NOTE: This will be the only post today. Regular blogging, other than Positivity Posts, will resume on Monday afternoon or evening if there’s blogworthy news, otherwise early on Tuesday morning.
HT for the following story, timely for a New Year that brings with it so much anticipation yet, as always, potential for disappointment, goes to frequent commenter Excelsior.
Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888) was the author of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul“. There are many authors of many hymns, but it is perhaps the story surrounding Horatio Spafford’s life when he wrote the hymn which makes the author’s story so exceptional and enduring, and the words of his hymn so forceful.
Spafford was born on October 28, 1828, in North Troy, New York.
First tragedy: His loss of property in the Great Chicago Fire
In 1871 he and his wife Anna were still grieving over the death of their son. Horatio was a lawyer in Chicago, and friend of the famous preacher D. L. Moody. He had invested heavily in real estate. So when the Great Chicago Fire happened, it meant that he lost almost everything he owned.
Second tragedy: The four daughters died
Two years later, in 1873, Spafford decided his family should take a holiday in Europe, and knowing that Moody would preach in England in the fall, he decided to take his family there. However, he was delayed because of business, so he sent his family on ahead of him: his wife Anna, and his four daughters Tanetta, Maggie, Annie and Bessie. On November 21, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and two hundred and twenty six people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. Somehow his wife, Anna, survived. On arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Horatio with the words “Saved alone.”
Spafford then himself took a ship to England, going past the place where his daughters had died. According to his daughter, Bertha Spafford, the hymn was written in 1873 in mid-Atlantic.
Below are the lyrics of the hymn It Is Well With My Soul done by Spafford. The original manuscript has the four verses below, but Spafford’s daughter states how later another verse was added and one of the lines of the original was slightly modified.
1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
“It is well, it is well with my soul”
Chorus: It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul
2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. (Repeat chorus)
3. My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross,and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (Repeat chorus)
4. And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound,and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.(Repeat chorus)
The music, by Philip Bliss, was named after the ship on which his daughters had all died, Ville Du Havre.
The American Colony in Jerusalem
In August 1881, the Spaffords set out for Jerusalem as a party of 13 adults and 3 children and set up an American Colony there.
Moved by a series of profound tragic losses, Chicago natives Anna and Horatio Spafford led a small American contingent in 1881 to Jerusalem to form a Christian utopian society known as the “American Colony.” Colony members, later joined by Swedish Christians, engaged in philanthropic work amongst the people of Jerusalem regardless of their religious affiliation and without proselytizing motives–thereby gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. During and immediately after World War I, the American Colony played a critical role in supporting these communities through the great suffering and deprivations of the eastern front by running soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable ventures.