Monday, January 28, 2019

Horatio Gates Spafford

Horatio Gates Spafford (1828—1888) is famous for penning the words to the famous hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” which Philip Bliss later put to music. Spafford and his wife were close friends and supporters of the evangelist Dwight L. Moody. His booklet Waiting For The Morning and Other Poems was published by H.F. Revell (Chicago) in 1878.

Spafford’s tragic story is almost as well-known as the hymn. In 1873, his wife and four daughters were crossing the Atlantic aboard the steamship SS Ville de Havre when it collided with another vessel. Spafford’s wife, Anna, survived, but all four girls perished. According to another daughter who was born after this event, Horatio Spafford wrote the first four stanzas of “It Is Well With My Soul” on his ocean journey to meet his wife in England. The place where their daughters drowned was shown to him, which for us gives even greater power to the simile in the second line.

After returning to Chicago, the Spaffords became preoccupied with views that were inconsistent with those of their Presbyterian community. They left their church and held prayer meetings in their home. In 1881 they moved to Jerusalem to establish The American Colony there.

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.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),
with my soul (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 hath 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 His 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 pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

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.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.