460. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

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

2 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting nor wasting, you rule day and night;
your justice like mountains high soaring above,
your clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

3 Life-giving Creator of both great and small,
of all life the maker, the true life of all;
we blossom, then wither like leaves on the tree,
but you are forever, who was and will be.

4 We worship before you, great Father of light,
while angels adore you, all veiling their sight;
our praises we render, O Father, to you,
whom only the splendor of light hides from view.

Text Information
First Line: Immortal, invisible, God only wise
Title: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Author: Walter Chambers Smith (1867, alt.)
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Scripture: ; ; ; ; ;
Topic: Brevity & Frailty of Life; Praise & Adoration; Creation and Providence (5 more...)
Tune Information
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Key: G Major

Text Information:

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 Information:

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.

For historical information on ST. DENIO see PHH 144.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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