Wilt thou be angry with us forever? Wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Show us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. Psalm 85:5-7
Dear Praying Friends,
Self-educated and brilliant, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was an elder statesman among the Founding Fathers, revered for his knowledge, wisdom and maturity. Franklin lived a colorful, worldly life, yet considered himself a Christian. However, his beliefs were more closely aligned with Unitarianism. A Freemason at 25 and Grand Master of Pennsylvania at 28, he edited and published the Western Hemisphere’s first Masonic text. Franklin died a Freemason, after 59 years in the secret society.
Despite his errant doctrinal beliefs and questionable associations, Franklin had genuine reverence for Christian faith and morality. When delegates to the Constitutional Convention reached an impossible impasse, it was Franklin who called the delegates to seek God daily in prayer before proceeding to business. While he never became an evangelical Christian, he was fascinated by the preaching of George Whitefield and the phenomena of the Great Awakening. He wrote in his first autobiography:
In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy, taking a dislike to him, soon refus’d him their pulpits, and he was oblig’d to preach in the fields. The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admir’d and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seem’d as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street…
He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his words and sentences so perfectly, that he might be heard and understood at a great distance, especially as his auditories, however numerous, observ’d the most exact silence. He preach’d one evening from the top of the Court-house steps, which are in the middle of Market-street, and on the west side of Second-street…. Both streets were fill’d with his hearers to a considerable distance… I had the curiosity to learn how far he could be heard, by retiring backwards down the street towards the river; and I found his voice distinct till I came near Front-street…. Imagining then a semi-circle… fill’d with auditors, to each of whom I allow’d two square feet, I computed that he might well be heard by more than thirty thousand. This reconcil’d me to the newspaper accounts of his having preach’d to twenty-five thousand people in the fields… (Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 1771, p. 95).
Whitefield, a great man and preacher, was not without flaw. His ministry to the slaves in the South was unique in his day. He believed blacks were equal to whites, and treated them as brothers. He was beloved by a multitude of black people, slave and free, who came to know Christ through his ministry. Yet he advocated legalization of that “peculiar institution” and owned slaves himself. God uses imperfect men. Surely He can anoint imperfect preachers in our day and use them to usher in the Great Awakening we need in America! Let us pray!!!