About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

Home Page

It Is Well With My Soul 


Horatio Stafford (1828 - 1888) was a wealthy Christian lawyer and business man.  He lived in Chicago during the great fire of October 8, 1871.  The fire destroyed much of the city, including his real-estate investments.  As bad as this loss was, shortly before this disaster, his son suddenly died.  Horatio certainly had reason to sorrow.  As sad as this was, the tragedy doesn't end here. 


Two years after the great fire and the death of his son, Horatio planned a preaching campaign with Dwight L. Moody in England.  Since he was going to England, he made arrangements for his wife and four daughters to accompany him.  Although he would be busy doing the work of the Lord, he hoped the trip would be a needed  vacation to ease the heart and mind of his sorrowing wife.


Horatio sent his wife and four daughters on ahead while he stayed home to do some last minute business.  He was to join them in England later.  Several days passed when he received news that the ship carrying his wife and daughters sunk during a bad storm, killing all four daughters.  Only his wife survived.  What was meant to be a vacation for his sorrowing wife, and the work of the Lord for Horatio, became a horrible nightmare. 


Most of us would have been pretty upset with the Lord if found in a similar situation.  Why would Jesus allow the loss of a son, four daughters, and a lifetime of investments?  Where's the logic?  Where's the love of God?  This disaster didn't look like the good news Horatio set out to preach in England. 


I'm sure Horatio had his moments, but his deepest feelings were penned in what has become one of my favourite hymns. "It Is Well With My Soul" portrays the emotion of a man who had surrendered all of his life to Jesus.   


The lyrics of the hymn are as follows.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like the sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet,

tho' 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 O, 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
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.


This is one great hymn of the church because it is packed full of Biblically accurate theological truths.  I could write pages on each and every line. 


The first thing to note is how Horatio felt after his tragedy.  Despite his loss, he was at peace with Jesus.  "Whatever his lot" in life, in sorrow or in satanic attack, or even "when sea billows roll", it was well with his soul.  He had handed his life over to Jesus and these horrific events didn't cause him to take his life back.    


Horatio said that "Christ had regarded his helpless estate".  He understood Romans 7.  Even the best of us are depraved, helpless, and unable to make our way out the pit of sin we're born into.  Horatio knew the reality of the human condition, but he also knew the reality of the cross of Christ.  Jesus regarded his helpless estate, and had shed His blood for his soul.  The sinless God became sin on the cross so Horatio and others could be free from the consequences of sin.     


The following is my favourite verse. 
"My sin O, 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!"


Understanding the seriousness of his sinful condition, Horatio is overwhelmed with "the bliss of a glorious thought".   All of his sins, not part of them, but all of them, were nailed to the cross with Jesus.  This blissful thought overpowered any sense of shame due to his sin.  It also got him through the losses of those he loved.  He could hardly fathom that the Son of the living God would carry all of his sin to the cross. "I bear it no more," he penned.  What else can I say.  He said it so well. 


Horatio closes with his eager anticipation of the return of His Saviour.  What he now knew by faith, he'd see for real.  His soul was ready to meet Jesus. 


May the these great theological truth expressed in this hymn create the same emotion, the same peace, the same stability, in us as it did in Horatio Stafford so many years ago.  Such inspired hymns are timeless and should never be forgotten.  They are as relevant today as the day they were written because Biblical truth is always relevant.          


Home Page