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

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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

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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

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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.)