Hymn Story: I Gave My Life for Thee
An art museum in Dusseldorf, Germany has a vivid painting on display of Christ, “wearing His crown of thorns as He stands before Pilate and the mob”.
Underneath the painting, by Sternberg, are the word “This have I done for thee, what hast thou done for Me?”
Francis Havergal came upon the painting while in Germany. Sources differ on whether it was in a museum or the home of a pastor she was visiting. Seeing the painting, she was deeply moved by the image. With tears streaming in her eyes, she scribbled the lines of this hymn text on a scrap of paper.
Upon returning to her English home, she felt the poetry she had written was so poor “that she tossed the lines into a stove. The scorched scrap of paper amazingly floated out of the flames and landed on the floor” where her father, Rev. William Havergal, found it.
Rev. Havergal encouraged his daughter to preserve the poem and assisted Francis in composing the first melody for her lyrics, which she named Baca.
Philip P. Bliss, the American gospel songwriter, would compose the tune we know today.
The song was first published in 1873.