579

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!

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

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."

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

What we know as the attributes of God reveal his character and being. For these, he is worthy of praise and adoration. Even before he says or does anything, he is praise-worthy. The opening words of Belgic Confession, Article 1 declare that God is “eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.”
 

The Lord’s Prayer ends with a doxology, and Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 52, Question and Answer 128 extrapolates: “Your holy name…should receive all the praise, forever.” After expressing our trust in the total care of God for all things, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Question and Answer 26 declares, “God is able to do this because he is Almighty God and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.” And so we express our praise and adoration to God for who he is.

579

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Blessing/Benediction

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and through grace gave us
eternal comfort and good hope,
comfort your hearts and strengthen them
in every good work and word. Amen.
—from 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Now to the King eternal,
immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
579

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Tune Information

Name
ST. DENIO
Key
G Major or modal
Meter
11.11.11.11

Recordings

579

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Hymn Story/Background

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 originally 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).
 
"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 Psalm 104:2); our inability to see God is not because of insufficient light but because the "splendor of light hides [God] from view."
 
ST. DENIO is a much-loved Welsh tune commonly associated with this text. Sing stanzas 1 and 4 in unison and stanzas 2 and 3 in harmony. Pull out all the stops for stanza 4. Use one strong pulse per measure.
 
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 of France.
 
ST. DENIO is a sturdy tune in rounded bar form (AABA'); its bright character in a major key should put to rest the notion that all Welsh tunes are sad and in minor key. It bears vigorous performance with singing in harmony supported by solid organ tone. The final stanza is a jubilant profession of how God blesses–save the extra reeds and mixtures for it!
 
Walter Smith’s text catalogues some of the attributes of God, whose works in nature testify to his glory and majesty. An editor of several important Welsh hymnals, “Wild” John Roberts crafted ST. DENIO as a hymn tune from a traditional Welsh ballad.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

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).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

John Roberts (b. Tanrhiwfelen, Penllwyn, near Aberystwyth, Wales, 1822; d. Vron, Caernarvon, Wales, 1877) is also known by his Welsh name, Ieuan Gwyllt (Wild John) to distinguish him from many other John Roberts. He began conducting choirs at the age of fourteen and was a schoolteacher at sixteen. Ordained in the (Calvinist) Methodist ministry in 1859, he served congregations in Aberdare and Llanberis. In 1859 he also founded the Welsh singing festival "Gymanfa ganu" and compiled the important Calvinist Methodist hymnal Llyfr Tonau Cynulleidfaol (1859, enlarged 1890), which preserved the tunes of many Welsh composers. Roberts edited various periodi­cals and issued a Welsh edition of a Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey hymnal, Swn y Iiwvili (1874).
— Bert Polman
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