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eminence and distinguished lastre with which you have appeared in this little detached part of the creation, you would be what I most fervently wish to you, Sir, whatever may be my fate in eternity. The grand climacteriç in which I now am, reminds me of the interesting scenes of futurity. You know, Sir, that I am a Christian, and would to heaven all others were such as I am, except my imperfections and deficiencies of moral character. As much as I know of Dr. Franklin, I have not an idea of bis religious sentiments. I wish to know the opinion of my venerable friend concerning Jesus of Nazareth. He will not impute this to impertinence or improper curiosity, in one, who for so many years has continued to love, estimate, and reverence bis abilities and literary character, with an ardour and affection bordering on adoration. If I have said too much let the request be blotted out, and be no more; and yet I shall never cease to wish you that happy iinmortality which I believe Jesus alone has purchased for the virtuous and truly good of every religious denomination in Christendom, and for those of every age, nation, and mythology, who reverence the deity, are filled with integrity, righteousness, and benevolence. Wishing you every blessing, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant,
ANSWER TO THE REVEREND PRESIDENT Stiles.
Philadelphia, March 9, 1790. ReverEND AND Dear Sir,
I received your kind letter of January 28, and am glad you have at length received the portrait of Governor Yale from his family, and deposited it in the College library. He was a great and good man, and had the merit of doing infinite service to your country by his munificence to that institution. The honour you propose doing me, by placing mine in the same room with his, is much too great for my deserts; but you always had a partiality for me, and to that it must be ascribed. I am however too much obliged to Yale College, the first learned society that took notice of me and adorned me with its honours, to refuse a request that comes from it through so esteemed a friend. But I do not think any one of the portraits you mention as in niy possession worthy of the situation and company you propose to place it in. You have an excellent artist lately arrived.' If he will undertake to make one for you, I shall cheerfully pay the expence': but he must not delay setting about it, or I may slip through his fingers, for I am now in my 85th year, and very infirm.
I send with this a very learned work as it seems to me, on the ancient Samaritan Coins, lately printed in Spain, and at least curious for the beauty of the impression. Please to accept it for your College library. I have subscribed for the Encyclopedia now printing here, with the intention of presenting it to the College. I shall probably depart before the work is finished, but shall leave directions for its continuance to the end. With this you will receive some of the first numbers. • You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavour in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed: I believe
'Supposed to be Stuart, an eminent portrait-painter, lately returned from Europe to his native country.
in one God, the creator of the universe. That he governs it by bis 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 corsupting changes, and I have with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to bis divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatise upon, baving 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 perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss by distinguishing the unbelievers 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. My sentiinents on this head you will see in the copy of an old
1 "For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight, His can't be wrong whose life is in the right."
letter inclosed," which I wrote in answer to one from an old religionist whom I had relieved in a paralytic case by electricity, and who being afraid I should grow proud upon it, sent me his serious though rather impertinent caution. I send you also the copy of another letter, wbich will show something of my disposition relating to religion. With great and sincere esteem and affection,
I am, &c. B. FRANKLIN. :
P.S. Had not your College some present of books from the King of France. Please to let me know if you had an expectation given you of more, and the nature of that expectation ? I have a reason for the enquiry. · I confide that you will not expose me to criticisms and censures by publishing any part of this communication to you. I have ever let others enjoy their religious sentiments without reflecting on them for those that appeared to me unsupportable or even absurd. All sects here, and we have a great variety, have experienced my good will in assisting them with subscriptions for the building their new places of worship, and as I have never opposed any of their doctrines, I hope to go out of the world in peace with them all.
TO * * *. Dear Sir,
(Without date.) I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular
Supposed to be the Letter to George Whitfield, dated June 6, 1753, p. 1.
? Uncertain : perhaps the following one?
Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For without the belief of a Providence that takes cognizance of, guards and guides, and may favour particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear its displeasure, or to pray for its protection. I will not enter into any discuse sion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion, that though your reasonings are subtle, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face. But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life without the assistance afforded by religion ; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common templations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is