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• In the affair of so much importance to you, wherein you ask my advice, I cannot for want of sufficient premises, counsel you what to determine; but if you please, I will tell you how. When those difficult cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because, while we have. them under consideration, all the reasons pro and con are not present at the same time; but sometimes one set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of sight. Hence the various purposes or inclinations that alternately prevail, and the uncertainty that perplexes us. To get over this, my way is to divide half a sheet of paper by line into two columns ; writing over the one pro and over the other con : then during three or four days' consideration, I put down under the different heads, short hints of the different motives that at different times occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them altogether in one view, I endeavour to estimate their respective weights, and where I find two, (one on each side) that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I find reason pro equal to some two reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out the five ; and thus proceeding I find at length where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of farther consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly. And though the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities, yet, when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less liable to make a rash step: and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation, in what may be called moral or prudential algebra.'
In a very friendly letter to Dr. Matber, of Boston, he mentions a very simple cause as having, in early life, contributed to determine him to that course of practical utility which he pursued to the last.
• I received your kind letter with your excellent advice to the people of the United States. Such writings, though they may be lightly passed over by many readers, yet if they make a deep im. pression in one active mind of a hundred, the effects may be con siderable. Permit me to mention one little instance which, though it relates to myself, will not be quite uninteresting to you. When I was a boy, I met with a book entitled Essays to do Good, which I think was written by your father. It had been so little regarded by a former possessor, that several leaves of it were torn out; but the remainder gave me such a turn of thinking as to have an influence on my conduct through life: for I have always set a greater value on the character of a doer of good, than on any other kind of reputation; and if I have been, as you seem to think, a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to that book. You mention your being in your seventy-eighth year ; I am in my seventy-ninth year; we are grown old together. It is now more than sixty years since I left Boston; but I remember well both your father and grandfather, having heard them both in the pulpit, and seen them in their houses. The last time I saw your father was in the beginning of 1724. He
received me into his library, and on my taking leave, shewed me a shorter way out of the house through a narrow passage, which was crossed by a beam over head. We were still talking as I withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and I turning partly towards him, when he said hastily, Stoop, stoop.' I did not understand him till I felt my head hit against the beam. He was a man that never missed any occasion of giving instruction; and upon this he said to me, you are young, and have the world before you ; stoop as you go through it, and you will miss many hard thumps. The advice thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me, and I often think of it, when I see pride mortified, and misfortunes brought upon people by their carrying their heads too high." We
e may transcribe a few of the passages in which he adverts, soinetimes philosophically, sometimes almost playfully, never with the appearance of gloom or alarm, to death. At about the age of eighty he says to an old friend,
I cannot distinguish a letter, even of large print; but am happy in the invention of double spectacles, [this ingenious contrivance is clearly described] which serving for distant objects as well as near ones, make my eyes as useful to me as ever they were. If all the other defects and infirmities were as easily and cheaply remedied, it would be worth while for friends to live a good deal longer : but I look upon death to be as necessary to our constitution as sleep. We shall rise refreshed in the morning.'
Several years later he says, to Dr. Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph,
• My health and spirits continue, thanks to God, as when you saw me. The only complaint I then had [the stone] does not
grow worse, and is tolerable. I still have enjoyment in the company
my friends and being easy in my circumstances, have many reasons to like living. But the course of nature must soon put a period to my present mode of existence. This I shall submit to with less regret, as, having seen, during a long life, a good deal of this world, I feel a growing curiosity to be acquainted with some other; and can cheerfully with filial confidence resign my spirit to the conduct of that great and good parent of mankind who created it, and who has Bo graciously protected and prospered me from my birth to my present hour.'
In his eighty-second year he thus writes from Philadelphia, to an old friend in England ;
' I often think with great pleasure on the happy days I passed in England with my and your learned and ingenious friends, who have left us to join the majority in the world of spirits. Every one of them now knows more than all of us they have left behind.' It is to me a comfortable reflection, that since we must live for ever in a future state, there is a sufficient stock of amusement in reserve for us, to be found in constantly learning something new to eternity, the present quantity of human ignorance infinitely exceeding that of human knowledge.'
" You are now seventy-eight and I am eighty-two; you tread fast upon my heels: but though you have more strength and spirit, you cannot come up with me till I stop, which must now be soon; for I am grown so old as to have buried most of the friends of my youth, and I often hear persons whom I knew when children, called old Mr. such-a-one, to distinguish them from their sons, now men grown and in business ; so that living twelve years beyond David's period, I seem to have intruded myself into the company of posterity, when I ought to have been a-bed and asleep. Yet had I gone at seventy, it would have cut off twelve of the most active years of my life, employed too in matters of the greatest importance.'
In a letter to a daughter of Bishop Shipley, relative to his recent decease, he says,
According to the course of years I should have quitted this world long before him: I shall however not be long in following. I am now in my eighty-fourth year, and the last year has considerably enfeebled me; so that I hardly expect to remain another. You will then, my dear friend, consider this as probably the last line to be received from me, and as a taking leave.'
In one of the letters of about his eightieth year, be thus philosophically calculates on a future occasion.
• You see I have some reason to wish that in a future state, I may not only be as well as I was, but a little better. And I hope it; for I too, with your poet, trust in God. And when I observe that there is great frugality as well as wisdom in his works, since he has been evidently sparing both of labour and materials ;--for by the various wonderful inventions of propagation lie has provided for the continual peopling of his world with plants and animals, without being at the trouble of repeated new creations; and by the natural reduction of compound substances to their original elements, capable of being employed in new compositions, he has prevented the necessity of creating new matter ;-I say, that when I see nothing annihilated, and not even a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the annihilation of souls, or believe that he will suffer the daily waste of millions of minds ready made that now exist, and put himself to the continual trouble of making new ones. Thus finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall in some shape or other always exist : and with all the inconveniences human life is liable to, I shall not object to a new edition of mine ; hoping, however, that the errata of the last may be corrected.'
But the most remarkable letter in the volume, is one written in his eighty-fifth year, to Dr. Ezra Stiles, President of Yale College, who had in a very friendly and respectiul manner solicited some information respecting the aged philosopher's opinion of the Christian religion. Franklin's reply to an inquiry wbich be says had never been made to him before, is written with kindness and seriousness, but nevertheless in terms, not a little
evasive. But perhaps it would in effect have as much explicitness as his venerable correspondent could wish, for it would too clearly inforin the good man, as it does its present readers, that this philosopher, and patriot, and, as in many points of view he may most justly be regarded, philanthropist, was content and prepared to venture into another world without any hold upon the Christian Faith. In many former letters, as well as in this last, he constantly professes his firm belief in an Almighty Being, wise, and good, and exercising a providential government over the world, and in a future state of conscious existence, rendered probable by the nature of the human soul, and by the analogies presented in the renovations and reproductions in other classes of being, and rendered necessary by the unsatisfactory state of allotment and retribution on earth. On the ground of such a faith, so sustained, he appears always to anticipate with complacency, the appointed removal to another scene, confident that he should continue to experience in another life the goodness of that Being who had been so favourable to him in this, though without the smallest conceit,' he says, ' of meriting
such goodness.' The merely philosophic language uniformly employed in his repeated anticipations of an immortal life, taken together with two or three profane passages in these letters, (there are but few such passages *), and with the manner in which he equivocales on the question respectfully pressed upon him by the worthy President of Yale College, respecting his opinion of Christ, leaves no room to doubt that, whatever he did really think of the Divine Teacher, he substantially rejected Christianity—that he refused to acknowledge it in any thing like the character of a peculiar economy for the illumination and redemption of a fallen and guilty race. Nothing, probably, that he believed, was believed on the authority of its declarations, and nothing that he assumed to hope after death, was expected on the ground of its redeeming efficacy and its promises. And this state of opinions it appears that he selfcomplacently maintained without variation, during the long course of his activities and speculations on the great scale; for in this letter to Dr. Stiles, of the date of 1790, he enclosed, as expressive of his latest opinions, one written nearly forty years before, in answer to some religious adınonitions addressed to him by George Whitfield. So that througbout a period much surpassing the average duration of the life of man, spent
* One of the most prominent and offensive is in a very short letter (p. 115, 4to.) written when past eighty, on the occasion of the death of a person whom he calls our poor friend Ben Kent. We
going to transcribe, but it is better to leave such vile stuff | Vol. IX. N. S.'
in a vigorous and very diversified exercise of an eminently acute and independent intellect, with all the lights of the world around him, he failed to attain the one grand simple apprehension, how man is to be accepted with God. There is even cause to doubt whether he ever made the inquiry, with any real solicitude to meet impartially the claims of that religion which avows itself to be, on evidence, a declaration of the mind of the Almighty on the momentous subject. On any question of physics, or mechanics, or policy, oro temporal utility of any kind, or morals as detached from religion, he could bend the whole force of his spirit, and the result was often a gratifying proof of the greatness of that force ; but the religion of Christ it would appear that he could pass by with an easy assumption that whatever might be the truth concerning it, he could perfectly well do without it. To us this appears a mournful and awful spectacle; and the more so from that entire unaffected tranquillity with which he regarded the whole concern in the conscious near approach of death. Some of the great Christian topics it was needless to busy himself about then, because he should soon learn the truth with less trouble!'We conclude by transcribing from the letter to Dr. Stiles the paragraph relating to the philosopher's religion. • Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the creator of the uni
That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. "That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see, but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity: though it is a question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm however in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has,
of making his doctrines more respected and more observed, especially as I do not see that the Supreme takes it amiss by distinguishing the believers, in his government of the world, with any peculiar marks of his displeasure. I shall only add respecting myself, that having experienced the goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness.'