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Mr. Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago and a member of the Fullerton Avenue Presbyterian Church in that city. In the financial crisis of 1873, he lost most of his property. In the stress and strain of the times, he prevailed on his wife and four daughters to take a trip to France—to get as far away from the scene of worry as possible. He booked passage for them on the Ville de Havre. They set sail November 15, 1873.

The trip was uneventful, and its hundreds of passengers were enjoying the indescribable uplift of an ocean voyage. That is, until the night of November 22.

Shortly after midnight the Loch Earn, bound for New York, collided with the Ville de Havre. In a few minutes, the French ocean liner sank beneath the waves. The Loch Earn, which was not damaged by the collision, rescued as many survivors as they could find. Of the 226 passengers on the Ville de Havre, only 87 survived.

Mrs. Spafford was among the survivors, but the four daughters perished. As soon as Mrs. Spafford reached land, she telegraphed from France to her husband: “Saved alone Children lost. What shall I do?”

The Chicago attorney left immediately to join his wife and bring her back to Chicago. It was in the depths of their bereavement that he wrote his one and only hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” The grief of his terrible loss and the peace he experienced as he and his wife submitted their lives to God’s providential dealings, he describes in the four stanzas of the hymn.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrow like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot,

Thou hast taught me to say,

“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Though Satan should...

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