A Book of Gems Choice selections from the writings of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 279

laws of
nature, as well as different from anything they ever do.


We heard an illusion to the fanciful idea that some have conceived
of preaching an “affirmative gospel,” or, as some have expressed it,
“preaching the gospel _affirmatively_,” or, as we suppose, to come a
little nearer their idea, merely to preach, maintain and defend the
truth _affirmatively_, and let the _negative_ alone; or still, if
possible, to be more fully understood, to preach _truth_ and not preach
against what is _not truth_; to preach what _is to be done_ and not
what _is not to be done_. Look at the following Psalm I.:

1. “Happy is the man that walks _not_ in the counsel
of the ungodly.”
2. “_Nor_ stands in the way of sinners.”
3. “_Nor_ sits in the seat of the scornful.”

These three items are _negative_—things that the man whom the Lord
pronounces _happy, does not_. This is not leaving the negative part
out, but inserting it first, and pronounces the man happy that does not
these things.

In contrast, the Psalmist of Israel proceeds to give us the following,
which is affirmative:

1. “His delight is in the law of the Lord.”
2. “In his law he meditates day and night.”

The Lord gives the following guarantee to those who do not say the
negative part, but do the affirmative:

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings
forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and
whatever he does shall prosper.”

What an awful contrast with this is the ungodly:

“The ungodly are not so; but are like the chaff which the wind drives
away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor
sinners in the congregations of the righteous.”

To this the Lord adds the following conclusion:

“The Lord knows the way of the righteous,” or _approves_ it, “but the
way of the ungodly shall perish.”

The negative is to be preached and taught in all that pertains to
preaching and teaching as zealously and faithfully as the affirmative,
and is to be regarded equally as much of divine authority. The first
commandment the Lord ever gave to a human being was negative. It was in
these words: “You may not eat of it.” This was negative—what must not
be done. The Bible abounds with this negative teaching, setting forth
what may not be done. Look at the following list, gathered

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Text Comparison with Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin; Written by Himself. [Vol. 1 of 2] With His Most Interesting Essays, Letters, and Miscellaneous Writings; Familiar, Moral, Political, Economical, and Philosophical, Selected with Care from All His Published Productions, and Comprising Whatever Is Most Entertaining and Valuable to the General Reader

Page 1
& B.
Page 14
I saw the justice of his remarks, and thence grew more attentive to my manner of writing, and determined to endeavour to improve my style.
Page 16
I read about this time _Locke on the Human Understanding_, and the _Art of Thinking_, by Messrs.
Page 21
Night approaching, we had no remedy but to have patience till the wind abated, and, in the mean time, the boatmen and myself concluded to sleep if we could; and so we crowded into the hatches, where we joined the Dutchman, who was still wet, and the spray breaking over the head of our boat, leaked through to us, so that we were soon almost as wet as he.
Page 41
I thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he supposed, to drink _strong_ beer, that he might be _strong_ to labour.
Page 55
My hopes of success, as I told him, were founded on this, that the then only newspaper printed by Bradford, was a paltry thing, wretchedly managed, no way entertaining, and yet was profitable to him; I therefore freely thought a good paper would scarcely fail of good encouragement.
Page 68
I would say to him, sir, I solicit the history of your life, from the following motives: "Your history is so remarkable, that, if you do not give it, somebody else will most certainly give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as much harm as your own management of the thing might do good.
Page 69
School and other education constantly proceed upon false principles, and show a clumsy apparatus pointed at a false mark; but your apparatus is simple, and the mark a true one; and while parents and young persons are left destitute of other just means of estimating and becoming prepared for a reasonable course in life, your discovery, that the thing is in many a man's private power, will be invaluable! "Influence upon the private character, late in life, is not only an influence late in life, but a weak influence.
Page 70
And why are weaker men to be deprived of such helps, when we see our race has been blundering on in the dark, almost without a guide in this particular, from the farthest trace of time? Show then, sir, how much is to be done, _both to sons and fathers_; and invite all wise men to become like yourself, and other men to become wise.
Page 94
I afterward, with a little painstaking, acquired as much of the Spanish as to read their books also.
Page 102
, which are attended often with breach of friendship and of the connexion; perhaps with lawsuits and other disagreeable consequences.
Page 112
It was just before I went to England, in 1757, and did not pass till I was gone, and then with an alteration in the mode of assessment, which I thought not for the better; but with an additional provision for lighting as well as paving the streets, which was a great improvement.
Page 115
To do this, a variety of improvements were necessary; some of these were inevitably at first expensive; so that, in the first four years, the office became above L900 in debt to us.
Page 119
But I am got forward too fast with my story: there are still some transactions to be mentioned that happened during the administration of Governor Morris.
Page 130
Seeing the trees fall so fast, I had the curiosity to look at my watch when two men began to cut a pine; in six minutes they had it upon the ground, and I found it of fourteen inches diameter: each pine made three palisades of eighteen feet long, pointed at one end.
Page 137
Afterward, having been assured that there really existed such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia (which he had doubted), he wrote and published a volume of letters, chiefly addressed to me, defending his theory, and denying the verity of my experiments, and of the positions deduced from them.
Page 150
In the year 1749, he first suggested his idea of explaining the phenomena of thunder-gusts, and of the aurora borealis, upon electrical principles.
Page 154
Some late English paragraphs have attributed it to some Frenchman, whose name they do not mention: and the Abbe Bertholon gives it to M.
Page 155
Franklin's letters have been translated into most of the European languages and into Latin.
Page 211
We shall send a guard with you, to see you safe out of our territories.