The American Colony in Jerusalem

First American Colony building located within the Old City of Jerusalem (42)

The Spaffords did their best to put together their shattered lives back in Chicago. In 1878, a daughter, Bertha, was born and, two years later, a son Horatio. After an epidemic of scarlet fever broke out and their baby son died, it seemed that the Spaffords were doomed to unhappiness. Rumors ran rampant through their church, “What had the Spaffords done that God could visit such misfortunes upon them?” Horatio left the Fullerton Presbyterian Church, which he had helped to build. In solidarity a group of Spafford's friends also abandoned the Chicago church and together decided to seek solace and God's guidance in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Delaying only until the birth of their daughter, Grace, in August 1881, the Spaffords set out for Jerusalem with a band of thirteen adults and three children.

“How Long, O Lord!”

“How Long, O Lord!” is one of twenty poems by Horatio Spafford printed in a slim pamphlet entitled, Waiting for the Morning. These poems trace Spafford's spiritual journey after the shipwreck, when he decided that material possessions and worldly success (“might and shameless greed”) were unimportant in the light of his loss. On the title page of this volume, Horatio is identified as the author of “Twenty Reasons for Believing the Coming of the Lord is Nigh,” a theme he continued to address in these poems.

Horatio Spafford. Waiting for the Morning and Other Poems. Chicago: F.H.P. Resell, 1878. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (2)

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“Next Year in Jerusalem”

Horatio Spafford probably wrote this hymn in 1879. In it he explored the belief, held by some Christian sects, that the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem was a sign of the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ. The corrections, most probably penciled in after he arrived in Jerusalem, give an insight into how Horatio's supreme trust in God's plan for him was reinforced by his experiences in the Holy Land. Notice the change from present to past in the first two lines and the addition of “join us herein.”

Horatio Spafford. “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Manuscript hymn, ca. 1879. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (3.1)

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Horatio Spafford's Diary, August 1882

Written almost a year after he left Chicago for Jerusalem, the two pages of this diary show Horatio dedicating himself to rely “exclusively on the power and grace of God in Christ.” It is an intimate glimpse into his spiritual quest. He writes: “Lord, I have always up to this day been holding on to something of the flesh. I crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Henceforward I live a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake. I rely exclusively, exclusively on the power and grace of God in [Christ]. I am a miracle of grace! Blessed God how patient thou hast been with me!”

Horatio Spafford. Diary entry for August 1882. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (11)

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Spiritual Struggle

In a letter sent from Jerusalem to relatives, Anna Spafford recalled the family's spiritual struggles in the aftermath of their tragic loss and relocation to the Holy Land. She writes: “I wonder how long we shall hold this old house on the wall (pictured in photo). There is no place like it in all Jerusalem and here this work was started and held & all the battles fought over self & sin. Every stone speaks of victory and strength. Here Horatio lived and died & left us his strong spirit to copy.”

Anna Spafford to “George and Sarah,” October 5, 1902. Page 2. Page 3. Manuscript letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (10)

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