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It Is Well With My Soul
penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
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 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 the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
I find that I often return to this hymn when the bad news of the world, personal or not, seems to pile up. Humming the song to myself today, I decided to explore its history – since as I begin this writing I do not know its history.
Let’s learn a little about the song’s authors:
Horatio Gates Spafford (October 20, 1828, Troy, New York – October 16, 1888, Jerusalem) was a prominent American lawyer and Presbyterian church elder.
Spafford was the son of Gazetteer author Horatio Gates Spafford and Elizabeth Clark Hewitt Spafford.
On September 5, 1861 he married Anna Larsen of Stavanger, Norway in Chicago. Spafford was a lawyer and a senior partner in a large law firm. The Spaffords were supporters and friends of evangelist Dwight L. Moody.
Spafford invested in real estate north of Chicago in the spring of 1871. In October 1871, the Great Fire of Chicago reduced the city to ashes, destroying most of Spafford’s investment.
Two years after the devastation of the Great Chicago Fire the family planned a trip to Europe. Late business demands (zoning issues arising from the conflagration) kept Spafford from joining his wife and four daughters on a family vacation in England where his friend D. L. Moody would be preaching.
On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, the ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel killing 226 people, including all four of Spafford’s daughters: Annie, age 12; Maggie, 7; Bessie, 4; and an 18-month old baby. His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford that read “Saved alone.” As Spafford sailed to England to join his wife, he wrote It Is Well with My Soul.
I… just cannot imagine. “When sorrows like sea billows roll” indeed. My goodness.
Philip Paul Bliss (9 July 1838 – 29 December 1876) was an American composer, conductor, writer of hymns and a bass-baritone Gospel singer. He wrote many well-known hymns, including “Hold the Fort” (1870), “Almost Persuaded” (1871); “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!” (1875); “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”; “Wonderful Words of Life” (1875); and the tune for Horatio Spafford‘s “It Is Well with My Soul” (1876). Bliss was a recognized friend of D. L. Moody the famous Chicago preacher. Bliss died in a train crash on his way to one of Moody’s meetings. An outspoken Abolitionist, he served as a Lieutenant during the American Civil War.
Regarding the song, the last line’s lyrics were subsequently changed to say “even so, it is well with my soul.”
The song remains one of the most well-known hymns of all time, appearing in hymnals of a wide variety of Christian denominations. Some of the music from the song is included below: