Franklin's Autobiography (Eclectic English Classics)

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 93

in
admiring them. Among the rest I became one of his constant hearers,
his sermons pleasing me, as they had little of the dogmatical kind,
but inculcated strongly the practice of virtue, or what in the
religious style are called "good works." Those, however, of our
congregation who considered themselves as orthodox Presbyterians,
disapproved his doctrine, and were joined by most of the old clergy,
who arraigned him of heterodoxy[122] before the synod, in order to
have him silenced. I became his zealous partisan, and contributed all
I could to raise a party in his favor, and we combated for him awhile
with some hopes of success. There was much scribbling pro and con[123]
upon the occasion; and finding that, though an elegant preacher, he
was but a poor writer, I lent him my pen and wrote for him two or
three pamphlets, and one piece in the "Gazette" of April, 1735. Those
pamphlets, as is generally the case with controversial writings,
though eagerly read at the time, were soon out of vogue, and I
question whether a single copy of them now exists.

During the contest an unlucky occurrence hurt his cause exceedingly.
One of our adversaries having heard him preach a sermon that was much
admired, thought he had somewhere read the sermon before, or at least
a part of it. On search, he found that part quoted at length in one of
the British Reviews, from a discourse of Dr. Foster's. This detection
gave many of our party disgust, who accordingly abandoned his cause,
and occasioned our more speedy discomfiture in the synod. I stuck by
him, however, as I rather approved his giving us good sermons
composed by others than bad ones of his own manufacture, though the
latter was the practice of our common teachers. He afterward
acknowledged to me that none of those he preached were his own, adding
that his memory was such as enabled him to retain and repeat any
sermon after one reading only. On our defeat, he left us in search
elsewhere of better fortune, and I quitted the congregation, never
joining it after, though I continued many years my subscription for
the support of its ministers.

I had begun in 1733 to study languages; I soon made myself so much a
master of the French as to be able to read the books with ease. I then
undertook the Italian. An acquaintance, who was also learning it, used
often to tempt me to play chess with him. Finding this took up too
much of the time I had to spare for study, I at length refused

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