The hymn Immortal Invisible God Only Wise is an ancient Christian hymn that describes the unseen nature of God. The text of the hymn was pen down by Walter Chalmers Smith, poet, author, and ordained pastor of the Free Church of Scotland, in the late 19th century. This hymn is one of its kind when it comes to showing attributes and magnificent descriptions of God. In sort, it is one of the hymns that are suitable for praise and worship of the Highest God.
The Hymn Writer
The hymn writer, Chalmers Smith, was born in the city of Aberdeen, the oil-rich coast of Scotland on the 5th of December 1824. His parents are Mr. Walter Smith and his wife Mrs. Barbara Milne Smith. Chalmers has his education at Aberdeen Grammar School. At 13 years of age, he entered Marischal College of the University of Aberdeen, where he obtained the Master of Arts degree in 1841. Afterward, he changed his intention to study law and studied theology at New College in Edinburgh.
In the year 1850, He was ordained as the Pastor and Entered the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland. He was the vicar at Chadwell Street in Islington, Pentonville in London from the year 1850 till he resigned in 1853. He was later appointed as a pastor of Orwell Free Church in a small town of Milnathort in Kinross-shire. Smith served there till 1857 before he moved to Roxburgh Free Church in Edinburgh. In the year 1862, he assumed the office of Free Church leader in Free Tron Church at Glasgow. Afterward, in the year 1893, the Free Church of Scotland choose him in the election as the church moderator. He served as the moderator, the highest position of the Church till 1894, and retired.
Happily married to his wife, Agnes Monteith in the year 1853, Smith was blessed with three daughters and a son. In the year 1908 on the 20th day of September, God called him to eternal glory. He was buried in Warriston Cemetery in North Edinburgh.
Story Behind the Hymn
In particular, the theme and inspiration of this hymn are from the first book of Timothy Chapter 1 verse 17. The verse is as follows: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” King James Version.
As a poet that he is, Chalmers Smith endeavors to express how he feels about the invisible God as described in the first book of Timothy. Of course, immortality and Invisibility is the true nature of God. However, he further described Him with the phrase “In light inaccessible hid from our eyes”. In truth, many scripture passages have described God as the light and also the book of Exodus chapter 33 verse 20 said “… thou cannot see my face”. In the third verse, he refers to God as the “Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days.” Indeed, the Lord is all of that and more.
Furthermore, going through other verses and stanzas of the hymn, you will see many adjectives and phrases he used to describe the true nature of God. In fact, there are many attributes of God within the verses of the hymn and it talks about His glory, His greatness, and His majesty. For that reason, Chalmers Smith must have experienced this God in a certain way to describe Him in these ways. In fact, You can actually do a quiet and thoughtful meditation about God with this hymn. Just sit down in a quiet place and go through the words of the hymn with your inner mind for half an hour or more. Indeed, you will be blessed.
In another verse of the hymn, he characterized God as “Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light.” The line should awaken our memories that God is always there for us in the day and night. The book of Psalm 121 verse 3 and 4 bolstered this when it said as quoted. “He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
Obviously, Chalmers Smith has written several hymns through the inspiration from the holy spirit. However, twelve of his hymns have survived and Immortal Invisible God Only Wise is undoubtedly the best-known of his hymns. The hymn was first published in his hymn collection “Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life” in the year 1867. Also, it first appeared with six stanzas and was not written as a hymn. However, after several revisions and editorial touch by Percy Dearmer, it was shorting to four stanzas which were published in The English Hymnal in 1906.
Tune for The Hymn
The hymn Immortal Invisible God Only Wise was written in 11-11-11-11 meter and typically known with the hymn tune called St. Denio. This tune name refers to St. Denis, the patron saint of France. Equally important, Saint Denio is also known as Palestina or Joanna and it’s based on the traditional Welsh folk tune called “Can Mlynedd I nawr” (A Hundred Years from Now).
Moreover, John Roberts was the first person to arrange the Welsh tune and used it for the hymn. He was seen in his Songs of Worship/Sanctuary (Canaidau y Cyssegr) he published in 1839 as Palestina. Thereafter, the tune was (first) set into harmony to be suitable and adopted with Smith’s text in The English Hymnal that was published in 1905/06 by Gustav Holst.
Going through the text of the hymn “Immortal Invisible God Only Wise” and how the texts were arranged. It is not a gainsaying that the hymn is one of the great Christian hymns that can be used to praise the Almighty God who is Immortal, Invisible and Only wise.
The Hymn Mp3 is Below – Courtesy of the Hereford Cathedral
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