To Phineas Camp Headley

7 July 1875


[Published in Phineas C. Headley, Evangelists in the Church from Philip, A.D. 35, to Moody and Sankey, A.D. 1875. (Boston: Henry Hoyt, 1875), pp. 170-171. It was copied in William F. P. Noble, 1776 &endash; 1876. A Century of Gospel-Work: A History of the Growth of Evangelical Religion in the United State (Philadelphia: H. C, Watts & Co., 1876), pp. 412-3.]


OBERLIN, July 7, 1875.

DEAR BROTHER,&endash; The first time I ever saw Rev. Daniel Nash was at a meeting of the presbytery which licensed me to preach the gospel. He was, then, rather hyper-Calvinistic in his views, and, as he afterwards told me, formal, dry, and speculative in his preaching. Soon after that, he was confined to his room with disease of his eyes, and was almost entirely blind for about six months. During this period, as he afterwards informed me, he gave himself to much prayer, had a great searching and overhauling in his spiritual life, and, before he could see enough to be abroad, was powerfully baptized with the Holy Ghost. Soon after this he came to me in the midst of a powerful revival of religion at Evans Mills, in the northern part of Jefferson County, N. Y. I could not fail to see that he been made over, and was quite another man. He was full of the Holy Ghost. He had the strongest faith, and was the mightiest man in prayer that I had at that time ever seen. Afterwards, he labored with me in revivals in Governeur and DeKalb in the southern part of St. Lawrence County. In the midst of the great revival at Rome, Oneida Co., he came to me and labored in prayer and conversation with great effect. He followed on to Utica and afterwards in Troy and New Lebanon, east of the Hudson River. He was a most wonderful man in prayer, one of the most earnest, devout, spiritually-minded, heavenly-minded men I ever saw. After we parted at New Lebanon, I went to Wilmington, Del., and from there to Philadelphia, to which places he did not follow me. He labored about in many places in central and northern New York, and gave himself up to almost constant prayer, literally praying himself to death at last. I have been [p. 171] informed that he was found dead in his room in the attitude of prayer.

While I was laboring in Boston in the winter of 1831 and '32, I wrote asking him to join with me in keeping every Friday as a day of fasting and prayer, for the more general outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He replied that his body was nearly worn out, that the Holy Spirit had laid the world upon his heart and pressed him almost to death. Those that knew him, during the period of which I speak, will never forget his prayers, and the unutterable groanings with which he was exercised by the Holy Spirit. The manifest and instantaneous answer to some of his prayers was so startling as to arrest the attention of everybody about him. He lived but a few years, after I became acquainted with him, but what years were those, and what a life was that! He lived almost in heaven. I have seen him for days in a state of mind so joyful and triumphant that his face literally shone with the joy of his soul.

At those seasons, he would say to me, "Brother Finney, I cannot pray; my soul is so full of heaven, I can do nothing but praise. I cannot get down to earth and get hold of sinners." But soon he would come down and take the load of unconverted sinners upon his heart, and such agonizing, prevailing prayers I never heard from any other man. Many times in meeting his soul would become so full of anguish that he could not remain and keep silent. He would hastily and as slyly as possible retire from the meeting, and seek a place where he could pour out his soul to God, and for hours would continue to wrestle and agonize, and groan his soul out to God, till his strength was completely exhausted. The spirit of prayer that was upon him was quite a stumbling-block to professors of religion, who had never known the Holy Ghost as the Spirit that maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God with groanings that cannot be uttered. I should here say, that very much of this type of prayer prevailed in the revivals through central and northern New York at that time. Many laymen and women were exercised in a similar manner, and sometimes would pray all night in their closets with unutterable groanings for the salvation of sinners. It is devoutly to be wished that the Lord would stir up some one who labored in those revivals, and who sympathized with this spirit of prayer, to write out and publish a brief history of the spirit of prayer that prevailed in them, with the many wonderful and manifest answers that occurred from day to day.




This letter is not in the Finney Papers.