Tag Archives: hymns

It is well with my soul

Horatio SpaffordHoratio Spafford was a well known and well to do lawyer, real estate investor, and church elder in 1860s Chicago, he was also good friends with famed preacher D.L. Moody. In 1870 him and his wife lost their only son to scarlet fever, he was four at the time. One year later in 1871 every one of his properties he had invested in along Lake Michigan in Chicago were destroyed by the “Great Chicago Fire”

After all of the stress of losing a son, and then losing all of his investments he decided to take his wife and four daughters to Europe to join his good friend D.L. Moody in sharing the Gospel. Not having planes back then they had to take a boat. They traveled from Chicago to New York to board a boat, the “Ville de Havre.” 

The family was ready to go, but, at the last minute a real estate deal that Horatio was involved in had to be handled. This forced him to return to Chicago. So, to avoid ruining the family vacation, he sent on his wife and four daughters ahead saying he would catch up with them soon.Nine days later, in Chicago, Horatio received a telegram from his wife who was now in Wales. The telegram read, “saved alone.”

spafford - telegram 1

On November 2nd, 1873 the “Ville de Havre” had collided with the “Lochearn”, an English boat. It took the boat only 12 minutes to sink, killing 226 of it’s passengers including Horatio and Anna’s four daughters. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up.

Ville de HavreWhen the survivors of the wreck had been rescued, Mrs. Spafford’s first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, “You were spared for a purpose.” And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”

Upon hearing the news Horatio immediately boarded a boat out of New York to meet his wife in Europe. Upon reaching the place where the “Ville de Havre” had sunk the captain called him to the deck. A careful reckoning has been made”, he said, “and I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.”

Upon visiting the place where his daughter’s had met their watery death Horatio wrote a poem. A poem that we now know as the classic hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” He based the poem loosely off of a passage in 2nd Kings chapter 4. A story of a woman who had lost her only son.

In the midst of great sorrow, terrible agony, and the loss of all of his children and riches Horatio wrote this beautiful and classic hymn:

<Audio from Together for the Gospel men singing this hymn. (YouTube)>

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,It is well
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.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with 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!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with 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.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio’s hope wasn’t with the present, he looked past the pain and anguish he must have felt and instead trusted that the God He trusted in, the God who’s grace He was originally going to Europe to preach, would hold him and give him peace.

After this tragedy the Spaffords had three more children, one boy, Horatio Goertner, Bertha Herges, and Grace. Again, Horatio would lose his only son to illness. Horatio Goertner died of pneumonia at the age of 4. After the loss of his son Horatio and family moved to Jerusalem where they would live doing philanthropic work until Horatio died of Malaria in 1888.