Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Franklin
When people hear the name “Benjamin Franklin” the patriot quickly comes to mind; however, some are surprised to learn of a preacher by the same name. He was the great, great, great nephew of the signer of the Declaration of Independence but was far more than that. For example, David Lipscomb wrote “The cause loses its most able and indefatigable defender since the days of Alexander Campbell, and his loss is simply irreparable. Earnestness, clearness, simplicity, with a strong reverence for and determination to know nothing in religion save what the Bible teaches was the striking characteristic of his discourses.” (Gospel Advocate, December 5, 1878).
Benjamin Franklin was born February 1, 1812 in Belmont County, OH. As a young man, Benjamin went to live in Henry County, IN, and his parents would soon follow him to live in Indiana. Benjamin married Mary Personnett and had eleven children. While in Indiana, the Franklins had a new neighbor--restoration preacher Samuel Rogers. While the Franklins were Methodist, they liked Rogers and studied the Bible together. Ultimately the family was converted and four of the boys became preachers. Benjamin was committed to the Bible, sold his business interests, and became a preacher.
With little formal education, Franklin became a very effective evangelist, debater and editor. He often dealt with controversies of the day including: included the missionary society, instrumental music, Civil War & slavery, open communion, the name a Christian should wear, and the operation of the Holy Spirit. While he edited several papers, his most enduring work was the American Christian Review which he founded in 1856 and edited until his death in 1878 (the paper did not cease with his death.) While the Gospel Advocate was nicknamed “Old Reliable” the American Christian Review was called “Old Faithful”. He often defended the truth against various forms of false teaching and conducted at least 30 religious discussions. Franklin was loyal to the truth and would even reverse a course if convinced the prior was unsound. For example, Franklin approved the missionary society and served in both the American Christian Missionary Society and the Ohio Missionary Society. He eventually “studied himself out of it” and then opposed these types of organizations in spite of criticism for changing his position. Benjamin Franklin was a protracted meeting preacher rather than doing located work. Consequently, he would be away for weeks and even months at a time to preach. The family made tremendous sacrifices for the cause of Christ. The son of Benjamin Franklin chronicles some of these in this biography.
Benjamin Franklin eventually settled in Anderson, IN during 1864 where his son Joseph and family lived although he continued meeting work. He wrote two books of sermons: Gospel Preacher, Vol. 1 and Gospel Preacher, Vol. 2 which sold very well and remains in print to this day. He also authored a tract “Sincerity Seeking the Way to Heaven” which sold widely and was considered the best selling publication among churches for several years. Benjamin Franklin preached his last sermon in Anderson two days before he died of a heart attack on October 22, 1878. He was buried in West Maplewood Cemetery in Anderson. Joseph Franklin wrote this biography; which was released shortly after Benjamin’s death in 1879. It chronicles the life of a frontier preacher and those who likewise made tremendous sacrifices for the kingdom. Benjamin Franklin’s life and commitment reminds me of Paul’s words “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1, NKJV).