“It Is Well With My Soul”

Hello everyone. I hope everyone stayed out of the heat today. I can’t remember a September that has seen temperatures in the 90’s for so many days. I understand that next week is going to be a little cooler but none too soon for me.

Last week we took a look at the history behind the hymn “The Love of God” and I hope it had as much of an impact on you as it did me. I love the fact that God chooses to use people to inspire and encourage other people. We all benefit from His involvement in the lives of those who are willing to listen to His call on their lives. Even when tragedy strikes God often uses the circumstances to orchestrate another symphony of assurance that He is in control. Bless His name!

Tonight I will share the history of another old hymn that was also borne out of tragedy. I hope you enjoy this article about “It Is Well With My Soul” that I came across during my research.

‘It is Well With My Soul’ The rest of the stories.

You’ve probably heard the famous story of Haratio Spafford writing “It Is Well with My Soul” following the death of his four daughters. The story goes that as he sailed across the area were their ship went down and they drowned, he wrote the popular hymn.

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.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, 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!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Some of the story may be true, but there’s much more to the story before and after the song!

In the 1870s, Spafford was a very successful lawyer in Chicago and heavily invested in real estate. In 1871, the great Chicago fire destroyed all his downtown investment properties.

In 1873, he and his family planned a vacation trip to Europe. While in Great Britain, he planned to help his good friend Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey, whom he had financially supported, with their evangelistic tour. Spafford sent his wife and four girls—ages 11, 9, 7 and 2—ahead while he finished up last-minute business in Chicago. On November 22, the S.S. Ville Du Havre struck another ship and sank within twelve minutes. Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband “Saved alone.”

One story reports that Spafford wrote “It Is Well with My Soul” while passing over the very spot of the ocean where his four daughters perished while another, more reliable report, claims he wrote it two years later when Moody and Sankey were visiting his home.

But the tragedy surrounding the hymn didn’t end there. Horatio and Anna returned to Chicago, and gave birth to Horatio II who would die at four years old of scarlet fever in 1876. Two years later, the couple gave birth to Bertha, who would write that her parents not only suffered the pain of losing their fortune and five children, but it was compounded by a crisis of faith. Were the children’s deaths a punishment from God? Did He no longer love them? Horatio felt himself in danger of losing his faith.

In 1881, Anna gave birth to a sixth daughter, appropriately named “Grace.” Shortly after, the family of four moved to Jerusalem, with Horatio explaining, “Jerusalem is where my Lord lived, suffered, and conquered, and I wish to learn how to live, suffer, and especially to conquer.”

The family would remain in Jerusalem and set up a children’s home. And like his children, he too would die tragically. Some reports claim he began to suffer delusions that he was the second Messiah, while his family insists it was the malaria fever from which he died that caused the mental confusion.

But the tragedy surrounding the hymn didn’t end there, either. The tune was written by Philip P. Bliss, which he entitled “Ville du Havre,” the name of the ship that took the lives of Spafford’s four daughters. The hymn was first sung by Bliss himself before a large gathering of ministers hosted by Moody on November 24, 1876.

Just one month later, on December 29, 1876, Bliss and wife were traveling to Chicago by train. As the train passed over a trestle near Ashtabula, Ohio, the bridge collapsed and the passenger coaches plunged 75 into the icy river. Philip was able to escape through a window, but his wife was pinned in the wreckage. As he went back to free his wife, a fire broke out through the wooden cars and both were burned beyond recognition.

Nine tragic deaths surround the hymn, and yet those affected by them, could say, “It is well with my soul.” And to me, that is indeed “blest assurance.” It is well with my soul . . . if nothing else!

© Copyright 2008 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved.

Again I say that the old hymns of the faith should be sung a lot more often than they are today. They came of the hearts of those who God used for HIs glory. We need to share in that glory with others. 

“The Love of God”

Hello everyone. Hope you all have had a great week. It’s been nice in the mornings but the rest of the day has still been like summer. But I’m ready for Fall and the consistent milder temperatures it brings.

As I suggested in a previous post, I think it would be encouraging to take a look at the history of some of the old songs and hymns of the faith. So I have decided to start the endeavor with this post. The first song we will consider is “The Love of God”. This song is one of the greatest ever written in my opinion and every time I hear it I’m moved almost to tears.

(Verse 1) The love of God is greater far Than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star, And reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled, And pardoned from his sin.


O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall for evermore endure

The saints’ and angels’ song.

(Verse 2) When years of time shall pass away, And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,

When men, who here refuse to pray, On rocks and hills and mountains call,

God’s love so sure, shall still endure, All measureless and strong;

Redeeming grace to Adam’s race-The saints’ and angels’ song.

 (Verse 3) Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.

As I researched the history of the song I came across the following article which says it all.

MUSIC OF THE MESSAGE: The Story of “The Love of God”

Down through the tedious ages of time man’s heart has been cheered at the thought of the boundless love of God, and in his soul there has often been touched a responsive chord to that wonderful love. So compelling is this love that it is often felt by the most unfortunate and seemingly hopeless of mortals. Some years ago after the patient in a certain room in one of the mental institutions of our land had found release from his pathetic earthly sojourn, and his room was being readied for another unfortunate occupant, the attendants found scrawled on the walls of the room the following profound lines:

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade: To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry, Nor could the scroll contain the whole Though stretched from sky to sky.”

In his saner moments this poor, troubled soul had poured out his simple heart of love to his God.

In the ensuing years these lines were often quoted, and many hearts were touched. Early in the twentieth century an additional two stanzas and chorus, with a simple melody, were written by F. M. Lehman, using the foregoing as a climax in the third stanza. The melody was harmonized by his daughter, Mrs. W. W. Mays. It was nearly twenty years later that the song first “caught fire,” and people in all walks of life began singing it.

But always there were inquiries about “that third stanza,” and though the story of its origin never failed to make a solemn and heart-stir ring impression, many continued to feel that the language of those lines indicated a source even beyond that, perhaps somewhere in the dim and hoary past. They felt that the lines had only been quoted by the inmate in the story.

After endless searching in libraries someone decided to ask a Jewish rabbi—perhaps he would have a clue. The rabbi listened intently to the words, and quietly replied, “Yes, I can tell you who the author of those lines is. Rabbi Hertz, chief rabbi in the British Empire at one time, wrote a book entitled A Book of Jewish Thought. Go to a Jewish bookstore, and on page 213 you will find that this poem was writ ten in A.D. 1050 by a Jewish poet, Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai.” It is in the hymnology of the synagogue used for the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).

We can imagine this poet standing on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, contemplating the great love of his Jehovah. His heart is moved by the fires of inspiration. As the love of God sweeps over Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai’s soul, his imagination fills the ocean with ink, the arching skies seem to magnify the scope of this all-compelling love, and the papyrus marsh comes to life with countless scribes writing ceaselessly and tirelessly about the measureless love of God.

Nehorai’s love epic lay dormant through succeeding centuries. But Providence watched over and preserved these memorable lines. Yes, the third stanza of “The Love of God” was written by a Jewish poet in A.D. 1050. Time passed, then God put it into the heart of a Gen tile song writer, F. M. Lehman, whose heart also responded to God’s love, to add the two stanzas and chorus in our own day, in Pasadena, California, in 1917.

Isn’t it amazing how God using people to use the gifts He gave them to inspire and encourage other people. But that’s more proof of how much He loves us.

Saturday Evening Post – September 10, 2016

I apologize for the lateness of the hour so I’ll keep my comments to a minimum tonight. It has been a day full of work around the house including painting in the kitchen and cleaning out rooms with a lot of stuff in them. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate over an extended period of time. It’s obvious we don’t need a lot of it because it hasn’t been used in quite a long time. I would be willing to bet that we are not the only ones like that.

I haven’t finalized the topic of my next series of discussions yet but I’m leaning towards the possibility of the history of some of the old hymns of the faith and their writers. There is no doubt in my mind that most of them were directed and inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen the words of the songs. Most likely because of their first hand experience in the trials they faced. I have already done some of the research for a few and hopefully I’ll be prepared to begin sharing  them with you within the next couple of weeks.

I hope all of you have a blessed day in the Lord tomorrow. For me, I need the experience of being in God’s house with God’s people to help give me a renewed spirit to continue to serve Him. May God bless each of you in a special way. 



Saturday Evening Post – September 3, 2016

Good evening everyone. I’m sure all of you have spent most of the day watching the first of many college football games that will be played over the next few months. It seems that all of the major teams are playing this weekend and it looks like it is going to be a banner year for some and not so good for others. However, it is hard to tell this early in the season. But good luck to each of your favorite teams.

But back to real world. While we have our eyes glued to the television and our ears filled with game noise, there is a great big world out there that needs to hear the good news that Jesus loves them and will forgive all of their sins if they are willing to repent and turn their lives over to Him. There is also a multitude of christian’s out there that have become weary in their walk and their faith has been put to the test with the things going on in the world today. No doubt they need to be encouraged and lifted up by those of us who are willing to step up and share our lives and God’s word with them. The Bible teaches believers to bear one another’s burdens but I don’t see a lot of that happening today. I know that I need to take a step back and take a closer look at myself. Maybe we all should.

Speaking of the need for encouragement of other believers, all of the guys in our quartet have come to the conclusion that God has called us to a ministry of encouragement in addition to sharing the gospel. We all have had our times of anxiety, fear, doubt and discouragement. Our faith has also been tested like so many others. But the thing we have realized is that God has never left us even though we may have been away from Him. Our desire is to be able to share with others how God has always been faithful in hopes that someone will come to know the Lord and that those who already know Him will also be encouraged.

Please pray for us that we will stay humble and that folks will recognize how sincere we are in the passion that God has put in our hearts. We only want to do His will so that He will receive all of the honor and glory in all that we do. We are praying that He will use us and open up the doors that He wants us to walk through. Thank you in advance for your prayers on our behalf.

 I hope everyone has a great day in the Lord tomorrow. May God richly bless each and every one of you.