The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Minerva D. Penfield Cowles
1 May 1853
[Ms in the Henry Cowles Papers, RG 30/27, Oberlin College Archives.]
The following document in the Cowles Papers, Oberlin College Archives (30/27), appears to be the draft of a letter from Mrs. Cowles to Finney. It is written in pencil upside down over three pages taken from a book giving details of population statistics in Ohio, pp. 82-84.
My Dear Pastor,
I want to say a few words to you in relation to my dear husband and first that though a portion of his time is through the urgency of the demands made upon him he a portion of his time is devoted to secular pursuits yet I am sure he loves business as he does that which pertains to the gospel ministry.
Indeed I have often heard ^ make this remark. I have however occasionally observed with surprize & I may say with pain, a tendency on the part of some to shut him out of these labors in this place, particularly was I struck with it this afternoon when request was made for certain individuals to officiate in the administration of the Lords supper to the sick, and the question arises in my mind why is he passed by and younger men one after another proposed? He is one of the elder brethren in the ministry here. Has he ever proved himself unworthy of the sacred office? True in preaching he may lack eloquence, pungency or power, but at the bedside of the sick or dying christian who can say he is not preeminently gentle affectionate & heavenly.
If this ^ reason is, that his health is deemed insufficient, It is a mistake. It surely cannot be a wish to curtail his influence as a christian minister, and yet it will be much more likely to have that effect upon him than it would upon one of the younger ministers, because on account of his age and standing the community would naturally expect him to be invited to perform such a service unless there was some very important reason to the contrary. If any such reason exists in the present case can it be wrong for me to wish to know what it is. If it has been purely accidental, it would be a great comfort to me to know it. If the reasons are such that I ought not to know them I will trust your wisdom & kindness and will endeavor to be satisfied without that knowledge. My husband knows nothing of my writing this for although I confide in him
to such an extent that he knows my heart like a book yet his native modesty would forbid my sending you this. And yet I am sure he feels grieved though not a word has been spoken about it, and I certainly feel his griefs more deeply than my own. I
would much rather bear a great deal of sorrow ^ than that he should bear any. His spirit is sweet humble & Christlike. He desires not office or labor for the sake of distinction, but as a servant of Christ in the gospel ministry and as an Editor of a religious periodical he needs the influence which such neglect are will be likely to curtail. If you can spare time and deem an answer due me, will you send a reply.
With affectionate regards
your sister in Christ
M. D. P. Cowles
Finney's reply is as follows:
Oberlin 1. May 1853.
My Dear Sister Cowles.
Your secret note of this date
is just recd. I feel every word you say
& assure you the thing to which
you refer was purely accidental
& I can hardly forgive myself for
allowing even such an accident
to occur. I have no reason in my
own mind, nor do I know of any
in any mind, why Br. C. should
not be called to every such service
as he is able & willing to perform.
I know of no man whom I regard
as a more honest & judicious &
faithful minister of Christ than
he. & if any body in this place
doubts this they surely do not
reveal those doubts to me.
The request came upon me suddenly
& as Br. Morgan was with me
in the pulpit it was natural
for me to think of him, & on
the instant the thought occurred
to send two, as you saw it was
all unexpected, for some reason
Br. Cowles name did not occur
to me nor did I notice his
being present. I can account
for this only from the fact that
he has been so long feeble &
absent I have not been in the
habit of calling on him.
If he is grieved I am grieved
not with him but with myself.
I trust Br. Cowles knows me
& my regard for him too well
to even suspect me of intentional
neglect. I will not be wanting
in what I can do to strengthen
his hands & encourage his heart
I sincerely thank you My Dear
Sister for your note & may the
Lord bless you forever. Love to Br. C. Your Br
C. G. Finney
An ink smudge over this word has made it difficult to read: "absent" would appear to be the most likely reading.