LIBERTY, April 20, 2014 –"Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" is a Christian hymn by Charles Wesley with a theme of 'Christian perfection." Judging by general repute, it is among Wesley's finest: "justly famous and beloved, better known than almost any other hymn of Charles Wesley." Judging by its distribution, it is also among his most successful: by the end of the 19th century, it is found in 15 of the 17 hymn books consulted by the authors of Lyric Studies. On a larger scale, it is found almost universally in general collections of the past century, including not only Methodist and Anglican hymn books and commercial and ecumenical collections, but also hymnals associated with Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Congregationalist, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic traditions, among others; including the Churches of Christ. Specifically, it appears in 1,328 of the North American hymnals indexed by the online Dictionary of North American Hymnology, comparable to Newton's "Amazing Grace" (1,036), Wesley's "O for a Thousand Tongues" (1,249), and Watts' "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (1,483), though still well short of Toplady's "Rock of Ages" (2,139) or Wesley's own "Jesu, Lover of my Soul" (2,164).
It first appeared in Wesley's Hymns for those that Seek, and those that Have Redemption (Bristol, 1747), apparently intended as a Christianization of the song "Fairest Isle" sung by Venus in Act 5 of John Dryden and Henry Purcell's semi-opera King Arthur (1691), on which Wesley's first stanza is modelled.
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
Come, Almighty to deliver,
Finish, then, thy new creation;