How America's Most Irreligious Founder
Was Impacted by George Whitefield and the Great Awakening

Benjamin Franklin, along with Thomas Jefferson, is usually considered the most irreligious of America’s Founding Fathers. If Franklin, however, were in Washington, D.C. today he would stand out for his strong religious beliefs and conservative political views. He would be pro-life, pro-traditional marriage and would advocate for prayer and Bible reading in the public schools. So far has our nation moved from its Christian origins that this most liberal, irreligious Founder would today be attacked for his Christian views and conservative policies. 
His Early Life & Indiscretions
Franklin was born in Boston in 1706 into a hard working Protestant family that had Puritan influences on both sides of the family. In fact, Franklin’s critics have derisively referred to his Autobiography, written later in life, as “little else than a Puritan document—a religious tract—for the justification of thrift and other Puritan qualities.”
At the age of 17 Franklin ran away from home and settled further south in Philadelphia. In his early life he engaged in inappropriate behavior such as fathering an illegitimate son and his common law marriage to Deborah Read. But in his Autobiography he describes himself as being at that time “under no religious restraint,” clearly indicating that “religious restraints” later became a governing force in his life.
Being a voracious reader Franklin, as a young man, also entertained the views of Deism. Deists, while not denying the existence of God, insisted that God was not involved in human affairs. They also denied the Deity of Jesus Christ. For the Deist, God was like the clockmaker who made a clock, wound it up and left it to run on its own.
His Deistic views, however, also changed with time. This was attributable, no doubt, to his Puritan upbringing and also to his exposure to the Great Awakening and his friendship with the Awakening’s most famous preacher, George Whitefield (1714-1770).
Franklin Participates in the Great Awakening
When Whitefield arrived in Philadelphia for the first time in 1739, Franklin was already established as a successful printer and one of the city’s leading citizens. Philadelphia, as was generally true of colonial America at the time, was spiritually indifferent and vice and immorality was running rampant. Some ministers had issued calls for prayer and fasting, but until now little evidence of answered prayer had been seen. This was all about to change.
Franklin was astounded at what transpired through Whitefield’s preaching. No building in Philadelphia was large enough to accommodate the thousands that flocked to hear him preach, and he was forced to preach outdoors. The meetings were nonsectarian and in his Autobiography Franklin wrote, “The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous.”
The city was transformed and Franklin described the change as “wonderful.” From his Autobiography, it sounds as if he was in regular attendance at all the meetings. He had never seen anything like it, and wrote;
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.”
His Friendship with George Whitefield
On this, his first visit to Philadelphia, Whitefield reached out and introduced himself to Franklin who was eight years his senior. This proved to be the beginning of a long friendship that lasted until Whitefield’s death 31 years later. In later visits, Whitefield would even stay in Franklin’s home when visiting Philadelphia.
Whitefield hired Franklin to print and distribute his Sermons and Journals and Franklin took on the task with enthusiasm. Franklin also advised Whitefield in business matters related to his ministry, such as the advertisement and distribution of his Sermons and the establishment of an orphanage in Georgia. He also contributed financially to Whitefield’s 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. It is also obvious that the friendship had a deep and lasting impact on Franklin and led to a transformation of his views about God and the Bible.
In his Autobiography Franklin says that Whitefield often prayed for his conversion but did not live to see his prayers answered. Even so, there is evidence to suggest that Whitefield’s prayers were eventually answered and that Franklin did come to know in a personal way the Savior that Whitfield so often spoke to him about.
Evidence of Change
It is known, for example, that Franklin became an avid reader of the Bible and would often quote Scripture in his conversations. He became a life-long member of the Presbyterian Church and financially supported that church until his death. 

On one occasion, when he learned that his daughter had stopped attending church because of a personal dislike of the minister, Franklin wrote her a letter in which he exhorted her on “the necessity and duty of attending church.” Being ever the philosopher, he then said, “Pure water is often found to have come through very dirty earth.”

Franklin came to believe the teachings of Jesus—whom he sought to emulate—to be a necessary and positive force in society and a restraint on evil in the world. That is why when Thomas Paine sent him a manuscript copy of The Age of Reason in which he attacked historic Christianity, Franklin wrote him a letter in which he defended orthodox Christianity and urged Paine not to print his manuscript, saying;
I would advise you, therefore . . . to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion [Christianity], what would they be if without it.
After a voyage to England in 1757, during which the ship almost crashed into a small, rocky island in the Atlantic at midnight, the first thing Franklin did upon reaching shore was to seek out a church and offer up thanksgiving to God. In a letter to his wife, he wrote, “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.”

Whether Franklin ever embraced all the tenets of orthodox Christianity is still debated. What is not in question is the fact that Franklin believed Christianity to be a positive force in society, which is why he recommended that it be taught in the public schools of Pennsylvania. Franklin would be appalled at modern attempts to remove expressions of Christianity from the public arena.
Franklin Calls the Constitutional Convention to Prayer
On June 28, 1787, seventeen years after Whitefield’s death, Franklin was attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia as one of the delegates. Much regional disagreement had surfaced and the convention was about to be suspended because of unresolved strife and dissension. It was at this critical moment that Franklin, now 81 years of age, rose to his feet, and 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 be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business.
According to those present, “An atmosphere of reconciliation seemed to settle 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 of heaven with him!
Concluding Thoughts
The words in his call to prayer show that Franklin had discarded his Deistic views for Deists did not believe that God “governs in the affairs of men” and prayer for them would be meaningless. The impact of his Puritan upbringing, his exposure to the Great Awakening and Whitefield’s personal friendship are all obvious here in Franklin’s words and actions.

If Franklin was America’s most irreligious Founder, what does that say for most politicians in Washington, D.C. today? If Franklin was the most irreligious of our Founders, then it shows how far our nation has fallen and how desperate we are for another Great Awakening in our land. 

Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian, revivalist and ordained minister. This article is derived from his book, America's Revival Heritage, available from Amazon and from his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html



“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.” – Patrick Henry 

America is at a crossroads—one of the most critical moments in her history. For the first time in my life I can see the possibility of our Constitution and Bill of Rights being discarded and replaced in the midst of a national emergency. This could happen for two reasons: (1) because of lawless public officials who do not respect the rule of law or the American Constitution; and (2) because of an American populace that has no sense of the nation's overt Christian origins and the important role of her founding documents and are, therefore, susceptible to such a radical change. As God said in Hosea 4:6, My people are destroyed for lack of Knowledge.
The Crisis is Real
For the first time in my life I can see the possibility of a national chaotic situation in which our president declares a national emergency and refuses to step down when his time in office is up. He then uses his “emergency” powers to call a new Constitutional convention to create a modern and more relative Constitution to replace the old, outdated one.
If you think such could never happen, consider a recent article in the New York Times that noted, “The Constitution has seen better days . . . its influence is waning.” The liberal Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reflected this contemptuous attitude toward the American Constitution when she told an Egyptian television audience, “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Noting this growing disdain for the Constitution, Professor Steven Hayward asked, “Is there any doubt that if liberals had their way, they would junk the U.S. Constitution and install one that enshrines liberal ideology?”
A national crisis could provide the perfect storm within which a Constitutional change could occur. Commenting on this, an article in the Wall Street Journal noted, “The thing about a crisis is that it creates a sense of urgency. Actions that once appeared optional suddenly seem essential.” Remember, a liberal mantra is, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
There is Hope
But in the midst of the current crisis, there is hope. In the midst of the darkness, there is light. God still rules among the nations of the earth. Psalm 33:12 that reads, Blessed is that nation whose God is the LORD is still true.
But our hope cannot be in a politician or a political party. Our hope must be in God Himself and His promises to His people. The only thing that will save America at this time is what has saved her through so many crises in her past—a great, national Spiritual awakening. Is such an awakening possible?
A Personal Visitation
In 2010 I experienced a visitation from the Lord in which it was made clear to me that America could see another great, national Spiritual awakening. Like many today, I had given up hope that such an awakening could ever occur. But one hot summer day as I began a leisure drive to preach in another city, my mind and heart suddenly and unexpectedly began to be flooded with hopeful, faith-filled thoughts that America could see another Great Awakening.
For the next two hours I was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s presence and my mind was continually flooded with thoughts of how America could see another great, national Spiritual awakening. By the time I reached my hotel I was so excited I could hardly wait to get out my PC and began to write and articulate the new hope for America I had just received. Out of that experience I wrote the book America’s Revival Heritage, published in 2012.
Let's See America Revived
Just recently, through a series of providential occurrences, it was made clear to me that I am to begin presenting "Revive America” Events for the purpose of laying the Biblical and historical foundation for another national, Spiritual awakening. This will involve showing the radical Christian origins of our nation and the Christian context of its founding documents.
Most of all, it will involve calling God’s people to a new consecration, and imploring them to pray and believe for another Great Awakening that will revive and renew the churches of America, impact our culture, and stem the tide of secularism, immorality, and false religion that is flooding our land

Yes, a revived America is possible; for as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, With God all things are possible.

Eddie Hyatt is a Bible teacher, church historian and author who holds a Doctor of Ministry from the School of Divinity at Regent University. He has specialized in researching Spiritual awakenings in church history and in American history, and he has a passion to see authentic Spiritual awakening in this generation.



We Will be Governed Either by God from Within or by Tyrants from Without

President Obama said we should be ashamed for not enacting gun control laws in light of the shooting of a 14 year old by a 15 year old at a school in Oregon. The president’s statement, however, is like calling for a band-aid to be put on a cancer. The immorality and violence in our land are not from a lack of laws. They are reflections of deep spiritual problems that include the breakdown of the family, the rejection of moral absolutes by our society, a secularist government that is increasingly hostile to Christianity and a weak, anemic church.

When I was in high school in rural NE Texas, practically every teenager owned a gun. My grandmother gave me my first gun, a 410 shotgun, when I was about 14 to use for hunting and target practice. The thought of using the guns for anything else--especially shooting someone-- never entered our minds because of the strong family, moral and Spiritual influences in the school and community.

What this country needs is not another law, but an open return to Biblical and moral principles. We must have another great Spiritual awakening. If we do not soon recover a morality and faith that governs us from within, then we will be governed by power-hungry political tyrants from without. 

Everyone who follows current events know that there is an all-out assault on Christianity in this nation. This has taken the form of banning prayer and Bible reading in public schools, removing the Ten Commandments from the walls of schools and court rooms, removing crosses from government lands and removing Nativity scenes from public city squares. In addition, Christian businesses are being ordered to provide services to their employees and the public, even if it violates their conscience and Christian faith. 

These are acts of tyranny by an overreaching, out-of-control government. It is no time for a quiet, timid Christianity. Our third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

America’s founders threw off the tyranny of King George and formed a nation with a Constitution designed for a moral and Christian people. Such a people would not need a lot of outward laws to govern their actions, for they would govern themselves from within according to Biblical principles. This is what James Madison, the chief architect of the Constitution, was referring to when he said,

We have staked the whole future of the American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future . . . upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.
This is what our second president, John Adams, was referring to when he said, Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.

When the Founders used the word “religious” they were referring to Christianity. As a nation we are rapidly moving away from our Christian beginnings. In fact, our president stood before a predominately Muslim audience in a foreign land and declared, “America is not a Christian nation.”

Those who think morality and Christian faith have no connection are deceived. I remember listening to a sociologist being interviewed by Charlie Rose and hearing him tell how his studies had revealed that the public display of Christian symbols have a direct bearing on morality. He told of one experiment that revealed that people in a room with a Bible in sight are less likely to lie than if there is no Bible to be seen.

In his farewell address, George Washington exhorted the young nation to remember that, Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. He then went on to say,

And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion [Christianity]. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Today’s secularist politician sees more laws as the answer for every problem. The Founders would have been more inclined to call the nation to prayer and repentance.

We must have a national Spiritual awakening in our land that will restore a national morality and cultural change of character. For this to happen, pastors and Christian leaders must recover their voice and speak truth in love. Otherwise we will see more laws and more control and oppression coming out of Washington D.C. We will either have revival and be governed by God from within or we will continue our downhill moral slide and be ruled by tyrants from without.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is the founder and host of "Revive America." He is the author of several books on Spiritual awakenings and his latest book, PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, is available from Amazon and from his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html