Some have noted that this is the 300th birthday of a truly great American, Benjamin Franklin, born on January 17, 1706. Franklin played an immensely important role in the early history of this nation. But who was Benjamin Franklin, really? Better yet, what did he believe and what difference does it make now?
Franklin was most certainly not an orthodox Christian in the confessional sense of the word. Like many of the founders he had confidence in the principles of right and wrong and most assuredly believed in a God of providence. Franklin often wrote down these principles and certain ideas he was considering at the time. He once wrote what he called "The substance of an intended creed, containing as I thought the essentials of every known religion, and being free of every thing that might shock the professors of any religion." This creed listed the following beliefs of Franklin:
That there is a God who made all things.
That he governs the world by his providence.
That he ought to be worshipped by adoration, prayer and thanksgiving.
But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man.
That the soul is immortal.
And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice either here or hereafter.
And in a letter to Ezra Stiles, written on March 9, 1790, Franklin added:
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble