The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Alice Barlow
3 May 1875
[Ms in Finney Papers, 2/2/2, in the handwriting of Rebecca Finney.]
Finney received the following letter from Alice Barlow:
April 15 
My dear Sir
Whenever my mind
is exercised in reference
to good things my thoughts
turn to you, and many
attempts have been made
to write to you.
In your last letter you
were right in your con-
clusions in reference
to my Christian experience.
I have not gone into open
sin - or folly - but I have
been too busy- have allowed
the care of family and
home to absorb all attention.
Three years ago I was laid
asside and have been
more or less an invalid
since having to spend
the winters away from
home&endash; I have in a way
always been seeking after
a better state of things, but
I fear that I have not con-
cern enough&endash; About last
Christmas- all our servants
were converted through
the influence of our Coachman
who is a godly man - and
he had been trying to get
the others interested in
the reports of the good
that was being done
in connection with the
services of Messrs Moody
& Sankey &endash; I am often
very much depressed because
I dont seem able to
strive after good things
My good purposes are
so short lived - &endash;
Will you please excuse me
saying so much about
We hear about you
sometimes through Mrs
Hill &endash; Our eldstst eldest
son Thomas whom you
will I daresay remember
knows Mrs Hill. You
will be sorry to know that
Miss Catharine Hill is
Mr & Mrs Best are both
pretty much as when you
were in Bolton &endash; Mr Davidson
has removed to the neigh-
bourhood of London.
You will remember Mrs
Bell, she is very delicate
and is living in the Isle
of Man &endash; You will th
know that Mr Bell has
been dead between three &
four years &endash; and her eldest
son has had to go out
to Africa on account of
his health &endash; so that she
has had many sorrows.
Do you remember the first
convert in Bolton when
you were with us-
It was Miss Howarth
a young lady who came
up to our house either
on the first Sunday or
on the Monday &endash; She is
greatly afflicted and
has been confined to
bed for many years,
She is however greatly
supported and is enabled
to do much good to
both her family and many
who visit her.
Very many who used
to meet in the Temperance
Hall of one heart and mind
have been removed, others
are doing good work in
various ways&endash; sometimes
we meet with people quite
unexpectedly who got good
there. We hear that
you have given up your
pastorate. I hope the
rest will enable you
to do much good work
yet in other ways.
Will you present my
kind regards to Mrs Finney
of whom I heard from
Miss Catharine Hill.
We are living much in
the same way as when
you were with us-
Our children are all
loving and obedient.
Our eldest son is a
physician in London &
is in connection with
the Great Ormond Street
I enclose Mr Barlows and
our two sons photographs.
Our girls are still busy
with their education.
Our Annie Elizabeth Finney
is a bright intelligent girl
of eleven - she is the youngest
I must now ask you to
forgive my seeming careless-
ness for your kind interest
in me &endash; I feel that I have
lost what I can never
regain &endash; but will you
let me have an interest
in your prayers, and
believe me to be with
Finney replied as follows:
Oberlin May 3d 1875.
Mrs. Alice Barlow,
My Dear Sister, Your most
welcome letter, of Apr. 15th is just rec'd.
Thank you many times for it, and the
Photographs it contained. I have
never ceased to desire much to hear
from you, by your own hand.
In looking back, I think I can
well enough account for your
spiritual state. When I first
knew you, you had just rec'd
your new carriage, and had
become a lady that kept her
carriage. A great step upwards,
in England. I rode with you, the
first time that ^ went to meeting in
it. Your new carriage attracted
the attention of your friends. Since
then, your family, has been rapidly ri-
sing in the estimation of the public.
Your husband has been at least twice
Mayor of the city. When I was there, he
was just about building Greenthorne
and getting up your establishment
there. Taken all in all, you have had
a constant appeal made, to your
worldly ambition, and desire of
family elevation. I do not say this,
because I think you more ambitious
or anxious for family elevation than other
women, but there has been much, very
much, all things considered, to engross
your attention, and stimulate a
worldly ambition. The Spirit of God
is very sensitive upon these points.
If you had before, been in a spiritual
frame of mind, as your husband was,
your rapid rise in the world, would not
perhaps have done you an injury, but
as it was, and is, your thoughts have been
so stimulated, with your worldly cares, re-
lations, & rapid rising, that spiritually,
you have been kept down. My Dear
Sister, I cannot tell you how my
heart yearns to have you get out
of this bondage. I have hoped that you
would fall under the influence of the great
revival under Moody & Sankey.
I should not have recognized your husband,
in the picture you sent me, nor either of
your sons. Thomas is a thinker, and was so,
very much, when I was there. I presume
he will make a good physician.
Of what school of medicine is he? And what
is John? Have you added Bp to his name
on the back of his card? Is he a Bishop?
I am sorry to hear that you are in poor
health. Where do you spend your winters?
Dear Mrs. Bell! I do not recollect to have
heard that her husband was dead. If
you ever correspond with her please give
my love to her, and ask her to write
to me, that I may hear directly from
her, particularly of her religious state.
A word more concerning your religious
state. How much has your health
to do, with the state of your mind?
In what did the failure of your health
originate? Was it not connected with that
change through which all women pass, at
about your age? Unbelief was always your
easily besetting sin. You did not seem to
realize that God loves you. That He
has loved you, with an everlasting love, you
are bound to assume as a fact as unquestionable
as the existence of God. This you must know
to be true, & why will you not assume it, in
all your thoughts of God, and of yourself?
He loves you indefinitely more, than the
aggregate love of all creatures for you.
Why not let this fact, take possession of
your heart, and cause you to respond to Him
as you do to your husband, and your friends.
You respond to every inviting look &
act of your husband, as quick as light.
You have a most responsive nature to the
manifested affection of your friends, your
children, and every human being that loves you.
How is it, My Dear Sister, that you cannot
be as thoroughly & quickly responsive
to the manifested love of Christ?
The love of all mere creatures, for
you, is as nothing, compared to the
love of God. I want to ask
you a multitude of questions,
& so great is my desire
to see you & your family,
& multitudes of other friends
in England that I am some-
times almost tempted to try
to make the journey.
resigned my pastorate, at about
the age of eighty. My strength
is much less, than when I was
with you, though I think my
health is quite as good.
I write some for the press,
and continue my teaching
in the Theological Dep't
of our college. I preach
but seldom, as it taxes my
strength too severely. My
eyes, have, for the last year or
two, failed considerably, so
much so, that I write al-
most altogether by the hand
of an amanuensis. Is John that
little boy that you weaned
while we were at your house?
I think not. What has become
of him? The daughter whose
name you mention, was born
of course, since we left there.
She is named for the Mrs. Finney
that you knew. Will you not
give my kindest love to her.
Your Sister, who resided with
you when we were there, is,
I think, married. I do very
much want to see Bro. Barlow, your
husband. Why can not you & he
come over and see us, this
coming summer? You have
each of you, a Scholarship in this
institution. The disposal of their use
from term to term, has been com-
mitted to me, as you know.
They are constantly paying for tu-
ition of some of our worthy, but
poor, students. We have a young man
from Bolton, a kind of potagee of
Mrs. Best, living most of his time,
in Oberlin. His name is Blinkhorn.
I wish you would give my sincerest love, to
Mr. & Mrs. Best, and to any friends who
may feel interested enough to inquire
about me. Is Bro. Barlow
still mayor of the city?
I suppose he is still prosperous
in business. Will he not be
sent to parliament before
long? We had a young Meth. min.
from Canada call on us, within the
last year, who had been employed
I think in connection with the farm
which you gave to be a kind of orphan's
Asylum, or a home for poor children.
I do not understand exactly, which.
He told us of a Miss McPherson, (I think
her name was) who was engaged in
bringing those children to Canada, & finding
them homes. We were very much interested
in the young man, and in what he said of that
institution on that farm that you gave.
I have so much to say, and so many
inquiries to make, that I do not know
where to begin, or end. I do wish
that you & Bro. Barlow would
come over, and see Oberlin,
and see me, this coming summer.
If I had anything like the physical & pecuniary
ability that you have, I should surely
visit you. Dear wife has heard so
often of you, as to be much interested
& sends her warmest love to you, & your
family. May we not hear again, soon from you & your husband?
Give My dearest love to him. & reserve to yourself as much
[across the top of page 5]
C. G. Finney
The address is printed at the top of pages 1, 5 and 9.
Reference in the letter to the visit of Moody and Sankey to England indicates that it was written in 1875.
Anna (Andrews) Hill (1797-1887) had returned to England with her husband, Hamilton Hill, in 1865, after his retirement from being Secretary and Treasurer of Oberlin College. He had died in July 1870, and she was living in London, at 14 Woburn Street.
Thomas Barlow was living in London. It is possible that he may have boarded with the Hills at one time. See Thomas Barlow "Journal and Commonplace Book" entry for June 1870 in Barlow Papers, Wellcome Institute Library, A/1; and Thomas Barlow to James and Alice Barlow, 2 August 1870, Barlow Papers, B/1.
Anna Hill's daughter, Catharine Alice Hill (1828-1885), had been a student at Oberlin College in the mid-1850s. She may have been in charge of a girl's school in St Leonard's-on-Sea. She never married, and died there in 1885.
William Hope Davison (1827-1894), who had been minister at Duke's Alley Congregational Chapel in Bolton when the Finneys were there in 1860, had gone to Chatham in Kent in 1873. See The Congregational Year Book, 1895, p. 200.
The Bells had been two of the earliest of Finney's converts in Bolton. See Finney, Memoirs, pp. 598-99.
The Finney's had arrived in Bolton at about midnight on Wednesday, 14 December 1859. Mrs. Finney recorded in her journal that Alice Barlow herself was the first convert. She was converted on Friday 16th, and later that evening Mrs. Bell and two of the servants were also converted. It was the next Monday, 19th, according to Mrs. Finney, that "Miss Howarth called - I trust converted." (E. A. Finney, "Journal", p. 62.)
Finney resigned from the pastorate of the First Congregational Church in Oberlin in March 1872.
Catharine Hill had visited the Finneys in 1871. See Finney's letter to the Barlows, 3 June 1871.
She was named Annie Elizabeth Finney Barlow after Finney's second wife.
This was probably Oliver Blinkhorn who had been a student in the College in 1872-73. See Finney to James and Alice Barlow, 8 January 1868, Finney Papers, 2/2/2.
The Children's Home (later the National Children's Home), was pioneered in London by the Methodist minister, Thomas Bowman Stephenson in 1869. James Barlow soon saw the value of this work and donated a farm of 76 acres near his home in Edgworth, Bolton. It was to be "a country branch of the London Home, and to it we shall draft off such children as we think suitable; especially with a view to their being taken to Canada, and distributed in the families of farmers and other settlers who may be willing to adopt them" ( T. B. S. "Our Farm" in The Children's Advocate (London) No. 6 (August 1871), p. 5). Subsequently Barlow donated another 30 acres, and a home for 120 children was built on the site. See William Bradfield, The Life of the Reverend Thomas Bowman Stephenson (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1913), pp. 125-133; and "Our Farm Branch" in The Children's Advocate and Christian at Work (London) No. 13 (January 1873), pp. 8-10.
The Barlow family were involved with the Home in Edgworth and continued to support it as long as they lived in Edgworth. See, for example, John H. Litten, "Child Welfare Centres. I. Edgworth, near Bolton, Lancs" in The Child Welfare Worker (London), Vol. 5, No. 18 (April 1924), pp. 52-55.
Miss Annie Parlane Macpherson (died 1904) started work amongst orphan children in the East End of London in 1865, where she set up the Home of Industry. Her first home for orphan children was opened in 1868. At that time emigration was thought to be the only answer for the chronic poverty of big cities, so she set up homes in Canada and arranged for many children and families to go there and find work. She and her two sisters were responsible for helping 14,000 children to start a new life in Canada. Her work inspired Dr Barnardo and led to many different missionary efforts. See Lillian M. Birt, The Children's Home-Finder: The Story of Annie Macpherson and Louisa Birt (London: Jas. Nisbet & Co., 1913); "Home of Industry" in Word and Work (London) No. 19 (29 July 1875), p. 12.
The first of her converts in London was a young boy, George W. Clarke, who earned enough at farming in Canada to go to Oberlin College in 1873, in preparation for becoming a missionary in China. See Clara M. S. Lowe, God's Answers: A Record of Miss Annie Macpherson's Work (London: Jas. Nisbet & Co., 1882), p. ; and Andrew F. Walls, "Papers of George William Clarke" in Bulletin of the Scottish Institute of Missionary Studies, No. 5 (Summer 1969), pp. 11-12.