Horatio Spafford was born in 1828 in Troy, NY and died of malaria, 60 years later in Jerusalem. His life was tested through many heights and depths to the end. Isn't it often the case in fulfillment of scripture? "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Spafford became a distinguished lawyer in Chicago, and he, with his wife Anna, were close as Christian friends of Dwight L. Moody, the evangelist, whom they supported.
Their lives began to be tilled over in 1870 through the loss of their only son through scarlet fever, followed a year later by the Great Fire of Chicago and further personal loss. But they learned the characteristics of God as a giver and through persistent hospitality which was going to prepare them for events to come.
in 1873, they were to take a vacation in Europe but Spafford was delayed through business and was going to join the family a little later. Instead, his business was abruptly halted by a telegram from Anna; "Saved Alone!"
Spafford was intimately acquainted with Peter's words; "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." 1 Peter 4 : 12
There have been many gushing words aimed at scandalizing the early colony, for many diverse reasons. Spafford had a unique passion for Jesus Christ, and intense commitment to scripture, and was drawn through a series of very trying times. Much of the hospitality of the early Colony has been scoffed on by those of the religious establishment where persecution often comes from first. He didn't seek out the praises of men, or adornments of fancy titles but was comforted by words of encouragement from representatives of other countries, posted to Jerusalem, and much appreciation by local inhabitants whether Jews or Muslims for their practical help. They had much to endure at the hands of fellow Americans, especially the US Consul, Selah Merrill, who would have loved to have dismantled the whole purpose of the community's existence. He was, after all, also representative of the American Congregationalist church and was offended by the manner of Spafford's desire to identify with the early church so beautifully described in Acts where they held property in common. Neither was Spafford a firebrand preacher with numerical revival on his mind. Instead content with the twos and threes who could testify of Christ's saving Grace. That sharing in a community smacked, to some, of a whiff of communism against the background of the emerging systems in the world. Any thoughts of selfless sharing based upon biblical teaching, gave some ground for the mockers to roll on!
False accusations accompanied their good works, to the extent that much rumor and commercial book mongering have stimulated passions of a much different sort. Where giving of appearance of a more salacious and entertaining kind, yields in our time, a much better bottom line.
Spafford, however, continues to inspire those who have a humble and contrite disposition.
Born in Tragedy
Living words are often born in darkest times, when the Light of Christ illuminates.
Bertha Spafford Vester, 1878 - 1968, Horatio Spafford's daughter, wrote the following in her book Our Jerusalem;
"In Chicago, Father searched his life for explanation. Until now, it had flowed gently as a river. Spiritual peace and worldly security had sustained his early years, his family life and his home. All around him people were asking the unvoiced question; "What guilt had brought this sweeping tragedy to Anna and Hoaratio Spafford?" Father became convinced that God was kind and that he would see his children again in heaven. This thought calmed his heart, but it was to bring Father into open conflict with what was then the Christian world.
On the way across the Atlantic (in 1873), the captain called Father into his private cabin."
"A careful reckoning has been made and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked."
"Father wrote to Aunt Rachel; "On thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down in mid-ocean, the water three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs, and there,before very long, shall we be too. In the meantime, thanks to God, we have an opportunity to serve and praise Him for His love and mercy to us and ours. I will praise Him while I have my being. May we each one arise, leave all, and follow Him.""
"To Father, this was a passing through the "valley of the shadow of death," but his faith came through triumphant and strong. On the high seas, near the place where his children perished he wrote the hymn that was to give comfort to so many"
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know;
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Tho' Satan should buffet, tho' 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, oh 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!
the following verse was added some time later;
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 shalt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
Bertha Spafford comments further;
"That he could write such words at such a time was made possible by the fierceness of his struggle and the completeness of the victory."
P. P. Bliss with Dwight L. Moody wrote the music for this hymn. "It is Well with My Soul" became famous and appears in many hymn books the world over
Original Manuscript &
The original manuscript was written on stationery paper from the Breevoort House, a hotel around the corner from Spafford's law firm in Chicago. He had some sheets with him while crossing the Atlantic and it was on this that Spafford penned the words to the famous hymn.
Watercolors of the American Colony, Jerusalem
This manuscript along with many other important records and photographs from the American Colony, Jerusalem, were given to the Library of Congress where they may be viewed online. The penned manuscript, which survived years of travel and moving around, was finally held together with many bits of scotch tape and looked in poor shape, a hundred years later. In 1993, it was professionally scanned by Kosinski Studio and the garish tape stains painstakingly edited while preserving the authentic appearance of antiquity.
A reproduction of this valuable record is available as facsimile copies as well as large posters which can be framed into handsome displays. CLICK HERE TO ORDER
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