John Hart Stockton, author of “Come to Jesus,” was a Methodist pastor, evangelist, hymn writer, and composer. He was born in New Hope, PA, on April 19th, 1813, and died in Philadelphia, PA, on March 25th, 1877. Stockton came to faith in Christ at a Methodist camp meeting in Paulsboro, N.J., in 1832. He spent the remainder of his life in ministry, first as a pastor, then as an itinerate, and ended his days of service in sacred song. “Come to Jesus” first appeared in “The Revivalist,” Joseph Hillman’s hymnal of revival hymns and choruses published in 1868. When Stockton retired from ministry in 1874, he began focusing on his songs - publishing two hymnals before his death: Salvation Melodies in 1874 and Precious Songs in 1875. Ira Sankey and Dwight L. Moody testified of his valuable aid in their evangelistic pursuits in Philadelphia, with Sankey writing:
“I thank my Heavenly Father for enabling you to write so much sweet music, as well as words; and I hope you may long be spared to bless the world with your ‘precious songs.’ I wish you to accept our regards for one whose songs have been blessed to tens of thousands in the lands beyond the seas.”
In 1873 after several years of using the song as an invitation hymn, Sankey worried the refrain of “Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus now” might be sung more by form than heart due to familiarity. He proposed an alteration during a revival service in Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. First, they sang “only trust him,” then again, “I will trust him,” and finally, “I do trust him.” Afterward, eight souls testified that the song arrested their attention, leading them to salvation by faith in Christ.
A missionary in England gave testimony of his conversion to faith in Christ thus:
“I am much interested in sacred songs because it was the first verse of ‘Only Trust Him’ that opened the door of my heart to let the Master into my soul in all his fulness. I was in the army, and found my way to the Woolwich Soldier’s Home, where I heard the gospel; and for a fortnight I was groping in the dark for peace, when one evening I heard the singing of “Only Trust Him,’ which brought light into my soul. I have ever since been happy, serving him with my whole heart, I am now a missionary to my comrades.”
Indeed, we need only come to Jesus to find rest unto our souls. What hope, what joy, as in Jesus Christ we find both salvation in eternity, and peace in the present life!
Thousands upon thousands have walked the aisle to lay their sin-sick souls at the feet of Jesus while the tender strains of “Come to Jesus!” sounded in their ears. However, this song has appeared for many years in an incomplete form. The Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs hymnal includes the oft-forgotten 5th verse:
O Jesus, blessed Jesus, dear, I’m coming now to thee;
Since thou hast made the way so clear, And full salvation free.
Come ev’ry soul by sin oppressed,
There’s mercy with the Lord,
By trusting in his word.
Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus,
He will save you, He will save you,
For Jesus shed his precious blood
Rich blessings to bestow:
That washes white as snow.
Yes, Jesus is the truth, the way
That leads you into rest;
Come then, and join this holy band,
And on to glory go;
I’m coming now to thee;
And full salvation free.