Tullian Tchividjian|9:46 am CT

A Hymn To God The Father

The hymn below by English poet and cleric John Donne (1572-1631) says it all: God meets my ongoing sin with his inexhaustible forgiveness. 70 times 7.

My friend Shane Rosenthal sent me a note explaining that, according to some commentators, there is double meaning in the line, “Thou hast done” which repeats throughout the poem. It obviously refers to that which God has done for Donne in contrast to that which Donne has done (and continues to do). But the other meaning, especially clear in the last stanza, is a play on the poet’s own name: “Thou hast Donne.” It is his realization that despite his weak grip on God, God’s grip on him is perfect and forever, that finally ends his fears.

It never ceases to amaze me that, if you are in Christ, you can never, ever, ever outsin the coverage of God’s forgiveness. Amazing love…how can it be?

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And having done that, Thou hast Donne ;
I fear no more.


  1. That is remarkable. Beautiful.
    It makes me wish my last name was Donne. “Thou hast Hicks” doesn’t have the same punch!

  2. [...] A Hymn To God The Father [...]

  3. “Thou hast Dunn”

  4. I love this hymn. There is a great arrangement of it by a band named Jolly Napier of Shreveport, La. http://www.amazon.com/Twentyone-Even/dp/B0012AKV8S/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357511140&sr=301-1
    Sadly, they aren’t together anymore.

  5. I am not sure I am comfortable with this. God will not forgive us our sins if we are unrepentant. Could this way of speaking not be interpreted as a license to sin?

  6. It COULD be a license to sin, if the person is incompetent to understand poetry, or, indeed, literature in general. Donne’s point is that he is a helpless sinner; even were he to deal with the sins of which he is aware, lurking beneath the surface are still more sins. We never achieve perfection in the life – and it is the holiest people who are most aware of their failures.

  7. Dear F. Lankus,

    I’m a bit uncomfortable with your assertion that “God will not forgive our sins if we are unrepentant”. By “us”, may I assume you refer to believers? If I’m not mistaken everyone who believes in (entrusts themselves to) Jesus Christ has all their sins forgiven: past, present, and future sins. Our sins are forgiven because our Sin nature has been crucified with Christ and the new creation (us) is now risen with Him.

    The truth is that, despite what I’ve said above, we believers all continue to sin in everything we think, say, or do. But the Good News is that all our sins are all forgiven. This was all taken care of some 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ on a cross. If we are believers then we have already been redeemed. Completely redeemed. Completely forgiven. Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law on our behalf. He has lived the perfect life we can never live and His perfect righteousness is credited to our account. All ours by faith.

    As for repentance, don’t we agree that we all need to live a life of continual repentance? And by repentance I mean a continual returning to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Again and again and again and again.


    M. Nygren

  8. “It never ceases to amaze me that, if you are in Christ, you can never, ever, ever outsin the coverage of God’s forgiveness.”

    While this may be a pedagogical tool on the efficacy and sufficiency of the cross, the Bible does not use this type of language. I’m not here suggesting, and never would suggest that one’s salvation rests on himself in any capacity. God alone saves. But the language of Scripture is not the same as what is stated by Mr. Tchividjian, and it is not presented in this manner. Consider Hebrews, chapters 1 – 4, as just one example. It tends to make people angry when I suggest this, whenever this topic comes up, but Scripture just doesn’t talk like this, and I think it’s worth asking why.

  9. [...] Thou Hast Done [...]

  10. [...] Tchividjian reflects on John Donne’s stunning “A hymn to God the Father”, a poem in which Donne laments his ongoing sin but reaches assurance in his security in Christ.  [...]

  11. […] If you want to compare what you consider a complex poetic presentation of truth with something equivalent in the Christian tradition, try the poetry of George Herbert (like this on prayer), John Milton (like this on Christ’s birth), or John Donne (like this on God’s forgiveness). […]

  12. […] Tullian Tchividjian, originally delivered 13 Oct. 2013. 14. Ibid. 15. Tullian Tchividjian, “A Hymn to God the Father“, via The Gospel Coalition. 16. Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Wheaton, […]

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