While the poet, Frances Havergal, was in Dusseldorf, Germany, as part of her education, she saw the painting of “Christ” by Sternberg. (Please note this is not an endorsement of this type of artwork, in fact it is a shame it was ever done since the Scriptures forbid it!). The painting is of a man wearing a crown of thorns, before a Roman governor and a mob. Beneath the painting are the words, “This I have done for thee; what hast thou done for Me?”
Frances was moved very deeply by the thought, shedding tears, and after thinking about it for a long time, took a pencil and paper and quickly wrote out the words to this hymn. Later, in England, she noticed the poem, but feeling the poetry to be inferior, she tossed it into the fire. But instead of burning, the scorched paper floated out of the stove and onto the floor. Her father, William Havergal, picked it up, read it, and told her to keep the words and encouraged her by writing the first tune for words.
The hymn tune used in our hymnbooks today is by Philip Bliss and was first published in 1873.
I gave My life for thee; My precious blood I shed that thou might’st ransomed be and quickened form the dead; I gave, I gave My life for thee—what hast thou giv’n for Me?
I suffered much for thee, more than thy tongue can tell, of bitt’rest agony to rescue thee from hell; I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee—what hast thou borne for Me?
And I have brought to thee, down from My home above, salvation full and free, my pardon and My love; I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee—what hast thou brought to Me?
Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1982), pages 101-102.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), page 108.