“A Higher Morality”

Benjamin Franklin

We need a higher morality, a more pure and unadulterated piety and greater simplicity of benevolence. We do not want money extracted from the pockets of the people by the church offering them sensual gratification, amusements, and entertainments, to say nothing of the ball, the lottery, and other gambling. Let us in the name of the Lord and of religion, in a manly way, come directly to the people for means to support religion and ask them to give from love to Christ, and no matter if we do not obtain one-fourth the amount, it will do ten times as much good. The Lord needs no money made by lotteries, gambling, fairs, festivals, or any such appeals to the lust of the flesh, the human appetite, the love of fine companies, etc. He needs no money, only that given to Him through love and devotion to His cause.

Those who appeal to entertainments, amusements, fine companies of men and women, the dance, lotteries, festivals, fairs, etc., etc., thus publish to the world their impression that there is more potency in these worldly and secular appliances than there is in the grace of God and the love of Christ, and we doubt not they find it to be so, in raising money in their assemblies. They have tried it and demonstrated it to be so. We care not if it be so; we care not if it has been demonstrated that the people will give more money for a monkey show than for the kingdom of God. We will not resort to the monkey show, nor do we care if they will give more money for reveling than for the holy cause for which Jesus died. We will not resort to the reveling. There are other matters aside from the question, how much money can we raise, that must be kept in view.

We must maintain our piety, devotion to the Lord, purity, and must not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind. We have never consented to this modern element that will appeal to anything and everything that will raise money. It is not Godliness, nor the love of God, but sensual; it is devilish. Come directly to the children of God in the name of the Lord and appeal to them for His sake to give—to give freely and of a willing mind, [understanding] that “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” and [to] appreciate what is given in his name.

Editor’s Note: The author of the foregoing article was a very influential 19th-century Gospel preacher and writer (a descendant of the 18th-century statesman). His article reveals that the fun and games approach to religion among brethren was alive and well 150 years ago. In our time we have had such inanities as “Gymnastics to the Glory of God,” “Magic for the Master,” and “Juggling for Jesus” (what, no “Hollering for the Holy Spirit”?) to attract the crowds. One congregation produced a full-fledged Broadway play (complete with scanty attire). It is increasingly commonplace for congregations to offer a catered meal (for which they charge attendees) before meeting time on Wednesday night. The list of gimmicks and gadgets—appealing to the flesh rather than to the spirit—is almost endless. Whether to draw in dollars or people, Franklin’s opposition to such folly is altogether in keeping with Paul’s command: “And be not fashioned according to this world…” (Rom. 12:2a). – Dub McClish –

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Author: Editor

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