One of the more outstanding hymn texts with which I am familiar is “Before the Throne of God Above.” The author, Charitie Lees Smith, was born in 1841 in the vicinity of Dublin, Ireland. She was the daughter of a minister of the Church of Ireland. Not much is known about her life, but it appears that she was widowed twice: although she married Arthur Bancroft in 1869, she died under the name Charitie de Cheney in California in 1923. Charitie published her poetry in leaflet form as early as 1860, and a number of her collected works were eventually published as Within the Veil in 1867. “Before the Throne” was written in 1863 under the title “The Advocate.”
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea. (Heb 4:15-16)
A great High Priest whose Name is Love (Heb 4:14)
Who ever lives and pleads for me. (Heb 7:25)
My name is graven on His hands, (Isa 49:16)
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart. (Rom 8:34)
When Satan tempts me to despair (Luke 22:31-32)
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there (Acts 7:55-56)
Who made an end of all my sin. (Col 2:13-14)
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me. (Rom 3:24-26)
Behold Him there the risen Lamb, (Rev 5:6)
My perfect spotless righteousness, (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
The great unchangeable I AM, (Heb 13:8; John 8:58)
The King of glory and of grace,
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood, (Acts 20:28)
My life is hid with Christ on high, (Col 3:3)
With Christ my Savior and my God! (Tit 2:13)
“Before the Throne of God Above” draws heavily from Scripture for its pictures and language. It is a hymn which finds its theme in the perfect security which believers find in Christ, Who intercedes for them “before the throne of God above.” The following Scriptures find echoes in the song, whether Charitie is drawing conceptually from them or merely using their language.
Hebrews 4:14-16: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (“a great High Priest”, st. 1, and general conceptual background)
Hebrews 7:25: “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (“Who ever lives and pleads for me,” st. 1)
Isaiah 49:16a: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” (“My name is written on His hands,” st. 1)
Romans 8:34: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (“I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart,” st. 1)
In verse 2, Charitie may have had the following texts in mind:
Luke 22:31-32a: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (“When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within,” st. 2)
Acts 7:55-56: “But [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (“Upward I look and see Him there,” st. 2)
Col. 2:13-14: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (“Who made an end to all my sin,” st. 2)
Roman 3:24-26: “. . . and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (“God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me,” v. 2)
Likewise, verse 3:
Rev. 5:6: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (“Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,” st. 2)
1 Cor. 1:30: “[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (“My perfect spotless righteousness,” st. 2)
1 Peter 1:18-19: “. . . knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (“spotless,” st. 2)
Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (“unchangeable,” st. 2)
John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” (“I AM,” st. 2)
Acts 20:28: “. . . the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (“my soul is purchased by His blood,” st. 2)
Col. 3:3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (“My life is hid with Christ on high,” st. 3)
Titus 2:13: “. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (“Christ my Savior and my God,” st. 3)
Bradley McKenzie has translated the hymn into German:
Vor Gottes Thron tritt Jesus Christ
stark und vollkommen für mich ein,
Der, dessen Name „Liebe” ist,
der ew’ge Hohepriester mein.
In Jesu und des Vaters Hand
bin ich geborgen immerfort,
und dank des Geistes Unterpfand
kann keiner scheiden mich von Gott.
Wenn Satan wegen meiner Schuld
Verzweiflung oft in mir entfacht,
schau’ ich auf Den, durch dessen Huld
der Sünde wurd’ ein End’ gemacht.
Da sündlos Schuld ans Kreuz Er trug,
gelt’ ich als frei nun ewiglich.
Gott, dem Gerechten, ist’s genug:
Er sieht den Sohn, begnadigt mich.
Sieh dort das Lamm, das auferstand,
vollkommen in Gerechtigkeit.
Als der „Ich Bin” ist Er bekannt,
der Herr der Gnad’ und Herrlichkeit.
In Ihm verborgen sterb’ ich nie!
Sein Blut erkaufte mich vom Tod.
Ich leb’ mit Christus in der Höh’.
Er ist mein Heiland und mein Gott.