| It is Well with My Soul |

Written: 1873
Authors: Horatio G. Spafford (words) Philip P. Bliss (music)

Inside view shows sheet music side by side with hymn history.

Perhaps no other Gospel song has proven what the longevity of a scripturaly based song can be, as has "It Is Well With My Soul." Hardly a week goes by but that I hear it on some radio or television program or hear it sung in a church. Yet it was written over 100 years ago in 1873.
I'll relay the story of its writing as it was told to me back in the early 1940's by George C. Stebbins, an associate of D. L. Moody and a man who knew both Horatio Spafford and P. P. Bliss, the writers of this song.

Mr. Spafford was a well-known Christian lawyer, in Chicago, who also had great holdings in real estate in the fast-growing frontier town. He had been led into a deeper dedication of his life and wealth to the Lord through his association with D. L. Moody and Henry Moorehouse, the English Bible teacher who had come to Chicago and had preached seven sermons on John 3:16. 

In 1871 the great tragedy of fire struck Chicago and in a matter of a few hours much of Mr. Spafford's real estate holdings were nothing but ashes. This proved a real test for him, but little did he know there would be a far greater testing for him in the not-too-distant future.

After the fire, most of young Chicago lay in ruins. The first building erected on the ashes was a building built by Mr. Moody called the North Side Tabernacle. It was at this place that Mr. Spafford kept himself occupied in helping those whose loss in actual money was not as great as his; but like the widow who gave all, they had lost all. He was fortunate for he still had his law practice, his family, and also had some equity left.

In November of 1873, some two years after the fire, many of the schools in Chicago had not yet been rebuilt and so Mr. Spafford decided that he would take his family to England where his children could enroll in an English Academy and not be held back in their education.

Just before they were to leave, a last-minute business development made it necessary for Mr. Spafford to remain in Chicago and to send his wife and children on ahead. He would come later, on another ship.

The Spafford family arrived safely in New York and boarded the ship Villa de Havre. Soon they were on their way to England, but in mid-ocean there was a collision between their ship and an English sailing ship. The Villa de Havre floundered and sank, taking with her to the bottom of the ocean most of those onboard, including the Spaffords' four daughters. Mrs. Spafford was found barely conscious but clinging to a piece of the wreckage. While aboard the rescue ship which was taking her and the other survivors to England, she was able to draft a short message which was sent to her husband in Chicago. It read, "Saved, alone."

When Mr. Spafford received this message, the tragedy of the fire seemed but nothing in comparison to what this cablegram implied. Money and burned buildings could be replaced but his children were gone! It was through these clouds of darkness and despair that there shone, into the heart of H. G. Spafford, the bright light of God's promise. God would not forsake him in the trying hour no matter what the circumstances. Peace like a river or sorrows like sea billows with God all is well!

Captured by this thought, Mr. Spafford quickly penned the words of the song that soon would herald its way through the Christian church and encourage multitudes. It would continue doing so for over a hundred years. When he finished writing the words, Mr. Spafford took the poem over to a friend and neighbor who also lived on May Street. His name was P. P. Bliss, the composer who gave the words a most fitting melody one that has kept the message of the song alive and vibrant all of these years." ABS

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