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Today in history, 1873, the steamship Ville du Havre was struck by an iron sailing vessel while crossing the Atlantic. 246 people died, including the four daughters of Chicago lawyer Horatio Spafford. His wife Anna survived. Just two years earlier their four-year-old son died of scarlet fever, and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 financially ruined him.

spaffordhymnWhile sailing the Atlantic to reunite with his wife after the death of their girls, he penned the beloved hymn, It Is Well with My Soul (the original manuscript is pictured to the right).

Here is Mars Hill on his life:


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12 thoughts on ““It Is Well with My Soul””

  1. Justin,

    Thanks for this great post.

    Hi from down under in the land of Oz.
    We have just posted some vinatge Graeme Goldsworthy talks on
    Biblical Theology he gave in little old Newcastle, NSW Aust
    in 2004. please feel to link them on your site etc
    http://www.christianlibrary.org.au/audio/goldsworthy.html

    Paul Thompson
    Co-founder Christian Library

  2. Richard says:

    I appreciate the hymn. My appreciation for it, though, was somewhat marred by reading a biography of him and of his wife Anna, the latter in particular who turned into a real ding-a-ling. God knows how many people she led astray in the cult she established in Jerusalem.

  3. THANK you for posting this! I never tire of this story because each time I hear it or read it, I’m reminded of how God has been redeeming this tragedy for over 100 years.

    Life’s not what happens
    It’s how you respond to it
    Opposite spirit

    And I had never heard about their eventual mercy ministry in Jerusalem. Very cool! Thanks again for sharing,

  4. Richard says:

    Christian–I’m not sure what you mean by “their eventual mercy ministry in Jerusalem.” Anna Spafford set herself up as the head of a cult. She rejected the faith once delivered.

  5. Richard says:

    I recommend you check out this book on the life of the Spaffords. Mark Driscoll wouldn’t have accepted their beliefs as orthodox in any way:http://books.google.com/books?id=u_tqMMKcDoEC&pg=PA136&dq=horatio+spafford+american+colony&lr=&ei=WX0JS9QjpYLMBOn-wbsP#v=onepage&q=horatio%20spafford%20american%20colony&f=false

  6. st rewais says:

    I recommend you check out this book on the life of the Spaffords. Mark Driscoll wouldn’t have accepted their beliefs as orthodox in any way:http://books.google.com/books?id=u_tqMMKcDoEC&pg=PA136&dq=horatio+spafford+american+colony&lr=&ei=WX0JS9QjpYLMBOn-wbsP#v=onepage&q=horatio%20spafford%20american%20colony&f=false

  7. Faith says:

    Just because it is published, doesn’t mean it is factual or true. That book was written to be a scandalous expose, because scandal sells books. Since they first arrived in Jerusalem, they were ridiculed, even if slander was the only way to achieve it. For instance, it was said they journeyed regularly to the Mount of Olives in order to be the first to offer the returning Messiah a cup of tea. In actual fact, the Mount of Olives is a wonderful place for a Sunday picnic, with a cool breeze and offering a splendid view of the city. In order to gain access to family papers, the author, Jane Fletcher Geniesse, misrepresented her goal to the elderly matriarch. When presented with conflicting accounts of events, she always chose the most scandalous and dismissed other accounts as untrue and self-serving. It is wiser to allow the evidence of their very real ministry to the poor in the Old City to be their testament, rather than this author’s vile story.

  8. Richard says:

    Faith–the book is pretty heavily foot-noted. The author made a point of noting their ministry to the poor. That does not make up for the fact, very well established, that Anna Spafford in particular denied the essentials of the Christian faith and set herself up as the leader of a cult who exercised pretty heavy authority over her followers.

  9. Faith says:

    When gossip is repeated, it is still just gossip. When lies are repeated, or published again, they are still lies. “Denied the essentials of the Christian faith”, you say, and claim it “a fact, very well established”. I would ask you, what “essentials”, a fact established by whom, supported by what evidence? The only thing she denied was that her dead babies would not be received in heaven (the opinion held by her church at the time). That factored into their decision to travel to Jerusalem. As for the footnotes, I agree they are “heavy”, but one wonders if the author does not rely too heavily on the gossip and lies, because the footnotes lead back to the same sources. An analysis shows this to be the case, while the author has discounted other sources that show Anna in a favorable light. Like I said – there’s nothing like a scandal to sell books. While this author gets rich, the ministry to the poor in the Old City of Jerusalem needs support – (http://spaffordcenter.org/index.html) Please consider making a donation.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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