Benjamin Franklin, who is considered to be one of the least religious of our Founding Fathers, nevertheless became a very close friend of George Whitefield, the British evangelist who had crusades throughout the American colonies in the mid-1700s. Whitefield’s influence in Franklin’s life is evident as he witnessed tremendous crowds coming from miles around on foot, horseback or carriage to hear the powerful sermons of Whitefield. In Philadelphia, preaching from the Courthouse steps, Whitefield preached to over 30,000, and could be heard nearly a mile away without microphone or sound amplification.
One Nation Under God
Franklin marveled at the effect of his preaching on the populace. Franklin wrote in his autobiography: “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”
“Bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced.Benjamin Franklin
Whitefield, in my opinion, was a major factor in uniting the diverse colonies and peoples into a culture that was ripe to become “one nation under God” and have a foundation of Constitutional freedoms that made this the most blessed and prosperous nation on earth.
George Whitefield’s Influence
Franklin made many trips to Europe to distribute information regarding life in America to people who were considering immigrating or sending their young people to the “land of opportunity.” In it, Franklin wrote: “Bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced.
“Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.“
“And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects (Christian denominations) treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which He has been pleased to favor the whole country.”
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” (Psalm 33:12)Psalm 33:12
Salt & Light
As George Washington said in his Farewell Speech to the nation: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Jesus told his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world . . .let your light shine . . . and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)