Table Of Contents
Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was born February 1, 1812, in what is now Belmont county, Ohio, nearly opposite to Wheeling, West Virginia. He was descended in the fourth generation from a brother of the philosopher, Dr. Benjamin Franklin. When he was near twenty-one years of age he came with his father's family to Henry county, Indiana, and settled about three miles south of Middletown. Here he met, soon after, and married, Miss Mary Personet. There were born to them eleven children, nine of whom lived to be men and women.
While with his father he became a skilled cabinet maker and followed this until he left off all manual labor and gave himself to preaching.
Joseph and Isabelle Franklin were members of the Protestant Methodist church and were people of strong faith. But in their new home there was no Protestant Methodist church. In 1834 Samuel Rogers, from Kentucky, moved into the community and became a neighbor of the Franklins. Mr. Rogers at once began to preach to the people in a school house. There was such strong prejudice against what they called "Campbellism" as to cause the closing of the school house against him. Mr. Franklin had this prejudice also; but he felt a sense of injustice done to his neighbor, and gave him sympathy and support. The result was that he soon became convinced that Mr. Rogers was preaching true gospel, and became a member of the new church which was organized that same year. Altogether there were about forty, who, "believing, were baptized." Among these were Benjamin, Josiah, Daniel and Joseph Franklin, Jr., and John I. Rogers, son of Samuel Rogers. All of these became preachers. Josiah and Joseph Franklin died quite early. The others all lived to give thirty-five years or more to the ministry. There was a younger brother, David Franklin, who became a Christian half a dozen years later and gave his life thereafter to the ministry.
Benjamin Franklin went into the Restoration with all the zeal that characterized this work in Kentucky and Indiana. He began to speak in public immediately after his baptism and in less than a year was filling appointments at sundry places. He was always more of an evangelist than a minister. Even while acting as the regular minister of churches, which he did much of the time for twenty years, he would find occasions for holding "protracted meetings," and was always successful in such work.
During the last half of his public ministry he was in the evangelistic field exclusively. He kept no record of converts, but estimated that he had led about seven thousand persons into "the obedience of faith." In this work he traveled over most of the central states, and made many journeys into Eastern and Western states, and into three provinces of the Dominion of Canada. In his early years he made several changes of residence, living at two places in Henry county and three in Wayne county, Indiana. From 1850 to 1864 he lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. From 1864 till the year of his death, 1878, he lived in Anderson, Indiana. His body lies in an Anderson cemetery.
In 1845, while living at Centerville, Indiana, he began his editorial career. He bought a small printing office from Daniel K. Winder, who had for two years published from New Paris, Ohio, a small monthly called the Reformer. The paper was changed into a sixteen page pamphlet and was numbered "Vol. III." It was issued from Centerville for two years and then transferred to Milton, in the same county. About the same time he bought of Alexander Hall, The Gospel Proclamation, which Mr. Hall had been conducting for two years at Loydsville, Ohio, The two periodicals were merged and issued thereafter as the Proclamation and Reformer, containing sixty-four pages. After another two years the paper and its editor went to Hygeia, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, where Elder D. S. Burnet was conducting a school for young ladies and at the same time conducting a paper called the Christian Age. The two editors formed a partnership, and for a time issued the two periodicals. This arrangement was unsatisfactory and in a little while the interests of both were united in The Christian Age, and removed to Cincinnati, where it became the property of "The Christian Publication Society." Soon after these changes Benjamin Franklin withdrew from the paper, promising not to issue any periodical for two years. In 1856 he started the American Christian Review, of which he continued to be the editor until his death, in 1878.
By the time of his last editorial venture the discussion between radicals and conservatives (often called "progress" and "old fogies.") was on. The editor of the American Christian Review was ultra conservative, and was easily the leader on that side. The periodical grew wonderfully and distanced all competitors for several years. The great Civil War of the sixties, was the first thing to weaken its influence. Thereafter the tide turned against the editor. He made heroic efforts and worked incessantly, editing the Review, holding evangelistic meetings in many states and in Canada and carrying on an immense correspondence. Ten years before his death he was an invalid, and should have closed his editorial work. But his partisan friends would not hear of it. They christened his paper the "Old Reliable," and insisted that it was the only hope of saving the Restoration. Their insistence held him to the work until his magnificent physical constitution was wrecked, and he died prematurely when some months less than sixty-seven years of age.
The writing and publishing of two volumes of his best sermons, "The Gospel Preacher, Volumes I and II," contributed in no small degree to his physical break down. But these volumes contained his best work, and have had a very wide circulation. About half a dozen of his oral debates were printed in book form. Perhaps the tract entitled, "Sincerity Seeking the Way to Heaven," had the widest circulation of anything from his pen. It is still in print, (1903) and many copies are sold every year
Although the American Christian Review was always issued from Cincinnati. Mr. Franklin, in 1864, moved his family to Anderson, Indiana. In the third year of the Review, Geo. W. Rice became a full and equal partner, and was thereafter the general business manager, contributing largely to its success. The firm was known under the title of "Franklin and Rice."
-Joseph Franklin, Churches of Christ, ed. John T. Brown, pages 420-421
Obituary For Benjamin Franklin
25 Oct. 1878
Rev. Benjamin Franklin
It became our painful duty to record in today's Democrat the very sudden, although not unexpected, death of Rev. Benjamin Franklin at his home near this city on Tuesday evening last, of heart disease. Although Mr. Franklin has been troubled with the disease that finally ended his useful life, for many years yet for a few weeks past been almost free from its effects and he and his friends were hopeful that he might recover entirely from it, but this improvement in his health proved but temporary, or like the calm that precedes the storm, and on Tuesday afternoon last at three o'clock he first complained of the return of the smothering sensation that always accompanies that disease, and in less than two hours he had breathed his last, and a life full of valuable service to humanity and valiant work in the cause of God, was thus abruptly terminated.
He was born in Belmont county, Ohio, February 1, 1812, making him 66 years, 8 months and 10 days old at the time of his death. In early life his religious training was in accordance with the Methodist doctrine, although he never united with that church. In 1836, at the age of 24, he united with the Disciples and was immersed near Middletown, Henry County, this State, by the great pioneer preacher, Samuel Rogers. Soon after this Mr. Franklin began the work of preaching the gospel to his fellow men. He served society in the various attitudes of farming, teaching, editing several different papers, publishing books, tracts, debates &c., and preaching the Gospel. By means of the periodicals and other publications issued from his hand he became well known to many thousands, as a writer and a publisher, with whom he had no personal acquaintance. He was actively engaged in the ministry of the Word for more than thirty years without the intermission of a single week, except in a few instances when compelled by sickness to lay by for a short time, and more than eight thousand people have been converted under his own personal appeals. He was entirely an extemporaneous speaker, never in his life having memorized a single discourse, either of his own composition or that of anybody else, and never more than three times in his life attempting to read a discourse. For years he has been editor of the American Christian Review, for which paper he wrote an article on the day of his death. On Sunday, the 20th inst., he preached in the Christian church of this place, and seemed unusually strong and well.
On Monday, the 21st., he spent the day with his daughter, Mrs. S. Wright. On Tuesday, the day of his death, he was in his usual health almost up to the very hour of his death. He ate his dinner as usual on that day, and about half past 2 o'clock in the afternoon, he lay down saying he felt sleepy. He slept about half an hour, and when he awoke he complained of scarceness of breath. He died in his arm-chair, as any attempt to lie down seemed to increase his suffering which was intense. He was unable to converse with any of his family, though perfectly conscious of his coming death. He lived about two hours after his sufferings first commenced. The funeral took place from his residence west of town at 3 o'clock p.m., Thursday. Eight of his children were present, Joseph, the oldest son, living in Anderson, Mrs. Elizabeth Clifford, Glenwood, Mrs. Martha Smith, oldest daughter, Xenia, Mrs. Wm. Wright, Anderson, Mrs. Belle F. Rice, Miamiville, Ohio, Mrs. Martha Plummer, who lives on the farm where her father died, Benjamin and Alex. C. Franklin, of Indianapolis. He has been troubled with disease of the heart for many years, which terminated fatally on the 22d inst. A work entitled "The Living Pulpit of the Christian Church" contains the following:
"It may be safely affirmed, that no preacher among the Disciples is more generally known than the subject of this sketch. He has been so long connected with the Press, and has traveled so extensively, that wherever among Christians, the Bible alone is the rule of faith and practice, there the name of Benjamin Franklin is as familiar as household goods.
"As a writer, he lays no claim to elegance, his articles too frequently bearing unmistakable marks of haste in their preparation. But he is generally forcible, and, as a writer for the masses, has been quite successful. He has written a number of tracts, all of which have been very popular: and the one entitled "Sincerity Seeking the Way to Heaven," has bhad the largest sale of any tract every published by the Disciples.
- Deaths And Administrations From Madison County, Indiana To The End Of 1880. Vol. 2, Zook.
Benjamin Franklin was born on February 1, 1812, in what is now Belmont County, Ohio. He was a descendant in the fourth generation from the brother of the statesman and philosopher, Benjamin Franklin. While he was a boy his father moved from Ohio to Henry County, Ind., and settled near Middletown. Early in life Benjamin Franklin married Miss Mary Personet. Eleven children were born to them, and nine lived to be grown.
His parents were members of the Protestant Methodist Church, and when they moved to Indiana there was no church of that faith near the Franklin home. In 1834 Samuel Rogers moved from Kentucky into that community and became a neighbor of the Franklins. Samuel Rogers began to preach to the people of the community in the schoolhouse; but there was much prejudice against his preaching in the schoolhouse and the door was soon closed against him. Benjamin Franklin’s father did not believe what Samuel Rogers preached, but he thought that the people were not treating Rogers right in refusing to let him have the schoolhouse. The injustice which was done Samuel Rogers excited the sympathy of Benjamin Franklin’s father. Soon there grew up a warm friendship between the preacher and himself, and the result was that the elder Franklin accepted the truths which were preached and soon obeyed the gospel. About forty others also “believed and were baptized" Among these was the subject of this sketch.
Benjamin Franklin entered into the service of the Lord with all of the fervor and zeal that he had. He soon began to speak in public, and in less than a year after his baptism he was known as a very acceptable preacher. He soon became a very successful evangelist and did much work in Kentucky and Indiana. The latter part of his life was given to evangelistic work entirely.
He kept no record of his work, but a fair estimate was made by him and others that more than seven thousand persons had become “obedient to the faith” through his preaching. He traveled extensively, going into most of the Central States; he also made journeys into the Eastern and Western States, and traveled in three provinces of the Dominion of Canada. He lived in Indiana until 1850; then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived till 1864; and in this year he removed to Anderson, Indiana.
Benjamin Franklin, while living in Cincinnati, became editor of the American Christian Review. In fact, he started this paper in 1856 and continued to write for it until his death. Just at this time the movement for organized missionary effort was agitated. Benjamin Franklin opposed from the very beginning any organization other than the church, and never ceased his opposition to this society movement. Robert Milligan, who at that time was president of the Kentucky University at Lexington, published in the Millennial Harbinger, in 1867, thirteen articles or arguments in favor of missionary societies. Benjamin Franklin replied to him with such clearness and force that many were kept out of the organization through his influence. He said in reply: (1) The Lord requires of us to spread the gospel to the extent of our ability. (2) To do this successfully, there should be united, systematic, and harmonious cooperation of individuals and churches. (3) The law of God, as found in the Bible, is complete, and thoroughly furnishes a man of God unto all good works. (4) The divine authority for doing this work is vested in the church, and the church is responsible to Christ for a faithful performance of this work. (5) The Book of God knows nothing of any confederation of churches in an ecclesiastical system, culminating in an earthly head, for governmental or any other purpose.
He likewise opposed all conventions that became prominent at that time, He deplored the fact that his brethren were following in the wake of the denominations. He said: “Sectarians have no wisdom for us and their schemes are all nothing to us. ” He made three definite objections against conventions. They were as follows: (1) A meeting of such a kind and for such a purpose is wholly unknown to the New Testament. (2) Such a meeting calls into existence a new set of officers which are wholly unknown to the New Testament. (3) The New Testament knows nothing of “annual meeting” or “semi-annual meeting. ” Those who are acquainted with conditions appreciate the wisdom of these arguments, as well as the Scripturalness of them.
He maintained that the church had been constituted as the pillar and support of the truth; that it is the whole duty of the church in every place, as the only organization having any authority from God, to act for itself and attend to its own business. He recognized that the New Testament does not teach that any officer in the kingdom of God has any authority ever the churches or preachers; that the individual congregations are self-governing and self-directing, as the Scriptures teach. No officer or member of the church has any jurisdiction beyond the local congregation, except an evangelist who is establishing a new congregation. He further argued, as Alexander Campbell had stated in 1824, that “an individual church or congregation of Christ’s society is the only ecclesiastical body recognized in the New Testament. Such a society is ‘the highest court’ of Christ on earth.” Benjamin Franklin consecrated all the splendid talent that he had and the powerful influence of his paper, The American Christian Review, to the New Testament order of work and worship.
When the Civil War began, the question was raised: “Shall Christians go to war?” Benjamin Franklin did not try to evade anything, but stood squarely on the negative side of the question. On April 16, 1861, he wrote to J. W. McGarvey and said: “I know not what course other preachers are going to pursue, for they have not spoken; but my own duty is now clear, and my policy is fixed. . . . Whether I remain a citizen of this Union or become a citizen of the Southern Confederacy, my feelings toward my brethren everywhere shall know no change. In the meantime, if the demon of war is let loose in the land, I shall proclaim to my brethren the peaceable commandments of my Savior, and strain every nerve to prevent them from joining any sort of military company or making any warlike preparation at all. I know that this course will be unpopular with men of the world, and especially with political and military leaders; and there are some who might style it treason. But I would rather, ten thousand times, be killed for refusing to fight than to fall in battle or to came home victorious with the blood of my brethren on my hands. ” (“Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin,” page 286. ) Further commenting upon this subject, he said: “We cannot always tell what we will or will not do. There is one thing, however things may turn or whatever may come, that we will not do, and that is, we will not take up arms against, fight and kill the brethren we have labored for twenty years to bring into the kingdom of God. Property may be destroyed and safety may be endangered, or life lost; but we are under Christ, and we will not kill, or encourage others to kill, or fight the brethren. ” Benjamin Franklin is to be commended for the courage and bold stand which he took in regard to Christians’ engaging in carnal warfare.
Benjamin Franklin is best known by his two volumes of sermons, “The Gospel Preacher.” These volumes contain his best work and have had a wide circulation. Every young preacher of today should have these volumes in his library. A number of his oral debates have been printed in book form. Perhaps the tract entitled, “Sincerity Seeking the Way to Heaven,” has had the widest circulation of anything that he has written. It is a clear, concise presentation of gospel truths. It may be had now, as it has been reprinted. Franklin was a splendid type of man; his character was always above reproach and his labors were unselfish in his devotion for the cause of truth. Benjamin Franklin had but little education in the school; however, he was well informed on current topics and understood the great principles of the gospel. He had the happy faculty of expressing both orally and in writing his thoughts in a clear, logical way. It has been said that every truly great mind is affirmative and decisive in character; the negative mind decides nothing, but is simply passive and falls in with the views and opinions of others. Benjamin Franklin had the positive mind; he affirmed boldly and without reservation that which he believed to be true and defied contradiction; he feared no opposition.
He died on October 22, 1878. The day following his death, after brief religious exercises at the residence of his son-in-law, J. M. Plummer, conducted by W. W. Witmer, his body was laid away in the cemetery at Anderson, Indiana.
—From Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1932, pages 160-164
The Great Commoner
The lineage of our subject reaches all the way back to Pre-Revolutionary War England. Thomas Franklin was born at Ecton, in 1598. He lived to be quite old, dying at the ripe old age of 104. This was quite a feat for those times of limited medical knowledge. Thomas had four eminent sons, the oldest being John, a dyer of wool and well known in his community, Banbury, Oxfordshire. His second second son was the first of many Benjamin Franklins. This man was a great student and politician. He was a silk dyer to earn his daily bread. He emigrated to the colonies around 1707 and died in Boston, Mass.
The Last son to be mentioned is Josiah, who was born in Ecton in 1655. He was a Presbyterian. The Presbyterians were referred to by the English as a "Non-Conformist" as the Church of England was the official religion. When the English Government began to persecute the Non-Conformists he fled to America. His occupation in the New World was a tallow chandler and soap boiler. Josiah became the father of seventeen children, of whom the famous Dr. Benjamin Franklin was the youngest.
Dr. Franklin had a son and a daughter. His son William was the last Royal Governor of New Jersey. During the Revolutionary War he adhered to the crown despite being imprisoned for two years due to his father's siding with the rebels. At the close of the conflict he returned to England where he lived until his death. His only son, William Temple Franklin, followed in his grandfather's footsteps and became a printer and a author. He died in Paris, leaving no heirs to carry on the family name.
The other Franklin that we need to look at was John. He was the brother of Dr. Franklin. John was born in Boston in the year 1703. His grandson, named Joseph, was born in 1783. This individual was the father of the subject of our lecture. Joseph was 18 years of age when the family moved to eastern Ohio and settled across the river from Wheeling, VA. He married Isabella Devold at age 28. Isabella was ten years younger than Joseph. The following year on February 1,1812, a son was born to them. They named this son Benjamin after his famous great-uncle.
Soon after the birth of Benjamin, they moved to Noble Co. where several sons and daughters were born to them. These were, Elizabeth, Josiah, Daniel, Joseph, Wilson, Washington, and David. Their father Joseph was a farmer, miller, and a craftsman in wood since the demand for each of these directions being so moderate that he could afford to divide his energies. His mill was a small affair located on a wet weather season stream. During dry times it was powered by four horses The mill was mainly used for neighborhood grinding as well as home usage. Joseph's farm was mainly a clearing enough for a wheat field, cornfield and a pasture for a few livestock.
With the help of his sons, Joseph soon had the chores taken care of and then concentrated in cabinetry and other pursuits of a carpenter of that day. He made tables, chairs, bedsteads, and coffins. The last item was of particular interest. Joseph's workshop was one room of the house in which they lived. Tools were hung on the wall during non-work times. The most important of these tools was a fine hand saw used in making coffins. This saw had a ringing sound while being used. Neighbors would know that there would soon be a loss to the community when they heard the ringing sound of that saw.
His parents were a study in opposites. His father had mood swings which went from melay and despondency to euphoria. He was always on the defensive, looking for any wrong done whether they were real or imagined. Others were often careful to avoid his violent temper. Ben's mother was a total opposite of his father. Her temperament was cheerful and optimistic. She was very knowledgeable in the scriptures and often discoursed with ease. Her quick mind and cheery disposition gave her many opportunities to discuss scriptural topics with those around her. Joseph often called upon her during conversations as her knowledge of scriptures surpassed his.
Joseph Franklin died in 1844 leaving his wife to live on for fourteen more years. At her death all her children were present except Benjamin, who was on an evangelistic trip.
Benjamin, being the oldest son, gained knowledge and skill in a variety of fields. He used these skills later in life when he moved to eastern Indiana, which was a wilderness at that time Of all the implements he used, he was most comfortable with a rifle. In fact, he was a crack shot, often bringing home awards for his marksmanship. In later life he often told the story of the time he traded for a new rifle. The next day was a Sunday and he knew that his father would be horrified at the thought of shooting on the Lord's day.
He crept out of bed early in the morning and went out into the woods beyond hearing range. Then he tried out his new gun. He would later say "I declare, it was the loudest gun I ever heard. It sounded to me like a cannon. I thought that the whole neighborhood would hear it."
Benjamin was endowed with an extraordinary physical constitution. This could be seen by the tremendous amount of work he performed in his last twenty years. He was a leader in his youth in feats of skill and strength. It was said that a stick could be held high for him to walk under, and he was able to leap over it after a short run. Another of his hobbies was log rolling. In this, a stick of about three inches thick by five feet long was wedged under a log to lift it. By this, a man's strength could be easily seen. Ben easily dethroned the neighborhood champion in this rather trying occupation. He never seemed to weary. H e would work hard all day long and then walk several miles to a gathering of the local young people.
At an early age he became very profane and rude. With his brothers he was often into mischief in one form or another. They often played pranks which were exceedingly annoying to their victims. There was no improvement in their condition until the time that they were converted. There was a restraining effect from their parents as they desperately tried to hide their antics from them. Benjamin, now 20, accompanied his uncle, Calvin Franklin into Henry Co. Indiana in 1832. He kept himself busy throughout the summer and fall with various jobs. Winter brought him work on the national road being cut from Richmond, through Indianapolis to Terre Haute. He received a fine new ax as payment for his labors. He soon afterwards received 80 acres from his father on his birthday. Ben then used his new ax to clear his land and make improvements. A fine house was built in preparation for the future.
The next important event in young Franklin's life was his marriage. Among the earliest settlers in that area was the Pesonett family. Ben made the acquaintance of this pioneer soon after his arrival in this new land. Soon he developed an attraction to the daughter, Mary. Engagement soon followed and thereafter marriage, on December 15, 1833 Once married, they moved into the house that Ben had built. The floor was of rough oak made without nails. The chimney rose only slightly higher that the arch of the fire place, Ben completed the interior of their home during the remainder of that winter. He did only a little with farming but used his skills as a carpenter until 1837 when he traded his land for a share in a local grist mill. His new partner was his uncle, Calvin Franklin. This venture turned out poorly as those years were ones of financial hardship. The mill was sold in 1840.
Samuel Rogers arrived in the area in 1834. He settled in a farmstead near to the Franklin's. He was not impressed with the religious inclinations of this group of individuals. Ben took no interest in religion and filled his speech with profanities and vulgarity. He also was in the habit of jokes and general tom foolery. One day, shortly after his marriage his wife was watching for his arrival home from the fields. She soon saw him and two companions crossing the field. To her horror they were staggering about as though intoxicated. Her first thought was that they had been into the bottle. To her relief, though with some concern, they had been trying to cross the field with their eyes closed! She wondered if he would ever grow up. His parents had joined the Methodist Episcopalian church before leaving for Ohio for their present location. They had heard enough of "Campbellites" to instinctively dislike them. But fortunately they thought of Rogers as more of a teacher than a preacher so they sent five of their sons to study under him.
Trouble arose in the little school house and Rogers was compelled to expel the instigators. The parents of the suspects soon had the community against Mr. Rogers. Joe and Isabella Franklin felt compelled by a sense of right to assist Mr. Rogers by opening their home for him to teach and preach in since the schoolhouse had been closed against him. During one of his sermons, a difference of opinion arose over the purpose of baptism. Having heard of Joe Franklin's hot temper, Rogers suggested that they go through the New Testament and mark all passages pertaining to Baptism that were in contention. In the end they made no marks and to his last day, Joe Franklin felt that he had turned Rogers to his way of thinking. Benjamin sat thoughtfully taking this all in. When the conversation came to the heresy that baptism was essential for salvation, he asked his father if it was important to obey the commands of Christ. When his father answered in the affirmative, he then replied "is it not essential to obey the commands of Christ?" His father was so taken back that he was unable to answer him. In later life, Ben remembered this and often used it in his lessons on baptism.
After some time, the teaching began to have an effect and soon Joseph and his family came under the influence of the gospel.
In early December 1834, Benjamin, Daniel and John I. Rogers (the son of Samuel Rogers) were baptized. Four weeks later, Ben's wife and his brother Josiah were baptized. Soon a congregation of 30 to 40 people was begun. Joe Franklin and his wife soon became members. Samuel Rogers is later reported to have said "if the only thing I ever gave to the world was Benjamin Franklin, then I would have nothing to be ashamed of.
Benjamin Franklin had a consecration to do the work of an evangelist that could not be denied. From the tens of thousands of miles he traveled preaching the gospel to his extensive efforts in the editor's chair, he devoted his entire existence to the service of the Master and His cause. Mr. Franklin and also his entire family made those sacrifices that are so common to the family of preachers. His early efforts are but an example of the sacrifices to come.
His poverty led to frequent moves. He moved three times in two years from one house to another in the same neighborhood, still preaching wherever he could find an open field, but with no regular appointments anywhere in those early years.
Reference has been made to the limited salary of the pioneer preachers. Sometimes pay was tendered in a shape that tried the patience of the preacher's wife to the last degree. At one point during these numerous moves, it was agreed that the brethren would furnish a house for the Franklins to live in as well as to supply provisions as needed. At "hog killing time" many thought of their preacher. Back bones very neatly trimmed spare ribs (very spare indeed) and uncleaned heads and feet came in such amounts that the wife and mother was thoroughly ill. There was no smoke house supplied or any way to store this "surplus" so many were turned into soap. A rather "gabby" sister visited the family frequently and reported the state of things. She then reported that the family had been oversupplied leading to spoilage and that the preacher should be studying to prepare himself rather than idling his time away over a soap kettle.
Mrs. Franklin's sacrifices cannot be imagined. The darning, patching, turning and shifting that were necessary to stretch the meager income to satisfy the actual wants of the family cannot be imagined.
From the day Brother Franklin confessed Christ, he began to exhort sinners and to speak in defense of the truth. His activities were both in public and in private. Ben carried a testament with him everywhere, and having a ready recollection, soon treasured it's contents up in his heart. His zeal for the Master's cause knew no bounds. On one occasion he attended a Methodist Camp Meeting and greatly annoyed the preacher by taking notes and looking into his New Testament to see if they were misquoting scripture. About this time he was challenged to debate a now forgotten subject. John I. Rogers pretended to be his opponent for practice Rogers later related having been badly beaten.
Mr. Franklin did have his difficulties in his early years. He was so deficient in education and made so many mistakes that one elder sought to talk him out of being a preacher. One well known brother spoke with glee of an early experience with Ben Franklin. He wrote "He had a great fashion for saying "my dear friends and brethering." He had the habit of adding "ing" to brethren in those days. He used the expression a great many times in each sermon so often indeed, that it was tiresome, and some of us took him to task on it. He doubted whether it was true or not that he used it in season or out of season as we accused him of. So, one day when he began a sermon, I got a piece of paper and a pin and every time he said "my dear friends and brethering," I stuck a hole in the paper. After meeting we counted the holes in the paper and there were one hundred and fifty! But it wasn't long before he shot past all of us!! "It must be remembered that in those days sermons were about two hours long. Also, at the same meeting a young preacher made an opening prayer and protracted it to an unreasonable length. After a good laugh at Mr. Franklin, the dreaded critic turned to the young preacher who made the long prayer and said "Brother__ you have not prayed any for a month have you?" "Why" said the astonished young fellow "what makes you think so?" "Well, said the critic "you prayed so long at church today that you must be about a month behind with your Prayers."
In regard to Mr. Franklin's deficient education earlier spoken of, he had little formal education and was very sensitive about it. Although he felt this way, he never did give up his chosen profession because of it. He regarded it as a difficulty that could be overcome and set about to do just that. At age 27, he started to learn what our children learn at a very early age. Copies of Kirkham's Grammar, Olney's Geography, Talbot's Arithmetic bearing the marks of heavy usage were part of his library from early on. That his studies in these books were not fruitless, was evidenced in the assistance he was able to render his children in their studies at school. But the school that profited from him most he obtained in a very different manner. He listened to and worked with such men as Campbell, Scott, Longley and Critchfield, not merely to grasp their thoughts but also learn their use of the language. Mr. Franklin studied the language of those to whom he listened and after whom he read.
It is certain that while his language was not always critically accurate, it was so simple and easy that he never failed to instruct and educate the people; and it is equally certain that there are many good scholars who cannot compare with him in this way. The early years of his new life showed his inclination to be a traveling evangelist. It would be impossible to list all of the places that he went to to preach the gospel. But in those early years he preached heavily in Ohio and Indiana with side trips to Kentucky and other nearby regions. He also conducted a number of debates but those will be spoken of in another section.
Brother Franklin's early influence among the brotherhood was directly due to his labors among the churches. He preached for various congregations full time but often requested some time off to go on evangelistic trips. Much of his "free" time was used to travel to and fro using the available means of travel.
He soon had no trouble finding places in which to preach. He would preach in school houses, courthouses, barns, groves, shops, town halls, and private dwellings. Basically, wherever he could find a group of people. He would accept whatever they chose to pay him for his efforts and would not complain if he received nothing. When these trips were originally planned, there was no assurance that he would get as much as 50 cents a day for the entire trip. Brethren who had been reading his paper would often give a general invitation to "come up this way sometime and hold us a meetin'." So, on a slender assurance of pay he would set off to fill a number of appts. Which he had published in his paper. He would preach one night, two nights, or "Saturday night and over Lord's day" in a place on one route going out and another returning. On he would press through mud, over corderoy or pole, bridge, roads, in sunshine or shower, heat or cold, among strangers and friends.
His aim was too glorify God and preach redemption in Christ Jesus. One night might find him in the home of a wealthy brother while another might be spent in a loft with only clap boards to keep the snow out. All the while being heard by hundreds if not thousands of simple country folk who had nothing to read but the Bible and possibly religious newspapers if they could afford them.
Early means of travel were canal boats, horseback, or on carts or wagons. His favorite was the river boat appropriately named "The Benjamin Franklin" (named after his great uncle). In later years he greatly favored the railroads and depended on them to get him to his destination. In his paper he referred to this as "taking cars”. These took him into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine and even Canada. These are but a few. During the (Un)Civil War he often held meetings within hearing distance of major battles. Afterwards he would often need to take large detours to escape the armies and their advanced scouts. These did not slow him down a bit.
At the time of the battle of Richmond, Ky., he was having a protracted gospel meeting at Mount Pleasant, a church about 7 miles from Richmond. Large numbers of people had gathered to hear a favorite preacher while the surrounding population prepared for a battle. Shortly after the days meetings had begun, cannons sounded announcing the start of battle. He went through the meeting as usual. At the conclusion it was discovered that the Union Army had been beaten. Brethren scattered and someone was nice enough to give Mr. Franklin a horse with a woman's saddle on which he was taken through ravines and back roads until he was in Union lines again. On hearing that there were confederate forces between him and home so that he could not return safely he "took cars for Louisville, crossed into Indiana and within a couple of days was preaching again like nothing had ever happened. Mr. Franklin was a law abiding citizen of the U.S. who went both north and south preaching peace by Jesus Christ. His citizenship was in heaven and not on earth. He hated the Civil War and wept over it as much as any man could but he did not let it stop the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven.
He was a popular preacher and writer before, during and after the war, both north and southeast and west on account of his unselfish and benevolent nature and his unswerving devotion to justice and truth.
Of all the events in the life of our illustrious subject, none were more important than his decision to enter the work of an editor of a religious newspaper. While on a preaching trip, he realized that even more souls could be reached through the medium of the printed word, he then began to publish a paper.
Stepping back a moment, Mr. Franklin's earliest efforts at writing were in a paper known as the 'Heretic Detector" published by Arthur Critchfield. It was an exhortation for sinners to obey the gospel. This was written about eighteen months after he obeyed the gospel.
As much as he traveled as an evangelist and as ardently he preached, he was dissatisfied with his ability to reach enough people. Soon he would begin a monthly paper that would extend his influence for good. His career as an editor began in January 1845 with the publication of the first issue of the "Reformer”. This enormous endeavor was begun with only the assurance of 300 subscribers.
The opening and closing sentences of this first issue like the conclusion of all discourses of the day held a fervent exhortation: "Time is winging away, yet all our actions are recorded indelibly on God's great book of accounts as we pass along and all that pertains to us, whether it be word, thought or deed, will not certainly be disclosed in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, by Jesus Christ according to the gospel. Let us then, preach and talk on the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and name of Jesus Christ, in the fear of God; and let our cries, day and night, enter the ears of our most merciful Heavenly Father, that he may abandon us not to temptation but deliver us from evil, and bring us to his everlasting kingdom, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the power and dominion forever."
Subjects covered discussed in this early publication were quite numerous for a paper of only 16 pages. They were the leading and distinctive principles of the reformation, secret societies, innocent amusement, temperance, cooperation, evidence relationship of human government, support of preachers, etc. The editor and his authors asked questions like "Is it right?", "Is in taught in the Bible?." The intensity of the faith in those days led brethren into a profound respect of the authority of the Bible. Their religion was to "believe the facts, obey the commands and enjoy the promises of the New Testament.
For it's first year the paper was published by a printer in Centerville. In 1846, he purchased a small stock of printing materials, hired a printer and set the presses up in the front room of his rented house. In the second issue of the "Reformer", is found an article on "Our Prospects" setting forth "that we have come almost to a dead halt" and attributing the standstill to four causes, these are :1) great political excitement known as "Millerism" or later Seventh Day Adventism.2) Many disciples had never learned to walk by faith. 3) Many good preachers left the field. 4)Preaching did not exhibit the same zeal and knowledge as in former times.
He then rebounded to say "Under these circumstances, what is to be done? We answer, let every disciple of our blessed Lord determine to read the scriptures some every day, with the most devout and prayerful attention possible, and lift up his cries in prayers intercessions and giving of thanks day and night" and let all be found at the house and table of the Lord, and this itself will produce quite a different state of things. Near the end of volume the editor began to feel the need to enlarge the journal due to the fact he was unable to cover all that he wanted to and was also getting complaints that articles that were submitted were not being published. In November 1846, the enlarged edition appeared at 64 pages with a neatly printed stitched cover. There were no ads allowed except on the cover. The cost, $1.00 per year was so low that other editors protested. One said, "Brother Franklin seems to outdo all creation in the cheapness of his paper; but as far as I know, there is but one opinion on the subject, and that is, can not afford it." He 'was aided in publishing such a low cost paper by printing it at home using his family in it's production. The printer previously mentioned was no longer needed. He was his own bookkeeper, proofreader, and mailer. His eldest son set type and superintended, second son was 'roller boy' to the old fashioned hand press on which it was printed. His daughter folded, stitched and covered the papers. The office was kept in one of the rooms of his house These methods allowed him to keep the paper cheap and still make some profit. He also made 50 copies available at no cost to full time preachers.
Shortly afterward Mr. Franklin moved to the town of Milton in the western part of Indiana and his paper now became known as the Western Reformer. It continued in this form until it's merger with Alexander Hall's "Gospel Proclamation" to create the "Proclamation and Reformer." It held this form during 1850-1851.
During his time Mr. Franklin purchased a part of the paper 'The Christian Age" which was issued from Cincinnati. He was partner with D.S. Burnett and both papers were issued from the same office the "Age" being a weekly and the P.R. being a monthly Mr. Burnett was the model of social and education refinement while his partner Mr. Franklin had inferior literary attainments. This being the case, Mr. Franklin being far more acquainted with the common man, could make his thoughts more intelligible to them, and although the more prominent editor, although the junior in the partnership.
The considerable number of changes gave the papers an air of instability which hurt the subscription lists. Soon both men found themselves at a loss. While Mr. Burnett was wealthy and unaffected, Mr. Franklin was deeply financially hurt and soon had to sell out his interest in both papers.
During this time the ACMS came into being. They soon needed a formal means of communication and soon came to be in the control of the "Age" while discontinuing the "P&R." Mr. Franklin once again became editor and the subscriptions began to rise in numbers again. Soon however, he felt it difficult to work under a board and resigned in 1854. Upon his resignation, it was agreed that he would wait for two full years before beginning any new editorial projects. The time was used profitably in evangelizing.
In January 1856, the specified time had passed and Mr. Franklin found himself preparing another paper for the press. This was called "The American Christian Review." It was a double column, 32 page periodical issued once a month. It was entirely under Mr. Franklin's control and in his words. "In looking over our history for the last six years, the reader may conclude we are addicted to change and that our operations are not as reliable as could be wished." Later, in this address he said "We trust we are now in a safe, reliable and permanent business, and that our way will be clear for an extended system of operations."
The Review was hailed with a welcome that at once demonstrated how fast a hold the editor had taken on the hearts of the people. The congratulations received were on every corner. The times at the launching of the Review were truly difficult. The editor saw tribulation and disaster on every side. He faced the times with articles like "The Decline of the Churches" "Causes of our Failures", "Signs of the Times" and "Cure for our Downward Tendencies." These and other articles were sorely needed during those trying times. The tendency during those days was toward organization and innovations. The movement was being drawn towards the denominations due to a desire to be accepted by many.
Having been so encouraged by the public's reception of the paper, he expanded it to a weekly in the beginning of 1858. Between this time and the start of the Civil War, the Review earned the reputation as the most prestigious journal in the brotherhood. Many leading preachers contributed sermons, and the front page became a sort of "who's who among restoration pioneers. His efforts at advocating NT Christianity continued to bear fruit as the paper's circulation was ever increasing. The editor made it available free of charge to the poor as well as many preachers. He also worked hard to reduce the cost to a point where anyone could afford the journal. This was accomplished by again utilizing family members in it's production. That is, while the family was located in Cincinnati. In his later years, Mr. Franklin moved his family to Indiana (again) and Mr. GW Rice was hired as an assistant. Later, when he learned the business, he was made a full partner.
The next important event was the Civil War but that will be discussed in it's own section. The paper had an important stand among the brethren. In 1866, the "Christian Standard" was launched. It's purpose was specifically intended to counteract the influence of the Review. And it's editor, Isaac Errett had the backing, both financial and moral, by powerful men among the progressives. They openly sought to influence the readers of the Review. An open baffle ensued. Mr. Franklin's character and motives were attacked in subtle ways. The strife between these two papers were exceedingly bitter and sometimes went on with a violence that distressed both sides. During these conflicts, the friends of the Review claimed it as the advocate of the ancient gospel and simple morals as taught in the New Testament. They christened it "The Old Reliable." Mr. Franklin continued at the helm of this fine institution of conservative Christianity until his death in 1878. In fact, his last work on this earth was to write an editorial. After writing this, he had a heart attack and passed to his reward. The Review was carried on by a number of successors and under various names until it's final issue in 1965.
The Brotherhood has always experienced to some extent the traumas of the young nation in which it lived. The Civil War was no exception to this rule. These difficulties began during the birth of the nation. The problem of slavery could not be settled during the framing of the Constitution and so hung on only to nearly destroy the young nation eighty years later.
During the decade of the eighteen forties and eighteen fifties passed, the slavery issued flared up and brethren found themselves being drawn into the heat and passion of the times. As would be expected, viewpoints generally followed regional lines. Most Southern Brethren felt that the scripture did not forbid slavery and that they would not have someone else's views forced upon them. Their Northern counterparts, on the other hand, felt that slavery was evil that needed to be destroyed at all costs Emotions escalated with the passing of the years. When hostilities erupted brethren from both sides ran to enlist in their respective armies. But during these irrational times, there were voices of calm and reason. Those voices were of Benjamin Franklin in the north and David Lipscomb in the south.
Mr. Franklin made it an editorial policy not to endorse either side in the conflict but to walk the path of peace. He said, "We cannot always tell what we will, or will not do. There is one thing, however things may turn out or whatever may come, that we will not do, that is, we will not take up arms against, fight and kill the brethren we have labored for twenty years to bring into the kingdom of God. Property may be destroyed and safety may be endangered, or life lost; but we are under Christ; and we will not kill or encourage others to kill and fight the brethren."
These views brought trouble to the Review and it's editor from all quarters. It was not long before his views were seen as a discouragement to men who would have enlisted in the army. These views were seen as treason. It was at this point for self-preservation, that he stopped advocating his personal views in the paper. Fortunately, the office of the Review was able to avoid being sacked by a group of enraged people bent on seeing it destroyed. Other things happened to hurt the Review. The subscription was cut significantly by the stoppage of the mail between North and South as well as views on war itself. This became a deep drain on Mr. Franklin's resources as income was down and expenses were up due to material shortages. The anxiety was so great that he became prematurely gray at age fifty. This being so, he continued his work proclaiming the gospel. He was a US citizen who preached in both the north and south because his allegiance was to the Prince of Peace rather than the gods of war as others were doing. With the resolution of the conflict, he carried on with his work as he had done before and during the war.
Another area in which our subject had involvement was the area of societies. It was in this area that the faults of his humanity could best be seen. It was here that those opposed him were most vocal. During the early years of the restoration movement, the push for a more organized brotherhood brought many of the pioneers under the influence of the society. Alexander Campbell was an early proponent of the missionary society. Mr. Franklin also found himself advocating organization in work among the unsaved. The societies were seen as an expedient to accomplish the work of the church. The goal of evangelizing the world justified the means used.
The story of cooperation began with the simplest of measures. When the Baptist associations began breaking up under the lack of scriptural authority for their existence, the desire to gather continued. Local meetings of saints became cooperative meetings. These in turn became regional meetings which in turn gave birth to statewide meetings. Then came the push for a national organization to direct the work among the heathen. Articles were written by Campbell as well as others on the need to organize. These articles soon began to meet with resistance though. The first opponent was Jacob Creath, Jr. of Missouri. (known as the "Iron Duke of the Restoration). He wrote against these societies and even held a written exchange with Mr. Franklin. Mr. Franklin's arguments were strong but not as strong as the truth. The appeals of his opponent began to make sense to him and his support began to wane for the societies. He soon began to grow in intensity until he became their chief antagonist. This also did not win him any more favor with the progressives as they were the backers of the societies. So great was his influence among brethren that the society advocates soon felt the loss of his support. This led to the "Louisville Plan" which restructured the organization of the society to satisfy the objections of the opponents. Their approval was short lived, however and the war soon continued. Mr. Franklin's change of position was ever afterward used against him by those of the progressive group. His explanation for his change was a reconsideration of the subject due to the assumption of powers by those of the societies. Had the ACMS never taken any action but that which was allowable to do the work of evangelization, it would have survived. It's troubles were self-imposed, according to it's opponents.
Of all the difficulties faced by Mr. Franklin, the instrumental music issue was the most destructive to the churches. It was also the one that troubled him most. He dealt with it heavily in word and in print. There was no doubt as to where he stood on the issue. He took a decided stand against instrumental music in the worship, and refused to preach or worship where there was one unless it could be silenced during his stay. On one occasion, he found a congregation led in singing by a flute. He endured it for two or three evenings, but finally, on announcing a future meeting, urged the presence of more singers, and added, 'Hereafter we will dispense with the whistle." Mr. Franklin's son had quite a musical ability and thought of becoming a professional musician. It was suggested that he travel with his father and sell musical instruments. After making the request to his father, he awaited a reply. His father promptly replied "And shan't we take along a monkey too?." In his paper, he charged that instrumental music was not progressive but rather retrogressive"- that is, going back to the denominations. Their counter-charge was one of saying that he practiced "Old-Fogeyism."
Alexander Campbell was the chief of all debaters among the restoration. He debated Sectarians, Catholics, and infidels at various times. His was the great and master mind among others who were truly great. Benjamin Franklin, as a debater, stands next in line to Mr. Campbell but in some ways was better. His method of speech was so simple, natural, and easy. He was a champion of his day in debating those opponents who had a large following. The victory that ensued often led large numbers of people into the church. The secrets to these victories were several: 1) He learned early how to arrange and state propositions. 2) He knew his Bible backwards and forwards. 3) He had truth on his side. Mr. Franklin was reported as saying that he had been in over thirty debates during his long career. Some were written but most were oral. Of these, six were printed. His first recorded debate was held in 1840. The opponent was Mr. Eaton Davis of the United Brethren Church. An old gentleman, a member of Mr. Davis' church, attended, but as soon as his own preacher was finished speaking, he would wander off into the woods out of hearing while Mr. Franklin spoke. At the close of each of the sessions he would go forward, shake hands with Mr. Franklin and say, "Well, Benjamin, you have made a complete failure of it this time." It was against this attitude among the denominations, as well as among brethren occasionally that he would work. His next recorded debate was the result of a union meeting of all things. Bro- Franklin had sought to unite the denominations in one locality on the basis of the bible only. Most of the denominations were in agreement, at least in theory with the exception of a Mr. May of the Methodist church who took offense at the implications of the need for such a meeting. Four propositions were originally agreed to and then Mr. May then changed from a written to an oral debate on the grounds that hIs brethren were in opposition to an oral debate. He wrote two articles on the first proposition and then took his leave of the field of battle with offended dignity. Apparently his opponent's arguments struck a little to close to home to continue in the struggle.
In October 1841 Bro Franklin held a debate in Milton Indiana With Erasmus Manford, a Universalist minister and editor of The Western Universalist paper. it was the editor of the “Western Reformer" against the editor of the "Western Universalist'. The propositions were: 1) Do the scriptures teach that the coming of Christ to judge the world is in the future? Franklin affirms, Manford denies. 2) Do the scriptures teach the final holiness and happiness of all mankind? Manford affirms, Franklin denies. 3) Do the scriptures teach that those who die in disobedience to the Gospel will suffer endless punishment? Franklin affirms, Manford denies. The debate lasted four days. By previous agreement, both men wrote out their speeches. These were printed by an Indianapolis publisher and will soon be available again.
Mr. Franklin's next debate was against another Universalist-a Mr. Craven who felt the need to be very loud and angry sounding. This fellow did a lot of fist-brandishing and gesturing at his opponent. As was expected, it ended in a complete rout. Many of Mr. Franklin's opponents were Universalists as it was very popular at that time. It soon lost popularity as he gave it the same treatment as Foy E. Wallace did with premillenialism in the 1930's and 40's.
As his popularity grew, so did his request for debates. 1848 brought a debate with a Mr. Williams of the anti-means Baptist church in Lebanon. Ohio. The only topic covered was the whether salvation was conditional or not. Mr. Franklin described his opponent as brisk and lively. Unfortunately he also described him as heading toward universalism in his desire to defend his position.
Mr. Franklin later wrote a sermon entitled "A Sermon on the Predestination and Foreknowledge of God" which was distributed. This raised the ire of a James Matthews, a minister of the Presbyterian church at Carlisle. The letters back and forth soon led to a debate. This was held from May 26th-June 1st 1852. The unpleasantness of the correspondence leading up to the debate was forgotten and it was held in politeness and propriety.
The first proposition being the elect of God are the apostles and prophets - this was given some modification by Mr. Franklin. His affirmation in the offending sermon, from which the proposition was made, was drawn from Ephesians 4:4-6. The sermon can be found in Gospel Preacher Vol.1.
His next printed debate was with a S.M. Merrill of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Four propositions were discussed, three on baptism and one on justification by faith. It originally was a four volume set but exists today as a two volume set. Mr. Merrill received a fine gold watch for his efforts and Mr. Franklin received 28 additions to the church for his!!
The next printed debate brought him against a Mr. Joel Hume, a Baptist minister. Topics ‘covered were total hereditary depravity, design of baptism, and the possibility of falling from grace. This was held in Mount Vernon, Indiana in 1854. The two final printed debates were also against Baptists.
The first, was with Rev. T.J. Fisher on the distinctive differences between the Reformers and the Baptists. Mr. Fisher was accused of having been a reformer and having turned back This charge was made by Alexander Campbell. Charges and counter-charges finally led to a confrontation between Franklin and Fisher. This one was a real grudge match.
The final debate of Mr. Franklin's life was held four years previous to his death in 1878. His opponent was John A. Thompson, an old-school Baptist of considered learning, age and experience. He was considered as giving the best defense of Calvinism. The called Mr. Franklin's highest abilities into play and showed his genius as a debater.
His published debates will be of great value to the church for years to come. It gives me great joy to have found all of them and brought them to circulation again. In the spring of 1864, the Franklin’s moved to Anderson, Indiana (about 36 miles north east of Indianapolis). This would be the last place Mr. Franklin would live. It was here that he wrote two volumes of sermons which has had a continual sale to this day. Several illnesses brought him into the mid 1870's. He carried on in his work of preaching as well as editing the Review although his health was gradually declining. He would not allow news of his failing health to be spread until the rumors were throughout the brotherhood. Then he responded to the questions.
Throughout 1877 he remained at home hoping to gather his strength to return to preaching. He did not know it but he had preached his last the previous year. On the morning of October 22nd, 1878, he took a long walk on his farm. Returning, he told his wife that he felt better and hoped to get better soon. He then seated himself at the table and wrote editorials for the Review for about 3 hours. He ate lunch and then took a nap. Around 2:00 p.m. he awoke and sat in a chair but seemed rather dull as if hardly awake. Shortly he began to feel a heavy weight on his chest. His wife realized that something was wrong and called for their daughter. They tried to rub his side but he exclaimed "don't trouble me; my time has come." A physician was called but by the time he arrived Mr. Franklin was too far gone. His last words were "Mother I am sorry to have to leave you." Leaning back in his chair he fixed his eyes on his wife as his breath grew shorter and shorter until it stopped. The time was 5 p.m.
The news shocked and saddened the brotherhood and brought many to the funeral. He is buried in the cemetery in Anderson under a tombstone shaped like a pulpit with an open bible on top.
The legacy of Benjamin Franklin is a very difficult thing to explain. He accepted the bible as a divine revelation from first to last, when fairly translated. He accepted it as a perfect harmonious whole. He believed the Gospel to be God's power in the salvation of souls. He believed that he could use heaven—ordained methods instead of man's ways to succeed—and did. He taught all these things and the fruits of his labors were more than 10,000 saved, scores of churches established—many of them in Indiana, although they are scattered throughout the United States and Canada.
A fitting example of a true Gospel missionary, who is an imitation of the apostles that "went everywhere" preaching the word, and reaching out to all those in bondage to sin. Many generations to follow will arise in faith and thank God that such soldiers of the cross like Benjamin Franklin, lived, moved, and had their being among men on earth.
—A biographical sketch by Kyle Frank, Presented at the High School Road Lectureship, Indianapolis, Indiana, July, 1997
Chronology Of The Life Of Benjamin Franklin
Years of the life of the famous American Statesman and Philosopher. He was the great-great uncle of the subject of this chronology. Benjamin’s brother John was the great grandfather of the subject of this chronology.
Birth in Belmont County, Ohio, across from what is now Wheeling, West Virginia, and a few miles SW of Bethany, WV
Marries Mary Personnet
Family moves to Henry County, Indiana, Their neighbor is a man b the name of Samuel Rogers.
After the preaching of Elijah Martindale on (The Power of the Word of God) and exhortation by Samuel Rogers, by the light of lanterns, he was baptized in a creek by Samuel Rogers.
Began preaching. Little formal education. Studied diligently to overcome this deficiency. Continued to support his family through farming. Not until 1840’s that he gives himself completely to evangelism
Moved to New Lisbon, Ohio and worked. Later moved to Bethel, Indiana.
Participated in 2nd recorded debate with George W. McCune, a
Began the Reformer at New Paris, Ohio (Some sources say it began January, 1845)
Moved to Centerville, Indiana
His father, Joseph dies
His brother, Joseph Jr., a doctor and a preacher for five or six years, and only 26 years of age, dies suddenly while visiting Benjamin
Moved to Milton and renamed the Reformer to Western Reformer
Debate with Erasmus Manford on the Doctrine of Universalism and Eternal Punishment
Alexander Hall’s Gospel Proclamation at St. Clairville, OH merges with Franklin’s Western Reformer
Debated Samuel Williams, an “Anti-Means Baptist of Lebanon, Ohio,” making 10 speeches, and within two weeks preached 18 discourses
Attended Cincinnati convention which organized American Christian Missionary Society. Supported the Society. Elected a "Manager" (1850). Held some office in the Society for seventeen years (1850-1866).
Moved to Cincinnati, Ohio until 1864
Western Reformer merged with Gospel Proclamation, edited by Alexander Hall. New paper named Proclamation and Reformer. Formed partnership with David S. Burnet to edit two papers jointly, Proclamation and Reformer and Christian Age. Social and economic differences made these discouraging years for Franklin. Relinquished his interest in papers (1853).
Birth of son, Alexander Campbell Franklin
Birth of son, Walter Scott Franklin, dies some time later of smallpox.
Spoke out strongly against the use of instrumental music in worship
Began publication of American Christian Review (5th publication of his life). Became a weekly two years later (1858). Review soon became the most influential paper in brotherhood.
Wrote his most famous tract: Sincerity Seeking The Way To Heaven
Debated Rev. Bossman of Dayton, Ohio in Lexington, Ohio on the claims of Universalism
Served as Corresponding Secretary of American Christian Missionary Society (most important office in ACMS).
Debate with T.J. Fisher on Baptism & Calvinism, Raccoon John Smith served as Franklin’s Moderator – conducted at the Baptist Church at Ghent, Kentucky
Defended Missionary Society in editorial controversy with David Oliphant, editor of Christian Banner, a Canadian journal.
In Vol. III, #5, American Christian Review page 19, stated that those who use instrumental music in worship never had or had lost the Spirit Of Christ. “Instrumental Music in Churches”- Title
Followed up with another article in ACR called, “Instrumental Music in Churches”
Outbreak of Civil War. Franklin opposed Christians' participating in hostilities. Opposed Missionary Society's resolutions supporting the North. Refused to discuss political questions in Review. Dissatisfaction with Franklin's editorial policy led James A. Garfield, Isaac Errett, and the Phillips brothers to establish the Christian Standard (1866).
After fourteen years in Hygia and Cincinnati, Ohio, purchased a home in Anderson, Indiana
American Christian Review began opposing the Missionary Society. Christian Standard defended it. Result was long and bitter controversy between the two papers. Their clashes on this and many other issues reflected the emergence of conservative and liberal parties among northern Christians. A. Campbell Dies in March
"Louisville Plan” adopted in an effort to conciliate opponents of Missionary Society, notably Franklin. Franklin supported "Louisville Plan" for two years. Then turned against Missionary Society again.
Franklin denounced Central Christian Church in Cincinnati for its "extravagance” in new $140,000 building. Instrumental music question was also involved. Bitterness between Review and Standard became more intense.
Troubles at Kentucky University, Lexington, KY., led Franklin to doubt whether the Bible should be taught in colleges operated by brethren.
Foreign Christian Missionary Society organized. Division had become inevitable.
Franklin dies of a heart attack while writing words for the Review
M.T. Hough and W.W. Witmer conduct funeral in the home of Franklin’s son-in-law. The body is interred in Anderson Cemetery, north of Anderson.
Released: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph Franklin and J.A. Headington, pub. John Burns, St. Louis.
Vol. 1 of Biographical Sketch and Writings of Elder Benjamin Franklin is released.
Otis Castleberry writes Preface of They Heard Him Gladly, Biography of the life of Benjamin Franklin
—Sources: Bibliography: Joseph F. Franklin and J. A. Headington, Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (1874), Ottis Castleberry, They Heard Him Gladly, 1963: rhetorical study of preaching), The Gospel Preacher (2 vols., 1869), Franklin-Fisher Debate (1858), Franklin-Manford Debate (1847), Franklin-Mathews Debate (1852), Franklin-Thompson Debate (1874). By Bill Humble, with supplemental information collected by Scott HarpBack To Top
Directions To The Grave Of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was buried in Anderson, Indiana in the West Maplewood Cemetery. On I-69 take Exit 34 (Daleville/Chesterfield). Head west on West Main Street. (Hwy. 32). Go toward Anderson. Road changes names in Chesterfield to E. Main St. Continue through to W. Main St. Road will dead end into Hwy. 109. Turn left and immediately back to the right on University Blvd. Stay on University Blvd. until you turn right on Alexandria Pike. You will cross (E. Grand Avenue to the left and High St. to the right). You will see the cemetery on the left. Go into the first entrance into the cemetery (1st Drive). Before the obelisk on left SANSBERRY. See KENDALL, then YOUNG to the left. Follow line past YOUNG for four sections. Look for the white monument with a top that looks like a lectern with a Bible on it. Also buried in the plot is Benjamin's wife Mary who died in 1880. His son Joseph (1834-1912); Sarah E., wife of Joseph (1833-1910); Walter (1855-1904); and Zoe (1858-1899).
or D.d. 40.115340, -85.674562
Grave Facing West
Accuracy to 19ft.
This Photo Provided By Drew Kizer (taken in early day)
Elder Benjamin Franklin
Oct. 22, 1878
66y. 8 Mo. 21D.
Mary Wife of
June 14, 1809 - Mar. 8, 1880