STLT#273, Immortal, Invisible

My post will be short today, as I have succumbed to what is commonly known as “con crud” – the general flu-like illness that befalls many a convention attendee. But I wouldn’t be true to this practice without at least singing through this beloved hymn and making a few comments before the siren song of my bed overtakes my weakened resolve.

I do love this hymn, although I think one reason is that when I hear it in my head, I hear Geraldine Granger, the Vicar of Dibley, singing it. I’m not sure what episode it appears in (“Songs of Praise” maybe?) but what I love about her singing is the enthusiasm with which she does it, egging a tiny congregation on to sing robustly.

I also love that this is in our hymnal, a wonderful expression of the transcendent god we find in the Bible.

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 great and to small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
all laud we would render; oh, help us to see,
‘tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

Perhaps the only quibble (and I’m not sure I disagree with this one) is that our Hymnal Commission compressed verses 3 and 4 into one verse that better reflects the process threads in our theology. Here are the original verses 3 and 4, by 19th century Scottish minister Walter Chambers Smith, who led the Free Church of Edinburgh and later was moderator of the Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland:

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.

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!

I don’t mind losing tree leaves and angels – in fact, I think the combined verse is stronger and better.

Anyway… enjoy this delightful, free Scottish hymn while I crawl back to bed.

I couldn’t find a Free Church in Edinburgh that looked old enough to be Smith’s congregation – so our image is of a Free Church in the village of Lochinver, which looks old enough and pretty enough that we’d want it to be his Edinburgh congregation.

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