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Benjamin Franklin and the Reasonableness of Christianity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2021

Kevin Slack*
Department of Politics, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan, USA
Corresponding author. E-mail:
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While much has been written on Benjamin Franklin's view of religion, less has been written on his Christian theology. This article first situates Franklin as an important figure in the religious Enlightenment, connecting his own view of philosophy to his teachings on Christian revelation. Providing historical context on the subscription debates, it then gives a comprehensive treatment of Franklin's Christian theology in the 1735 Hemphill affair. New scholarship on Franklin's transatlantic sources confirms that, far from attempting to undermine Christianity, he appealed to popular European writers in an attempt to bend it to reasonable ends. Moreover, Franklin's own views on church polity and liturgy developed over time. As he rose from a middling artisan to political power, he saw both the need for religious appeals and the threat that competing sects posed to political unity. His focus shifted from religious freedoms in private associations to institutionalizing elements of Christian teachings in education, charity, commerce, and defense. His experiences with rigid Presbyterian orthodoxy and chaotic New Light enthusiasm also awakened him to the need for more reasonable forms of worship, and he set to the task of experimenting with Christian liturgies to achieve both the tranquility of parishioners’ minds and social unity.

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Benjamin Franklin, writes J. A. Leo Lemay, “retained an interest in theology all his life” and “wrote more theological essays than any other American layman of the colonial period.”Footnote 1 Scholars have written much on Franklin's views on religion, bringing them into the historically turbulent political questions of Franklin's deism or atheism, yet they have paid considerably less attention to his actual teachings on Christianity.Footnote 2 This article situates Franklin as an important figure in the religious Enlightenment, connecting his famous deist creed to his Christian theology. Providing new attributions to the Franklin canon, it then reassesses his lengthy and oft-neglected Christian theological writings in the 1735 Hemphill affair. Finally, it traces the important developments of his religious ideas in his subsequent political life.

I. Franklin and Religious Enlightenment

While scholars debate the nature of young Franklin's “thorough Deis[m],” most agree that there was some sort of change upon his 1726 return to Philadelphia.Footnote 3 From 1728 to 1731, he constructed his own worship service, penned and printed articles on providence and “primitive Christianity,” and wrote a deist creed, which taught that an infinite creator both decreed general laws of nature and providentially interfered in those laws.Footnote 4 Many scholars argue that Franklin sincerely believed the creed; others, that he abandoned it for a secular substitute (faith in progress) or rejected it altogether for radical skepticism or atheism.Footnote 5 Scholars also debate how Franklin's creed related to his teachings on Christianity, especially in the 1735 Hemphill affair. Melvin Buxbaum argues that Franklin's secular animosity toward the “zealous Presbyterians” was part of his larger war against superstition.Footnote 6 Thomas Kidd presents Franklin's Christianity as a secular, self-help variant of lapsed Calvinism, preserved by his exposure to George Whitefield, while for Joseph Waligore, Franklin gave up “his unorthodox deism” and became a “Christian deist”: he “believed in miracles” and embraced Jesus's teaching of piety and morality.Footnote 7

There are problems with these interpretations. Lemay, Alfred Owen Aldridge, and Elizabeth Dunn have argued that claims that Franklin believed in particular providence must account for his avowed skepticism as well as the logical distinctions that he made between reason and revelation (Christian or deist) and God as nature or lawgiver.Footnote 8 The claim of Franklin's Christian deism is problematic in that his 1728 “Articles” and deist creeds say nothing of Christ, while Lemay and Dunn argue that Franklin's Pyrrhonism undercut his own rhetorical arguments for design, including Aldridge's narrative of Franklin's conversion from scientific to humanitarian deism.Footnote 9 Privately, Franklin appears either to reject all religious and metaphysical arguments for a secularist, self-interested calculation (though its grounding and content remain unclear) or to rely upon moral habits that he realized he could not rationally defend.Footnote 10 Yet, as Carla Mulford points out, the description of Franklin as secularist ignores “the full range of Franklin's expressions, Franklin's own ‘political truth’”: Franklin frequently referenced religion, and Christianity in particular, in an age before scientific method was divorced from philosophy.Footnote 11 While Franklin's name is synonymous with Enlightenment, his religious writings were part of that identity.

Against the above views of Franklin as secularist or Pyrrhonist, this article argues that the key to understanding Franklin's religious teachings is that his religious ideas shaped his Enlightenment values. Situating him as an important figure within what David Sorkin calls the “religious enlightenment,” Franklin took part in a broad historical effort to “harmonize faith and reason.”Footnote 12 Moreover, he provided a thoughtful treatment of Christian theology, all the more striking given his private critiques of revelatory knowledge. Throughout his life, he promoted the “Cause of Christian Liberty,”Footnote 13 an alliance between reason and revelation that embraced a middle way between faith and works, orthodoxy and enthusiasm. The religious enlightenment was a transatlantic, not just a European, movement. Franklin's ideas about faith and Christianity arose through his reading of European writers, to whom he appealed in concrete disputes over theology and polity.

Franklin viewed himself foremost as a philosopher, or “Lover of Truth,” that is, one who reflects upon experience to formulate rules that best explain the natural order and shape human behavior to achieve happiness.Footnote 14 According to Franklin's “First Principles” of religion, the search for a first cause, God, was born of a well-ordered soul.Footnote 15 Philosophy, for Franklin, was not antithetical to, but was the fulfillment of, religious sentiment: it presumed an order to be discovered while recognizing the limits of the tentative systems that reason builds to approximate it. He contrasted “true Religion” (the pursuit of causes) with “Superstition and Enthusiasm,” which, from ignorance, fear, and ambition, attribute good or evil fortune to invisible powers.Footnote 16 As infinite God is “incomprehensible” and above understanding, Franklin focused on proximate causes rather than defining God's nature as incorporeal and then calling it unintelligible.Footnote 17 The central conflict was between knowledge by reason or by revelation, and “Revelation had . . . no weight with [him].”Footnote 18 Natural religion was philosophy, and it could not admit of miracles, revealed truths, or creeds.

Thus, Franklin critiqued the creeds of both Christianity and deism (if by that word we mean the infinite, providential God of Franklin's own deist creed). He had been “religiously educated as a Presbyterian” in “the Dogmas of . . . the Eternal Decrees of God, Election, [and] Reprobation” and concluded that some appeared “unintelligible, others doubtful.”Footnote 19 As a young writer in Boston, Franklin lampooned Christian teachings on marriage, baptism, original sin, and the very possibility of heresy.Footnote 20 He rejected the divinity of Christ, placing Christianity alongside other religions. Some did not need Christ to achieve moral perfection.Footnote 21 Moreover, his critique of revealed religion's claims to authority in miracles, scripture, and dogma extended to all such claims, including those of his own revelatory deist “Creed”: God's infinite attributes, particular providence, rewards in an afterlife, and the immortal soul.Footnote 22 Franklin sought rational explanations for supernatural claims, whether in natural science or psychology. Miracles were effects of whose causes he was ignorant, whether strange noises, plant growth, or political revolutions.Footnote 23 Religions, he noted, reinterpreted their dogmas by necessity and according to advancements in human knowledge.Footnote 24

Franklin rejected and distanced himself from his youthful atheism, reflecting a broader turn from what Jonathan Israel calls the “radical” to the “moderate mainstream enlightenment.”Footnote 25 Franklin often concealed his views with ambiguous language: natural revelation meant human reason; God meant a first cause; providence meant a general order of the world; worship meant gratitude and virtue, with earthly consequences; and soul meant a principle of motion.Footnote 26 This caution came from Franklin's desire for society and his assessment of both the variation in human capacities (some possessed “weak minds”) and the political role of religion.Footnote 27 He recounts those like his brother James or William Lyons who were imprisoned, their reputations destroyed, for challenging the civil authorities or public ministers.Footnote 28 But he also questioned the motives, efficacy, and prudence of both radical skeptics and atheists who zealously battled religion. In private, by embracing a world of chance,Footnote 29 they eroded the scientific search for causes (atheism had become an unquestioning dogma);Footnote 30 in public, they undermined the morals of those who believed in rewards and punishments in an afterlife.Footnote 31 If rightly conducted, religion aided moral and civic virtue, providing conditions for liberal education and public tranquility. Religious sentiment was natural—it could never be eradicatedFootnote 32—but it rarely achieved its highest private ends and often threatened public unity. Franklin considered the variety of religious sects and the moral and political effects of their doctrines. For example, the Christian's loyalty was divided between an earthly and heavenly kingdom, dissipating public spirit and disuniting citizens.

Despite his private reservations, Franklin often gave two public teachings. In the first, he used a revelatory deist moral creed containing “the Essentials of every Religion” to resolve the conflicting claims to authority and unite “all the Religions we had in our Country.”Footnote 33 While supporting religion generally, it offered “different degrees of Respect” to each sect as it tended “to inspire, promote or confirm Morality.”Footnote 34 Thus, he made morality, which united the political community, the “End” of religious association.Footnote 35 In the second, Franklin formulated a Christian theology that could be made compatible with his deist creed. Calling himself a Dissenter, he defended the reasonableness of Christianity to harmonize, as best as possible, the God of the Bible with nature's God.Footnote 36

The popular “Essays of Primitive Christianity” in the 1730 Gazette contained his deist creed.Footnote 37 The “Christian Religion” was “excellen[t] . . . above all others antient or modern” because it taught Christ as a universal “Lawgiver” who enforced natural law.Footnote 38 All religions use fear of the gods to teach morality,Footnote 39 but Christianity added judgments in an afterlife—“new and stronger Motives than either the Light of Nature or the Jewish Religion could furnish us with”Footnote 40—and was particularly suited to support scientific pursuits, charity, toleration, and virtues for a commercial republic. Franklin sought to harmonize the Protestant love of truth (in scripture) with scientific love of truth (in nature) in the virtue of sincerity, subjecting speculative points to rational inquiry in both religion and “natural Philosophy.”Footnote 41 Christian religious toleration, which had only become moral practice with the growth of dissenting sects,Footnote 42 befriended philosophic inquiry in the virtue of humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”Footnote 43 Christian humility (a concealed form of pride) deflects open pride, providing a foundation for modern civility.Footnote 44

Franklin also participated in the moderate enlightenment effort to resolve disputes over religious polity. “The burning issue,” writes Sorkin, “was how to establish the toleration, common morality, and shared political allegiance needed to sustain a multiconfessional polity.”Footnote 45 In his teachings on polity, Franklin was a thorough Dissenter, uniting Latitudinarian theology with radical New England Congregationalism. While theologically similar to Scots-Irish Presbyterians, Congregationalists supported neither the rule of elders nor hierarchical courts.Footnote 46 Mulford shows that Franklin's earliest opinions were likely formed by the Reverend John Wise (whom Lemay calls “the hero of [Franklin's] boyhood”), who opposed the Mathers’ attempt to form an association of ministers.Footnote 47 In what Perry Miller called “breath-taking radicalism,” Wise connected his teaching on church polity to Whig republican principles of natural law.Footnote 48 Identifying with the popular party, Wise argued that the people ought to be self-governing in both their churches and legislature. Against the Mathers and many of the clergy, he promoted the land bank scheme, paper currency, and public works—policies that Franklin later supported.

II. The Subscription Debate and the Hemphill Affair

The religious Enlightenment was a transatlantic affair. Franklin wrote his lengthiest theological essays to defend his Presbyterian minister Samuel Hemphill, who was removed for heresy. The Hemphill affair was rooted in the doctrinal disputes between English Latitudinarians and Scots-Irish Presbyterians, which had led to the subscription debates in Northern Ireland. In 1689, the Synod of Ulster, fearing the influence of Dissenters who stressed the faculty of reason and tended to an Arminian universalism, required that all ministerial candidates subscribe to the Westminster Confession. When Dublin minister Thomas Emlyn published A humble Inquiry (1702), which denied the doctrine of the Trinity, he was tried for blasphemy. The synod condemned Emlyn and tightened its subscription policy, and some congregations instituted pledges to the Confession. In response, a New Light party rose up to oppose the new requirements. They formed the Belfast Society around John Abernathy, minister at Antrim, who preached against subscription as a requisite for ordainment and communion. Between Old and New Light factions there was a third party, including Emlyn's colleague Joseph Boyse (one of Franklin's sources), who held orthodox views but supported the New Lights’ freedom of conscience. These moderates successfully passed the 1720 Pacific Act, resolving that a ministerial candidate must subscribe to the Confession but allowing him to “scruple” with any article. A scruple might disqualify one for the ministry, depending on whether the presbytery judged it to be essential to the faith. Still dissatisfied, many New Lights left the synod to form a separate congregation at Antrim in 1725. The subscription debate was renewed when Abernathy's student and Antrim replacement, non-subscriber James Duchal (another of Franklin's sources), debated William Holmes in several pamphlets in 1732.

The subscription dispute spread to American colonial churches, which faced a shortage of ministers, lax clergy, and theological and cultural differences that shaped immigration patterns.Footnote 49 In Pennsylvania, missionaries like Jedediah Andrews worked to incorporate new presbyteries into a growing network, fed by new ministers from Ireland. The Synod of the Trinity first met in Philadelphia in 1717. Concerned about a lack of ministerial discipline, in 1727, John Thomson proposed to adopt subscription in order to stop the “spreading of dangerous Errors.”Footnote 50 He believed that the Pacific Act had failed to stop the growth of “Arminianism, Socinianism, Deism, [and] Free-thinking,” so the church must fortify itself against assaults, especially from “secret Bosom Enemies,” immigrant New Light ministers who “do not openly . . . oppose the Truth” but secretly undermine the doctrines of election, reprobation, and predestination.Footnote 51 Thomson warned that the synod, an “organiz'd body politick,” was a “City without Walls” in that it lacked a defense of its truths.Footnote 52 He proposed that candidates subscribe to the Confession and Catechisms or “promise not to preach . . . contrary to it.”Footnote 53 The synod considered Thomson's proposal in 1729. Andrews, fearing a subscription battle, worried the motion would divide the synod “to a man” between English-Welsh and Scots-Irish members.Footnote 54

Weighing protests by New England Congregationalist Jonathan Dickinson, who warned of Irish sectarianism, the synod passed the 1729 Adopting Act, modeled on the Irish Pacific Act, to reconcile its factions.Footnote 55 The act “disclaim[ed] all legislative power and authority in the Church” and did not pretend to “authority of imposing our faith upon other men's consciences.”Footnote 56 Yet, to defend the faith, it required that all ministers “declare their . . . approbation of the Confession of Faith with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.” A candidate who scrupled could be denied “ministerial communion” if it was judged by the synod or presbytery to be over “essential and necessary” articles. Samuel Hemphill, sent from Ireland at Andrews's request for an assistant, subscribed under this act in September 1734.Footnote 57 As a heterodox subscriber, he was precisely what Thomson had feared.Footnote 58

Franklin uneasily observed the seeds of Calvinist orthodoxy in Philadelphia. Though he “seldom attended any Public Worship,” he saw “its Propriety, and . . . Utility when rightly conducted” and so subscribed to the Presbyterian Church, which lay closest to his upbringing and political sympathies.Footnote 59 Andrews, wrote Franklin, “us'd to visit me sometimes as a Friend, and admonish me to attend.” But Franklin, who believed the end of faith was good morals, had two complaints, the first speculative and the second political, about Andrews's “very dry” sermons. They “were chiefly either polemic Arguments, or Explications of the peculiar Doctrines of our Sect,” and their “Aim seem[ed] to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good Citizens.” To Franklin's delight, Hemphill's passionate sermons both “inculcated strongly the practice of virtue” and united Christians with “Freethinkers, Deists, and Nothings.”Footnote 60 Because Hemphill emphasized “Good Works” with little dogma, “orthodox Presbyterians . . . arraign'd him of heterodoxy.”Footnote 61

When Hemphill was charged, Franklin “became his zealous partisan, and contributed all [he] could to raise a party in his favour.”Footnote 62 Finding that Hemphill was “a poor writer,” Franklin anonymously “lent him [his] pen,” first in a dialogue in the Gazette one week before the commission met. Franklin's goal in a city of 8,000 people, with fewer than 400 pew-paying Presbyterians, was not to persuade the commission but to pressure it by shaping opinion both within the church and without.Footnote 63 He wore the persona of Presbyterian Dissenter, citing Boyse and William Wishart.Footnote 64 For a while, Hemphill's party “combated . . . with some hopes of success” to exonerate him, but the commission, meeting April 17–26, found him guilty and sent his case to the synod. In May, it published the Extract of its minutes, to which Franklin replied in his popular July Observations. Dickinson, who now supported subscription, responded critically with A Vindication in September, the month of the synodical meeting.Footnote 65 His sermons discovered to have been plagiarized from “open Arian[s],” Hemphill did not attend, but in a letter he said that he would soon publish a reply and, “despis[ing] the Synod's Claim of Authority,” he wished to be excommunicated.Footnote 66 The synod deposed him and authorized the commission to publish responses to Hemphill “or his friends.”Footnote 67 Franklin's September Letter and vitriolic October Defense not only ended Hemphill's career but attempted to create a schism, to divide the church as at Antrim. The trial changed American Presbyterianism: the synod stopped the immigration of Scots-Irish New Light ministers and later would divide in the schism of 1741.Footnote 68

III. Franklin's Christian Theology

Franklin's 1735 theological essays, referenced in his Autobiography, constitute a serious treatment and defense of Christianity. Adopting a Dissenter persona, his aim was to promote a more reasonable Christianity, which could be wed to, and even be a foundation for, the morals and politics of liberalism.Footnote 69 He also sought to discredit Calvinist doctrines that “serv'd principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another.”Footnote 70 Franklin retried Hemphill, and prosecuted orthodoxy, before the court of his readers.Footnote 71 He accused the commission of failing in both Christian and “human” duty, the common ground of justice contained in the Golden Rule.Footnote 72 For example, the commission unjustly demanded that Hemphill provide his sermons as an “Accusation against himself,” a violation of the “common Rights of Mankind,” and denied him an adequate defense.Footnote 73 Franklin's responses to the six articles of heresy sought to both “fill the Mind of every candid Reader with Horror” at orthodoxy and to teach a reasonable Christianity.Footnote 74

In its first article of heresy, the commission first accused Hemphill of teaching Christianity as an “Illustration and Improvement of the Law of Nature.”Footnote 75 The underlying question was that of authority. Franklin dismissed appeals to any authority—creed, tradition, or minister—other than scripture. But this raises the question of how one interprets scripture when it is unclear or seems contradictory. Three possibilities are implied by Franklin here. First, orthodoxy grounds Christian revelation in an omnipotent God's arbitrary commands: because of the Fall, man's reason leads away from saving faith, thus scripture is interpreted by creed, clergy, or tradition. The second position, and Franklin's private view, rejects scriptural authority for the judgments of unaided reason. But Franklin preached a third middling position: Christianity is consistent with the conclusions of reason. It is universal, accessible to all, and agreeable to human nature: the “Saviour's Sermons upon the Mount . . . are so very plain, that every impartial Man who reads ’em, may easily reconcile to his Reason, as being wisely calculated to serve that noble End of Man's Happiness.”Footnote 76 Christianity agrees with the “Laws of our Nature,” which have “such a natural Tendency to our present Ease and Quiet, that they carry their own Reward, tho’ there were nothing to reward our Obedience or punish our Disobedience in another Life.”Footnote 77

The rationalist Franklin teaches that God reveals man's duty in two revelations. The first enlightens human reason to the infinite God of Franklin's deist creed.Footnote 78 God is good, merciful, and just. He wishes happiness for his creatures, forgives the contrite heart for violations of his moral law, holds man accountable for that which he understands, and punishes man for willful transgressions. The second revelation is Christ's laws in scripture, which cannot contradict reason or make demands without “Foundation in Nature.”Footnote 79 Christ's “design” is intelligible: to aid man in the fulfillment of his duty by two additional positive laws, baptism and the Lord's Supper, which are inaccessible to the “Light of Nature” but agree with God's original law.Footnote 80 Even where scripture is unclear, its end concerning man's duty always is to “promote the Practice of Piety, Goodness, Virtue, and Universal Righteousness among Mankind.”Footnote 81 Miraculous and “extra-essential” teachings should facilitate a search “for a Sense agreeable to Reason and the known Perfections of God.”Footnote 82 False doctrines, like reprobation, conflict with the goodness of God or man's duty.

The “persecuting Spirit” of the clergy proceeds from opposing claims to authority: tradition and consensus.Footnote 83 In truth, writes Franklin, they are moved by ambition and with “crafty Malice” invent creeds (thus heresies) to secure submission and thus attain honor and power.Footnote 84 The “first Cause” of the injustice to Hemphill was envy.Footnote 85 Some ministers desired his fame and resented his unconventional interpretations of the creed. But Franklin, as the commission recognized, drove a wedge between Christianity and orthodoxy with his teaching of nature.Footnote 86 Orthodoxy claims to worship a rational God, the author of nature, but then denies nature in any meaningful sense, thereby destroying God's perfection and goodness.Footnote 87 The orthodox mind, he concluded, is disturbed by appeals to reason or good works because it champions an irrational God to satisfy its desire for arbitrary power, manifest in the commission's lawless and dishonest proceedings.

If Christ is lawgiver, then a Christian is one who obeys Christ's laws. But the commission, in its second article of heresy, attacked Hemphill's denial of “the Necessity of conversion to those that are born in the Church, and are not degenerated into vitious Practice.”Footnote 88 Franklin defended Hemphill by interpreting the ambiguous scriptural references to the “new Creature” in light of Christ's design, moral reform, and a reasonable view of habituation: “Men don't become very good or very bad in an Instant, both vicious and virtuous Habits being acquired by Length of Time and repeated Acts.”Footnote 89 Converts are “those who either never heard of the Gospel of Christ, or never firmly believed and practiced it”; thus they must be distinguished from those who have “all along had the Happiness of a christian and virtuous Education” and “sincerely endeavour'd to practise the Laws of the Gospel.”Footnote 90 The only evidence of conversion for one born into a Christian family could be fearful “Pangs and Convulsions,” which in turn only point to the need for “Holiness and Virtue.”Footnote 91

For Franklin, the throes of conversion embarrass the orthodox, but they originate in their own doctrine of original sin. Once one agrees that man's “State by Nature” has been undone by “Father Adam's first Guilt,” conversion becomes a magical switch that immediately alters one's motives, only after which his desire to follow Christ is vindicated and until which his obedience to Christ is irrelevant.Footnote 92 Though all are sinners,Footnote 93 Franklin rejects original sin as both unscriptural and absurd. One cannot be guilty for a sin he did not commit, transferred from one to another as unwitting accessories: “To suppose a Man liable to Punishment upon account of the Guilt of another, is unreasonable; and actually to punish him for it, is unjust and cruel.”Footnote 94 Because one educated to virtue has no need of conversion, the orthodox must invent an unpayable debt to command his submission: “’Tis a Notion invented, a Bugbear set up by Priests (whether Popish or Presbyterian I know not) to fright and scare an unthinking Populace . . . to answer the little selfish Ends of the Inventors.”Footnote 95

All of this begs the role of Christ. The commission, in its third article of heresy, accused Hemphill of teaching Christ only as lawgiver and not savior. But the two, Franklin argued, were inseparable: “The ultimate End and Design of Christ's Death, of our Redemption by his Blood, &c. was to lead us to the Practice of all Holiness, Piety and Virtue, and by these Means to deliver us from future Pain and Punishment, and lead us to the Happiness of Heaven.”Footnote 96 God sent Christ to help teach man his duty, thereby saving him from sin: “We are not to preach up Christ so as to dishonour God the Father, nor are we to make such undue Reliances upon his Merits, as to neglect Good Works; but we are to look upon him in both Characters of Saviour and Lawgiver; that if we expect he has attoned for our Sins, we must sincerely endeavour to obey his Laws.”Footnote 97 Christ's death and suffering purchased the terms of acceptance with God, faith and repentance, which requires behavioral change: Christ's death did not atone sins “wilfully and obstinately persisted in.”Footnote 98

Against a view of Christ that demands rigorous satisfaction in obedience, orthodoxy uses Christ's death to teach an incomprehensible, schizophrenic god. God the Father is neither good nor just but cruel, arbitrary, and unmerciful, demanding absolute perfection. Christ is the “kind condescending Saviour,” an incomprehensible pagan “Charm” that, if one agrees to the Creed, secures one's salvation and frees him from moral obligation.Footnote 99 The one is unforgiving; the other is all-forgiving. Neither looks to the merit or demerit of man. Christ's love is the orthodox image of itself to the world, benevolent to those who assent to the Creed. But it is also the foundation of cruelty: unrequited, it damns three-quarters of the world, and it torments and tyrannizes over private thoughts to achieve submission to its arbitrary judgments on earth.

In its fourth article of heresy, the commission rejected this view of Christ. Hemphill, it was said, made Christianity “an Assent to . . . the Gospel upon rational Grounds,” followed by good works, thus reducing faith to “naked assent” and equating it to obedience to Christ's laws.Footnote 100 Franklin ridicules this “Enthusiastick Cant” as mere “Sorcery.” No one can make choices without using his reason nor mislead listeners by teaching that saving faith always accompanies works. Hemphill was accused of saying, “The only End of Faith is Obedience.” Franklin asks, “What is the End of it . . . Disobedience?” The commission makes an irrational distinction between faith and obedience, which are inseparable, that allows it to sever communion based upon assent to the Creed.

Thus anyone, according to Franklin, can be saved. Hemphill suggested the admission of Christianity to “all honest Heathens,” and the commission, in its fifth article of heresy, accused him of rejecting “the Necessity of Divine Revelation.”Footnote 101 But Franklin replied that Hemphill did no such thing: rather, the light of reason leads one to good works, which may render him acceptable to God, who grants salvation by “farther Revelation of his Will.”Footnote 102 Conversely, damning the heathen is a projection of the orthodox mind: only those who “form their Ideas of the great Governor of the Universe, by reflecting upon their own cruel, unjust and barbarous Tempers” could “imagine that our good God . . . will eternally damn the Heathen World for not obeying a Law they never heard of; that is, damn them for not doing an Impossibility.”Footnote 103 Rather, “Promulgation . . . of a Law must be allow'd necessary, before Disobedience to it can be accounted criminal.” If Christ's mission and merits only benefitted a few, they would be a curse to most of mankind: when the heathen could have attained earthly happiness through the light of nature, God would have unjustly imposed an unknown law, the Gospel, sealing their eternal fate.

In its final article of heresy, the commission accused Hemphill of denying justification, or teaching conversion only as the decision to turn from vice. But Hemphill, Franklin argued, had only tried to explain justification as faith that saves by absolving the convert of all sins committed before an awareness of his duty. New Testament Christians, like Native Americans, required justification because none had been “educated and instructed in the Christian Religion.”Footnote 104 Justification cannot apply to those already educated in Christian duty, nor can one's “bare Faith” without obeying Christ's laws be imputed for righteousness.Footnote 105 The orthodox teach that God transfers the merits of Christ to men, tending to the view that “Christ's Merits and Satisfaction will save us, without our performing Good Works.”Footnote 106 Franklin calls this “abominably ridiculous and absurd in itself,” abhorrent to scripture: it promotes immorality and tends to the “the utter Subversion of Religion in general, and Christianity in particular.”Footnote 107 The commission argues: “God hath no Regard to any thing but Mens inward Merit and Desert.”Footnote 108 But inward and outward merit, Franklin argues, are inseparable: “To say that God regards Men for any thing else besides Goodness and Virtue . . . makes all Men both virtuous and vicious capable of being equally regarded by him, and consequently there is no Difference between Virtue and Vice.”Footnote 109 Franklin suggests a reasonable interpretation of justification. Doctrinally, Christians must obey Christ's laws of baptism and the Lord's Supper, whose speculative meanings are open to interpretation; morally, the means of justification is “a sincere Endeavour to conform to all the Laws of true Goodness, Piety, Virtue, and universal Righteousness, or the Laws of Morality both with respect to God and Man.”Footnote 110

Christianity is reasonable because, if rooted in the “Laws of our Nature,” it moves the primary “Springs” of human behavior—love, then hope and fear—to the end of happiness.Footnote 111 Franklin's teaching that the essence of Christianity is charity, unmoored from faulty speculative systems,Footnote 112 required that he invert its three core virtues: faith, hope, and charity. In a 1758 letter to his sister Jane, he sent and analyzed a poem written by their Uncle Benjamin: “Raise Faith and Hope three Stories higher, And let Christ's endless Love to thee // N-ere cease to make thy Love Aspire.”Footnote 113 “Our Author,” Franklin explained, “liken[s] Religion to a Building” with three stories of “Faith, Hope and Charity” and whose improvement is adding more stories to the ground floors.Footnote 114 But Franklin tells his sister, “I wish the House was turn'd upside down.” He explains, “Hope and Faith may be more firmly built on Charity, than Charity upon Faith and Hope.” If one raises faith three stories higher, the “Winds and Storms” of life will batter hope and love, and the “Foundation will hardly bear them.” Like “Straw and Stubble,” mere faith “won't stand Fire”; it is a poor foundation for morals because it is easily separated from works in dogma, thus becoming a mere “Confession” or an “Idol” without effect.Footnote 115 Similarly, hope for eternity must be built upon the experience or “Practice of the Moral Virtues.” Otherwise: “He that lives upon Hope, dies farting.”Footnote 116 Charity is the foundation for hope, which secures the superstructure of faith; faith should not be diminished, but charity strengthened.Footnote 117

Uncle Benjamin concludes of the house, “Kindness of Heart by Words express,” but Franklin amends, “Stricke out Words and put in Deeds.” He adds, “Compliments . . . are the rank Growth of every Soil, and Choak the good Plants of Benevolence and Benificence.”Footnote 118 Christians forsake the proper end, praising “pious Discourses instead of Humane Benevolent Actions.”Footnote 119 They call “Morality rotten Morality, Righteousness, ragged Righteousness and even filthy Rags; and when you mention Virtue, they pucker up their Noses as if they smelt a Stink; at the same time that they eagerly snuff up an empty canting Harangue. . . . So they have inverted the good old Verse, and say now: A Man of Deeds and not of Words[,] Is like a Garden full of [Turds].”Footnote 120 Thus Franklin could argue that heretics or even atheists (he called David Hume an “excellent Christian” for his morals) are better Christians than those merely professing faith.Footnote 121

IV. A Letter to a Friend in the Country

Franklin added to his doctrinal teaching a political defense of Christianity against orthodoxy, which “not only tends to subvert the Doctrines of the Gospel, but the Happiness and Welfare of human Society.”Footnote 122 Thus true Christians should “disapprove and discourage [its] Propagation” and instead embrace the Whig cause of liberty.Footnote 123 Leading scholars, questioning the Papers editors’ tentative attribution, have attributed the Letter in its entirety to Franklin.Footnote 124 But the editors were correct. As with his reference to Boyse, Franklin selected from New Light minister James Duchal; this fact challenges the views that Franklin's Letter was “anti-Presbyterian,” secular, or Pyrrhonist.Footnote 125 Rather, as Aldridge argued, Franklin's purpose was not to undermine religion as such but rather to bend it to reasonable ends.Footnote 126 Thus, it is anti-clerical and teaches a civic religion that harmonizes the Christian polity with political liberalism.

Franklin had evaluated the effects of three possible relations of religion to politics; here, he forwards a fourth. The ancient state unified citizens in one dogma; God was a jealous, vindictive deity of the tribe or state, which was ordered to conquest by “cruelty and blood.”Footnote 127 The second, primitive Christianity, was persecuted by paganism and established a spiritual kingdom apart from the political. Teaching “Love your Neighbour as your Self,” a doctrine intelligible to all, it was “consequently destructive of priestcraft.”Footnote 128 However, commanding Christians to love their enemies, it was pacifist and refused to use violence; praising humility, it failed to judge vice.Footnote 129 Making a virtue of resignation, it tended to an ascetic life-denial, a dying to self and happiness.Footnote 130 In the third, Christianity became an earthly despotism under a visible leader, solidifying its power: “The Pope took the Bible out of the Hands of the Laity,” and different denominations “cooked up Systems of their own Inventions,” leading to “infinite Wrangling,” each sect using the Bible to support its own principles.Footnote 131 Confusing the kingdom of heaven for the church on earth, it competed with civil laws over jurisdiction.Footnote 132 Dividing citizens, it was both intolerant and cruel.Footnote 133 Only recently had Dissenters restored Christianity to its “genuine Sense,” reviving “the Religion of Nature.”Footnote 134 Thus, Franklin teaches “natural Rights”: subjects of different sects consent to a “civil Society,”Footnote 135 whose sovereign teaches a moral, deistic creed that includes one's charity for and duty to others as well as freedom of conscience and toleration for speculative differences.

The Letter consists of three parts: (1) Franklin's “Preface”; (2) Franklin's edits to a Hemphill sermon borrowed from Duchal's Letter; and (3) a Postscript, excerpted from Duchal's Plain Reasons.Footnote 136 Franklin's “Preface” lays out his strategy. Writing as a layman, he exhorts his brethren to “shake off all . . . Prejudice. . . . ’[T]is a Privilege common to Mankind; ’tis the only way to promote the Interests of Truth and Liberty in the World.”Footnote 137 But the laity are again in danger of enslavement to the clergy, “Lovers of Dominion and Darkness,” who have “sinister Designs” to hinder “free impartial Enquiry.” Rallying his brethren to take up the “glorious Cause of Christian Liberty,” he shows how to humble the clergy's pride. They must first unite to assert their “natural Rights and Liberties in Opposition to [the clergy's] unrighteous Claims.” Rejecting the temptation to brand others heretics, they will find greater power in sound argument. They can also undermine the clergy's claim to rule by exposing its ambition for “fine Titles” and “temporal Interests.” Here, Franklin is ironic: the layman teaches this cause as glorious (an appeal to pride). Also, “Christian Liberty” is not liberty per se—Christians must still submit themselves to crusade for both religious and political freedoms. This noble defense of liberty is also useful: Christians are good citizens who bring national prosperity. They “preserve and maintain Truth, Common Sense, universal Charity, and brotherly Love, Peace and Tranquility, as recommended in the Gospel of Jesus, in this our infant and growing Nation.”Footnote 138

Parts of the Reverend's Letter, while heavily edited, are drawn from Duchal's Letter.Footnote 139 Franklin may have used Hemphill's notes, but, possessing the original pamphlets, he likely wrote it himself. It also suggests that Franklin, who exaggerated the role of Hemphill's plagiarism in the trial, was aware of it before it became public. Franklin's reverend blames the Hemphill scandal on the clergy's ambition: defending their “Claims to Power and Authority,” they seek to “command the civil Sword,” then use calumny, and finally censorship and fear mongering.Footnote 140 He recommends public shame, that the persecutors be “publickly pray'd for every Sabbath.”Footnote 141 His sermon, taking aim at orthodoxy, asks whether it is “lawful” to limit the terms of “Christian and Ministerial Communion” to anything but belief in scripture.Footnote 142 As a “Lover of Truth and Christian Liberty,” he weighs and rejects four arguments for subscription.Footnote 143

According to the first argument, a Christian may sever communion with one who disagrees with common doctrine but claims to believe the scriptures. The reverend rejects the authority of “Antiquity” and “Unanimity” and looks only to scripture, which always supports the “Cause of Liberty” in the service of truth.Footnote 144 Christ and his apostles omitted metaphysical speculation in their teachings to impede future imposters from making creeds. They insisted only that one acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and obey his laws. The Christians at Pentecost practiced no rituals, and, in the first two or three centuries, there were no confessions of faith or tests of orthodoxy.Footnote 145 The Apostles’ Creed was intentionally ambiguous to allow for differences within the church. The Catholic Church was a result of corruption, and Protestantism is in similar danger.

The second argument takes issue with the idea that “every Society . . . has a Right to make such Laws as seem necessary for its Support and Welfare . . . [to prevent] the Intrusion of Adversaries.”Footnote 146 The reverend disagrees: the rules of political and even private societies do not apply to Christ's kingdom. Unlike a “civil Society” ruled by “Consent of the Plurality,” “a christian Society” has no right to make laws that infringe upon those made by “our common King Jesus” or upon “the Rights and Privileges of his Subjects.” Jesus is absent and has appointed no vicegerent. None may preempt his sovereign authority by claiming “Legislative Authority” or “impos[ing] those Laws as Terms of Communion.”Footnote 147 All Christian subjects, those who confess Christ's law, possess equal right, under command to the “most sacred Laws of christian Charity,” to fellowship.Footnote 148 If there is one in the church who is well-behaved and “professes to believe the holy Scriptures” but disagrees with the form of worship or the creed, then he ought to be left alone.Footnote 149 Conversely, one who rejects scripture or Christ has no right to communion because he “does not at all pretend to Communion. . . . We don't exclude him, he excludes himself.”Footnote 150 Christ's laws demand toleration because of human uncertainty in speculative matters that cannot be resolved by majority vote.Footnote 151 As Christ provided neither infallible interpreters of scripture nor a creed as a term of communion, Christians must tolerate dissent because inquiry into scripture is essential to their duty to seek truth. Else the only purpose for the faith is servile indoctrination.Footnote 152

According to the third argument, the right to private judgment includes choosing ministers and withholding communion from those that hold “erroneous Notions” on essential points.Footnote 153 The reverend agrees that some must hold ministerial office, but rather than judge candidates by their creed, he proposes candidates with “Learning and good Sense” who facilitate inquiry into the scriptures and with “Discretion, Good Nature, and an exemplary Life” in following Christ's laws.Footnote 154 Ideally, the people would gather to discuss scripture with learned Christians who have flourished in the community. Abandoning the word heretic, they must allow the lone dissenter to dissent, even to minister, for he may be right. As God is the author of our understanding, one should not fear “dangerous doctrines” but “trust” in providence: “Sincerity is the Touchstone. ’Tis that will decide our future Condition.”Footnote 155 The sincere love and search for truth, and “the Good of our Fellow-Creatures” is what we can know, while our conclusions we may never be sure of.

The fourth argument for severing communion with dissenters is that jarring and confusing opinions would destroy the church by disordering its tenets and form. Distinguishing between order and form, the reverend argues that scripture commands “that Things be done decently and in order” with “Respect and Civility” to those appointed to teach.Footnote 156 A majority or its appointed delegates must agree on essential or useful rituals and “Speculative Points,” but it cannot expel a dissenter, who must in turn tolerate what he thinks are insignificant rites.Footnote 157 If a minority believes it must practice certain rituals, it is free to leave. The desire for form, the reverend warns, is caused by the desire for unity of inward opinion, and it is “the Spring of all those tyrannical Pretences which occasion the Dispute before us.”Footnote 158 But this desire, governed by the spirit of pride and love of power, divides Christians over worship and in metaphysical disputes. Creeds not only have been the greatest cause of schisms in the Catholic Church but they have also failed to unify dozens of sects, and thousands of private opinions, in Philadelphia. As there can be no true unity in “secret Thoughts and Sentiments,” creeds only “propagate Falshood, Superstition, Absurdity, [and] Cruelty.”Footnote 159 The reverend offers his own “Method of promoting the Interests of Truth”—namely, “mutual Love and Forbearance.”Footnote 160 He argues for the toleration of any sect, and Franklin elsewhere included Islam, that does not reject the moral law: “There would be among Christians a full Liberty of declaring their Minds or Opinions to one another both in publick and private.”Footnote 161 This “Diversity of Opinion” will in turn promote “universal Peace” and unity: “We might peaceably . . . differ in our religious Speculations as we do in Astronomy or any other Part of natural Philosophy.”

The postscript, an excerpt from Duchal, contrasts two ways of thinking, and, contrary to previous scholarship, it shows how Franklin appealed to revealed authority for his public teaching of toleration.Footnote 162 “Creed-Imposers” believe that “even where the religious Rights of others are affected by our private Judgments, we must judge for our selves, and are in so doing only maintaining our own just Rights.”Footnote 163 The opposite view is that “where the religious Rights of others are affected, we ought to rest in the express Decisions of Scripture.” If the first, then “where shall we stop?” Subscribers confuse the right and rule of judgment, and thus they falsely make their right to privately judge for themselves “a Rule of Action” to judge for others. The problem is that “this Rule must equally direct Men, whether they are really in the Right, or only think themselves so.”Footnote 164 On this basis, Protestant orthodoxy must ever aspire to “Popish Usurpation,” because true religion comes through persuasion alone.Footnote 165 The solution to speculative differences is to defer to scripture, which rejects orthodox creeds by affirming the individual's right to sincerely pursue truth, as well as the rule of humble toleration toward others.

Dickinson's able response (quoting Locke) to Franklin's Letter was that the synod only claimed the right to private association, including expulsion. Hemphill, he reminded, had freely subscribed, submitting himself to the church's rules.Footnote 166 But this overlooks the importance of Franklin's Dissenter persona: he did not deny the political right of association (or expulsion);Footnote 167 rather, he attempted, using theological argument, to shape the association from within. He explained his opposition to orthodoxy in his 1738 defense of the Freemasons from alleged heresy and sedition. Repeating Duchal's argument, he admitted that he “Doubtless” possessed “erroneous Opinions”: considering “the natural Weakness and Imperfection of Human Understanding,” one must be vain to believe, and bold to profess, that “all the Doctrines he holds, are true; and all he rejects, are false.”Footnote 168 This applied to “every Sect, Church and Society of men when they assume to themselves that Infallibility which they deny to the Popes and Councils.”Footnote 169 Franklin concluded: “Since it is no more in a Man's Power to think than to look like another, methinks all that should be expected from me is to keep my Mind open to Conviction, to hear patiently and examine attentively whatever is offered me for that end.” Judging opinions by their effects, whether they make the individual or society “less Virtuous or more vicious,” the Masons were “very harmless,” having “no principles or Practices that are inconsistent with Religion or good Manners.”Footnote 170 These were the grounds upon which Franklin indicted orthodoxy.

V. The Reasonableness of Christianity

Befitting his definition of reasonable as a tension between principle and inclination,Footnote 171 Franklin's teachings on Christianity changed over time. In the 1730s, as a rising citizen of Philadelphia, he used his press and membership in social clubs like the Junto to promote the free exchange of religious and philosophical ideas. He joined the Freemasons, a “worshipful fraternity,” for both social advancement and improvement. According to The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, which he printed in 1734 (the year he was elected Grand Master), man is “created after the Image of God, the great Architect of the Universe,” and Jesus is the “great Architect of the Church” who “laid the World quiet, by proclaiming universal Peace.”Footnote 172 The Masons were a party of virtue, uniting men across national boundaries and languages to build a better world. As an equal and free society, it grounded rewards “upon real Worth and personal Merit only,” admitted new members by unanimous vote, and passed decisions by a majority.Footnote 173 For a rising middle class, Franklin taught the Masonic myth of God the Great Mechanic, who is worshipped by ordering nature and who blesses industry.Footnote 174 He judged religions by how well they secured both moral virtue and political rights, such as freedom of the press and conscience. Suspecting organized religion, he frequently praised the Quaker principle of religious freedom. The March 30, 1738, Gazette warned of “an ignorant vicious Clergy” who aimed to found a state church, which “strike[s] deep at the very root of our Charter.”Footnote 175 But Franklin's experience with the Great Awakening gave him a new perspective.

Franklin's friendship with Whitefield was more than just a means to sell books. He initially saw in the revivals a possibility for a moral, ecumenical Christianity removed from church hierarchy. Sensing the underlying divisions between subscribers, moderates, and awakeners, he promoted Whitefield and the New Side Presbyterians to weaken Presbyterian orthodoxy.Footnote 176 In 1737, the Philadelphia Synod had passed the Itinerant Minister Act, which protected church polity by forbidding ministers of different presbyteries from preaching without a formal invitation.Footnote 177 It attacked the source of itinerancy, the Tennents’ Log College, by resolving that ministerial candidates must either graduate from an approved European or New England college or be approved by the synod. Gilbert Tennent's New Brunswick Presbytery ignored this requirement, and in March 1739 Tennent preached “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry,” which attacked the majority of ministers as hypocrites, having the mere form of godliness without its power. Whitefield joined in the condemnation.Footnote 178 Following protests, Tennent walked out of the 1741 synodical meeting, beginning a seventeen-year schism.

Franklin supported Whitefield for reasons of doctrine and order. Doctrinally, he believed that “vital Religion has always suffer'd, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue.”Footnote 179 Whitefield's appeal to conscience and conversion, rather than creedal conformity, seemed to direct religious energy toward moral and social improvement, like the orphanage or “Negroe School.”Footnote 180 Refusing to “imagine that all God's Ministers and People are coop'd up within . . . one particular Denomination,” itinerants tended to ecumenicism.Footnote 181 Tennent claimed each presbytery had the right to examine candidates, ordain ministers, and weigh the synod's decrees with its own interpretation of scripture.Footnote 182 Franklin also connected clerical orthodoxy to aristocratic pretensions. In 1740, when a group of gentlemen established a dancing club, proposing that “no mechanic or mechanic's wife or daughter should be admitted,” Franklin, as Obadiah Plainman, defended the “meaner Sort” that supported Whitefield against the “Better Sort” that condemned the revivals.Footnote 183 The rules, he argued, would exclude even “God Almighty,” who is “the greatest mechanic in the universe; having as the Scripture testifies, made all things . . . by weight and measure.”Footnote 184 He cited republicans Cicero, Algernon Sidney, and John Trenchard, who distinguished not by class but between virtue and vice; the people were not a “stupid Herd, in whom the Light of Reason is extinguished.”Footnote 185

But Franklin soon observed the Log College's tendency to enthusiasm, superstition, and lawlessness.Footnote 186 Whitefield, like a general “haranguing . . . Armies,”Footnote 187 could briefly control vast crowds, but those under his spell who pledged to change soon reverted to their old ways. In the fall of 1741, lay preachers led chaotic revivals, culminating in James Davenport's 1743 book burning. Despite early cooperation with pietistic sects, and even touting an “experimental knowledge” and tolerance, both Whitefield and Tennent, when threatened by competing doctrines, reverted to Calvinistic dogmas.Footnote 188 Like the subscribers, they built up a “Guard and Defence about their [own] sacred Truths” and attacked the “dangerous Heresies” of the Moravians, Socinians, and Arminians.Footnote 189 Tennent was now a “High Priest” designing “to be father Confessor.”Footnote 190 The Awakening also exposed the province's religious and ethnic divisions: English set against Scots-Irish settlers, and both suspect of German pietists, who were themselves divided over Moravian revivalist techniques.Footnote 191 Franklin “absolutely refus'd” to help Tennent's subscription drive for a new Presbyterian church, and he later adjusted his anti-creedal theology.Footnote 192

As he grew older, Franklin left off participation in the Junto and Freemasons for scientific experimentation and political life—the first a form of worship in the study of causes,Footnote 193 and the second the godlike activity of using that wisdom to “mend the scheme of Providence” for human good.Footnote 194 In a demographically changing province, Franklin supported a free market of religious sects and worked with any when it promoted the interest of the province.Footnote 195 He contributed to churches and synagogues, observed Anglican rites (such as communion and lent), and took Pennsylvania's religious oath of office.Footnote 196 Political prudence always determined his alliances: he celebrated Quaker religious freedom but worked against its pacifism, and he condemned Presbyterian orthodoxy while celebrating its republican spirit.Footnote 197 What he came to understand was that political ends, such as natural law, were inherently religious because they presupposed a common conception of right. Religious principles and public acts of devotion could be used to transcend sectarian, ethnic, and class differences. With his growing political influence, Franklin moved away from teaching simple religious liberty to civic duty, to institutionalize a reasonable Christianity in public defense, education, charity, and imperial expansion, both to reduce sectarian faction and to challenge the religious establishments that encouraged it.

During King George's War, Franklin divided the younger moderate Quakers against the older Quaker establishment to gain support for the military Association. He compared pacifism, which he called “mistaken Principles of Religion,” to “the Man, who sat down and prayed his Gods to lift his Cart out of the Mire.”Footnote 198Conscience,” he wrote, “enjoins it as a Duty . . . on every Man . . . to defend [his] Country . . . Friends . . . aged Parents . . . Wives, and helpless Children.”Footnote 199 One must not “desert the Tender and Helpless, by Providence committed to [his] Charge.”Footnote 200 God has provided man with prudence to do what is right, if he would but unite the “Force of Reason, Duty, and Religion.”Footnote 201 Promoting a social contract, Franklin exhorted the Scots-Irish and “brave and steady Germans” to “unite with us in Defence of . . . Liberty and Property.”Footnote 202 Using scripture to persuade Christians of their duty to fight, he gave the benediction, “May the God of Wisdom, Strength and Power, the Lord of the Armies of Israel, inspire us with Prudence in this Time of Danger.Footnote 203 He wrote the Council's proclamation for “a Day of Fasting and Prayer” in order to give “the clergy of the different Sects an Opportunity of Influencing their Congregations to join in the Association.”Footnote 204 Franklin, Lemay shows, designed the emblems and mottos for the battle flags, including one showing the union of three classes in Pennsylvania and another proclaiming, “In God We Trust.Footnote 205 But Franklin also pitted some races and religions against others, warning of “Irish Catholicks, under a bigotted Popish King,” French soldiers who would take “Pride in deflouring Quaker Girls,” and the “unbridled Rage, Rapine and Lust, of Negroes, Molattoes, and . . . the vilest and most abandoned of Mankind.”Footnote 206

Franklin's 1749 Proposals on education argued for an institutional Christianity to educate the varieties of religious sentiment to science, liberal political principles, and public service. He balanced the beautiful and the useful to both channel the student's religious and patriotic affections into zeal for the public good while tempering enthusiasm with calculative appeals to interest. The study of history would show “the Necessity of a Publick Religion, from its Usefulness to the Publick; the Advantage of a Religious Character among private Persons; the Mischiefs of Superstition, &c. and the Excellency of the Christian Religion above all others antient or modern.”Footnote 207 Spurning doctrinal disputes (Whitefield wanted more theology), Franklin united the study of theology with “natural history,” which would be useful for “Divines” to “strengthen [their discourses] by new Proofs of Divine Providence.”Footnote 208 He cited George Turnbull on the “excellence of the Christian revelation” and its harmony with reason. According to Turnbull, God's “immutable perfections” logically demonstrated moral law, which was enforced by the “glorious hopes” or “suffering in a future state” and led to useful public service.Footnote 209

In the building of Pennsylvania Hospital, Franklin worked to institutionalize both charity—which he called “essential to the true Spirit of Christianity”—and the Golden Rule—that one's duty to God is doing good to others.Footnote 210 While all humans were susceptible to diseases and reversals of fortune, collectively individuals could multiply the good they do to help the sick and the poor.Footnote 211 Franklin noted that hospitals were a uniquely Christian political institution, unknown among the ancients: “In all well-regulated States where Christians obtain'd sufficient Influence, publick Funds and private Charities have been appropriated to the building of Hospitals.”Footnote 212 He described this form of public charity as a civil conversion: “The Stranger is taken in, the Ignorant instructed, and the Bad reclaimed . . . [and] it is also the Means of feeding the Hungry and cloathing the Naked.”Footnote 213

In his political ambition to “settle a Colony on the Ohio,” Franklin connected English Protestant industry to immigration and citizenship.Footnote 214 The 1751 Observations argued for a reasonable religion that teaches “Frugality and Industry as religious Duties,” which increase a nation, especially in its “remote Settlements.”Footnote 215 Protestantism secured virtue by teaching self-reliance, or labor in preparation for old age and sickness.Footnote 216 Its view of providence, “God helps them that help themselves,” habituates citizens to prudence and independence, and the right to private judgment makes the Christian citizen responsible for his destiny both in heaven and on earth.Footnote 217 One is “accountable for his Belief to Christ alone” and will be judged for his deeds, not his stated intentions.Footnote 218 Because “one Man's Salvation does not interfere with the Salvation of another Man . . . every Man is to be left at Liberty to work it out by what Method he thinks best.”Footnote 219 Catholicism, he argued, educated citizens to dependence, breeding laziness. Franklin praised the industry of German pietists, but he attacked their lawlessness and pacifism, comparing their disregard for the clergy to Hottentots who beat their own mothers.Footnote 220 He recommended “excluding all Blacks and Tawneys” (German “Palatine Boors”) from America and “increasing the lovely White and Red.”Footnote 221

Franklin's use of religion and ethnicity for political solidarity backfired. As a leader of the new Quaker Party, he challenged the Proprietary Party over defense, an issue affecting the Scots-Irish and Germans, whose numbers had each grown to one-third of the population. During the French and Indian War, the proprietaries stoked religious faction with a petition to the king to change the oath of office to bar Quakers.Footnote 222 Seizing on the chaos of Pontiac's Rebellion and the Paxton massacres, they renewed the sectarian divide in 1764 to strong-arm the assembly. Claiming that it violated proprietary rights, Governor John Penn returned the £50,000 supply bill that would raise the 1,000 troops necessary to defend the frontier from attacks. In what Franklin called a sinister alliance, the proprietaries turned the Scots-Irish Presbyterians and German pietists against the Quakers.Footnote 223 Franklin had fought the proprietary and British policies that had exposed the frontier and affirmed the settlers’ grievance about lack of representation in the assembly,Footnote 224 but he was outraged when Presbyterian ministers like John Elder and John Ewing failed to condemn, and even condoned, the Conestoga and Lancaster massacres.Footnote 225

In his Narrative of the Late Massacres, Franklin opposed the toxic blend of religious sect with race (that he himself had encouraged) that had justified the murders and culminated “in Defiance of Government, of all Laws human and divine.”Footnote 226 “Religious Bigots,” he argued, were “of all Savages the most brutish.”Footnote 227 They zealously invoked God's justice to make war upon an entire race. “If it be right to kill Men for such a Reason,” Franklin countered, then the same applied to “killing all the freckled red-haired Men, Women and Children.”Footnote 228 He decried the “horrid Perversion of Scripture and of Religion! to father the worst of Crimes on the God of Peace and Love!”Footnote 229 This was a burlesque of true Christianity, which ought to excel all other religions in “the Knowledge and Practice of what is right.” Franklin provided examples of the sacred law of hospitality espoused by all religions and races: a “Pagan Negroe” was more humane than the “Christian[] white Savages of Peckstang and Donegall.”Footnote 230 If Christians fail to see “that Justice may be done, the Wicked punished, and the Innocent protected,” then God's justice will be exacted upon them in haunted consciences, shame upon faith and country, retribution in further massacres of settlers by wrathful Indians, and finally, alluding to the book of Judges, collapse into the Hobbesian state of nature: “We can, as a People, expect no Blessing from Heaven, there will be no Security for our Persons or Properties; Anarchy and Confusion will prevail over all, and Violence, without Judgment.”Footnote 231

Franklin, unlike Joseph Galloway or Thomas Wharton, seldom categorically condemned the Presbyterians—they were a political group in his eyes. In his polemic, he praised the Royal Highlanders who transcended racial hatred to protect the innocent Conestogas. In Cool Thoughts, he downplayed animosity between Presbyterians and Quakers: “Religion has happily nothing to do with our present Differences, tho’ great Pains is taken to lug it into the Squabble.”Footnote 232 He argued at length that a royal government would protect “Liberty of Conscience and the Privileges of Dissenters” and again appealed to unity among English, Irish, and German Pennsylvanians.Footnote 233 Upon his arrival in England, his dear friends included current and former Presbyterian ministers (and radical Whigs) Richard Price and Joseph Priestley. Franklin's long friendship with Charles Thomson, devout Presbyterian and biblical scholar, helped to persuade him to side with the republican “Presbyterian Party” against the Quakers in the years leading into the American Revolution.Footnote 234 It was in England that he returned to reforming Christian liturgy.

Throughout his life, Franklin mused over and even constructed liturgies for the education of his theology, which connected “Articles of Belief” with the “Acts of Religion” or good works that were the correlate to achieving a good conscience.Footnote 235 “Thro’ the Depravity of human Nature,” he concluded, “Mankind is vastly more prone to Vice than to the Pursuit of Virtue. Therefore as they cannot avoid Reflection, they cannot help Perceiving their Guilt. The Apprehension of future Punishment gives them a continual Anxieties.”Footnote 236 Organized religion, he believed, played a vital role for most people, who could neither rationally discern their long-term good nor by unaided reason habituate themselves to the moral virtues that would bring tranquility of mind. Opposite orthodoxy, which preyed upon this anxiety, were the convulsions of evangelical sects, which might prod worshippers to virtue but also disrupt the social order. Thus, Franklin tried his hand at a traditional ceremony for a middling audience.

The importance of liturgy, he concluded, was nether dogma nor preaching but certain rituals and “Acts of Devotion” that “mend[ed] the Heart” or achieved certain sentiments. He instructed his daughter Sally, “Go constantly to Church whoever preaches” and “never miss the Prayer Days”—and this not just as a duty to protect his reputation from his enemies.Footnote 237 “The Acts of Devotion in the common Prayer Book,” he argued, “if properly attended to, will do more towards mending the Heart than Sermons generally can do. For they were composed by Men of much greater Piety and Wisdom.” Franklin's revision of the Lord's Prayer and contributions to Lord Le Despencer's 1773 Abridgment to the Common Prayer Book, excising one-half of the liturgy, have been explained as scholarly endeavors or hoaxes.Footnote 238 But Franklin also wanted to reconnect worship to the proper ends of the catechism, that is, one's duties “towards God, and . . . towards our neighbours,” which had been lost in history and language. He believed it must be updated for a modern audienceFootnote 239 and shorn of Old Testament barbarisms.Footnote 240 Rather, the purpose of Christian worship is humility, to strip away the worshipers’ pretensions (especially in speculative matters), inspire gratitude, and remind them to depend upon the “daily Bounty of their Creator.”Footnote 241 This humility, recognizing equality under God, leads them to charity and unity through a form of worship. He selected from the Psalms, pairing them with the desired collective emotions—awe, contrition, resolve, exhortation, intercession, confidence, dejection, public distress, elation, thanksgiving, and “longing for a better World”—to have a therapeutic effect on the participants.Footnote 242

To unify the many and the few, a liturgy must consider the tradesmen who would attend services were they shorter and more relevant. Religious practice loses efficacy when it becomes too lengthy, boring, and repetitive—Franklin said that he had not the time for “attending the long tedious services of the church.”Footnote 243 But it must also appeal to the intellectual few: founded on “indisputable principles,” excluding all “Sentiments and Doctrines but those of piety and morality,” and motivated by “the duties, laws, and pleasures of society.”Footnote 244 Franklin's earliest and last liturgies stemmed from his criticism of freethinking and atheism.Footnote 245 Rather than a secularist attempting to destroy Christianity or religion, he thought that the Enlightenment, separating natural philosophy from religion, had become an atheistic dogma, which, like Christian orthodoxy, disconnected the respective objects of philosophy and religion: truth and moral virtue.Footnote 246 Making truth the object of private inquiry, intellectuals deserted public worship, eroding both public spirit and the habituation of youth to virtue. Thus a “Rational Christianity” was needed to align interpretations of scripture with reason.Footnote 247

Franklin's close friends, the liberal ministers of the Club of Honest Whigs, Priestley, Price, and Theophilus Lindsey, also amended the liturgy in the founding of Unitarianism, or “Christianity on the rational plan,” which rejected the “polytheism” of the Trinity.Footnote 248 Franklin and Le Despencer attended Lindsey's first sermon at the Essex House Chapel, where Lindsey incorporated his own Book of Common Prayer according to the “Reformed Liturgy” of Samuel Clarke.Footnote 249 Christians, he argued, were “distinguished from all other men” by an “agreement in charity, and not so much in religious opinions.”Footnote 250 Charity was “the way to peace and unity,” not common opinions (except “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”) or even practice, “for our opinions are not in our own power. They depend upon the light and evidence with which truth is presented to our minds.”Footnote 251 Rejecting the idea that God designed that Christians should form one great church, there should be different sects and churches, with the many and the rational few unified by moral precepts.Footnote 252 Multiplying sects alleviates social disturbances, so long as the state does not encourage any, even by oaths of office.Footnote 253 Even those who reject worship altogether “demonstrate themselves good citizens and useful subjects of the state” if they “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”Footnote 254 The various Christian sects, far from undermining the “public worship” of God, monitor and improve one another to the same collective end.Footnote 255

Suspecting that Franklin did not believe his own deist creed, Priestley sent him a copy of David Hartley's Observations on Man as well as his own Institutes, which chronicled God's providence in the miracles of scripture beginning with the Old Testament and completed through Christ's “miraculous conception.”Footnote 256 Human consciousness had progressed in different historical dispensations, and by this revelatory knowledge the “meanest Christian” is “superior to other men” in his own happiness and promoting that of others.Footnote 257 Thus, Priestley later condemned Clarke's Arian liturgy. But Franklin disagreed with both scriptural inspiration and the primacy of Christian dogma. Private pride should be rechanneled for public good: a universal religion in the Christian world must find common ground for all faiths instead of demanding conversion.

As a member of the Thirteen Club, Franklin helped David Williams construct A Liturgy on the Universal Principles of Religion and Morality in 1773–1774.Footnote 258 Franklin told Williams that he “never passed a Church, during Public Service, without regretting that he could not join it honestly and cordially,” and he wished to revive a “rational form of devotion,” like that of Shaftesbury's deism, for freethinkers.Footnote 259 Church attendance had declined, and there was no alternative to the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer or Dissenter enthusiasm.Footnote 260 He “thought it a reproach to Philosophy that it had not a Liturgy and that it skulked from the public Profession of its Principles,” and he lamented the loss of “that pleasure, which all virtuous minds have in a public acknowledgement of their duties.”Footnote 261 A liturgy was needed to preach the general principles of a common creed: “All disputed opinions should be excluded public-worship; and that all honest, pious men, Calvinists, Arians, Socinians, Jews, Turks, and Infidels, might and ought to worship God together in spirit and in truth.”Footnote 262 Thus the liturgy invited the many of all faiths to join in a common creed constructed for a select “Party of Virtue.”Footnote 263

Scholars have noted the Liturgy's universalism, but they omit that it is mostly a pastiche from the Dissenter A Form of Prayer (1763) with the marks of Franklin's editorial eye.Footnote 264 A comparison of the Liturgy's original passages confirms Aldridge's assessment that Franklin included the metaphysics and hymns from his 1728 “Articles.” While directing adoration to “the universal spirit” or “the fountain of being,”Footnote 265 the liturgy's purpose was moral and political, “to promote Universal piety and Benevolence,” “virtue and happiness,” and “that state of manly liberty, and that habit of self-government, which will effectually promote the attainment of wisdom and virtue, and the tranquility and true enjoyment of life.”Footnote 266 Franklin even smuggled in his beloved Cicero: “We are born, not for ourselves only, but for our friends, our country, and for all mankind.”Footnote 267 Virtue required channeling guilt, in light of God's “perfections,” to “humility, sorrow, and resolutions of amendment,” that the “painful reflections we now make on our former follies, be an effectual restraint on our future conduct.”Footnote 268 Franklin even wanted to distribute his “Art of Virtue” with the Liturgy.Footnote 269 The Liturgy concluded, “May no difference of sects, parties, or opinions, lessen that brotherly affection we owe to all men,” adding (tellingly in 1776), “We would rejoice in the subversion of tyranny, oppression, and every thing unfriendly to the liberties of the world. May a spirit of order, harmony, and peace, go forth among the nations.”Footnote 270

The press lampooned Franklin's participation in the liturgy as well as the fact that it, a proclaimed religion of nature, borrowed revelatory insights from Christian and English tradition.Footnote 271 Thus, it overlooked Franklin's intention to evolve and not break from tradition by rooting the liturgy in the Bible, Book of Common Prayer, and English classics—Milton, Thomson, Addison, and Watts—retaining Jesus as an example of universal benevolence, humility, and piety.Footnote 272 Thus, the Liturgy became a forerunner to French atheistic religions, and Williams lamented that Franklin's early departure for America had prevented the reconciliation between the deistic and atheistic factions that splintered the group.Footnote 273 The schism occurred over evidences of a future state, to which, we will see, Franklin had an answer.

Having learned lessons from racial and religious strife, Franklin reapplied his religious principles to legitimize revolution and the American political order. Teaching that “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God,” he recommended this motto for the Great Seal of the United States.Footnote 274 The Revolution, he preached, was a miracle (even fulfilling prophecy), the victory of a far inferior power against a greater, and divine retribution upon George III (whom hell awaited) for his wicked orders to slaughter Americans.Footnote 275 This miracle included the unifications of races and sects and had produced governments and laws, “which for wisdom and justice, are the admiration of all the wise and thinking men in Europe.”Footnote 276 Understanding that “our future safety will depend upon our Union and our Virtue,” he stressed racial and religious unity.Footnote 277 He praised the Irish immigrants that held a majority of the Pennsylvania legislature and opposed African American slavery, which would draw the “displeasure of the great and impartial Ruler of the Universe upon our country.”Footnote 278 He supported the promotion of liberal Protestant and Catholic ministers and, when politically feasible, opposed religious tests and state-supported churches.Footnote 279 He urged his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to shake off their sentiments of infallibility, which he likened to Old World religious orthodoxy.Footnote 280 In his recommendation for prayer (even calling for “the Clergy of this city . . . to officiate”), Franklin, quoting Jesus, preached that the Revolution had convinced him of “this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs 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?”Footnote 281 Warning his colleagues not to imitate the “Builders of Babel,” he reminded them that every political community required some common belief—in his own teaching, the “self-evident” truths of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God.”Footnote 282 Franklin even likened the Founders to Moses, who faced the grumblings of the “thirteen Tribes” that desired a return to British slavery or idolatrous anarchy.Footnote 283 The Americans were a chosen people (the next “city on a hill”) anointed by God, whose blessings awaited if they would follow his laws.Footnote 284

Franklin's final attempt to teach the reasonableness of Christianity was in the promotion of “perpetual peace.” This was neither Christian eternal rest nor pax but the application of knowledge to channel human instincts, which are in perpetual motion, toward conflict resolution. Yet it spoke to Christians who used the Enlightenment language of government as a “grand machine” whose proper planning would bring human happiness.Footnote 285 Noting the folly of “repeated Wars,” Franklin wrote to David Hartley in 1783, “America . . . could be the means of uniting in perpetual peace her father and her husband,” England and France.Footnote 286 But, he argued, only the liberal principles of equality, liberty, and independence could produce such a “family compact”: “Learn to be quiet & to respect each others rights. You are all Christians. One is the most Christian King, and the other defender of the faith. Manifest the propriety of these titles by your future conduct. By this says Christ shall all men know that ye are my Disciples if ye Love one another. Seek peace and ensue it.”Footnote 287 Internationally, the effect would be to spend the money used for war “to promote the internal welfare of each Country”: “Bridges roads canals and other usefull public works, and institutions tending to the common felicity.”Footnote 288

At the end of his life, Franklin affirmed that he was not a Christian, yet he maintained the pieties of his deist creed, which, he repeated, affirmed Jesus's system of morality.Footnote 289 While he believed that virtue and vice “carry their own Reward,” he still continued to preach rewards and punishments in an afterlife, the source of the aforementioned schism between deists and atheists. Considering the psychological longing for heaven, Franklin taught his own myth of eternal recurrence: his corruptible body would return to its constituent elements, a perfect initial happy state, where matter acts unobstructed to what it is and thereby experiences infinite pleasure, unmixed with pain.Footnote 290 Washed in the River Lethe, the concern for glory in human memory would be over, every particle pure action. Franklin's myth of eternal recurrence is neither the ancients’ Elysium nor the Christian heaven, but he did not disabuse others of the notion as long as it led to moral action in life. Franklin's own courage in the face of death stemmed from his rational approach to life. He tempered his desire for glory with reflections upon the ephemerality of human things, his lamentations on pain with humor and gratitude for pleasure, and his indignation at the indifference of nature with admiration for nature's order and the meaning that humans provided to it.


The author would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers of this article for their insightful criticisms and excellent recommendations. He also wishes to thank Ruth Slack for her crucial suggestions and Bailey Poletti for his meticulous editorial corrections.


1 Leo Lemay, J. A., The Life of Benjamin Franklin, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006–2009), 1:8Google Scholar.

2 Mulford, Carla J., “Benjamin Franklin, Virtue, and the Good Life,” College Literature 46, no. 3 (Summer 2019): 741743CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Franklin, Benjamin, Autobiography, ed. Labaree, Leonard (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1964), 114Google Scholar; and on Franklin's change, see Lemay, Life, 1:3–4, 289–290.

4 Franklin, Benjamin, “Doctrine to be Preached,” The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Labaree, Leonard et al. , 43 vols. to date (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959–), 1:212213Google Scholar; and Franklin, Autobiography, 162.

5 On Franklin's sincere belief in the creed, Kidd, Thomas, Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2017), 109, 236Google Scholar; Park, Benjamin E., “Benjamin Franklin, Richard Price, and the Division of Sacred and Secular in the Age of Revolutions,” in Benjamin Franklin's Intellectual World, ed. Kerry, Paul E. and Holland, Matthew S. (Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2012), 119133Google Scholar, argues that Franklin was a secularist opposed to a Christian worldview and that his ideal democracy would focus on the increase of pleasure and the eradication of pain, 127; on progress, Lerner, Ralph, “The Gospel according to the Apostle Ben,” American Political Thought 1, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 129148CrossRefGoogle Scholar; on Pyrrhonism, Lemay, Life, 2:238, 295–299, 547–548; and Weinberger, Jerry, “Benjamin Franklin Unmasked,” in Benjamin Franklin's Intellectual World, ed. Kerry, Paul E. and Holland, Matthew S. (Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2012), 20Google Scholar, calls Franklin a “stone cold atheist.”

6 Buxbaum, Melvin, Benjamin Franklin and the Zealous Presbyterians (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975), 51, 7677Google Scholar, 220–221.

7 Kidd, Benjamin Franklin, 44, 47, 79, 108, 224; on secular Calvinism, see Morgan, David T., “A Most Unlikely Friendship—Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield,” The Historian 47, no. 2 (February 1985): 213CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Waligore, Joseph, “The Christian Deist Writings of Benjamin Franklin,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 140, no. 1 (January 2016): 7, 9, 12, 26Google Scholar.

8 Lemay, Life, 2:295–299; Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin and Nature's God (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1967), 5–6; Alfred Owen Aldridge, “Franklin's Experimental Religion,” in Meet Dr. Franklin, ed. Roy Lokken (Philadelphia, Penn.: Franklin Institute Press, 1981), 106–107; and Elizabeth Dunn, “From a Bold Youth to a Reflective Sage,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 111, no. 4 (October 1987): 501–524.

9 Dunn, “From a Bold Youth,” 502, 518, 522; and Aldridge, “Franklin's Experimental Religion,” 104, agrees as to Franklin's view on the limits of reason.

10 Dunn, “From a Bold Youth,” 523–524; and on Franklin's Pascalian wager, Lemay, Life, 1:360–371, 2:257, 267.

11 Mulford, Carla J., “Benjamin Franklin, Virtue's Ethics, and ‘Political Truth’,” in Resistance to Tyrants, Obedience to God: Reason, Religion, and Republicanism at the American Founding, ed. Gish, Dustin and Klinghard, Daniel (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2013), 101, 86, 100Google Scholar; and Mulford, Carla J., “Franklin, Modernity, and Themes of Dissent in the Early Modern Era,” Modern Language Studies 28, no. 2 (Spring 1998): 2027CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Sorkin, David, The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews, and Catholics from London to Vienna (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008), 6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Franklin, Papers, 2:66.

14 Franklin, Papers, 2:68, 1:259; and Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin: Writings, ed. Lemay (New York: The Library of America, 1987), 253 (hereafter Lemay, Writings).

15 Franklin, Papers, 1:102, 2:119; and Lemay, Writings, 54–55.

16 Franklin, Papers, 8:128.

17 Franklin, Papers, 1:102.

18 Franklin, Autobiography, 114–115.

19 Franklin, Autobiography, 145.

20 See Lemay, Life, 1:172–206; and Kevin Slack, Benjamin Franklin, Natural Right, and the Art of Virtue (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2017), 14–23.

21 Franklin, Papers, 2:30, 4:506, 9:17, 105.

22 On Franklin's critique of miracles, Lemay, Writings, 145–148; of scripture, Papers, 1:169–170, 19:31, 43:41; and Lemay, Writings, 155–157; of God's infinite attributes, Franklin, Papers, 1:102; of particular providence, Lemay, Writings, 216–218, and Franklin, Papers, 7:90–91, 3:26–27, 135–139, 16:192; of rewards in an afterlife and the immortal soul, Franklin, Papers, 1:68–70, 4:505; and on the authority of scripture, the revealed infinite God of the creed, and the logical impossibility of, and psychological origins of belief in, the immortal soul and afterlife, Benjamin Franklin, “The Religion of the Indian Natives of America,” The American Magazine 1 (March 1741), 90–93; and see Lemay, Life, 2:550–554.

23 Franklin, Papers, 7:90–91; 4:58; 16:109; 25:100–102.

24 Franklin, Autobiography, 190–191.

25 Jonathan I. Israel, Radial Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650–1750 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 3–4. Radicals “despise[d] Revelation, the Church, and Christian morality.” Israel, Radical Enlightenment, 29.

26 On natural revelation, Franklin, Papers, 2:106, 120; on God as first cause, Franklin, Papers, 1:59, 102; on worship as gratitude and virtue, Franklin, Papers, 1:103, 2:50–1, 105, 122–123; and The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Albert Henry Smyth, 10 vols. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905–1907), 10:117 (hereafter Smyth, Writings); and on the soul, Franklin, Papers, 1:63–64.

27 Franklin, Autobiography, 74; Franklin, Papers, 16:193; Lemay, Life, 2:250–251; and Aldridge, Franklin and Nature's God, 8.

28 On charges against James, see The New England Courant, January 21, 1723, 2; on the imprisonment of William Lyons, see J. Lyons, Infallibility of Human Judgment, 5th ed. (London: J. Brotherton, 1725), 249; and Franklin, Autobiography, 97; and on the persecution of Samuel Hemphill, see Franklin, Papers, 2:55, 82.

29 Franklin, Papers, 1:268.

30 The Pennsylvania Gazette, November 5, 1730, 1–2, quoting Spectator, no. 185.

31 Lemay, Writings, 150–151; and Franklin, Papers, 7:294–295.

32 Franklin, Papers, 1:102.

33 Franklin, Autobiography, 146, 162; Franklin, Papers, 1:213; and Lemay, Writings, 1179.

34 Franklin, Autobiography, 146.

35 Franklin, Papers, 2:30, 104, 9:105; and see Aldridge, Franklin and Nature's God, 165–166.

36 Lemay, Writings, 1179–1180; and see Mulford, “Franklin, Modernity, and Themes of Dissent in the Early Modern Era,” 20–27.

37 Franklin, Papers, 1:187.

38 Franklin, Papers, 3:413, 2:56, 70, 72. On the grounds of natural law, see Franklin, Papers, 2:105; and Slack, Benjamin Franklin, 123–124.

39 See Franklin, Papers, 11:56–62.

40 Franklin, Papers, 2:51; The Pennsylvania Gazette, July 16, 1730; and Franklin, Papers, 10:83, was no stickler on eternality of punishments.

41 Franklin, Papers, 2:85.

42 Franklin, Papers, 19:164.

43 Franklin, Autobiography, 150.

44 Franklin, Papers, 4:194–195.

45 Sorkin, The Religious Enlightenment, 6.

46 See Charles Scott Sealy, Church Authority and Non-Subscription Controversies in Early 18th Century Presbyterianism (PhD diss., University of Glasgow, 2010), 18–23; Ian R. McBride, Scripture Politics: Ulster Presbyterians and Irish Radicalism in the Late Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 144–145; C. Gordon Bolam et al., The English Presbyterians (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1968), 104, 111; on divisions over polity, Henry Jones Ford, The Scotch Irish in America (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1915), 221–248, 338–359; and Rankin Sherling, The Invisible Irish: Finding Protestants in the Nineteenth-Century Migrations to America (London: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016), 109, 125–130.

47 Lemay, Life, 2:160; 1:74–78; and Carla J. Mulford, Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 48–74.

48 Perry Miller, introduction to A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches, by John Wise (Gainesville, Fla.: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, 1958), vi.

49 See Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1841), 7–8, 10–11, 60–61, 68–70, 74.

50 John Thomson, An Overture Presented to the Reverend Synod (Philadelphia, 1729), 25.

51 Thomson, Overture, 30.

52 Thomson, Overture, 26, 28.

53 Thomson, Overture, 32.

54 Charles Augustus Briggs, American Presbyterianism: Its Origin and Early History (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1885), 214.

55 See Jonathan Dickinson, The Reasonableness of Christianity (Boston: Kneeland and Green, 1732); Bryan Le Beau, Jonathan Dickinson and the Formative Years of American Presbyterianism (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 89–90; Sealy, Church Authority, 173; and Briggs, American Presbyterianism, 212–213.

56 Records of the Presbyterian Church, 92.

57 Records of the Presbyterian Church, 107.

58 See Sherling, Invisible Irish, 152.

59 Franklin, Autobiography, 147.

60 Franklin, Autobiography, 167; and Franklin, Papers, 2:27.

61 Franklin, Autobiography, 167.

62 Franklin, Autobiography, 167.

63 Merton A. Christensen, “Franklin on the Hemphill Trial: Deism Versus Presbyterian Orthodoxy,” The William and Mary Quarterly 10, no. 3 (July 1953): 424n6.

64 Franklin, Papers, 2:107–110; and Patrick Griffin, The People With No Name (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001), 121. William Wishart, Charity the End of the Commandment (London, 1731), 4, is the unknown source at Franklin, Papers, 2:103; and Lemay, Life, 1:262, suggests Franklin may have gone to hear Wishart in London.

65 Jonathan Dickinson, A Vindication of the Reverend Commission (Philadelphia: Bradford, 1735); and Le Beau, Jonathan Dickinson, 52–56, 102.

66 Obadiah Jenkins, Remarks Upon the Defence of the Reverend Mr. Hemphill's Observations (Philadelphia: Bradford, 1735), 18.

67 Records of the Presbyterian Church, 115.

68 Sherling, Invisible Irish, 155, shows that none came until 1763.

69 Lemay, Life, 2:233, 238, disagrees, calling Franklin's passionate essays “among his errors” and a “mistake.”

70 Franklin, Autobiography, 146.

71 Franklin, Papers, 2:38, 46–47, 57; and Peter Charles Hoffer, When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend Whitfield (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 19.

72 Franklin, Papers, 2:39.

73 Franklin, Papers, 2:44; on presumed innocence, 2:47; adequate defense, 2:51, 39, 45–46, 49, 93, 98, 101, 125; solidarity outweighing truth, 2:64, 58; and faulty evidence, 2:92, 107, 45, 51–52, 57.

74 Franklin, Papers, 2:45.

75 Franklin, Papers, 2:106.

76 Franklin, Papers, 2:51.

77 Franklin, Papers, 2:105, 50–51.

78 According to Franklin, Papers, 1:377, he read and sold Thomas Beaven's An Essay Concerning the Restoration of Primitive Christianity, 2nd ed. (London, 1729), which distinguished between the “Faculty of Reason” and the “Light . . . from Heaven,” arguing that reason must be aided by revelation and the “Influences of the divine Spirit.” Beaven, Concerning the Restoration of Primitive Christianity, vi, x–xi.

79 Franklin, Papers, 2:114.

80 Franklin, Papers, 2:50–51.

81 Franklin, Papers, 2:105.

82 Franklin, Papers, 2:52, 120, 114.

83 Franklin, Papers, 2:40, 59, 94.

84 Franklin, Papers, 2:48.

85 Franklin, Papers, 2:38.

86 See Dickinson, Vindication, 20: “It's surprising to us that the Gentleman should thus change the Question. . . . Who ever doubted that Christianity has a natural tendency to our Happiness, or that it's agreable to our Nature?”

87 Franklin, Papers, 2:50–51, 111–112.

88 Franklin, Papers, 2:52.

89 Franklin, Papers, 2:52, 53.

90 Franklin, Papers, 2:53, 113.

91 Franklin, Papers, 2:113.

92 Franklin, Papers, 2:114.

93 Franklin, Papers, 2:117.

94 Franklin, Papers, 2:114.

95 Franklin, Papers, 2:114.

96 Franklin, Papers, 2:116; and see 2:29, 30.

97 Franklin, Papers, 2:57.

98 Franklin, Papers, 2:116.

99 Franklin, Papers, 2:56, 115.

100 Franklin, Papers, 2:121.

101 Franklin, Papers, 2:122, 60.

102 Franklin, Papers, 2:61, 122.

103 Franklin, Papers, 2:119.

104 Franklin, Papers, 2:124.

105 Franklin, Papers, 2:124, 62, 29.

106 Franklin, Papers, 2:56.

107 Franklin, Papers, 2:107.

108 Franklin, Papers, 2:59.

109 Franklin, Papers, 2:59.

110 Franklin, Papers, 2:123.

111 Franklin, Papers, 2:105, 109–110.

112 Franklin, Papers, 2:104, explains: “Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Mankind” teaches the “main End and Design of the christian Scheme, when he says, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy Soul, and with all thy Mind, and thy Neighbour, as thyself. . . . ‘These are what Nature and eternal Reason teach us; and these are the two great moral Precepts, which the Revelations the Almighty has made to Mankind, are design'd to explain and enforce.’ . . . Moreover St. Paul . . . expressly tells us, that the End of the Commandment, (i.e. of the christian Institution) is Charity . . . Love to God, and Love to Mankind.” On speculative systems, see Franklin, Papers, 4:336.

113 Franklin, Papers, 8:153.

114 Franklin, Papers, 8:154.

115 Franklin, Papers, 2:111.

116 Franklin, Papers, 2:124, 138.

117 Franklin, Papers, 10:104–105, distinguished charity—the Christian teaching of selflessness, which Franklin, in Lemay, Writings, 200–203, thought was impossible—from benevolence (for those without faith). In his deistic teaching, benevolence is the proper foundation, followed by hope in an afterlife, tied to experience, with no need for faith (see Franklin, Papers, 11:241, 231). Franklin put it in his own words: “To lead a virtuous Life, my Friends, and get to Heaven in Season, You've just so much more Need of Faith, as you have less of Reason.” Franklin, Papers, 3:249; and see 2:30. Joseph Priestley lamented to Benjamin Rush that Franklin often privately led interlocutors from the Christian to the deistic teaching. Benjamin Rush, A Memorial containing Travels Through Life or Sundry Incidents in the Life of Dr. Benjamin Rush, (Philadelphia: Louis Alexander Biddle, 1905), 148. Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley: to the year 1795, 2 vols. (Northumberland: John Binns, 1806), 1:90: “It is much to be lamented, that a man of Dr. Franklin's general good character, and great influence, should have been an unbeliever in Christianity, and also have done so much as he did to make others unbelievers.” See Franklin, Papers, 9:264–265.

118 Franklin, Papers, 8:154.

119 Franklin, Papers, 8:155.

120 Franklin, Papers, 8:155.

121 Franklin, Papers, 18:236.

122 Franklin, Papers, 2:110.

123 Franklin, Papers, 2:110. Franklin, Papers, 2:82n7, quotes from John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig; or, A Defence of Primitive Christianity, 6th ed., 2 vols. (London: Peele), 2:35.

124 Christensen, “Franklin on the Hemphill Trial,” 434; Buxbaum, Benjamin Franklin and the Zealous Presbyterians, 234n140; William S. Barker, “Benjamin Franklin and Subscription to the Westminster Confession,” American Presbyterians 69, no. 4 (Winter 1991): 248; Lemay, Life, 2:247, 561; and Le Beau, Jonathan Dickinson, 57, 201n25, who argues Franklin wrote a secular preface to Hemphill's own work.

125 Buxbaum, Benjamin Franklin and the Zealous Presbyterians, 105; Christensen, “Franklin on the Hemphill Trial,” 422; and Lemay, Life, 2:254.

126 Aldridge, Franklin and Nature's God, 8, 101–102.

127 Franklin, Papers, 3:251, 16:109, 11:56–57, 15:303, 20:348.

128 Franklin, “The Religion of the Indian Natives,” 91.

129 Franklin, Papers, 1:243–244n6, 4:194–5, 20:348.

130 Franklin, Autobiography, 103; and Lemay, Writings, 53–54.

131 Franklin, “The Religion of the Indian Natives,” 91.

132 Franklin, Papers, 2:68, 75.

133 Franklin, Papers, 19:164; 2:114, 119.

134 Franklin, “The Religion of the Indian Natives,” 91.

135 Franklin, Papers, 2:66, 72.

136 James Duchal, A Letter From a Gentleman to his Friend, a Subscribing Minister in the North of Ireland (Dublin, 1731); and James Duchal, Plain Reason's against joining with the Nonsubscribers in their unlimited Scheme of Religious Communion: Being an Answer to a Letter From a Gentleman to a Subscribing Minister (Belfast, 1732), 25–28.

137 Franklin, Papers, 2:66.

138 Franklin, Papers, 2:67.

139 The reverend's central question (and method), present in Franklin, Papers, 2:69, are drawn from Duchal, Letter From a Gentleman, 3. While here a cross-textual treatment is impossible, one finds parallels in argument, and even phrases, of Duchal, Letter From a Gentleman, 3, with Franklin, Papers, 2:69; of 4 with 2:78; of 5 with 2:74, 78–79; of 6 with 2:78–79, 74; of 7 with 2:80, 79; of 8 with 2:84–85; of 9 with 2:77, 79; of 10 with 2:80; of 11 with 2:83; of 12 with 2:85; and of 13 with 2:84.

140 Franklin, Papers, 2:68, 75.

141 Franklin, Papers, 2:68.

142 Franklin, Papers, 2:69.

143 Franklin, Papers, 2:68.

144 Franklin, Papers, 2:70.

145 Franklin, Papers, 2:71.

146 Franklin, Papers, 2:72.

147 Franklin, Papers, 2:73, 74.

148 Franklin, Papers, 2:73.

149 Franklin, Papers, 2:75.

150 Franklin, Papers, 2:77.

151 Franklin, Papers, 2:78, 32.

152 Franklin, Papers, 2:78, 80–83.

153 Franklin, Papers, 2:76.

154 Franklin, Papers, 2:80–81.

155 Franklin, Papers, 2:79.

156 Franklin, Papers, 2:76.

157 Franklin, Papers, 2:73.

158 Franklin, Papers, 2:74.

159 Franklin, Papers, 2:74, 85.

160 Franklin, Papers, 2:85.

161 Franklin, Papers, 2:85. On Islam, see Franklin, Papers, 2:32, 11:58–59; Franklin, Autobiography, 176; and Lemay, Life, 3:461–466.

162 Lemay, Life, 2:253–254, 295–299, uses this excerpt to suggest Franklin's Pyrrhonism, yet Franklin, Papers, 2:95, references it not to argue the impossibility of discovering truth but to oppose the clergy's “unlimited Power of discouraging and oppressing Truth it self, when it happens to clash with their private Judgment and mercenary Selfish Views.”

163 Franklin, Papers, 2:86.

164 Franklin, Papers, 2:87, 19:164.

165 Franklin, Papers, 2:86, 78–79.

166 Dickinson, Remarks upon a Pamphlet, Entitled, A Letter to a Friend in the Country (Philadelphia: Bradford, 1735), 2–4, 11, 15; Lemay, Life, 2:259–260; and Le Beau, Jonathan Dickinson, 53–56.

167 See Franklin, Papers, 1:232–233.

168 Franklin, Papers, 2:202–203.

169 Franklin, Papers, 2:203.

170 Franklin, Papers, 2:204.

171 Franklin, Autobiography, 148.

172 James Anderson, The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (Philadelphia: Franklin, 1734), 7.

173 Anderson, The Constitution of the Free-Masons, 50.

174 Franklin, Papers, 2:303, 41:608; and Smyth, Writings, 10:116–117.

175 The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 20, 1738, 2.

176 Buxbaum, Benjamin Franklin and the Zealous Presbyterians, 140–143, pointing to a change in the Gazette's coverage after the schism, argues that Franklin's “hatred of Calvinism” fed his design to split the Presbyterian Church; and Morgan, “A Most Unlikely Friendship,” 208–209, argues, against Buxbaum, that Franklin's printing reflected Whitefield's declining popularity after June 1741.

177 Gilbert Tennent, Remarks Upon A Protestation Presented To The Synod Of Philadelphia, June 1, 1741 (Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1741), 13.

178 Hoffer, When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend, 57.

179 Franklin, Papers, 2:203.

180 See Lemay, Life, 3:280, 578, 289.

181 Tennent, Remarks, 21, 27; Lemay, Life, 2:424; and Albert David Belden, George Whitefield, The Awakener: A Modern Study of the Evangelical Revival (London: Rockliff, 1953), 240.

182 Tennent, Remarks, 14–20; and Gilbert Tennent, “The Apology of the Presbytery Of New-Brunswick, &c, in Remarks Upon A Protestation Presented To The Synod Of Philadelphia, June 1, 1741” (Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1741), 48, 50–52.

183 Lemay, Writings, 277.

184 Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. William Temple Franklin, 3 vols. (London: Printed for Henry Colburn, 1818), 1:448; Aldridge, Nature's God, 41; and Franklin, Papers, 42:602.

185 Lemay, Writings, 278.

186 Le Beau, Jonathan Dickinson, 132–134; and Milton J. Coalter, Jr., Gilbert Tennent, Son of Thunder: A Case Study of Continental Pietism's Impact on the First Great Awakening in the Middle Colonies (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1986), 93.

187 Franklin, Autobiography, 179.

188 Gilbert Tennent, Twenty-Three Sermons Upon the Chief end of Man (Philadelphia: Bradford, 1744), 116, 142; Hoffer, When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend, 48, 60, 62, 64, 66–70; Coalter, Gilbert Tennent, 133, 97; Gilbert Tennent, The Necessity of Holding Fast the Truth (Boston: Kneeland & Green, 1743), 4, 10; and George Whitefield to Jonathan Wesley, September 25, 1740, in George Whitefield, The Works, 8 vols. (London, 1771), 1:181–182, 210–212.

189 Tennent, Necessity, iii. On the Moravians, Hoffer, When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend, 69; and Dietmar Rothermund, “Political Factions and the Great Awakening,” Pennsylvania History 26, no. 4 (October 1959): 324–325.

190 John Hancock, The examiner, or Gilbert against Tennent (Boston; Printed for S. Eliot, 1743), 3.

191 Rothermund, “Political Factions,” 317: “Denominations served the purpose of pressure groups and parties, and many a clergyman or elder assumed the role of political boss.”

192 Franklin, Autobiography, 201.

193 Franklin, Papers, 4:12.

194 Franklin, Papers, 4:480.

195 Franklin, Papers, 4:41–42.

196 Aldridge, Franklin and Nature's God, 158, 205 (contributions), 193 (lent), 189–190 (communion); he concluded, at 191, that Franklin was “motivated by considerations of public relations and political expediency”; and Aldridge also notes, at 158 and 189, that Franklin's greatest political conflicts were with those in his own church.

197 Franklin, Papers, 2:49. On Franklin's motives, see Lemay, “Review: Benjamin Franklin and the Zealous Presbyterians by Melvin H. Buxbaum,” Early American Literature 10, no. 2 (Fall 1975): 222–226.

198 Franklin, Papers, 3:201; and Lemay, Writings, 224.

199 Franklin, Papers, 3:201.

200 The Pennsylvania Gazette, November 19, 1747, 1.

201 Franklin, Papers, 3:201.

202 Franklin, Papers, 3:203.

203 Franklin, Papers, 3:204. Hoffer, When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend, 82–83, calls it “a political soteriology as dire as any that Whitefield advanced.”

204 Franklin, Papers, 3:228; and Franklin, Autobiography, 185.

205 Lemay, Writings, 318–319; and Lemay, Life, 3:41–344, the three classes being gentlemen, merchants, and laborers.

206 Franklin, Papers, 3:202, 198; and Lemay, Writings, 224. On Franklin's Irish slurs, David Waldstreicher, Runaway America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005), 112–114; and on Jewish slurs, Aldridge, Franklin and Nature's God, 204–205.

207 Franklin, Papers, 3:413.

208 Franklin, Papers, 3:416; and on Whitefield and theology, Franklin, Papers, 3:467–469.

209 Franklin, Papers, 3:413n; and George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education (London: Printed for A. Millar, 1742), 386–387. Turnbull argued that, upon seeing the excellence of Christianity, one must “assent to the external evidence it offers of its divine authority.” Turnbull, Observations, 388.

210 Franklin, Papers, 4:149; and Franklin, Autobiography, 146.

211 Franklin, Papers, 4:150.

212 Franklin, Papers, 4:151.

213 Franklin, Papers, 5:325–326.

214 Franklin, Papers, 6:468.

215 Franklin, Papers, 4:232, 2:303; and Smyth, Writings, 9:626.

216 Franklin, Papers, 13:515.

217 Franklin, Papers, 2:140.

218 Franklin, Papers, 2:29. Franklin liked to quote Matthew 7:21. See Franklin, Papers, 2:30, 2:204, 4:506.

219 Franklin, Papers, 2:73.

220 Franklin, Papers, 4:484.

221 Franklin, Papers, 4:234.

222 Franklin, Papers, 8:400n8.

223 Franklin, Papers, 11:107, 121–122.

224 Franklin, Papers, 11:161.

225 Kevin Kenny, Peaceable Kingdom Lost (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 143–144.

226 Franklin, Papers, 11:53.

227 Franklin, Papers, 11:434.

228 Franklin, Papers, 11:55.

229 Franklin, Papers, 11:56.

230 Franklin, Papers, 11:66.

231 Franklin, Papers, 11:68.

232 Franklin, Papers, 11:161.

233 Franklin, Papers, 11:162, 172–173.

234 Franklin, Papers, 21:602; 29:612. See Fred S. Rolater, “Charles Thomson, ‘Prime Minister’ of the United States,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 101, no. 3 (July 1977): 323.

235 Franklin, Papers, 1:101–109; and Franklin, Autobiography, 88. Franklin wrote to Ezra Stiles on “the Writings of Zoroaster”: “I have cast my Eye over the Religious Part; it seems to contain a nice Morality, mix'd with abundance of Prayers, Ceremonies, and Observations.” Franklin, Papers, 19:30–31.

236 Franklin, “The Religion of the Indian Natives,” 91.

237 Franklin, Papers, 11:449–450.

238 Franklin, Papers, 15:299–303.

239 Franklin, Papers, 15:301–303, 20:348, 38:520–522.

240 Franklin, Papers, 43:41. Franklin either disregarded the Old Testament in liturgy or reinterpreted it for a modern audience: Franklin, Papers, 20:347–348; and Lemay, Writings, 933–935.

241 Franklin, Papers, 15:302.

242 Franklin, Papers, 20:352.

243 Thomas Morris, “A General View of the Life and Writings of the Rev. David Williams,” The Edinburgh Magazine, or, Literary Miscellany (January 1793): 40.

244 David Williams, Essays on Public Worship, Patriotism, and Projects of Reformation, etc., 2nd ed. (London: Printed for T. Payne, 1774), 62, 64; and David Willaims, A Liturgy on the Universal Principles of Religion and Morality (London: Printed for the Author, 1776), viii.

245 Franklin, Autobiography, 114.

246 Williams, Liturgy, vii.

247 Franklin, Papers, 19:303.

248 Franklin, Papers, 19:310. Priestley rejected the Trinity, atonement, and original sin and taught Socinianism, a return to Unitarian Christianity. According to Joseph Priestley, A History of the Early Opinions Concerning Jesus Christ, 4 vols. (Birmingham: Pearson and Rollason, 1786), 1:10–11, the apostles “represent[ed] the Father as the only true God, and as Christ as a man, the servant of God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him all the power of which he is possessed, as a reward of his obedience.” The doctrine of the immaterial soul, a “personification of the logos,” was borrowed from pagan Platonism: Priestley, History, 1:86, 114, 398.

249 Franklin, Papers, 21:195–197. Theophilus Lindsey, The Book of Common Prayer Reformed According to the Plan of the Late Dr. Samuel Clarke (London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1774), based his changes on Clarke's own private changes to his common Prayer Book, kept in the British Museum, which excised or altered prayers to Christ or the Holy Spirit, and not to God.

250 Theophilus Lindsey, A Sermon Preached at the Opening of the Chapel in Essex-House [. . .] on Sunday, April 17, 1774, 3rd ed. (London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1774), 5–6.

251 Lindsey, A Sermon, 10, 11–12.

252 Lindsey, A Sermon, 13. Lindsey, citing Locke, wrote: “The use of reason in religion is not to be denied to any part of mankind; and how far all are capable of it.” Lindsey, A Sermon, 15n*.

253 Lindsey, A Sermon, 18–19.

254 Lindsey, A Sermon, 21.

255 Lindsey, A Sermon, 21–22.

256 On Franklin's lack of belief in a future state, Rush, Memorial, 148; and Priestley, History, 1:48, 61, 68, 73–83, who also opposed the polytheistic teaching of the “Arian logos, the maker and governor of all things under the supreme God,” at 61. On Christ's miraculous birth, Priestley, History, 1:xvii, 25.

257 Joseph Priestley, Discourses on the Evidence of Revealed Religion (London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1794), 12, 4; and at 5, 7, he argued: “Unbelievers in revealed religion” are plagued by “mean selfishness” —disconnecting them from neighbors, country, and nature—and a “tormenting anxiety.”

258 Morris, “A General View,” 39–40. The Thirteen Club first met at Franklin's lodgings: David Williams, “More Light on Franklin's Religious Ideas,” The American Historical Review 43, no. 4 (July 1938): 803–813; and Aldridge, Nature's God, 212–221.

259 Williams, “More Light,” 810, 811; Morris, “A General View,” 40; and, on freethinking, Williams, Essays, 22–34.

260 See Williams, Liturgy, ix; and Williams, Essays, 6.

261 Williams, “More Light,” 810; and Williams, Liturgy, viii–ix. Williams, Liturgy, viii, refers to Franklin as “some philosophers of the first character.”

262 Williams, Essays, 20–21. See Williams, Liturgy, xi.

263 Franklin, Autobiography, 161–162, 176; and Williams, Essays, 31–32.

264 A Form of Prayer, and a New Collection of Psalms, for the Use of a Congregation of Protestant Dissenters in Liverpool (Liverpool: Printed for the Society, 1763). Compare Williams, Liturgy, 1 with A Form of Prayer, 39; 2 with 2; 4 with 45–46; 6 with 49; 7 with 49–50; 8 with 18, 53, 18; 9 with 18, 80, 53, 55; 10 with 55; 11 with 59; 12 with 60; 15 with 39; 16 with 8; 17 with 8–9; 18 with 9–11; 19 with 11, 47; 20 with 48, 74–75; 21 with 75–76; 22 with 76, 18; 23 with 18; and 28 with 37.

265 Williams, Liturgy, 16, 3.

266 Williams, Liturgy, xii, 11.

267 Williams, Liturgy, 10.

268 Williams, Liturgy, 9.

269 Franklin, Papers, 27:355; and Aldridge, Franklin and Nature's God, 216–219.

270 Williams, Liturgy, 24–25, 26.

271 Orpheus, Priest of Nature, and Prophet of Infidelity; or, the Eleusinian Mysteries Revived (London: Printed for J. Stockdale, 1781); and “Williams's Sermon and Liturgy,” The Critical Review, Or, Annals of Literature 42 (October 1776): 272, 277–278.

272 Williams, Liturgy, 1, opens with a quote from Psalms 49:1, 69:34, 30:4, 62:8. On the “religion of Christ,” see Williams, Essays, 3. On inclusion of scripture and English classics, see “Books: Williams's Sermon and Liturgy,” The Scots Magazine 38 (September 1776): 490.

273 Williams, “More Light,” 807–808.

274 Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin: Philosopher and Man (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1965), 257; and Mulford, Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire, 279–281.

275 Franklin, Papers, 25:100–102; 37:586–588; 43:29; and Lemay, Writings, 1144–1148.

276 Franklin, Papers, 25:102.

277 Franklin, Papers, 42:244.

278 Lemay, Writings, 1170.

279 On Franklin's support for a doctorate for Ezra Stiles, see Franklin, Papers, 12:195–196; on a bishopric for John Carroll, see Franklin, Papers, 42:366; on his support of episcopal bishops, see Aldridge, Franklin and Nature's God, 180–94; on his opposition to state churches, see Franklin, Papers, 33:389–390; and on his concession to an oath affirming the “divine Inspiration” of scripture and his support of a clause “that no further or more extended Profession of Faith should ever be exacted,” see Franklin, Papers, 43:41.

280 Lemay, Writings, 1140. Franklin, Autobiography, 190–191, reserved his lone sectarian praise for the Dunkers, who refused to pronounce a creed.

281 Lemay, Writings, 1138–1139.

282 Lemay, Writings, 1139.

283 Lemay, Writings, 1145.

284 The Pennsylvania Packet, or, The General Advertiser, April 22, 1783, 3.

285 Smyth, Writings, 10:392.

286 Franklin, Papers, 41:107–108.

287 Franklin, Papers, 41:108.

288 Franklin, Papers, 41:108.

289 Lemay, Writings, 1179–1180.

290 On reincarnation and “perfect pleasure,” see Franklin, Papers, 4:505. On the “party of pleasure—that is to last forever,” see Franklin, Papers, 6:406–407; and, as Franklin wrote, in Smyth, Writings, 9:334: “Thus finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall in some shape or other always exist.” Also, Franklin, Papers, 15:154–155, tells of an Iroquois myth of reincarnation.