Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Willpower to Trust (part 3)

          Passing Over

How did Spafford come to write the beloved hymn? Traveling to Europe, the Spafford girls and their mother were involved in a shipwreck that implicated a British vessel. Will Horatio Spafford lose his children or will they be saved from this tragic disaster? Why did he write the hymn? Who put the song to music?

The Spafford girls and their mother were on the liner when it rammed into a British vessel on November 21, 1873. Sadly, the ship sank in twelve minutes. The crew of the Lochearn­ frantically looked for and found Anna, Horatio’s wife, floating unconsciously of a plank. Although the Lochearn was in danger as well, they rescued her. A Trimountain cargo sailing vessel arrived on scene to save the survivors. Nine days after the ship sailed Spafford obtained a telegram. The liner the Spafford was on collided into a British vessel on November 21, 1873.

Spafford and Anna lost their very-loved children. Tragically, 226 people along with their four girls perished in the aftermath of the wreck. Complete despair was Anna’s first reaction. As she was coming to consciousness, she heard a voice articulate, “You were spared for a purpose.” Spafford traveled to be with his wife. Years after the shipwreck, the couple’s life started becoming happy again. Or was it? Anna happily delivered a son and name him Horatio and also had a daughter whose name was Bertha. Sadly, their son died at three years of age from scarlet fever. Spafford and Anna sorrowfully had their children ripped away in a shipwreck.

When did Spafford write the hymn? Upon sorrowfully receiving a telegram, which stated, “saved alone” went to his wife. Sailing over the location, the captain stated, “A careful reckoning has been made and we believe we are now passing over the area the ship went down. The water is 3 miles deep.” Although Spafford was grieving over the loss of his children, after he heard they were passing over the area, he went back to his cabin and began writing the hymn. The first verse states:

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.
While passing over the shipwreck Spafford wrote the beloved hymn.

Phillip Bliss was deeply impacted by Horatio’s story. Bliss was a composer for many songs. Impressed with Spafford’s life and words to the hymn, he composed a piece of music. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey in 1876. The reason Bliss was impressed by Horatio was that through it all Spafford held to Romans 8:28. Phillip Bliss was impacted greatly by Horatio’s story.

The S.S. Ville De Havre wreck while sailing to Europe. After the loss of their girls, the couple had two more children but tragically lost their little boy at three years old from scarlet fever. Spafford’s life was changed forever after the tragedies. Passing over the place his daughters died he wrote “It Is Well With  My Soul.”

When Spafford became a man, he received a job as a lawyer. Being successful in his practice, he invested heavily in real estate, however, everything changed after the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost everything including Spafford’s investment. While traveling over to Europe to be with his wife, he wrote the well-loved hymn, because of the loss of his children. As long as they were in Europe things were going well. They were helping Moody successfully and they had three children - one son and two daughters – however, their son died at age three. In 1881 they moved to Jerusalem to help serve the poor. Happily, they took their two daughters, who were born after the shipwreck, with them.

Unfortunately, Spafford died while he was in Jerusalem on October 16, 1888 - four days before his 60th birthday. Horatio Gates Spafford is buried in Jerusalem, Israel. Spafford’s life impressed and inspired many people especially Phillip Bliss. Phillip Bliss’s impression and inspiration was because even though Spafford lost nearly everything, he still had the willpower to trust in God and articulate “It is well with my soul.”

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