On Sunday we sang a great hymn. I shared it with our congregation in my weekly email message. I think it is worth sharing more broadly on this website.
In the late nineteenth century, Horatio Spofford was a wealthy Chicago lawyer. In the great Chicago fire of 1871, he lost much of his fortune. In the panic of 1873 he lost most of what was left.
His wife’s health and his financial trials prompted his family physician to recommend an ocean voyage. At the last minute, pressing business demands forced him to stay behind while his wife and four children set out across the Atlantic. He would follow them on the next ship.
Six days out at sea, the steamer Ville du Havre collided with the English ship Lochearn and sank within fifteen minutes. From France, Mr. Spofford received a cable from his wife that read, “Saved alone. Children lost. What shall I do?”
He set sail immediately to be with his wife. On the sixth day at sea, the captain notified Mr. Spofford that they were at that very moment passing over the spot where his four daughters were buried at the bottom of the sea. He suddenly turned away and went below.
Sitting at the captain’s desk, he wrote a poem that we sang yesterday:
When peace, like a river attendeth my way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul