Devotional 6/12: Ben Franklin, He is OUR Man!
Though he never served as President, Benjamin Franklin was obviously a Founding Father. Many atheists love Franklin because he could never be considered a “religious person” in that he eschewed organized religion and could even be considered a Enlightenment Rationalist. He also was a member of the Hellfire club and had numerous affairs.
Christopher Hitchens (The author of God is Not Great, Why Religion Spoils Everything), in an effort to say, ‘Hey, look at this, he was one of us’ once wrote of Benjamin Franklin:
Of Franklin, it seems almost certainly right to say that he was an atheist (Jerry Weinberger’s recent study Benjamin Franklin Unmasked being the best reference here), but the master tacticians of church-state separation, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were somewhat more opaque about their beliefs.
However, though he did not go to church and he was a womanizer, those atheists are wrong. He was not, “their man”. Just like most of the Founding Fathers, he was a seeker who believed in God and had an inmate knowledge of the Bible. Though he was not a choirboy, he was a Man of Value. In the following speech to the delegates of the Constitutional Convention, he urges them to seek the Lord’s guidance in creating the Constitution.
The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other-our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.-Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need his assistance?
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth–that God Governs in the afairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in s this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move–that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of . this city be requested to officiate in that service.
I have bolded several of the sentences to show that they could not have been writhed by someone who does not have some belief in the Lord, some understanding that the One Above All is involved in the world. Those sentences show that he was not “their man” but ours.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.