Walter Chalmers Smith, 1824–1908
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)
In our enjoyment of a personal relationship with God, we sometimes lose sight of the awe and reverence that should also be part of our worship of Him. Often we tend to forget the supreme holiness and greatness of who God really is. In our hymnody and theology we can carelessly treat our Lord as merely “the friend upstairs.”
Consider this ancient advice from a father to his son:
First of all, my child, think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence; adore His power, pray to Him frequently and incessantly. Bear Him always in your mind. Teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship and love God; first and last, think magnificently of Him!
Paternus, Advice to a Son
The author of the fine worshipful text of “Immortal, Invisible” was Walter Chalmers Smith, a pastor and an important leader of the Free churches of Scotland. He had various volumes of his poetry published, including several hymnals. “Immortal, Invisible” was first published in Smith’s 1867 hymnal, Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life.
One can reflect at length on the greatness of God as described by these words:
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.
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.
To all, life Thou givest—to both great and small; in all life Thou livest—the true life of all; we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of 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!
For Today: Job 37:21–24; Psalm 36:5, 6; 104:1–5; Colossians 1:15–17, 19; Revelation 21:23
J. P. Phillips, in his book Your God Is Too Small, reminds us that our concept of God is generally too limited. Reflect on this truth as you sing
Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (p. 272). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
- And now men see not the light, which shineth in the clouds, but the wind passeth and cleanseth them. The brightness cometh out of the North: the praise thereof is of God, which is terrible. It is the Almighty: we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power and judgment, and abundant in justice: he afflicteth not. Let men therefore fear him: for he will not regard any that are wise in their own conceit. Job 37:21–24
- Thy mercy, O Lord, reacheth unto the heavens, and thy faithfulness unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the mighty mountains: thy judgments are like a great deep: thou Lord, dost save man and beast. Psalm 36:5, 6
- My soul, praise thou the Lord: O Lord my God, thou art exceedingly great, thou art clothed with glory and honor. Which covereth himself with light, as with a garment, and spreadeth the heavens like a curtain. Which layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, and maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind. Which maketh the spirits his messengers, and a flaming fire his ministers. He set the earth upon her foundations, so that it shall never move. Psalm 104:1–5
- Who is the image of the invisible God, the first begotten of every creature. For by him were all things created which are in heaven, and which are in earth, things visible and invisible: whether they be Thrones, or Dominions, or Principalities, or Powers, all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things consist … For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell. Colossians 1:15–17, 19
- And their city hath no need of the Sun, neither of the Moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did light it: and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honor unto it. Revelation 21:23