Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hannah Whitall Smith and Horatio Spafford

It's great reading the lives of great Christians. Sometimes one finds that they endured and all went well or they died happily and in the faith. Sometimes...well, one finds the opposite. Oswald Chambers, for instance, was pretty saintly and holy and his descendants are still believers. Same for Derek Prince and C S Lewis. But then we have such folks as Hannah Whitall Smith and Horatio Spafford, the guy who wrote it is well with my soul (and his later strange life issues) do make a person wonder. (His story is told in 100 Hymn Stories. His family has been careful about telling about his later life issues so who knows? maybe the story has been revised out of the 100 hymn stories.)

But it makes me wonder about famous Christian writers. One must always be careful less one fall into error. I mean was he saying "it is well with my soul" and not quite believing it. Was this true spiritual consolation or a self-deluding consolation born of despair? And it makes me wonder about people who love this hymn and who mistake stoicism for religious peace.

When his daughters were killed in a shipwreck, He wrote
"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Hannah Whitall Smith wrote two really great books: The Unselfishness of God and she also wrote another book, The Christian's secret to a happy life. Very good. Like Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest it might be really a challenge for new or carnal Christians. Christian's Secret is not complicated or as deep as Chambers' work but because its simple message of trusting God's love is also pretty deep.

The Unselfishness of God is her autobiography. She was raised a quaker, which kinda reminds me so much of being raised in the pentecostal church. Yeah, I know. Sounds odd and flaky but trust me... any pentecostal kid reasing it will see a lotta similarities.

Hannah's writings are very respected by the Christian community but because she believed in universal salvation and no hell, some parts of her book are "removed" by the Christian publishers.

Not picking on Christians because it's not as if atheists have fared much better. History has proven many times that sometimes those who battle the Lord end up dying rather terribly -- Victor Hugo's death was full of fearful groanings. Madelyn Murray O'Hair was murdered and tortured. And the descendants of many atheists -- often down the generations-- have tended to have strange issues with poverty and addiction. One wonders if Hannah's foray into universalism and other issues helped to create the crisis for her and for her descendants.

And yet, her books are lovely... even if she didn't quite manage to live up to what she wrote about. It certainly makes one careful... even the best of souls can fall.

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