In his work among the poor, first in London and then in Birmingham, Faber knew the need to plead with people who felt themselves rejected by society and by the respectable and judgemental churches around them. His hymn expresses his message to such people with a mixture of themes. In this selection of verses from the longer hymn he pleads with them not to limit their thoughts of how great God’s love can be; he points to the suffering of Christ on our behalf. In more controversial mode he says that we limit that love by imagining that God is more strict on our sins than is really true. It is probably truer that for much of the time it is we ourselves who are soft on our sins. It is doubtful too whether all Christians would recognize his description of their lives in the last verse. For much of the time the Christian pilgrimage is a hard trudge with little light as we ‘walk by faith and not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5: 7). Nevertheless this hymn says some important things with simplicity and directness.
The tune was written by Maurice Bevan to be sung in St Paul’s Cathedral, of whose choir he had been a member for forty years. It is named after the area in Shropshire around the River Corve, and near the village of Stanton Lacey where his father had been vicar. It is set here in an anthem arrangement, but the sweetness of the tune is still plainly to be heard, carrying these unique words.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2004