351

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Addressed to Christ, this text begins as a prayer for the indwelling of his love in our lives: "fix in us thy humble dwelling" and "let us all thy life receive" (st. 1-2). A tone of praise and adoration runs throughout the text. But the final stanza is clearly a prayer for sanctification, for consistently holy lives. Though this stanza was an outcome of the Specifically Wesleyan doctrine of perfection, it is our fervent Christian prayer that our sanctification will ultimately lead to glorification. As is customary in a Charles Wesley text, biblical allusions abound.
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Full of praise, this song reaches a crescendo of hope in stanza 4 when it prays that Christ will come and “finish, then, thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be...” This hope of final perfection is expressed beautifully in a number of confessions. Belgic Confession, Article 37 says that when Christ returns, “The faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honor” and “the Lord will make them possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine... So we look forward to that great day with longing in order to fully enjoy the promises of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
 
Even more pointedly, Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 56 professes, “We long for that day when our bodies are raised, the Lord wipes away our tears, and we dwell forever in the presence of God. We will take our place in the new creation, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and the Lord will be our light.”
351

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Call to Worship

Let us worship God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ.
We are new creations;
the old has gone, the new has come!
Let us worship God as Christ’s ambassadors.
Through us and through our worship
may we announce the good news to all.
Let us worship God in spirit and in truth.
Praise God! We are reconciled, redeemed, renewed!
—based on John 4:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
[Reformed Worship 34:19]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

Optional readings
 
A. 2 Corinthians 3:17-4:1
 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the
Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we all, who with unveiled faces
contemplate the Lord’s glory,
are being transformed into his image with
ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Therefore, since through God’s mercy
we have this ministry,
we do not lose heart.
 
B. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus
Christ as Lord,
and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of
darkness,”
made his light shine in our hearts to give us
the light of
the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the
face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show
that this all-surpassing power is from
God and not from us.
 
C. 2 Corinthians 4:14-18
We know that the one who raised the Lord
Jesus from the dead
will also raise us with Jesus and present us
with you to himself.
All this is for your benefit,
so that the grace that is reaching more and
more people
may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the
glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but
what is unseen is eternal.
351

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Tune Information

Name
HYFRYDOL
Key
F Major or modal
Meter
8.7.8.7 D

Recordings

351

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Hymn Story/Background

Considered by many to be among Charles Wesley's finest texts, "Love Divine" was published in four stanzas in his Hymns for those that seek, and those that have Redemption in the Blood of Christ (1747). A verse from John Dryden's poem beginning with the words "Fairest isle, all isles excelling" used by Henry Purcell in his opera King Arthur were undoubtedly Wesley's inspiration for writing this text. In fact, "Love Divine" was set to a Purcell tune in John and Charles Wesley's Sacred Melody (1761).
 
Addressed to Christ, this text begins as a prayer for the indwelling of his love in our lives. A tone of praise and adoration runs throughout the text. But the final stanza is clearly a prayer for sanctification, for consistently holy lives. Though this stanza was an outcome of the specifically Wesleyan doctrine of perfection, it is our fervent Christian prayer that our sanctification will ultimately lead to glorification. As is customary in a Charles Wesley text, biblical allusions abound.
 
One of the most loved Welsh tunes, HYFRYDOL was composed by Rowland Hugh Prichard in 1830 when he was only nineteen. It was published with about forty of his other tunes in his children's hymnal Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singers' Friend) in 1844.
A simple bar form (AAB) tune with the narrow range of a sixth, HYFRYDOL builds to a stunning climax by sequential use of melodic motives. Sing in unison or harmony, and observe one pulse per measure.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Several members of the Wesley family are significant figures in the history of English hymnody, and none more so than Charles Wesley (b. Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, 1707; d. Marylebone, London, England, 1788). Charles was the eighteenth child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, who educated him when he was young. After attending Westminster School, he studied at Christ Church College, Oxford. It was there that he and George Whitefield formed the Oxford "Holy Club," which Wesley's brother John soon joined. Their purpose was to study the Bible in a disciplined manner, to improve Christian worship and the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and to help the needy. Because of their methods for observing the Christian life, they earned the name "Methodists."
 
Charles Wesley was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1735 but found spiritual conditions in the church deplorable. Charles and John served briefly as missionaries to the British colony in Georgia. Enroute they came upon a group of Moravian missionaries, whose spirituality impressed the Wesleys. They returned to England, and, strongly influenced by the ministry of the Moravians, both Charles and John had conversion experiences in 1738. The brothers began preaching at revival meetings, often outdoors. These meetings were pivotal in the mid-eighteenth-century "Great Awakening" in England.
Though neither Charles nor John Wesley ever left the Church of England themselves, they are the founders of Methodism. Charles wrote some sixty-five hundred hymns, which were published in sixty-four volumes during his lifetime; these include Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1741), Hymns on the Lord's Supper ( 1 745), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1753), and Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780). Charles's hymns are famous for their frequent quotations and allusions from the Bible, for their creedal orthodoxy and their subjective expression of Christian living, and for their use of some forty-five different meters, which inspired new hymn tunes in England. Numerous hymn texts by Wesley are standard entries in most modern hymnals; fourteen are included in the Psalter Hymnal, 1987.
 
Charles's elder brother John also studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, and was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1728. A tutor at Lincoln College in Oxford from 1729 to 1735, Wesley became the leader of the Oxford "Holy Club" mentioned above. After his contact with the Moravian missionaries, Wesley began translating Moravian hymns from German and published his first hymnal, Collection of Psalms and Hymns, in Charleston, South Carolina (1737); this hymnal was the first English hymnal ever published for use in worship. Upon his return to England in 1738 Wesley "felt his heart strangely warmed" at a meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, when Peter Bohler, a Moravian, read from Martin Luther's preface to his commentary on the epistle to the Romans. It was at that meeting that John received the assurance that Christ had truly taken away his sins. That conversion experience (followed a few days later by a similar experience by his brother Charles) led to his becoming the great itinerant evangelist and administrator of the Methodist "societies," which would eventually become the Methodist Church. An Anglican all his life, John Wesley wished to reform the Church of England and regretted the need to found a new denomination. Most of the hymnals he prepared with his brother Charles were intended for Christians in all denominations; their Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780) is one of the few specifically so designated. John was not only a great preacher and organizer, he was also a prolific author, editor, and translator. He translated many classic texts, wrote grammars and dictionaries, and edited the works of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. In hymnody he is best known for his translation of selections from the German hymnals of Johann Cruger ('Jesus, thy boundless love to me"), Freylinghausen, and von Zinzendorf ('Jesus, thy blood and righteousness"), and for his famous "Directions for Singing," which are still printed in Methodist hymnals. Most significant, however, is his well-known strong hand in editing and often strengthening his brother Charles's hymn texts before they copublished them in their numerous hymnals.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Rowland H. Prichard (sometimes spelled Pritchard) (b. Graienyn, near Bala, Merionetshire, Wales, 1811; d. Holywell, Flintshire, Wales, 1887) was a textile worker and an amateur musician. He had a good singing voice and was appointed precentor in Graienyn. Many of his tunes were published in Welsh periodicals. In 1880 Prichard became a loom tender's assistant at the Welsh Flannel Manufacturing Company in Holywell.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

On April 29, 2011, millions of people around the world turned on their televisions to watch one of the most anticipated spectacles of the year: the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The ceremony featured a number of hymns, one of which was "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," a hymn that is both appropriate and seemingly paradoxical for a wedding. This ceremony was so celebrated because it represented the "dream" for romance—a prince finding his princess, true loves coming together, and a couple rising above the odds to be together. This, we argue, is love. And yet this hymn reorients us to see that this beautiful wedding and marriage is only, and can only ever be, a reflection of the Love above all loves. We are only able to love one another because Christ first loved us. God is love, and we are the mirrors and bearers of that love to each other.
— Laura de Jong
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