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America's odd couple: Benjamen Franklin and Jonathan Edwards

Updated on April 23, 2011

Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards were two of America’s most notable leaders. Jonathan Edwards was a spiritual leader during America’s Great Awakening, while Benjamin Franklin was a leader in the areas of government, inventions, and literature.

Both men were born into large families. Edwards was born the only male in a family of eleven children. Franklin was the tenth child in a family of fifteen children. Both came from middle-class families. Franklin’s father was a tallow chandler and a soap boiler. Edwards was the grandson of one of the most influential preachers in New England, the Reverend Solomon Stoddard. Edwards’ father was also a minister. Both were sent to school to study for the ministry. Franklin however left Boston Grammar School to work with his father. Edwards was a very studious young man and at the age of thirteen was accepted by Yale.

Franklin despised his father’s work, and at the age of twelve he was apprenticed to his brother a printer. Franklin found that he was quite good at printing and writing, but his brother, probably due to jealousy, sought to conceal Franklin’s talents. Franklin finally broke with his brother in 1723, and ran to Philadelphia. He got involved with a politician who used him, and eventually left him stranded in London. Finally at the age of twenty-four he seemed to have found success. He was the owner of a printing shop where he edited and published the Pennsylvania Gazette. In 1733 his most famous work, Poor Richard’s Almanac began selling. He had married a woman named Deborah Read in 1730, with whom he had two children. He also had two illegitimate children.

Franklin was not only a writer, but he was also a representative of the colonies in AMERICA. He represented the colonies in England. In 1775 he served on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. He was a great American, but he was not a Christian. His life was spent accomplishing some of the most amazing feats in history, yet when he stepped out into eternity in 1790 he was unprepared to meet God. About 20,000 people mourned at his funeral.

Jonathan Edwards, unlike Franklin, did live up to his father and grandfather’s legacy. When his grandfather died in 1729 Edwards was immediately named his successor. It was during this time of pasturing a growing congregation in Northapmton that Jonathan wrote some of his most brilliant sermons and books.

In 1734 a spirit of revival broke out, not only in Edwards’ congregation, but all over America. It was known as the Great Awakening. During this time Edwards’ church was filled with new converts, and the entire country seemed to come closer to God than ever before. On Sunday, July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards delivered his most famous sermon, “Sinners In the Hands of An Angry God”. This sermon seemed to convict hundreds of soul to get saved and live for God. However, Edwards routinely named backsliders in the church, and often these people were the wealthy influential townspeople. These “backsliders” eventually got rid of Edwards in 1750 when he was voted out of his church. For the next seven years he was a missionary to Indians in Massachusetts. He later became the president of the college of New Jersey. Only three months after arriving; however he died from a smallpox inoculation.

Both of these men had character and determination. They are both well-known American heroes. The difference between them is simple, one had Christ and one did not. Franklin accomplished so much, yet he still wrote as an unhappy grump of an old man. Edwards had the true peace that comes from knowing Christ. All of Franklin’s discoveries and inventions were of no use to him the very second after he died. However when Edwards died he realized immediately that every moment of his life was worth giving to God.


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      2 years ago

      Fails to mention that "the Great Awakening" was a contrived response to "the Age of Enlightenment," a Deist movement which included the likes of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson and promulgated ideals such as better living through science, empiricism over superstition, the Right to Individual Liberty, and a New Government free from theocratic hegemonies.

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      3 years ago

      Agreed, very biased comparison by a clearly overbearing christian. Waste of time.

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      5 years ago

      wow. lame argument with zero to back it up. faith is fine, but it's not proof of anything.


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