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.
Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.
Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.
Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Reading only the title or the first line, we assume that this is a
hymn extolling the love of God. But its message is far more specific.
Who is the “Joy of heaven, to earth come down?” It is Jesus Christ who
comes to make our hearts His humble dwelling. The third line of the
first stanza makes it clear. Jesus is “pure, unbounded love” – the
love of God made manifest – the love of God incarnate, in the flesh.
The hymn, then, is really a prayer to Christ who is Love Divine. But
there are still other obscure phrases in the hymn. What is “that
second rest” that we are asking to find?
Here it helps to know something of the doctrinal emphasis of the
Wesleys and of all the early Methodists. They believed that after
conversion there is a second experience for the Christian – that when
one totally consecrates himself to Christ, his heart is cleansed from
all sin. The experience is called “entire sanctification.”
Of course, for all Christians, we must all be changed “from glory to
glory” – knowing more about Christ and becoming more like Him, until
we “take our place in heaven.”