Benjamin Franklin's notion of good works

Letter to Joseph Huey

Franklin: "I have not the vanity to think I deserve heaven."
  • Franklin: "I have not the vanity to think I deserve heaven."

I can only show my Gratitude for those Mercies from God, by a Readiness to help his other Children and my Brethren. For I do not think that Thanks, and Compliments, tho’ repeated Weekly, can discharge our real Obligations to each other, and much less those to our Creator. You will see in this my Notion of Good Works, that I am far from expecting (as you suppose) that I shall merit Heaven by them. By Heaven we understand, a State of Happiness, infinite in Degree, and eternal in Duration: I can do nothing to deserve such Reward: He that for giving a Draught of Water to a thirsty Person should expect to be paid with a good Plantation, would be modest in his Demands, compar’d with those who think they deserve Heaven for the little Good they do on Earth. Even the mix’d imperfect Pleasures we enjoy in this World are rather from God’s Goodness than our Merit; how much more such Happiness of Heaven. For my own part, I have not the Vanity to think I deserve it, the Folly to expect it, nor the Ambition to desire it; but content myself in submitting to the Will and Disposal of that God who made me, who has hitherto preserv’d and bless’d me, and in whose fatherly Goodness I may well confide, that he will never make me miserable, and that even the Afflictions I may at any time suffer shall tend to my Benefit. — from a Letter to Joseph Huey, June 6, 1753

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was one of the founding fathers of the United States. Renowned for his wide-ranging knowledge and scholarship, his various careers reflected the capaciousness of his intellect. Serving at one time or another as a writer, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor and diplomat, Franklin was also a major contributor to the American Enlightenment and furthered the cause of science through his experiments and discoveries regarding electricity. A strong proponent of organized religion as a complement to civic order, Franklin considered himself a deist and a Christian and unsuccessfully petitioned for daily prayer during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

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