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This Sunday in Baptist History

July 21

According to all that I have read, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the famous patriot, scientist, printer and Post Master General, was a moral bankrupt for most of his life. Like many intellectuals in this day, at least as a young man, he may have professed to be a Deist, but he was not a true Christian.

A hundred fifty years before Franklin, the Mayhew family did evangelistic work among the Indians in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (1646-1806). A later associate of the Mayhews was Peter Foulger, an ardent Baptist and member of the Lord’s church in Nantucket. It was through his influence that some of the Mayhews learned and began to practice Baptist doctrine – scriptural doctrine.

Foulger was a schoolmaster, a surveyor and a friend of the Indians, learning their language and becoming instrumental in negotiations between them and the settlers. Because of his ability to speak the native language, he was chosen to be an official of the courts on this day (July 21) in 1673.

Peter Foulger was not a missionary, pastor or even a preacher, but he loved the Lord and Biblical truth.

In 1676 he wrote a book entitled “A looking Glass for the Times” which was described as a defense of social and religious liberty written in “homespun verse and with a good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom.”

Brother Foulger married Mary Morrill, and to this union a daughter, Abiah, was born. When Abiah was of a proper age, she married a man named Franklin, and to them God granted a son, whom they named Benjamin.

Although Benjamin Franklin never publically professed faith in Christ, one has to wonder if the influence of his grandfather, Peter Foulger, might have had something to do with the address he made before the Constitutional Committee – “I have lived Sir, a long time (he was 81 at the time), and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this… I, therefore, beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning we proceed to business, and that one or more the clergy in this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

It was Benjamin Franklin who gave the positive description of Peter Foulger’s book on religious liberty.

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