Walter Chambers Smith, a Scottish preacher, wrote these remarkable lines in 1867. Ordained to the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland, he pastored a church in London, then preached for almost forty years in Edinburgh.
Based on I Timothy 1:17, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever", "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" reminds us of the awe and reverence that we need to have as we worship our God.
Even as we cannot see the sun, we see merely the light reflected by the hot gases surrounding the sun, so God’s glory is hid from our eyes. Even the angels cover their faces in God’s presence (Isaiah 6:2) because they cannot look on God’s full glory.
"Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" draws from other Scriptural references as well. "The Ancient of Days" from stanza one is from Daniel 7:9. "Thy justice like mountains" from stanza two is from Psalm 36:6.
"Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" was first published in Hymns of Christ and Christian Life, (1876).