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Benjamin Franklin's Religion

( Originally Published 1902 )



BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, who in his writings and life emphasized the gospel of obedience, has given us the following valuable account of his religious experience and faith. He says :

" For my own part, when I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. In my travels and since my settlement, I have received much kindness from men to whom I shall never have any opportunity of making the least direct return, and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. These kindnesses from men I can therefore only return on their fellow men; and I can only show my gratitude for those mercies from God by a readiness to help his other children and my brethren. For I do not think that thanks and compliments though repeated weekly, can discharge our real obligations to each other, and much less those to our Creator.

" You will see in this my notion of good works that I am far from expecting that I shall ever merit heaven by them. By heaven we understand a state of happiness, infinite in degree and eternal in duration. I can do nothing to deserve such a reward. He that for giving a draught of cold water to a thirsty person should expect to be paid with a good plantation, would be modest in his demands, compared with those who think they deserve heaven for the little good they do on earth. Even the mixed, imperfect pleasures we enjoy in this world are rather from God's goodness than from our merit; how much more such happiness in heaven. For my own part, I have not the vanity to think I deserve it, the folly to expect it, nor the ambition to desire it; but content myself in submitting to the will and disposal of that God who made me, who preserved and blessed me, and in whose fatherly goodness I may well confide, that he will never make me miserable, and that even the afflictions I may at any time suffer shall tend to my benefit.

" I have myself no doubt that I shall enjoy as much of both temporal and eternal happiness as is proper for me. That Being who gave me existence, and through almost three-score years has been continually showering his favors upon me, whose very chastisements have been blessings to me; can I doubt that. He loves me? And if He loves me, can I doubt that He will go on to take care of me not only here, but hereafter ?"



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