Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

God’s Perfect Love

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. Psalm 103:11

On August 28, 1747, Charles Wesley met Sarah “Sally” Gwynne, the daughter of his good friend, Marmaduke Gwynne. Wesley later admitted to Sally, “At first sight of you, my soul seemed pleased to take acquaintance with thee. And never have I found such nearness to any fellow-creature as to you.”* They married on April 8, 1749.

According to biographer John Tyson, Wesley wrote at least 50 hymns about his courtship and marriage. The dominant theme of these hymns is Wesley’s desire that his love for Sally and later, for his children, would never diminish his commitment to his Savior.*

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” is a tribute to the unsurpassed greatness of God’s love. Wesley wrote it  in 1747, probably soon after he met Sally:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

It’s significant that the first line reads “all loves excelling.” Wesley’s love for Sally filled his thoughts and governed his actions. At the same time, he knew that God’s love for him exceeded his love for Sally in both degree and longevity. In that way, Wesley’s relationship with Sally gave him a greater appreciation for God’s “pure, unbounded love.” And even as his devotion to Sally increased, Wesley’s love for God remained steadfast.

Too often we allow other people, responsibilities, and ambitions to affect our relationship with our Savior. Like Wesley, we must guard against any other love surpassing our love for God. To love God with all our heart, soul, and mind must remain our principal goal (Matthew 22:36-38).

In one letter Wesley said to Sally, “O may [our love] bring us nearer and nearer to God, till we are both swallowed up in the immensity of His love!”* May that be our prayer too. May every human relationship bring us nearer to the One who loves us most:

Thee we would be always blessing
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above
Pray, and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

DIG DEEPER:

In what ways does God’s love excel all other loves? Rejoice in the greatness of His love as you read these passages: Psalm 36:5-8, Psalm 103:8-17, Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 8:38-39, and Ephesians 2:4-8.

Read Luke 14:25-27. The Greek word translated “hate” in verse 26 is a comparative term, implying that we “turn away from” or “disregard” one thing in favor of another. How does that clarify the meaning of this passage? (See also Matthew 19:29.)

How can our love for a spouse or child give us a better understanding of God’s love for us? Read Isaiah 54:5, Psalm 103:13-14, and Proverbs 3:11-12.

In what ways should the relationship between spouses reflect the relationship that Christ has with the Church? Read these devotions under Dig into Words: Helper and Bride.

To read all the lyrics of “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” go to http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/d/ldalexcl.htm

Denise K. Loock

 *Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley. John R. Tyson. Eerdmans, 2007

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