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Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Franklin’

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Granville Sharp

(b. November 10, 1735)

Never had thirty-year old Granville Sharp seen such injuries: large swellings about the neck and head, gaping wounds, and a face hideously swollen, streaked with trails of dried blood.

The victim: Jonathan Strong, a young slave who’d been pistol-whipped by his master and left to die on the streets of London, 1765. Somehow Jonathan made his way to the house of Granville’s brother, William, a doctor. And there he sat, waiting in line outside William’s office, when Granville stopped by the house.

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The encounter would change Granville’s life forever.

His heart went out to the slave; they became acquainted. Jonathan’s story horrified Granville. To make matters worse, when Jonathan recovered, the master demanded he be returned. Granville determined to help Jonathan, even though he’d “never opened a law-book except the Bible in [his] life” (1).

Those defending the slave owner were evidently intimidated by the case Granville put forth. After a two-year legal battle, they never brought Jonathan’s case to trial.

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Sharp helped other slaves win their cases against tyrant owners, becoming more and more involved in the abolition of slavery. One case in particular, that of James Somerset, helped to set an important precedent in England.

Somerset had escaped his master, been recaptured, and was about to be shipped to a Jamaican plantation when Granville and others became involved.  They helped the slave win his freedom, arguing that “no master ever was allowed here (in England) to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he deserted his service…therefore the man must be discharged” (2).

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Granville remained active in the abolition movement his entire life. He wrote frequent letters to many leaders in America and Britain, influencing their thinking about slavery and earning their respect. Among them: Dr. Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration), John Jay (first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams in America; John Wesley, William Wilberforce, the Archbishop of Canterbury in England; and General Lafayette of France.

But that was only one of his passionate pursuits. Another concern was the illegal treatment of the colonists in America. He published books and pamphlets to help their cause, catching the attention of Ben Franklin during one of his visits to England.

Granville gave Mr. Franklin 250 copies of his pamphlet about people’s natural rights as supported by the British constitution. Franklin sent them to America where several presses reprinted the booklet.

Sharp’s pamphlet influenced Thomas Jefferson as he drafted the Declaration of Independence, evidenced by at least several similarities in both documents.

In 1775, when war broke out in the colonies Granville was employed in the ordnance office (handling all matters concerning weaponry). He wanted nothing to do with the war, so he wrote to his employer: “I cannot return to my ordnance duty whilst a bloody war is carried on, unjustly as I conceive, against my fellow-subjects” (3).

Granville’s brothers agreed to support him, enabling him to pursue his studies, causes, and writing. In fact, beginning with his first book in 1765, Sharp published a new work, sometimes more than one, almost annually for the rest of his life (5).

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One of those books (with a thirty-six word title!) is now known as “Sharp’s rule” (1777). With his self-taught knowledge of ancient Greek, Granville demonstrated how eight passages of the New Testament had been mistranslated by some Bible scholars, leaving the reader to surmise that God the Father and God the Son were separate Beings. Sharp presented a thorough explanation that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One, according to the original Greek texts (4).

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Yet Granville accomplished still more. In the mid-1780s, Sharp teamed with a Mr. Smeathman to establish a colony for freed English slaves on the west coast of Africa. (Many of them were homeless, subsisting on the streets of London with no hope of improving their lives.) But Smeathman died shortly after he and Granville established their partnership. Sharp continued the work nevertheless.

In April of 1787, the dream for that African colony became a reality with the founding of Sierra Leone. The colonists named the first settlement, Granvilletown.

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Sharp accomplished even more, as he served on a number of boards and societies, in support of mission efforts and philanthropic concerns.

Yet he did not see the fulfillment of his greatest dream—the abolition of slavery. The battle he began with the case of Jonathan Strong in 1765 finally ended in 1833, when slavery was completely abolished in the British Empire.

Sharp died in 1813.

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His chief biographer, Prince Hoare, said that as he began to study Sharp he intended to “draw a veil over peculiarities of Mr. Sharp’s character,” out of respect for the dead. But when he finished his careful and comprehensive research, he realized Sharp’s “character to be of that high and dignified nature, to leave no necessity for such a precaution…I see nothing to veil.” (6).

Like many other forgotten heroes, Granville Sharp is among that great cloud of witnesses who fixed their eyes on Jesus and ran the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1-2a).

May his example and that of others–their faith, integrity, perseverance, and passion–push us along in the race marked for us.

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  1. history.ac.uk
  2. national.archives.gov.uk
  3. Dr. Daniel Wallace, www.bible.org
  4. christianity.com
  5. brycchancarey.com
  6. Dr. Daniel Wallace, http://www.bible.org

(Art & photo credits:  www.bbc.co.uk; izquotes.com; http://www.virtualtourist.com; http://www.collections.vam.ac.uk; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.en.wikipedia.org; )

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Benjamin Franklin was the thirteenth child of a humble soap-and-candle maker. Obviously, no family fortune provided him easy success in life. Neither did a stellar performance in school that would lead to scholarships. His formal education lasted all of two years, from ages eight to ten. Yet Ben became:

  • a respected publisher
  • the country’s first millionaire
  • a world-famous scientist
  • an influential voice as the thirteen colonies fought for independence and established a nation
  • a distinguished diplomat in Europe

No wonder Franklin was proclaimed a self-made man. But there are other factors, outside his control, that contributed to his success, including:

INTELLIGENCE

His varied accomplishments as writer, statesman, and diplomat prove his sharp intellect.

CHARACTER

Ben was  curious and skeptical–useful attributes for a scientist. His astuteness, sense of humor, and ability to communicate served him well as publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanac. And all of these traits came into play when Franklin participated in the forming of our nation.

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TEMPERAMENT

Surely Ben was an energetic and passionate individual. He was always in pursuit of something—things like:

  • Solving problems. Numerous inventions credited to Franklin grew out of need. For example, his desire to create more heat in his home led to his invention of the wood stove.
  • Acquiring new knowledge. Ben attempted his well-known key-and-kite experiment because of his curiosity about lightning.
  • Improving the lives of his fellow colonists. Franklin wrote, met with other delegates, sought the help of France, and more, in America’s struggle to gain independence from England. In 1789, at age 84, he was still writing and working. His cause? The abolition of slavery in America.

OPPORTUNITY

Franklin was often in the right place at the right time. One example: through his connections in the publishing industry of Philadelphia, Ben secured a contract to print the colony’s paper money.

Seems that Ben’s success had much to do with factors outside his control. These elements just mentioned–intelligence, character, temperament, and opportunity–came from God. In fact, for all of us, “Our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

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In reality, the idea of a self-made man/woman is myth. No one is truly self-sufficient.

On the other hand, God has ordained work and effort. From beginning to end, scripture proclaims the value of industry. In Genesis 2:15 we see God placing Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

So how do we balance working with our God-given abilities and depending on God?

  1. Pray.  Thank God for the gifts he has given us.  Then prayerfully seek to determine what God is doing and cooperate with him. If we are earnest in this desire, he’ll make each step clear. As seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, used to say: God does not play hide-and-seek in the trees with his will.
  1. Nourish.  The effectiveness of our giftedness requires preparation and inspiration. Preparation includes study and practical experience. (Even a talented pianist must take lessons and practice.) Preparation includes nourishing the spirit, too, with study of scripture and practical experience of worship and service. Inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit as he works within us.
  1. Embrace.   Embrace the teaching of wise, godly leaders. Embrace the help of others. Keep in mind that self-sufficiency is not a praiseworthy quality; it’s a form of pride. The person who thinks he knows everything and needs no input, or who is too proud to ask for help, is someone to be pitied, not celebrated.

As dependents upon God, we are meant to work. As workers, we are meant to be dependent upon God.

And…

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(“The God of heaven will give us success”–Nehemiah 2:20)

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I praise you, Father, for being my all-sufficient God, Someone I can trust completely for guidance, direction, and training. Help me find that balance between working for you and depending on you. May I not neglect preparation, but also look to you for inspiration.  And may I be a humble, grateful recipient of help.  Amen.  

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On September 17, 1787, George Washington took up a quill and signed the Constitution of the United States of America. He was the first of thirty-three convention delegates to endorse the document that day.

 

Most Americans probably don’t realize that this Wednesday is the anniversary of that important event.  Chances are they do not realize how close we came, the summer of 1787, to dissolving into small factions and losing our identity as the United States of America.

I certainly wouldn’t have been aware, except I read Catherine Drinker Bowen’s book, Miracle of Philadelphia over the summer.  Our constitution does indeed qualify as a miracle of creativity, wisdom, compromise, and forward thinking–all wrapped up into one.

The young delegates (average age, 43) had begun their deliberations at the end of May. As the summer heated up (many days were oppressively hot), so did the discussions. Their task seemed impossible: create a strong national government that could support and stabilize the states, yet limit that government in order to honor states’ rights.

For almost four exhausting, uncomfortable months the men debated issue after issue, including: 1) slavery, 2) representation in the legislature, 3) whether the executive branch should be a committee or one man, and 4) whether a bill of rights should be included.

It was the dispute over representation that really caused tempers to flare. Some delegates were concerned that large states would lord it over small states in a legislature of equal representation.   Other delegates thought proportional representation based on population was the fairest method.

The two opposing sides hurled arguments back and forth with no compromise in sight. According to Georgia delegate, William Few, “It was an awful and critical moment. If the Convention had then adjourned, the dissolution of the union of the states seemed inevitable.”

What kept them from adjourning? Perhaps it was the strong appeal of an elder statesman in attendance, encouraging the delegates to press on–with God’s help.  Following is an excerpt. (Note the twelve phrases and references borrowed from Scripture):

In this situation of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented, how has it happened that we have not once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings?

In the beginning of the contest with Britain when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers for the Divine Protection. Our prayers were heard and were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor…

…And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived a long time; and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see that God governs 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 in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel…and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages (from The Papers of James Madison, 1840).

Those words came from a delegate known for his wisdom and political savvy, one of the most highly respected men in America: Benjamin Franklin.

Another delegate, Mr. Randolph of Virginia, proposed that “thenceforward prayers be used in ye convention every morning” (according to James Madison’s notes).

The Great Debate continued, arguments still broke out, Alexander Hamilton wrote that the crisis was alarming and he “almost despaired.” But the delegates did indeed press on. On July 16, the final compromise was voted upon and passed. The Senate would have two members from each state; the House of Representatives would be based on population, one member for every 40,000 residents.

Slowly but surely, over four months of grueling deliberation, these young visionaries hammered out a new form of government comprised of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. They strove for careful balance of power between those three branches, as well as between the federal government and the states.

The Constitution of the United States of America is the oldest written constitution in the world. It has stood the test of time, as a result of the collective genius of the delegates. They persevered to create a flexible document that could adapt to change as the decades passed.

And undoubtedly Benjamin Franklin has been proven right:

Without [God’s] concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel…and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages.

On the contrary, with God’s aid providing that collective genius, those resolute patriots created the foundation for the greatest nation on earth.

 

(For those interested in the scriptures Mr. Franklin alluded to in his speech, they include:  Job 12:25; James 1:17; James 1:5; Luke 12:6; Psalm 75:7; Daniel 4:17; Psalm 127:1; Genesis 11:1-9; Deuteronomy 28:37; 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Psalm 44:14).

 

Art credit:  wwwlwikipedia.com.   Sources:  The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012; Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen, Little, Brown and Company, 1986; The Story of America, Reader’s Digest Association, 1975).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Church bells rang all across Philadelphia. Men on horseback rode far and wide to spread the news. People shouted and fired their guns. It was July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence had been approved by the Second Continental Congress.

In spite of the celebratory noise, those fifty-six delegates gathered in the Pennsylvania State House knew the gravity of their actions. By signing the declaration (which would not happen until August 2) they were guilty of treason against the British crown–punishable by hanging.

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of t...

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of the Second Continental Congress voting on the United States Declaration of Independence. Oil on canvas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Ben Franklin told the delegates that day, “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

On what confidence were they willing to risk their lives against an enemy as strong as England? After all, the colonies were loosely organized, just a far-spread collection of farmers for the most part. They had no army or navy trained and ready to launch into battle. Small-town militias were all the Congress had to work with. And because the British were seizing guns and ammunition, the militias were disadvantaged further.

By contrast, the powerful British empire had a trained army and at least thirty ships ready for battle as the war began.

Perhaps those fifty-six delegates were reflecting on a providential event of September 7, 1774.  On that day, Rev. Jacob Duche had been invited to the First Continental Congress to begin the day’s proceedings with prayer. But Rev. Duche also read the psalm designated for September 7, from the Book of Common Prayer. The passage was Psalm 35.

English: Painting: The Rev Jacob Duche offers ...

Now it’s important to know that Congress had just been told Boston was under attack by the British. Depressing news to be sure. Here is an excerpt of what they heard:

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Arise and come to my aid.

“May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. Since they hid their net for me without cause…may the net they hid entangle them.

“You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them…O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my life from these lions” ((Psalm 35:1-17).

John Adams is the one who called the day’s reading “providential.” The whole psalm spoke directly to their situation.

Yet, even with such promises still in their minds, those delegates knew full well that war would mean deprivation for everyone, suffering for most, and death for many. They were potentially signing a death warrant for themselves and/or their sons. What would cause such willingness to sacrifice themselves?

John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail:

“I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration…I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in the day’s transaction.”

The end is worth the means: that posterity will triumph. They sacrificed so very much so that we, their posterity, might enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured, imprisoned, and treated brutally. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All of the delegates were, at one time or another, the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned.

Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word.

Such conviction, strength of character, courage, and perseverance; such willingness to suffer is difficult to fathom.

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Heavenly Father, it pains us to realize that thousands upon thousands have died for the cause of liberty. May we always remember: our freedoms have been purchased for us at a Very. High. Price. May we never take those freedoms for granted, or, worse yet, abuse them.

It also pains us to realize that your Son, Jesus, had to die, to liberate us from death. May our lives be characterized by heartfelt gratitude, motivating us to live for you and not for our own selfish desires.

Strengthen us, Lord, to please you and honor our dead heroes. You deserve our obedience; they deserve to be respectfully remembered. Always.

And last, we pray for those who are now serving in the military, protecting our freedoms today. Watch over them and bless them, we pray.  Amen.

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