Benjamin Franklin: Hope for Greater Disagreement

Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin: Hope for Greater Disagreement

Benjamin Franklin (1812-1878), one of the more influential preachers in the Restoration Movement, made it his aim to preach in such a way that his message was clearly understood. Notice the following quote from a sermon he delivered on the subject of foot-washing:

All we ask of those who may differ with us, is to give us a patient and impartial hearing, and then, if we cannot agree, it is hoped the disagreement will be greater than it was before” (They Heard Him Gladly, p. 221).

Our world places a great deal of emphasis on compromise. If two parties disagree on a particular topic – religious, political, etc. – many believe that the ideal outcome would be for the two parties to meet somewhere in the middle.

In this statement, Franklin made it clear that he was not interested in compromise, he was interested in the truth. Because of this, he sought to deliver his message using “great plainness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12, KJV) so that his points were unmistakable.

Franklin also desired his listeners to patiently and impartially consider the message he delivered. As Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 8:8), Franklin wanted people to do this in hopes that there would be some “who [would hear] the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

However, not everyone will respond to the gospel in this way and Franklin knew it. Many will “not endure sound doctrine,” but instead want “to have their ears tickled, [so] they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3). Franklin was not going to change his message in order to accommodate these desires. Rather, he intended to do what Paul told Timothy to do – “preach the word…in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

When there was a doctrinal matter in which there would potentially be disagreement, Franklin was not going to dance around the issue or use vague language that would be agreeable to both sides. Instead, his goal was to preach plainly, articulating the issue so clearly that the line between truth and error would be unmistakable. This would force people to either be convinced of the truth or, if they would not accept the truth, be clearly recognized to be in error.

In our preaching and teaching today, we must also use “great plainness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12, KJV) so that truth is easily distinguished from error. This allows others to make the decision to either accept or reject the truth. Paul wrote, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8). In the same way, if our teaching is indistinct and, therefore, indistinguishable from the message of those who are proclaiming “a different gospel” (cf. Galatians 1:6-9), who will abandon that error for the truth so they can be prepared for the judgment?

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