Benjamin Franklin & the Great Awakening
Modern revisionists of American history tend to depict the country’s founders as a collection of atheists, agnostics, and Deists with little or no interest in God or the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth! The truth is that the nation emerged out of a great Spiritual Awakening and all the founders, to one degree or another, were impacted by this Awakening. In fact, a recent ten-year project to discover where the founding fathers got their ideas for America’s founding documents, found that by far the single most cited authority in their writings was the Bible. 
The impact of the Great Awakening (1726-1760) on the founding of America is nowhere more evident than in the life of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) who is widely considered to be one of the least religious of the founding fathers and a Deist. It is true that in his early years he did entertain Deistic views about God and the Bible. However, his religious sentiments and views changed through the years attributable, no doubt, to his exposure to the Great Awakening and his friendship with George Whitefield, the most famous preacher of the Awakening.
Franklin first met Whitefield in 1739 when Whitefield arrived in Philadelphia on a preaching tour along the eastern seaboard. Franklin was astounded at the impact of Whitefield’s preaching on the populace and wrote,
The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was a matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers. 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.
Although he preached to the masses, Whitefield knew the power of personal, friendship evangelism and he went out of his way to be a friend to Franklin, even asking Franklin if he could stay in his home when visiting Philadelphia. He also hired Franklin, a printer, to print and distribute his Journal and sought Franklin’s advice in business affairs such as the establishment of an orphanage in Georgia. Franklin welcomed Whitefield into his home, attended his meetings and even contributed financially to his ministry. In his Autobiography Franklin refers to Whitefield as “a perfectly honest man” and describes their friendship as being “sincere on both sides, which lasted till his death.” It is obvious that, in spite of their differences, their friendship ran deep.
In his Autobiography, Franklin acknowledges that Whitefield often prayed for his conversion and admits that Whitefield did not live to see his prayers answered. There is evidence, nonetheless, that Franklin did come to know the Savior that Whitefield so often spoke to him about.
We know that Franklin became an avid reader of the Bible and often attended church, depending on who was preaching. In a letter to his daughter he spoke to her about “the necessity and duty of attending church.” After a voyage to England in 1757, during which the ship almost crashed at midnight into a small rocky island in the Atlantic, Franklin wrote a letter to his wife in which he said;
The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received. If I were a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should, on this occasion, vow to build a chapel to some saint; but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light house.
The most telling example of the impact of Whitefield and the Awakening on Franklin came on  June 28, 1787, seventeen years after Whitefield’s death. Franklin was a delegate to the  Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and the convention was about to be suspended because of unresolved dissension. It was a very critical moment. Franklin, now 81 years of age, rose to his feet and chided those present for their neglect of prayer and then called upon them to pray and ask God's blessings on their deliberations. He addressed the Convention president, George Washington, with these words.
How has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly appealing to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. I have lived, sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessing on our deliberation being held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business.
Franklin’s words (which were not the words of a Deist) were heeded. One writer has said that, “An atmosphere of reconciliation seemed to descend over the convention hall.” Petty grievances and local interests were laid aside and the delegates went on to complete their task of formulating the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. I think Whitefield must have smiled and all heaven with him.
Whether Franklin ever accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior in the modern evangelical sense, is still questionable. But what is without question is the fact Franklin was profoundly impacted by the Great Awakening and, as a result, he gave up his Deistic views and accepted the fact that the God of the Bible is a personal, caring God who answers prayer. He obviously held to a Christian world view and believed the morals taught by Jesus and the New Testament to be the greatest moral teachings the world has ever known. Such is the legacy of one of the least religious founders of the United States of America.
This truth about Franklin adds credibility to the statement of one of the more religious founders, Patrick Henry, who declared, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
This article was derived from America’s Revival Heritage by Eddie L. Hyatt, available from Amazon and from http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html



James Madison & the Great Awakening

Karl Marx once said, “People without a heritage are easily persuaded,” and time has proven him to be right. Throughout history when the conquerors have wanted to assimilate the conquered into their own society and culture, the first thing they do is cut the conquered off from their past. With no sense of history, the conquered lose a sense of their own identity as a people and are then easily assimilated into the society and culture of their conquerors. This very thing—Marx’s maxim--is being played out before our very eyes in America.
Because we have lost a sense of our heritage or history as a nation, concepts of morality, God, government, education, and human nature—concepts that made this nation great--are being discarded before our very eyes. Because we have lost all knowledge of our true history as a nation birthed out of a great Spiritual awakening, we are now being redefined as a secularist, politically correct nation in which Christians and Christian values are being pushed to the fringes of our society. Yes, “people without a heritage are easily persuaded,” and because we have lost our heritage as a nation, our president can stand before a foreign Muslim audience and declare, “America is not a Christian nation,” with hardly a peep of protest from back home.
Whether this downhill slide into a moral and social abyss will stop is really dependent on how you and I respond to the crisis. A good time to begin our response is this July 4th in our congregations, special meetings and online gatherings. Why not take this 237th birthday of our nation as an opportunity to help our people recover America’s heritage as a nation founded by Christian reformers and revivalists? My latest book, America’s Revival Heritage, gives all the tools needed to demonstrate how this nation was birthed out of a great Spiritual awakening that transformed the 13 American Colonies in the early and mid-18th century.
For example, did you know that James Madison, the 4th president and chief architect of the American Constitution, was trained at a college that was known as a center of Spiritual awakening? Only a few years before Madison enrolled in the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), Samuel Davies received a letter, dated April 16, 1757, from Samuel Finley, a trustee of the college, who wrote, “Our glorious Redeemer has poured out His Holy Spirit upon the students at our College. The whole house was a Bochim (place of weeping). Mr. William Tennant, who was on the spot, says that there never was, he believes, more genuine sorrow for sin and longing after Jesus” (Eddie Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage, 72). Madison’s mentor and president at this college, Dr. Jonathan Witherspoon, was a graduate of Cambridge University in England, a Christian reformer and a signer of the Declaration of Independence who declared, “Cursed is all education that is contrary to Christ.” After graduation, Madison continued at the College of New Jersey for an additional year, and during that time, he translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English.  
That Madison was a committed follower of Jesus is evident from his many public and private writings. For example, in a letter to his friend, William Bradford, he exhorted him to make sure of his own salvation, saying, “A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven.” He also told Bradford of his desire that public officials would openly testify of their faith in Christ, and encouraged him to do so. He wrote,
I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments … becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give your evidence in this way.
In 1812, President Madison signed a federal bill that provided economic aid for a Bible society in its goal of the mass distribution of the Bible. Throughout his presidency (1809-1816), he issued several proclamations for national days of prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving.
Madison’s worldview was obviously shaped by associates and institutions with roots firmly anchored in the Great Awakening. This is why the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe have said, “Madison’s political worldview was one shaped by the Bible more than any other source.”

This article was derived from America’s Revival Heritage by Eddie L. Hyatt, available from Amazon and from http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html. A 50% discount is available for orders of 10 or more copies. Send such order to dreddiehyatt@gmail.com.