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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Benjamin Franklin and God

Benjamin Franklin wrote the following concerning his religious beliefs when he was twenty-two years of age. At the same age he also established a printing house, and conceived of a public lending library. Two years earlier he recorded his "Thirteen Virtues".

Franklin, approximate age 35

Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion

Philada. Nov. 20 1728

... I cannot conceive otherwise, than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no Worship or Praise from us, but that he is even INFINITELY ABOVE IT.

But since there is in all Men something like a natural Principle which enclines them to DEVOTION or the Worship of some unseen Power;

And since Men are endued with Reason superior to all other Animals that we are in our World acquainted with;

Therefore I think it seems required of me, and my Duty, as a Man, to pay Divine Regards to SOMETHING.


Next to the Praise due, to his Wisdom, I believe he is pleased and delights in the Happiness of those he has created; and since without Virtue Man can have no Happiness in this World, I firmly believe he delights to see me Virtuous, because he is pleas'd when he sees me Happy.


Let me then not fail to praise my God continually, for it is his Due, and it is all I can return for his many Favours and great Goodness to me; and let me resolve to be virtuous, that I may be happy, that I may please Him, who is delighted to see me happy. Amen.


O wise God,
My good Father,
Thou beholdest the Sincerity of my Heart,
And of my Devotion;
Grant me a Continuance of thy Favour!

Powerful Goodness, &c.
O Creator, O Father, I believe that thou art Good, and that thou art pleas'd with the Pleasure of thy Children.
Praised be thy Name for Ever.

By thy Power hast thou made the glorious Sun, with his attending Worlds; from the Energy of thy mighty Will they first received their prodigious Motion, and by thy Wisdom hast thou prescribed the wondrous Laws by which they move.
Praised be thy Name for ever.

By thy Wisdom hast thou formed all Things, Thou hast created Man, bestowing Life and Reason, and plac'd him in Dignity superior to thy other earthly Creatures.
Praised be thy Name for ever.

Thy Wisdom, thy Power, and thy GOODNESS are every where clearly seen; in the Air and in the Water, in the Heavens and on the Earth; Thou providest for the various winged Fowl, and the innumerable Inhabitants of the Water; Thou givest Cold and Heat, Rain and Sunshine in their Season, and to the Fruits of the Earth Increase.
Praised be thy Name for ever.

I believe thou hast given Life to thy Creatures that they might Live, and art not delighted with violent Death and bloody Sacrifices.
Praised be thy Name for Ever.

Thou abhorrest in thy Creatures Treachery and Deceit, Malice, Revenge, Intemperance and every other hurtful Vice; but Thou art a Lover of Justice and Sincerity, of Friendship, Benevolence and every Virtue. Thou art my Friend, my Father, and my Benefactor.
Praised be thy Name, O God, for Ever.


That I may be preserved from Atheism and Infidelity, Impiety and Profaneness, and in my Addresses to Thee carefully avoid Irreverence and Ostentation, Formality and odious Hypocrisy,
Help me, O Father.

That I may be loyal to my Prince, and faithful to my Country, careful for its Good, valiant in its Defence, and obedient to its Laws, abhorring Treason as much as Tyranny,
Help me, O Father.

That I may to those above me be dutiful, humble, and submissive, avoiding Pride, Disrespect and Contumacy,
Help me, O Father.

That I may to those below me, be gracious, Condescending and Forgiving, using Clemency, protecting Innocent Distress, avoiding Cruelty, Harshness and Oppression, Insolence and unreasonable Severity,
Help me, O Father.

That I may refrain from Calumny and Detraction; that I may avoid and abhor Deceit and Envy, Fraud, Flattery and Hatred, Malice, Lying and Ingratitude,
Help me, O Father.

That I may be sincere in Friendship, faithful in Trust, and impartial in Judgment, watchful against Pride, and against Anger (that momentary Madness),
Help me, O Father.

That I may be just in all my Dealings and temperate in my Pleasures, full of Candour and Ingenuity, Humanity and Benevolence,
Help me, O Father.

That I may be grateful to my Benefactors and generous to my Friends, exerting Charity and Liberality to the Poor, and Pity to the Miserable,
Help me, O Father.

That I may avoid Avarice, Ambition, and Intemperance, Luxury and Lasciviousness,
Help me, O Father.

That I may possess Integrity and Evenness of Mind, Resolution in Difficulties, and Fortitude under Affliction; that I may be punctual in performing my Promises, peaceable and prudent in my Behaviour,
Help me, O Father.

That I may have Tenderness for the Weak, and a reverent Respect for the Ancient; That I may be kind to my Neighbours, good-natured to my Companions, and hospitable to Strangers,
Help me, O Father.

That I may be averse to Craft and Overreaching, abhor Extortion, Perjury, and every kind of Wickedness,
Help me, O Father.

That I may be honest and Openhearted, gentle, merciful and Good, chearful in Spirit, rejoicing in the Good of Others,
Help me, O Father.

That I may have a constant Regard to Honour and Probity; That I may possess a perfect Innocence and a good Conscience, and at length become Truly Virtuous and Magnanimous, Help me, Good God,
Help me, O Father.


For Peace and Liberty, for Food and Raiment, for Corn and Wine, and Milk, and every kind of Healthful Nourishment, Good God, I Thank thee.

For the Common Benefits of Air and Light, for useful Fire and delicious Water, Good God, I Thank thee.

For Knowledge and Literature and every useful Art; for my Friends and their Prosperity, and for the fewness of my Enemies, Good God, I Thank thee.

For all thy innumerable Benefits; For Life and Reason, and the Use of Speech, for Health and Joy and every Pleasant Hour, my Good God, I thank thee.


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