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Horatio Spafford: The Story Behind the Song
RaptureWatch ^ | Undated | Unattributed

Posted on 08/11/2011 1:29:25 AM PDT by GiovannaNicoletta

The popular hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" was written by Horatio G. Spafford, a popular Chicago lawyer during the mid-1800s. You might think to write a worship song such as this, he would probably have to be a rich, successful Chicago lawyer. In reality, he was a very successful lawyer. But the words,

"When sorrows like sea billows roll ... It is well with my soul”, were not written during the happiest period of Spafford's life. On the contrary, they came from a man who had suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy.

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was wiped out by the "Great Chicago Fire".

Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest but D.L. Moody, who was preaching in England, needed the help. He was traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French steamer 'Ville de Havre' across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned. He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read: "Saved alone."

On November 2nd 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. 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. When 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 terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "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." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.

The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told "her soul is vexed within her", she still maintains that 'It is well." And Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers was.

It would be very difficult for any of us to predict how we would react under circumstances similar to those experienced by the Spaffords. But we do know that the God who sustained them would also be with us. No matter what circumstances overtake us may we be able to say with Horatio Spafford

. . . It is well ... with my soul!

TOPICS: General Discusssion; History

1 posted on 08/11/2011 1:29:27 AM PDT by GiovannaNicoletta
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

Fantastic story.

2 posted on 08/11/2011 1:37:49 AM PDT by Jonty30
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

Thank you for posting this.

3 posted on 08/11/2011 1:39:35 AM PDT by skr (May God confound the enemy)
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

Those who have made peace with God can be confident that all is well. No matter how bad it is here, we cannot even begin to grasp how good it will turn out in the end. God will set things aright for those who love Him. What could possibly be better than that? Nothing.

4 posted on 08/11/2011 2:02:42 AM PDT by CitizenUSA (Bad is easy. Anyone can do bad. Good, OTOH, is work. It takes discipline.)
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

5 posted on 08/11/2011 2:21:09 AM PDT by EverOnward
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

I’ve just never been fond of this hymn.

6 posted on 08/11/2011 2:24:37 AM PDT by balch3
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To: EverOnward

This is one of my favorite versions of it. I bought the Chris Rice album.

I happen to love this hymn. It’s not my very favorite, but it is a nice one.

7 posted on 08/11/2011 2:38:59 AM PDT by I still care (I miss my friends, bagels, and the NYC skyline - but not the taxes. I love the South.)
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

Just before departing NYC Horatio had his family moved from a lower deck on the ship to rooms nearer the surface.
Horatio and his wife went to have two more children, I believe, and they moved to the Holy land starting a mission there.
After the great Chicago fire (where his business properties were destroyed) they made their home a rescue mission where many who had been displaced could come, live and be fed. They were exhausted by the demands of ministry and thus the move to Europe. The girls were going to be schooled in England (I think) for at least one year.
H G Spafford died in the Holy Land where the family had quite an impact manifesting the Love of Christ.
Throughout their lives the H G Spafford family showed hospitality to anyone in need that they met.

8 posted on 08/11/2011 3:43:10 AM PDT by PastorJimCM (truth matters)
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

George Beverly Shea used to sing this frequently at Billy Graham’s rallies. Was one of my mom’s favorites and we played it at her memorial service.

9 posted on 08/11/2011 4:16:23 AM PDT by Grams A (The Sun will rise in the East in the morning and God is still on his throne.)
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To: I still care

That’s my favorite hymn on my favorite Chris Rice album. I went to college with Chris. I haven’t seen him in years, but I remember him fondly. I remember him lugging a guitar around and singing songs like Because He Lives and El Shaddai. I also remember he was already writing his own songs. Back then he and a friend did the music for a lot of revivals and youth conferences.

10 posted on 08/11/2011 5:30:16 AM PDT by .45 Long Colt
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To: .45 Long Colt

I hope he decides to do more hymn albums. I’m not a fan of contemporary christian, so to find these hymns was a rare gift for me.

I sort of go against the flow, music wise. For me, simpler is better, but I like strong melody. I love old music from the early sixties (British INvasion) doo-op, and raw tapes of great singers just singing. Your friend has such a gift for a strong vocal that’s not florid. And he puts in such emotion without warbling up and down the scale like a goat. (One of my pet peeves about today’s music.)

I sound so critical, I guess. But I really like these hymns. My favorite old hymn is How Firm a Foundation. That has such strong meaning for me. People think of it as an old song but it is so strong and relevant today:

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

11 posted on 08/11/2011 9:23:35 AM PDT by I still care (I miss my friends, bagels, and the NYC skyline - but not the taxes. I love the South.)
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

Inispiring! Such a story! Thank You!! Amen!

12 posted on 08/11/2011 2:01:58 PM PDT by johngrace (1 John 4)
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To: GiovannaNicoletta

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, 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!
Blessèd hope, blessèd 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.


13 posted on 08/11/2011 2:06:00 PM PDT by johngrace (1 John 4)
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To: johngrace

14 posted on 08/11/2011 2:07:16 PM PDT by johngrace (1 John 4)
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