Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

The Unforgettable Benjamin Franklin


100 top blogs awardBy the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

I remember as a young child being taught Benjamin Franklin’s proverb: ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise.’  As my father and I were both early to bed, early to rise, I have a lot of happy memories of time spent together around the breakfast table together at 6am.

Benjamin Franklin picture

Benjamin Franklin had the common touch. As a brilliant philosopher, he shared wisdom through short pithy sayings like ‘He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.’  Many of Franklin’s sayings are so well known that people confuse them as coming from the Bible. ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is from Benjamin Franklin, not from Jesus.

Many of his sayings were published in Poor Richard’s Almanack, a book series that has had a profound impact on North American culture and identity. Some would say that the middle class dreams and ideals can be traced back directly to Benjamin Franklin’s homespun philosophy. Many of us unknowingly quote Benjamin Franklin on a regular basis: haste makes waste; no pain, no gain; and nothing is certain but death and taxes. Most of Franklin’s sayings were about encouraging diligence, honesty, industry and DH Lawrencetemperance.  Franklin saw the Judeo-Christian ethic as “the best the world ever saw or is likely to see.”

Not everyone liked Benjamin Franklin. DH Lawrence said: “I do not like him….that barbed wire moral enclosure that Poor Richard rigged up….Benjamin Franklin tried to take away my wholeness and my dark forest, my freedom.”

Benjamin Franklin’s father had intended that his son Benjamin train to be a clergyman, but lacked the resources to do so. Instead Benjamin became a printer and an inventor.  Benjamin Franklin is world-famous for his kite experiments with lightning, proving that lightning was made up of electricity. Some see him as the world’s first electrician.  While visiting England, he attached his latest invention, the lightning rod, to St Paul’s Cathedral.  He also created hot-water pipes to warm up the chilly British House of Commons. Other significant Franklin inventions were bifocals and the Franklin stove.

Benjamin Franklin was far ahead of his time in terms of understanding workplace toxicity.  As a printer, he discovered that newspaper workers were being poisoned through handling hot lead type, causing stiffness and paralysis. Franklin found out Benjamin Franklin lightningthat this lead poisoning was also affecting glazers, type-founders, plumbers, potters, white-lead makers and painters.

Benjamin Franklin was so successful in business that he retired at age 42 and devoted the rest of his life to public service. He moved to England twice in order to help the relationship between England and its American colonies. While in England, Franklin wrote most of his autobiography at the home of the Bishop of St. Asaph, Jonathan Shipley. His book became the world’s most popular autobiography, and has been translated into most major languages.  Franklin’s autobiography was the one book which Davy Crockett had when slaughtered at the Alamo.

Despite his being a strong Royalist, Benjamin Franklin ended up being resented by the British House of Lords who publicly humiliated him for his efforts to bring reconciliation between England and its American colonies.  This was Franklin’s tipping point where he became a strong advocate for Independence. As America’s first postmaster general, Franklin was also put in charge of establishing the first US currency.  In the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, Franklin recommended that Americans give up tea drinking as a way to fund their new government. The constitution’s phrase ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ was the direct result of Franklin’s editing.  Franklin was the only one to sign all four of the USA’s founding papers: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with France, the Benjamin Franklin Great Sealpeace accord with Britain, and the Constitution.  His unsuccessful proposal for the American Great Seal was to have Pharaoh being swallowed by the Red Sea, along with the words ‘Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.’

Franklin’s greatest popularity was among the French who lined the streets when he entered Paris as the USA’s first foreign diplomat. The French saw him as a simple frontier sage, and promptly put his likeness everywhere, causing the French King to become very jealous. Without Franklin’s winning the moral and financial support of the French, it is doubtful that the United States would have survived.

Franklin was a very complicated, even tragic individual with strong approach/avoidance tendencies. He loved the United States but spent most of his last years in England and then France. His relations with the opposite sex were muddled and confused.  He loved his wife and family but was away more than at home and suffered a painful split with his son William over politics.

Despite Franklin’s reputation as a religious skeptic, he went out of his way in his newspaper to promote the Rev George Whitfield who led North America’s first Great Awakening in 1739-1741.  As a scientist, he was amazed that Whitfield’s voice could be whitfieldpreachingheard without amplification by over 30,000 people at one time.  Franklin published all of Whitfield’s books and posted his sermons on the front page of his Philadelphia Gazette.  Whitfield wrote to Franklin, saying: “As you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity, I would now humbly recommend to your diligent unprejudiced pursuit and study the mystery of the new-birth. It is a most important, interesting study, and when mastered, will richly answer and repay you for all your pains.”

After jealous clergy closed their pulpits to Whitfield, Franklin and other trustees built a large hall where Whitfield could preach. Franklin commented: “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants.” After the revival ended, Franklin converted the hall into the Academy of Philadelphia which later became the University of Pennsylvania.

As Governor of Pennsylvania, Franklin in 1748 proposed a day of fasting and prayer. In 1778, Franklin wrote to the French Government, saying: “Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principals of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.”, recommending that every French home have a Bible and newspaper, and a good school in every district.

Benjamin Franklin 2 pictureAt the 1787 American Constitutional Convention, Franklin commented: “the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see 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?” On that basis, Franklin arranged that prayers led by local clergy would be held each morning before Assembly business. Franklin said: “If I had ever before been an atheist, I should now have been convinced of the Being and government of a Deity!”

Franklin memorably commented: “Think of three things: Whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must give account.”  May each of us, like Benjamin Franklin, be willing to be accountable to God in the midst of life’s challenges.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

P. S. Click this Amazon link to view for free the first two chapters of our new novel Blue Sky.

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If you’re a fan of Karen Kingsbury, then you’ll love Blue Sky. Get your copy today on paperback or  kindle.

-Click to check out our marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Author: edhird

I was the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C for 31 years, from 1987 to 2018. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I was the Past President and Chaplain for Alpha Canada. While serving as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials For the past 31 years, I have been privileged to write over 400 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to speak at conferences and retreats in Honduras, Rwanda, Uganda, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Ontario. My book For Better, For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship, coauthored with Janice Hird, can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Better-Worse-Discovering-lasting-relationship/dp/0978202236/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1535555614&sr=8-1 My sequel Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit, with a foreword by Dr JI Packer, is online with Amazon.com in both paperback http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/097820221X/ref=redir_mdp_mobile and ebook form http://tiny.cc/tanhmx . In Canada, Amazon.ca has it available in paperback http://tiny.cc/dknhmx and ebook http://tiny.cc/wmhmmx . It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook). Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form. Nook gives a sample of the book to read online: http://tiny.cc/vj3bmx . Indigo also offers the Kobo ebook version: http://tiny.cc/kreonx . You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook: http://tiny.cc/1ukiox The book 'Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit' focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus' healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how North Americans can embrace a holistically healthy life. In order to obtain a copy of the prequel book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', please send a $18.50 cheque to 'Ed Hird', 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. For more info, please click on www3.telus.net/st_simons/nsnews030.html

22 thoughts on “The Unforgettable Benjamin Franklin

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  2. Thank you, Rev. Hird for your informitive and entertaining article. I just read it aloud to my husband. Did Benjamin Franklin ever become a Christian, I wonder? He said many of the right things. It’s amazing to me that someone could have so much “common sense” but not be a believer.

    Please come visit Gloriadelia again and please recommend it to anyone you think it might encourage. I did a “Great Lines from Movies” series and a “Getting Milk?” series that I especially like. You can click on them in the tag cloud.

    Looking forward to exploring more of your blog. God bless, Gloris http://www.gloriadelia.wordpress.com


    • Very good question, Gloria. I certainly hope so. His approach/avoidance to everything in his life makes it hard to tell. Of real interest was the painting of the Last Judgement that he had in his bedroom while he was dying. He certainly heard the gospel clearly, and made many positive ‘partial’ responses, as mentioned in the article.


  3. Ah!!! at last I found what I was looking for. Somtimes it takes so much effort to find even tiny useful piece of information.
    Nice post. Thanks


  4. Great article on Franklin! He was a phenomenal man.


  5. With thanks.. Still a typical exceptional contribution, this is certainly the key reason why I returned to your blog site repeatedly…


  6. hi,
    Thanks for the good quality of your blog and the history informations. I will come back.



  7. Think of three things: Whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must give account

    sound like the talmudic

    Talmud Avos 3;1:
    Consider three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: Know
    whence you came, whither you go, and Before Whom you will give justification and
    reckoning. ‘Whence you came?’ – from a putrid drop; ‘whither you go?’ – to a place of
    dust, worms, and maggots; ‘and before Whom you will give justification and reckoning?’ –
    before the King Who reigns over kings, the Holy One Blessed is He.

    (its usualy shortened)


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  10. Interesting thoughts about the man Benjamin Franklin.


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