sight, nothing by our own merit could have paid our sins. Since we have nothing to offer, we plead only to our Great High Priest who is Love and has made us right with Him (Heb. 4:14-5:10, 7:17-28, 1 Jon. 4:8-10, Eph. 2:1-10). He is our mediator, our defender (1 Tim. 2:5-6, 1 Jon. 2:1-2). We have nothing to offer but Christ’s love and sacrifice, and He pleads for us in our stead. Christ’s redeeming act is also why the hymnist quotes Isaiah, for God says, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isa. 49:16). Therefore, we rest secure because we know that we can never be separated from God’s love (Rom. 8:1-2, 28-39, Psa. 89:2). This is why our plea is strong and perfect, because this plea is that Jesus died for us.
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.
We know that Satan and our guilt often seeks to destroy us, our sinful nature battling within us (1 Pet. 5:8, Rom. 7:14-23). We are weighed down and burdened. How can we stand under it? It can often feel unbearable. Yet of what are we reminded in the previous stanza? We are not crushed or dismayed (1 Cor. 4:6-10). God has made us a new creation; He has forgiven and redeemed us (Rom. 8:1-2, 1 Cor. 5:18-19). He has ended our sin, making it as though it never was in the sight of God. It is not about what we have done or what are able to do but only Christ crucified and raised again. Our sinful soul is counted free because Christ has made a sacrifice once for all; we are pardoned (Rom. 6:10, Heb. 9:11-14, 26-28, 10:10). When we are in despair, let us remember what the psalmist writes:
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
~ Psalm 43:5 ~
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 final stanza moves to praise Christ, not that the former stanzas do not include praise, but here we recognize God’s holiness, righteousness, and awesomeness in addition to His grace and forgiveness (Rev. 7:9-17). Scripture many times calls Jesus the Lamb of God, from John’s introduction of Christ to Revelation (John. 1:29-34, Rev. 5:12). We see the Lamb as our perfect and spotless Righteousness because He was slain for our sin and rose again, reigning forever as one God with the Father and Holy Spirit, with whom we will dwell for ever (Jer. 23:5-6, 1 Cor. 1:30-31, Phil. 3:7-9, 1 Jon. 2:2, Rev. 5:6-8, 7:10-17, 14:4). He is forever, He is faithful, and He has purchased us with His blood – we are His (Psa. 24:10, 33:4, Heb. 6:17-20, 10:23, John 8:58, Col. 3:3, 1 Pet. 1:18-19, Rev. 5:9). We rest secure in these promises, praising Him, and this is was we can stand before God’s holy throne: Christ is our Savior and God who pleads for us.
Blessings to you and yours,
“Before the throne of God above, I have a strong, a perfect plea.”
“Charitie Lees De Chenez.” The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press. Accessed 10 May. 2018.
Hatfield, E. F. The poets of the Church. New York: Anson D. F. Randolph and Company. 1884. p. 35.
Spurgeon, C. H. “Jesus pleads for me.” Our Own Hymn-book. London: Passmore and Alabaster. 1883.
Robinson, C. S. Annotations Upon Popular Hymns. New York: Hunt & Eaton. p. 208.
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