Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Horatio Spafford And The Hammer Of Hell

Horatio Spafford is best remembered for his hymn 'When Peace Like a River' or "It is Well With My Soul.' I have often heard the story behind this hymn. Spafford's wife and four daughter were traveling to Europe on a ship when they collided with another ship. Spafford's wife lived but all four daughters died. Later as Spafford sailed past the spot where his daughters had drowned, he wrote this famous hymn, which is often sung in churches. This is the first verse of that hymn.

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.
  • Refrain:
    It is well with my soul,
    It is well, it is well with my soul. 

       But the story of Spafford's life after this hymn was written is often forgotten or ignored. Later on Spafford returned to America with his wife. They left their church after some doctrinal disputes and set up their own church. They believed that they were the only true church. The church was very much like many of the charismatic churches of today. The meetings were chaotic, filled with strange practices. Fake healings and resurrections were attempted. All manner of 'new' revelations were received. They looked for guidance from God through one women's sniffles, for example. And then there were the sanctified oranges, which I don't know exactly what purpose they served. All in all there was a lot of strange happenings at this church. 

 Bad practice comes from bad theology and Spafford and his group had plenty of it. Spafford denied the doctrine of hell. He believed that all people would go to heaven, even the devil would make it there. He held to some form of purgatory. Spafford was really interested in eschatology. He believed he knew when Christ was coming back and went out to Jerusalem to meet Him there. Or he may have been running away from all his debts and debtors. 

 Spafford and some of his followers went to Jerusalem to meet Christ, which never happened. But they did set up a cult-like organization. They shared everything in common there. All the strange behavior continued there. This group abolished marriage and family for a time. They were known for gross sexual immorality. Spafford died in 1888 and then his wife took over leadership. She considered herself a prophetess and continued the wild immoralities. 

When I read all this, it was hard to believe that this was the man who wrote that well known hymn. How could he go from that height to this low? The pathetic ending of this man's life makes you seriously question his salvation. A true Christian perseveres. Ironically Spafford called his group 'The Overcomers.' Yet when you look at his life and the lives of his followers, they were not at all overcomers. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith." 1 John 4:4   

 A true Christian continues on in the faith to the end. The reason no Christian will lose their salvation is that God will enable them to persevere. Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no on will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." John 10:28-30. Charles Spurgeon expressed this truth like this, "If He hath called thee, nothing can divide thee from His love. Distress cannot sever the bond; the fires of persecution cannot burn the link; the hammer of hell cannot break the chain." God Almighty will not let go of us, even if all the powers of the devil and his host should try to pull us from His hands. 

 It is also true that we are commanded to persevere. Here are some examples: 

"But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house- whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end." Heb 3:6. 

"For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end." Heb 3:14.   

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,..." Heb 10:23. 

"Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what has been promised." Heb 10:35-36.   

 God causes the Christian to persevere by working in His people so that they endure and hold fast. We strive to endure because God is at work in us.  

It is easy to start well in the Christian faith. It is hard to finish well. Every Christian will get over the finish line, even if God has to drag us over it. But let us make every effort to run well even to the end. A story like the one about Horatio Spafford should give us cause to pause and tremble. We ought to watch and pray more diligently that we will not fall into temptation and disgrace our Lord and Savior. 


"Now to Him, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." 
Jude 24-25.


2 comments:

  1. Please cite your sources on Horatio Spafford's universalism and disbelief on the doctrine of Hell. I would like to fact check this information myself please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, it has been updated with sources :)

      Delete