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Hymn of the Month

February

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Charles Wesley, 1707-1788 / John Zundel, 1815-1882
Written: 1747

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  I John 4:9

 

Charles Wesley was a prolific hymn writer of the 18th century. He was born in Lincolnshire, England, the youngest of 18 children. Coming from a musical family, he left a legacy of congregational music. It is estimated that during his lifetime, Wesley penned more than 9,000 poems of a spiritual nature, 6500 of which are hymns.

“Love Divine All Loves Excelling” is another of his well-known hymns. The text was written in 1747 and was published in a collection of hymns entitled “Hymns for those that Seek, and those that Have, Redemption in the Blood of Christ”. The hymn extols the love of God as expressed in the incarnation of Christ.

The third stanza emphasizes the truth that the Spirit of God indwells the temple or body of each believer. Then in the fourth stanza Wesley’s phrase, “changed from glory into glory” is almost a direct quotation from II Corinthians 3:18 (KJV). Wesley also anticipates the glorious culmination of faith when we “cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.” The hymn seems to be set most often to the tune “Beecher” by John Zundel from Christian Heart Songs, 1870); and to the stately Welsh tunes “Hyfrydol” by Rowland Hugh Prichard (1811–1887) in Great Britian. The hymn was sung at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on September 19, 2022.

There are few stories behind specific hymns because Wesley was always writing them. He didn’t need events to inspire him or quiet stretches of meditative time in which to develop his thoughts and he had few if any dramatic stories to tell about the occasions for writing them. Many of his hymn texts are solidly based on the Scriptures.

Henry Moore, one of his friends, described Wesley saying: “When he was nearly eighty, he rode a little horse, gray with age. As he jogged leisurely along, he jotted down any thought that struck him. He kept a card in his pocket for this purpose, on which he wrote his hymn in shorthand. Not infrequently he had come to our house in City Road, and, having left the pony in the garden in front, he would enter, crying out, ‘Pen and ink! Pen and ink!’ These being supplied he wrote the hymn he had been composing.”

Scholars suggest that he was able to compose about 10 lines of verse daily for 50 years. Wesley’s brother John sometimes served as editor of his hymns. John is credited with improving the sing ability of the hymns. Several of Wesley’s works have been the KHCB Hymn of the Month including “And Can It Be” (March 2018), “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (April 2014), and the carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (December 2016).

 

Taken from Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Copyright © 1990, 2002 by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Taken from Then Sings My Soul Keepsake Edition by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2011 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson

Used by permission from “History of Hymns” by Dr. C. Michael Hawn, Director of the Sacred Music Program and Distinguished Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

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