~ Sunday Hymn history ~
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It Is Well With My Soul
Submitted By margery on 10/05/17
A Maiden's Musings, margery, Documents, Hymn History, Music, Praise, Worship, Thoughts, Sorrow, Hymns, Horatio Spafford, Philip Bliss 

This is one of my very favorite hymns.  The story behind it brings me to tears, as well as challenges me to place even greater trust in my Saviour, every time I hear it.  

The hymn "It is Well with My Soul" was written by a Horatio G. Spafford, a Chicago lawyer.  One would think that it would be easy to write a song titled 'it is well with my soul', as a rich, successful Chicago lawyer - but in truth, the words of this widely loved and powerful hymn were penned in the midst of one of the most tragical and heart-wrenching moments in the life of a man who had suffered almost unimaginable loss.

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were well-known in 1860's Chicago.  And not merely in virtue of Horatio's legal career or extensive business endeavors.  The Spaffords were devout Christians, and were dedicated to the scriptures.  They were also prominent supporters and close friends of D. L. Moody, the famous evangelist.  In was in the year 1870 that the first in a series of tragic events took place - the Spafford's suffered the loss of their only son to scarlet fever at the age of four.  Only a year later, the great Chicago Fire struck, completely destroying every one of Horatio's extensive real estate investments on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The Spaffords were left in straitened means.  

In 1873, Horatio planned to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. He was aware of the toll the recent disasters had taken on his family, and he also wished to assist D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey in one of their evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. The Spaffords traveled to New York, from whence they were to catch the French steamer 'Ville du Havre' bound across the Atlantic. Yet on the blustery November day they were due to depart, a last minute business development forced Spafford to stay behind.  Not wanting to spoil the trip, he convinced his wife to take the girls on ahead.  He would follow them as soon as possible.  According to the new plan, Anna and her four little girls sailed East toward Europe unaccompanied, while Horatio returned West to Chicago.  Nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife, who was in Wales.  It contained two simple words: "Saved alone."

The 'Ville du Havre'  had collided with the 'Loch Earn', a Scottish vessel.  It sank in a scant 12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people.  Among the crowd of terrified souls on deck, Anna Spafford bravely stood with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta, clinging desperately to her.  Her last memory of the appalling event was her baby being torn from her arms by the force of the surging ocean.  Anna was miraculously saved from the fate of the others by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body, propping her up.  

When the 61 survivors were picked up by a passing ship, a fellow passenger, Pastor Weiss, recalled Anna saying, "God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday, I will understand why".

Upon hearing the awful news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife.  While out at sea, the captain of the ship called Horatio to the bridge.  "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and I believe we are now passing the precise spot where the 'Ville du Havre'  was wrecked.  The water is three miles deep."  Horatio turned on his  heel and regained his cabin.  While he sat there, he took pen in hand and recorded the lyrics to his great hymn.

The words which Spafford wrote that day were inspired by 2 Kings 4:26.  They echo the response of the Shunammite  woman to the sudden death of her only child.  Though we are told that "her soul was vexed within her", yet she maintained that "It is well."  Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers was.  It is noteworthy that Horatio Spafford did not dwell on the theme of life's sorrows and trials, but instead, focused in the third stanza on the redemptive work of Christ, and in the fourth verse, anticipates His glorious second coming. 

Philip P. Bliss, the hymn composer, was a prolific writer of gospel songs. He was so impressed with the experience and expression of Spafford's text that he was inspired to write the music for it.  Shortly after writing 'It is Well With My Soul,' Bliss was killed in a tragic train accident.

On reflection, it is awe-inspiring that one could experience such personal tragedies and sorrows as did Horatio Spafford, yet able to say with such assurance and conviction, "It is well with my soul." It is an enormous challenge to embrace the significance of this magnificent hymn.

~*~     God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  - Psalms 46:1     ~*~

~ It Is Well With My Soul ~
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well,
with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when my 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.
Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888)

Mrs. Anna Spafford

The sinking of the S.S. Ville du Havre

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Re: ~ Sunday Hymn history ~
4 weeks - 32,767v
Posted 2010/05/31 - 1:01 GMT
I love this hymn.  So inspiring.

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