The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Alice Barlow
7 May 1861
[MS in Finney Papers, 2/2/2]
Especial love to Dear Sister Mary Ann.
Oberlin Ohio. U.S. 7th May 1861.
Mrs Alice Barlow.
My Dear Daughter.
Through my Dear Wife I promised
you a letter. Ill health has prevented my
writing you un[t]il now. And even after so
long a time I must be short or I shall use
up too much of my strength. I suppose Mrs F.
has informed you of my illness & of its immediate
occasion. The form of it is nervous prostration
from which I am only slowly recovering.
I am very easily excited but can not endure
much excitement without being thrown
back. We are now, in this country, in
the midst of such an excitement on
the question of southern rebellion as I
never witnessed before. This retards my
recovery as I can see from day to day.
I can say with Cowper "O for a lodge in some
vast wilderness, where rumor of oppression &
deceit of unsuccessful or successful war
might never reach me more". But true
wisdom takes life with its incidents as
they come. My Dear Sister it is a great
lesson to learn to be "careful for nothing."
My disease has tended strongly to desponden
cy. I have taken some new & experimental
lessons on the subject of living by "naked
faith." My nervous prostration has been
made the occasion of deeper revelations
of myself to myself than I ever had before.
It has been a profitable time for me.
It has seemed to me that I was the greatest
sinner, my life taken altogether, with the
light I have enjoyed, that perhaps the
world can produce: & that I am the
very weakest of all God's children.
I used to think such language hyperboli
cal, but really I could use it litterally
& in calm prose. But such experiences
are useful. There seemed to be a veil
drawn over my precious experiences of
the past, & over all my successes in the
ministry, & only my sins, my shortcomings,
my hatefulness could be seen by me.
Up to this illness my experience has been
different. When ill formerly, I have had
strong faith, great rest of soul in christ,
& not a doubt of my acceptance.
This nervous prostration has been the
occasion of a new experience & one that
will enable better to understand
the case of nervous, desponding children
of God. In any despondency it seemed to
me that I had not well understood
such cases, & that without knowing
or intending it I had sometimes
been cruel to them. But I must
not write so much about myself. Should
I write all, I should write a book
of recent experiences. I have hea[r]d
my Dear Sister, of what you are
doing at Edgworth with much
pleasure. I am not disappointed.
I expected you would grow in
grace & in usefulness. As soon
as you got past the effort to live
upon frames & feelings, & learned
to walk by faith, I expected you
to leave caring so much for self &
to find your peace & comfort in
living for others. O how often &
how much we think of you
& your dear husband & family,
not forgetting your servants. The day
we parted with you on the steamer
will not be forgotten. I must not
recal[l] or dwell upon it. I can not
do so without too much excitement
for my poor brain. I should so like
to see you now in your new home, where
I suppose you are. While I write I can
almost see you settle your face to look
like Mrs. Barlow. I want to ask a host
of questions about your present state of mind,
about your family - About our dear
friends. I should write to many of
them were I able. I must write by
this mail D.V. to Mrs. Bell. We have
recd your precious letters, & also hers.
How is Thomas? Is he likely to be able
to complete a college course of study?
If so are you & Br. Barlow going to
come over with him to Oberlin.
You need not fear the war, we
are far from the field of conflict.
In answer to prayer God has taken the
nation in hand to purify us from
our great sin of slaveholding.
He will bring all out right. We may
& probably shall have a baptism of
blood. Many of our young men have
enlisted. My son in law J. D. Cox has
taken the field as General of a Brigade.
He has a large young family, & it was a
sore trial to leave them but it seemed
to his friends & the our [sic] State Authorities
that he must go. He finally consented. I must
close Dear Wife is well. Joins in oceans of love to you & brother
[continued along right hand margin of page 1]
Barlow & to all the family. Dear Br. Barlow. I can never tell him all
the love I bear him. The Lord bless him & you forever more.
C. G. Finney.
This is quoted from William Cowper's poem Task, Book 2, lines 1-4.
In fact Cox was anxious to serve in the war and appears to have decided to offer his services in spite of the family. Schmiel has drawn attention to the recollections of his granddaughter, Mary Rudd Cochran, who recalled a conversation with Cox's wife Helen, some years after the war:
His wife was not too happy (at the time) about this decision, for "she never forgave him for going into the war without consulting her. She said 'he had no right to make that decision alone. He left me with little children to support alone. I, not he should have made that decision.' But, she added proudly, 'Of course I would have told him to go.'" (Eugene D. Schmiel, "The Career of Jacob Dolson Cox, 1828-1900: Soldier, Scholar, Statesman" [Ph.D. dissertation, Ohio State University, 1969]. p. 78, note 24.)
Cox was officially named Brigadier-General of Ohio Volunteers on 23 April 1861. On April 29th he took charge of the Eleventh, and half of the Third, Ohio Regiments at Camp Denison, near Cincinnati, where he remained for six weeks doing training before moving to Western Virginia. (See Jacob Dolson Cox, Military Reminiscences of the Civil War [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1900] Vol. 1, pp. 21, 25.)