March 1, 2024
Sinking of the Ville du Havre with Horatio Spafford's four daughters aboard

Excerpt from CAST – 1 Peter 5:7 by Richard Nilsen

Imagine losing your four-year-old son to scarlet fever in 1871.  A few months later a massive fire in Chicago then wipes out numerous properties that you owned, costing you a large part of your fortune.  Two years later in 1873, you have a trip planned to Europe for you, your wife, and your four daughters.  Important business dealings, involving the rebuild from the fire, prevent you from departing on schedule.  You decide to send your family on the mid-November trip with plans to meet them at a later date.

A week later, tragedy strikes again.  In the early hours of November 22, 1873, the Ville du Havre carrying 313 passengers and crew collides with a British iron clipper.  In only twelve minutes the ship sinks and 226 people on board die.  Among them are Horatio Spafford’s four daughters.  His wife Anna survives and will later telegram her husband, “Saved alone. What shall I do…”

How do you respond?  Horatio Spafford immediately departs for England to meet up with the sole survivor of his family.  Approaching the spot where the Ville du Havre sank, the captain notified Horatio to inform him that they were passing over the approximate location of the tragedy.

Horatio had an eternal mindset and that mindset allowed him to cast all his cares to the Lord, no matter how great.  Here at this grim segment of the voyage, he was inspired to pen the lyrics to what would become one of the most beloved Christian songs of all time.

It Is Well With My Soul

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

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (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 (yes, He has) has regarded my helpless estate

And has shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought (a thought)

My sin, not in part, but the whole (every bit, every bit, all of it)

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more (yes)

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

Sing it as well

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with 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

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

‘Cause of You, Jesus, it is well

It is well (it is well)

With my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

Following the sinking of the Ville du Havre, Horatio’s wife Anna gave birth to three children.  The Spaffords would go on to become missionaries in the holy city of Jerusalem, where they set up a utopian society known as the American Colony.  There, they also adopted a fourth child, a boy named Jacob.  To add further to the Spafford legacy, Jacob discovered the Siloam Inscription, the only known extant inscription from ancient Israel and Judah which commemorates a public construction work.  The Siloam Inscription confirms Biblical accounts of the Monarchic Period5 and the existence of the Gihon spring and Hezekiah’s Tunnel which are referenced multiple times in the Old Testament.6

In January, 2023, news broke that the Pool of Siloam, a biblical site cherished by both Christians and Jews and the location where Jesus healed the blind man, was being excavated and would soon be open to the public for the first time in over 2,000 years.

 “One of most significant sites affirming Jerusalem’s biblical heritage — not simply as a matter of faith, but as a matter of fact — with significance to billions around the world, will be made fully accessible for the first time in 2,000 years,” explained Ze’ev Orenstein, director of international affairs for the City of David Foundation in Jerusalem.7

Horatio did not give up when he faced an inconceivable tragedy.  His legacy stands today as a testament to his faith in a loving God.

CAST 1 Peter 5:7
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