Views on Mankind
by: Samantha P.

This essay is about views on mankind-- Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards’ in particular. The point is to see the difference between the two men, Jonathan Edwards, who was a die-hard Puritan, and Benjamin Franklin, who didn‘t center his life around God at all. In other words, they are completely different people. So, these words should open the mind to both sides. Edwards was a very religious man. From birth, Edwards was surrounded by the Puritan thought life of New England, and an influential preacher for a grandfather. “In the relation of churches to civil power, Puritans believed that secular governors are accountable to God to protect and reward virtue, including ‘true religion,’ and to punish wrongdoers. They opposed the supremacy of the monarch in the church, and argued that the only head of the Church in heaven or earth is Christ” (wikipedia.com). He did have a few years where he wasn’t satisfied with the grace of God, but eventually believed again. And even then, he still wasn’t fully satisfied by God’s sovereignty. He was an exceptionally smart man, as well. Edwards was admitted to Yale College after he graduated high school, at the age of thirteen. When he graduated college, he attained a job as a pastor of the New Haven church in Colebrook, Connecticut.

 

His most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” vividly evokes the fate of unrepentant sinners in hell. It seems as though Edwards saw mankind as good and bad. Some people go by the faith of his God, and some don’t. Sinners are sent to hell to live in fire for all eternity. Believers go to heaven to live in God’s grace.

 

Franklin, however, centered his life on man, not God. Born in Boston, Franklin lived in the era of the self-made man. Franklin was a Deist, and he was once described as the “ungodly Puritan,” for growing up in a Puritan home, but not believing. Rejecting the Calvinist theology of his father, Franklin opened himself to the more secular world view of Sir Isaac Newton and John Locke. He read the Deist philosophers, virtually memorized the English paper “Spectator,” and otherwise gave allegiance to the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was also referred to as the Age of Reason; a period when European philosophers emphasized the use of reason as the best method for learning the truth.

 

“Franklin had sought to add the good sense and tolerance of the new philosophy to his Puritan earnestness. Hard work, frugality, and prudence, not God’s grace, was what made a man good” (answers.com). He made his own set of morals, mastering them one at a time to improve himself. He felt that organized religion was necessary to keep good men to their fellow men, but never attended religious services himself. A quote from Franklin is: “Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that He made the world, and governed it by His providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.”

 

Overall, the information should give a slightly better understanding for their perceptions. They were both very different people, but both incredibly brilliant men, whose names went down in history. A man of God, Jonathan Edwards was a pastor for most of his life, dying shortly after becoming president of a college. Being a Deist, Franklin was, presumably, a man of reason. He had his thoughts about Puritanism now and then, but didn’t believe in all of it. Nothing has been found as to their friendship, or that they had even met. But it has been said that Franklin did attend one of Edwards’ sermons, and had thought it was very “interesting.” There are many people who would be in favor of Edwards’ religious beliefs. On the other hand, there are quite a few people who would be in favor of Franklin’s beliefs. The vast majority of the human race believes in something, even if not the same thing. That’s something that Edwards and Franklin had in common; they held strong beliefs.