Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Full Text

1 Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

2 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might:
thy justice, like mountains high soaring above,
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

3 To all, life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree,
then wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

4 Thou reignest in glory, thou dwellest in light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render; O help us to see
'tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

Source: Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #579

Author: Walter C. Smith

Smith, Walter Chalmer, D.D., was born at Aberdeen Dec. 5, 1824, and educated at the Grammar School and University of that City. He pursued his Theological studies at Edinburgh, and was ordained Pastor of the Scottish Church in Chad well Street, Islington, London, Dec. 25, 1850. After holding several pastorates he became, in 1876, Minister of the Free High Church, Edinburgh. His contributions to poetical literature have been many and of great merit. His principal works are:— (1) The Bishop's Walk, 1860; (2) Olrig Grange, 1872; (3) Borland Hall, 1874; (4) Hilda among the Broken Gods, 1878; (5) North Country Folk, 1883; (6) Kildrostan, 1884; (7) Hymns of Christ and Christian Life, 1876. From his Hymns of Christ, &c, 1876, the following,… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Immortal, invisible, God only wise
Title: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Author: Walter C. Smith (1867)
Meter: 11.11.11.11

Notes

Walter C. Smith based this text on 1 Timothy 1: 17: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever." The six-stanza text was published in Smith's Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life (1867) and, after having been revised by Smith, in W. Garrett Horder's Congregational Hymns (1884). Further revisions were made by the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee.

"Immortal, Invisible" is a strong text of praise to God, who created and sustains the lives of all his creatures. The text focuses on the Creator of the universe, the invisible God whose visible works in nature testify to his glory and majesty. "Light" is the prevailing image in stanzas 1, 2, and 4 (see also Ps. 104:2); our inability to see God is not because of insufficient light but because the "splendor of light hides [God] from view."

Walter Chalmbers Smith (b. Aberdeen, Scotland, 1824; d. Kinbuck, Perthshire, Scotland, 1908) was educated at the University of Aberdeen and New College, Edinburgh, and became a Presbyterian pastor in the Free Church of Scotland in 1850. He served four congregations, including the Free High Church in Edinburgh (1876¬-1894). Moderator of his denomination in 1893, Smith was a man of wide interests. His poetry was published in some six volumes entitled Poetical Works (1902), and his hymn texts were published in Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life (1886).

Liturgical Use
A festival hymn of praise to God; for various other worship services, especially at the beginning of the service; with stanza 3 for services that focus on the brevity of life.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

ST. DENIO

ST. DENIO is based on "Can mlynedd i nawr" ("A Hundred Years from Now"), a traditional Welsh ballad popular in the early nineteenth century. It was first published as a hymn tune in John Roberts's Caniadau y Cyssegr (Hymns of the Sanctuary, 1839). The tune title refers to St. Denis, the patron saint…

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Instances

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Hymns for Today's Church (2nd ed.) #21a
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Include 90 pre-1979 instances



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