Soon after being ordained, Oxford graduate Reginald Heber (1783-1826) set about fulfilling his heart's ambition: to compile a new collection of hymns of high poetical quality for the worship of the Church of England. The task was never completed, owing to his early death from sunstroke in India whilst serving as Bishop of Calcutta. But many of his hymns have survived, including this one which was included in a collection of 57 that were published after Heber's death by his widow and friends.
The lyrics speak specifically on the Trinity and are a paraphrase of Revelation 4: 8-11. Heber wrote it for liturgical use on Trinity Sunday, which occurs eight weeks after Easter.
The hymn is commonly sung to the tune of "Nicaea" which was composed by the English clergyman and hymnist John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876). It was titled as a tribute to the First Council of Nicaea, which formalized the doctrine of the trinity in 325AD.
This hymn is sung in the 1953 version of Titanic.
Among the many artists who have recorded this hymn are Mahalia Jackson, Sufjan Stevens and Ronnie Mildsap.