Comment: Benjamin Franklin on going to church - a letter

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Benjamin Franklin on going to church - a letter

TO SARAH FRANKLIN
REEDY ISLAND, 7 at night, 8 November, 1764.

MY DEAR SALLY:—We got down here at sunset, having taken in more live stock at Newcastle, with some other things we wanted. Our good friends, Mr. Galloway, Mr. Wharton and Mr. James, came with me in the ship from Chester to Newcastle, and went ashore there. It was kind to favor me with their good company as far as they could. The affectionate leave taken of me by so many friends at Chester was very endearing. God bless them and all Pennsylvania.

My dear child, the natural prudence and goodness of heart God has blessed you with makes it less necessary for me to be particular in giving you advice. I shall therefore only say that the more attentively dutiful and tender you are towards your good mamma, the more you will recommend yourself to me. But why should I mention me when you have a so much higher promise in the commandments that such conduct will recommend you to the favor of God. You know I have many enemies, all indeed on the publick account (for I cannot recollect that I have in a private capacity given just cause of offence to any
voyage and the execution of the trust reposed in him should be provided for in the next bill prepared by the House for raising money to defray the public debts. On the strength of this pledge, the money was loaned by the merchants, although a party had made a considerable opposition to the appointment of an agent who was known to be hostile to the Proprietaries, and had been active in promoting petitions for a change of the Pennsylvania government one whatever), yet they are enemies, and very bitter ones, and you must expect their enmity will extend in some degree to you, so that your slightest indiscretions will be magnified into crimes in order the more sensibly to wound and afflict me. It is therefore the more necessary for you to be extremely circumspect in all your behaviour, that no advantage may be given to their malevolence.1

Go constantly to church, whoever preaches. The act of devotion in the Common Prayer Book is your principal business there, and if properly attended to will do more toward amending the heart than sermons generally can do. For they were composed by men of much greater piety and wisdom than our common composers of sermons can pretend to be, and therefore I wish you would never miss the prayer days; yet I do not mean you should despise sermons, even of the preachers you dislike, for the discourse is often much better than a man, as sweet and clear waters come through very dirty earth. I am the more particular on this head, as you seemed to express a little before I came away some inclination to leave our church, which I would not have you do.

For the rest, I would only recommend to you in my absence to acquire those useful accomplishments, arithmetic and book-keeping. This you might do with ease if you would resolve not to see company on the hours you set apart for those studies.

We expect to be at sea to-morrow if this wind holds, after which I shall have no opportunity of writing to you till I arrive (if it please God I do arrive) in England. I pray that his blessing may attend you, which is worth more than a thousand of mine, though they are never wanting. Give my love to your brother and sister,1 as I cannot write to them, and remember me affectionately to the young ladies, your friends, and to our good neighbors. I am, my dear child, your affectionate father,
B. FRANKLIN

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.