To Rebecca Rayl

26 September 1865


[MS in the possession of Mr. Ivor Anderson of Ludington, Michigan.]


Envelope: Address: Rev. J. L. Patton.

Norwalk Bronson, Huron co. Ohio.

Stamp: 3 cent embossed

Postmark: Oberlin O - Sep 26


Oberlin 26th. Sept, 1865.

Dear Mrs Rayl,

I have not heard from

you since friday & of course am

anxious to know how you are &

how Julia is getting along.

I requested you not to exhaust your

self by writing to me or to any one

else. If you can not write without

too much fatigue will not Bro. Patten

inform me often how you & Julia are.

There is a good deal of sickness here.

Esqr Prentiss died suddenly in a fit

yesterday. Isaach Penfield is very sick

& so are several others. Sabbath was

a solemn & a searching day. The

whole congregation was deeply moved

& at the close of service in the P.M.

nearly the whole congregation rose under

a searching appeal to commit them

selves then & there to God. Some & I

believe many were cut quite down

[page 2]

by the sword of the Spirit. The prayer-

meetings & enquiry meeting showed a

deep & manifest work of the Holy spirit.

Of course my hands & heart have

enough to do. I hope my Dear one,

that you will not be entirely over

done & brought down to a sick bed

by all that you are passing through.

I am not without fear that you will

presume too much upon your good

constitution & so trespass as to be

quite prostrated.

In regard to our relations I would

merely say that since you left I am

more than ever convinced that we

have both been altogether too much

influenced by an outside pressure, &

that if we expect to really & permanently

please ourselves & honor God we must

resolutely discard this outside influ

ence & manage our own affairs.

My great weakness is that I am too

easily persuaded by my friends.

[page 3]

On great questions I seldom dare

consult them lest I should be

persuaded by them without

following my own deliberate judgment.

In this case I have not sought counsel

but have had abundance of it

volunteered, no doubt from good mo

tives, but enough to frighten me when

I reflect upon the progress that we made

in so few days after we had deliberately

decided that it was wise to give up all

idea of marriage. I have never really

believed, I can now see, that your judgement

was fully convinced that it was best

& wise for us to marry. I am thankful

for an opportunity to think, & pray, & be

more thoroughly satisfied in regard

to this matter. Such a hold have your

lady friends gotten of your confidence

& your heart, that I should not feel

that I had a wife if they must

intermeddle & know all my pastoral

secrets, which are often sacred, but must

[page 4]

be known to my wife. Darling, when

God allows us to meet again

we will take the course that will

please him. We will not be inf[l]u-

enced by any one but God in our

decissions & conduct in relation

to this matter. I want much to see

you & shall not fail to do so as soon

as providence gives you leizure to see

me. Julia was so sick when you last

wrote that I am apprehensive that our

next intelligence will be discouraging.

Do not infer from what I have said in this

or in my previous letters that I am shaken

in mind in respect to you. What I mean is

to disenthrall ourselves from such outside

pressure as to be able hereafter to respect ourselves

as having had a mind of our own, & as

having acted in accordance with our own

unbiased convictions in whatever course we

decide to take. God Bless you my Precious

one, & help you in this hour of trial

with the sickness of Dear Julia.

Of course, I shall be most happy to hear from

you whenever it consists with your duty to

write me. Love to all.

C. G. Finney



According to Ivor Anderson, the reason that the letter is addressed to Rev James L. Patton, is that Finney had made arrangements with Patton to pass on the letter to Mrs. Rayl, who was residing there, thus preventing the post office employees at Oberlin from knowing that the College President was considering marrying for the third time with the resulting gossip. This is probably correct. Finney had made a similar arrangement when he was courting his second wife. According to his great-granddaughter, Mary Rudd Cochran: "My grandmother, Helen Finney then Mrs. Cochran, later Mrs. Cox, told me that while her father and Mrs. Atkinson were corresponding, she addressed his letters to Mrs. Atkinson and Mrs. Atkinson addressed her letters to Grandmother instead of to Mr. Finney." (Mary Rudd Cochran to Miss Eileen Thornton, Librarian of Oberlin College, October 31, 1960)