From the archives at Melody Publications, we bring the history of the beloved hymn "It Is Well." This history and hundreds of others are found in the "Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs" hymnal. We are dedicated to keeping these rich stories alive for the next generation, and we are confident that God will continue to use these songs to bless, encourage, and strengthen his saints for many years to come.
"As Sankey concluded a hymn in Farwell Hall, fire bells rang shrilly. It was October 8, 1871, and Chicago was ablaze. Sankey took a rowboat onto the lake to escape while Moody “saved nothing but his reputation and his Bible.” As Chicago rebuilt in 1872, Moody traveled to England, leaving Sankey in charge. The young daughters of Horatio Spafford, a lawyer and Christian businessman, were reached with the gospel in this year. Spafford, a great supporter of Moody’s work financially, lost most of his possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. Needing a rest, the family decided to visit England in November of 1873. Called back suddenly, Horatio sent Anna and their four daughters on ahead, promising to join them shortly. After midnight, a week into their journey, their vessel, the Ville de Havre, collided with another vessel. Mrs. Spafford struggled helplessly to save her daughters, but all four perished with the two-year-old swept from her arms as the ship sank in just twelve minutes. Rescued while barely conscious, Anna reached Europe and sent a telegram which began, “Saved alone. What shall I do…” Spafford immediately sailed for Europe and, as he passed over the site of the shipwreck, penned these lines. He stated to the ship’s captain: “It is well; the will of God be done.”
While at Major Whittle’s home in November of 1876, Horatio asked Bliss to pen a tune appropriate for the lines. On November 24, Bliss stood in the newly rebuilt Farwell Hall before a thousand preachers and sang the song for the first time. None would suspect that another great tragedy lay just ahead. This was Bliss’ last time to sing before a congregation. Having taken a rest with family in Pennsylvania, Bliss was returning with his wife just five weeks later when a bridge gave way near Ashtabula, Ohio, and their passenger train collapsed into the icy waters below. Escaping the wreckage, Bliss returned to save his wife – neither survived.
In later life, the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem. While hosting British general Charles Gordon on the roof of the American Colony, the general surveyed the landscape and noticed a rocky formation resembling a large skull. Intrigued by the match to the scriptural depiction of Golgotha, Gordon investigated the site. Here he discovered an adjacent garden containing an empty tomb. The “Garden Tomb” or “Gordon’s Tomb” welcomes thousands of tourists each year and aligns directly to the gospel records!"
The above passage is a direct quotation from the "Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs" hymnal (copyright 2018), song 516, "It Is Well with My Soul." All rights reserved.