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Benjamin Franklin

by Larry Miles

Benjamin Franklin played a vital part in keeping many churches in the North from falling into the hands of the liberals or digressives. Concerning his importance, David Lipscomb wrote these words in the Gospel Advocate upon Franklin’s death,.

“The cause loses its most able and infatigable defender since the days of Alexander Campbell, and his loss is simply irreparable.”

Benjamin Franklin was born in Belmont County, Ohio on February 1, 1812. Until 1833 no one in his family showed any interest in religion. In 1833 Samuel Rogers, a co-worker of Barton W. Stone, moved into the area. Because of his willingness to study the Bible with Joseph Franklin, Ben’s father, all the Franklin family accepted the Lord and were baptized into Christ.

Although Ben Franklin gained fame as an editor and debater, it was as a preacher of the Gospel that he is remembered. He was one who stood “for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.” David Lipscomb, writing in the Gospel Advocate in 1878, wrote these words.

“Earnestness, clearness, simplicity, with a strong reverence for and determination to know nothing in religion save what the Bible teaches, was the striking characteristics of his discourses.”
John W. McGarvey wrote the following in the American Christian Review in 1860,

“His power lies in two peculiarities. First, his close and constant dependence of the very words of the English Bible, which he has richly treasured in his memory. Second, His earnest and vehement manner of pressing home upon the hearts of his audience any advantages that his position may have given him.”

Brother Franklin has another peculiarity as a debatant of which I must speak, which I cannot too highly commend to the imitation of all the brethren. He is preeminently and evangelist, and his whole soul seems to be wrapped up in the desires to convert souls to Christ. This though never forsakes him in discussion. His speeches are therefore characteristic by the same tender solicitude for his audience, the same solemnity of manner, and almost the same pathos, as when he was preaching for the conversion of sinners. It is not an uncommon occurrence for him to draw tears from the eyes of a large portion of his audience.”

Although Franklin contributed to and edited papers subsequent to 1856, it was in that year that he started one of the most widely read periodicals in the brotherhood. It was called the American Christian Review. It started as a monthly but in 1858 it became a weekly paper dedicated to seeking after the Ancient Order of Things. Franklin edited it until his death. Concerning the Review after his death, the reader is directed to the articles on the life of Daniel Sommer.

At first Franklin was an ardent supporter of the American Christian Missionary Society and for a time served as the Corresponding Secretary. Why did he change his views? Dr. West gives this account,.

“Shortly after Franklin’s death David Lipscomb wrote an article evaluating his great life and work. Lipscomb writes that Franklin was ordinarily a man of great firmness, but at times was influenced by others against his better judgment. It seems then, that they tore the great heart of Benjamin Franklin between two great desires. On the one hand, he had a passion for unity between brethren and on the other, he had a passion for an independent stand for truth. It grieved Franklin deeply when his own passion for truth conflicted with his desire for unity, but in the end, he was always faithful to his conviction. Lipscomb points out that Franklin was persuaded, even at times against his better judgment that the adoption of societies would cause better unity and activity. When he saw they failed, he returned to ‘always trust the primitive and divine methods’ . . . At heart Franklin was convicted that the societies were unscriptural, but he patiently waited to see if there was any way he could harmonize his convictions wit the existence of societies before he spoke out.”

Concerning the instrument, he considered it an innovation. Franklin continued to preach and edit the American Christian Review until his death on October 23, 1878.

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8