Franklin & Whitefield

I think I have mentioned once or twice already how much I have enjoyed and have been encouraged, edified, and challenged by Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. If you have not read these two hefty volumes, they are well worth your investment of time and energy.

One of the more interesting relationships of Whitefield’s life is his friendship with Benjamin Franklin. As Americans we are fairly familiar with Franklin and his experiments, diplomacy, and all around awesome sayings. What makes their friendship even more interesting is the fact that Franklin was not a born-again believer of Jesus. By all accounts he was a deist at best.  

He himself said, “Mr. Whitefield used, indeed, to pray for my conversion, but he never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a mere civil friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death.”

It turned out to be a friendship that lasted thirty years. During the course of this friendship they shared many letters of correspondence. Among the most interesting (at least to me), was a letter that Whitefield sent to Franklin as Franklin was gaining notoriety for his experiments with electricity.
The preacher wrote:

“I find that you grow more and more famous in the learned world.  As you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity, I would now humbly recommend to your diligent unprejudiced pursuit and study the mystery of the new-birth. It is a most important, interesting study, and when mastered, will richly answer and repay you for all your pains. One at whose bar we are shortly to appear, hath solemnly declared, that without it, ‘we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven’. You will excuse this freedom. I must have *aliquid Christi in all my letters…”

*Aliquid Christi means “something of Christ”. Wow, what an example.  Here we have a friendship between believer and unbeliever. They had a good friendship, and yet Whitefield lovingly and forcibly reminded Franklin of his need of regeneration and the reality of Christ’s impending judgment.  Whitefield was unashamed of his Savior, and even reminded Franklin of how everything he said and wrote had to have something of Christ in it.  Do we have that same devotion to have aliquid Christi in our relationships?


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