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Benjamin Franklin
by [?]

The runaway Ben had a downy beard all over his face, and as he took his three loaves and walked up Market Street, with a loaf under each arm, munching on the third, he was smiled upon in merry mirth by the buxom Deborah Read, as she stood in the doorway of her father’s house. Yet Franklin got even with her, for some months after, he went back that way and courted her, grew to love him, and they “exchanged promises,” he says. After some months of work and love-making, Franklin sailed away to England on a wild-goose chase. He promised to return soon and make Deborah his wife. But he wrote only one solitary letter to the broken-hearted girl and did not come back for nearly two years.

* * * * *

Time is the great avenger as well as educator; only the education is usually deferred until it no longer avails in this incarnation, and is valuable only for advice–and nobody wants advice. Deathbed repentances may be legal-tender for salvation in another world, but for this they are below par, and regeneration that is postponed until the man has no further capacity to sin is little better. For sin is only perverted power, and the man without capacity to sin neither has ability to do good–isn’t that so? His soul is a Dead Sea that supports neither ameba nor fish, neither noxious bacilli nor useful life. Happy is the man who conserves his God-given power until wisdom and not passion shall direct it. So, the younger in life a man makes the resolve to turn and live, the better for that man and the better for the world.

Once upon a time Carlyle took Milburn, the blind preacher, out on to Chelsea embankment and showed the sightless man where Franklin plunged into the Thames and swam to Blackfriars Bridge. “He might have stayed here,” said Thomas Carlyle, “and become a swimming-teacher, but God had other work for him!” Franklin had many opportunities to stop and become a victim of arrested development, but he never embraced the occasion. He could have stayed in Boston and been a humdrum preacher, or a thrifty sea-captain, or an ordinary printer; or he could have remained in London, and been, like his friend Ralph, a clever writer of doggerel, and a supporter of the political party that would pay the most.

Benjamin Franklin was twenty years old when he returned from England. The ship was beaten back by headwinds and blown out of her course by blizzards, and becalmed at times, so it took eighty-two days to make the voyage. A worthy old clergyman tells me this was so ordained and ordered that Benjamin might have time to meditate on the follies of youth and shape his course for the future, and I do not argue the case, for I am quite willing to admit that my friend, the clergyman, has the facts.

Yes, we must be “converted,” “born again,” “regenerated,” or whatever you may be pleased to call it. Sometimes–very often–it is love that reforms a man, sometimes sickness, sometimes sore bereavement.

Doctor Talmage says that with Saint Paul it was a sunstroke, and this may be so, for surely Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians was not in love. Love forgives to seventy times seven and persecutes nobody.

We do not know just what it was that turned Franklin; he had tried folly–we know that–and he just seems to have anticipated Browning and concluded:

“It’s wiser being good than bad;
It’s safer being meek than fierce;
It’s better being sane than mad.”

On this voyage the young printer was thrust down into the depths and made to wrestle with the powers of darkness; and in the remorse of soul that came over him he made a liturgy to be repeated night and morning, and at midday. There were many items in this ritual–all of which were corrected and amended from time to time in after-years. Here are a few paragraphs that represent the longings and trend of the lad’s heart. His prayer was: