O dearest Lord, what law hast Thou e’er broken

O dearest Lord, what law hast Thou e’er broken
That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?
Of what misdeed hast Thou to make confession—
    What dark transgression?
They crown Thy head with thorns, they smite,
  they scourge Thee;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge Thee;
They give Thee gall to drink, they still decry Thee;
    They crucify Thee.
What punishment so strange is suffered yonder?
The shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;
The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,
    Who would not know Him.
The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted—
    God is committed.
O mighty King, no time can dim Thy glory!
How shall I spread abroad Thy wondrous story?
How shall I find some worthy gift to proffer?
    What dare I offer?
I’ll think upon Thy mercy without ceasing;
That earth’s vain joys no more to me be pleasing;
To do Thy will shall be my sole endeavor
    Henceforth forever.
Ana Lara

Storrs, Connecticut, United States

The English translator of this song was Miss Catherine Winkworth, born in London, September 13, 1827. She was an industrious and successful translator of German hymns, contributing many results of her work to two English editions of the Lyra Germania, to the Church Book of England, and to Christian Singers of Germany. She died 1878.

Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

This hymn was originally written by Jean De Fecamp (1000 - 1079), translated to German and developed by Johann Heermann (1585-1647) and then translated to English by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878).


Jean De FeCamp was a Benedictine monk who lived and wrote about 900 years ago. Fecamp was head of a monastic colony in Normandy for half a century. Later in his career, he decided to visit the Holy Land. While there, he was arrested and imprisoned by the ruling Turks. You might imagine him in that dank Turkish jail, as he remembered another innocent man imprisoned in Palestine by an occupying army - Jesus Christ.

It is no surprise that Lutheran pastor Johann Heerman should translate this hymn and develop the theme as his German town of Koben was ravaged by the 30 Years' War. - Great Songs of Faith by Brown & Norton


There are additional stanzas. Following hymnal.net 2nd stanza:

3. Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?

It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish;

Yea, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit,

This I do merit.


Following hymnal.net stanza 4:

6. There was no spot in me by sin untainted;

Sick with sin's poison, all my heart had fainted;

My heavy guilt to hell had well-nigh brought me,

Such woe it wrought me.


7. O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded,

That brought Thee here, by foes and thieves surrounded!

All worldly pleasures, heedless, I was trying

While Thou wert dying.


Following hymnal.net stanza 5:

9. For vainly doth our human wisdom ponder, --

Thy woes, Thy mercy, still transcend our wonder.

Oh, how should I do aught that could delight Thee!

Can I requite Thee?


10. Yet unrequited, Lord, I would not leave Thee;

I will renounce whate'er doth vex or grieve Thee

And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly

All fires unholy.


11. But since my strength will nevermore suffice me

To crucify desires that still entice me,

To all good deeds, oh, let Thy Spirit win me

And reign within me!


following hymnal.net last stanza:

13. Whate'er of earthly good this life may grant me,

I'll risk for Thee; no shame, no cross, shall daunt me;

I shall not fear what man can do to harm me

Nor death alarm me.


14. But worthless is my sacrifice, I own it;

Yet, Lord, for love's sake Thou wilt not disown it;

Thou wilt accept my gift in Thy great meekness

Nor shame my weakness.


15. And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven

To me the crown of joy at last is given,

Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,

I, too, shall praise Thee.

T. Diyan

London, United Kingdom

"Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without compassion on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

By how much do you think he will be thought worthy of worse punishment who has trampled underfoot the son of God and has considered the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing and has insulted the spirit of grace?". (Heb. 10:28-29).

Lord Jesus have mercy on us!


Fullerton, CA, United States

A hymn we hardly ever sing, and a rare jewel amongst many hymns on Christ's suffering. The writer had both a musical tenderness, as well as a sincere appreciation for Christ's unjust, and agonizing death. Makes us further sober to realize the seriousness and meaning of His death and suffering. How deep and how far reaching is Thy Kingly accomplishment and such abundant mercy to us who don't deserve Him!!