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Pop A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Psalter

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O Perfect Love
Genesis 24:67
PERFECT LOVE  |  Hymn History  |  Bible Passage
Author: Dorothy F. Gurney, 1858-1932
Musician: Joseph Barnby, 1838-1896

  Play MP3 • Click to listen to the music for this hymn.

O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
That theirs may be the love that has no ending,
Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

O perfect Life, be Thou their full assurance
Of tender charity and steadfast faith,
Of patient hope, and quiet, brave endurance,
With childlike trust that fears nor pain nor death.

Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow;
Grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife,
And to life's day the glorious, unknown morrow
That dawns upon eternal love and life.

Hear us, O Father, gracious and forgiving,
Through Jesus Christ, Thy coeternal Word,
Who, with the Holy Ghost, by all things living
Now and to endless ages art adored.


Two thousands of people at thousands of eddings must have sung this popular and moving hymn, without knowing the simple story behind its composition.

O Perfect Love, was written in 1883, by Dorothy Frances Bloomfield Gurney; and all in the space of about fifteen minutes. According to Mrs Gurney, relating the story afterwards, it happened like this:

It was Sunday evening and we were enjoyin g a time of hymn singing. A song that was particularly enjoyed by us all was O Strength And Stay. As we finished someone remarked, 'What a pity the words of this beautiful song are not suitable for a wedding!'

My sister turned to me and challenged, 'What's the use of a sister who con,posed poetry if she cannot write new words to a favourite tune? I would like to use this tune at my wedding.'

I picked up a hymnbook and said, 'If no one will disturb me, I'll go into the library and see what I can do.' Within fifteen minutes I was back with the group and reading the words I had jotted down. The writing of them was no effort after the initial idea came to me., I feel God helped me to write this song.

Some two or three years after its original composition, O Perfect Love, found its way into the well known hymnal, Hymns, Ancient and Modem. Possibly because of this, it soon became popular, especially in London, where it was used at many fashionable weddings, including those of royalty.

In 1889, Sir Joseph Barnaby composed a new tune with the appropriate name Sandringham and the hymn was sung to this tune when Princess Louise of Wales, daughter of King George V, was married to the Duke of Fife.

Since then the hymn has been translated into many languages and has attained worldwide fame. Mrs Gurney's sister had her ambition realised too, for it was also sung at her wedding.

Spiritual insight into the meaning of hymns isn't always easy. However, in his book The Gospel In Hymns Albert Bailey points out that in this hymn, 'the Lord Jesus Christ is given two titles that are of special significance in marriage - 'perfect love' and 'perfect life'. He concludes that these titles speak of two great ideals which are important in every marriage; motive and performance. If these ideals are honoured and obeyed they will yield joy and peace in any marriage.

Perhaps it's also worth noting that Mrs Gurney certainly brought out the truth that human love cannot begin to compare with God's love; which 'transcends all human thought'.

Mrs. Gumey died in 1932 and the London Times printed a tribute to her in the words with which I began this story. 'Thousands of people at thousands of weddings must have sung, or heard sung, O Perfect Love, without ever knowing that Mrs Gurney was the writer.'

O perfect Love, all human thoughts transcending,
Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
That theirs may be the love which knows no ending
Whom Thou for evermore dost join in one.


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