Franklin Vs. Edwards Essay, Research Paper
American Literature 2200
Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin are two very respected authors in our time, but never had the pleasure of knowing one another in their own time. Edwards and Franklin possessed common views regarding their pride and desire to improve themselves; however they differed in their views of perfection and their reaching of understanding about it.
Benjamin dealt with his pride on many occasions, and even called pride the ?true evil sin.? Benjamin, once conceived of being morally perfect, and believed a person could achieve moral perfection. Benjamin?s downfall was found to be his pride. On page 585 he states, ?For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my Humility.? Franklin is almost ironic in how he says that, for if he were to become morally perfect he would be proud of himself.
Edwards dealt with his pride even though he was a very humble man. Edwards even felt pride when praying, like when he was praying in the swamp as a child he felt self-righteous. On page 451 Edwards says, ?to think how ignorant I was, when I was a young Christian, of the bottomless, infinite depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy, and deceit left in my heart.? Edwards is talking about himself as a young man and how sinful he was. Edwards then goes on to discuses how far he has grown spiritually and then states ?And yet I am greatly afflicted with a proud and self-righteous sprit.? Just like Franklin stated that he could become perfect but still be proud of himself, Edwards does the same by admitting he is proud of himself for how far he has come.
Franklin strived on self-improvement by using a metaphor on page 581 by telling how he always has to correct himself, ?I marked my faults with a black Lead Pencil, which Marks I could easily wipe out with a wet sponge. ?Franklin always corrected himself no matter how difficult it was. Franklin admitted he had made a mistake leaving America and Miss Read. He realized he made a mistake and went back and married her to correct himself. Franklin went as far as to put his personal thoughts of Miss Read aside and realized it was the right thing to do.
Edwards, like Franklin, was also very concerned with self-improvement. Edwards even goes as far as having violent inward struggles on page 442 ?But yet, it was not long after my recovery before I fell again into my old ways of sin. But God would not suffer me to go on with any quietness; but I had great and violent inward struggles.? Edwards?s inward correction?s differed from Franklin?s in the way that he was not improving himself for himself. He was trying to improve himself to the likings of God.
After much contemplation Franklin reaches an understanding of sorts on page 583, ?Nicety as I exacted of myself might be a kind of Foppery in Morals, which if it were known would make me ridiculous; that a perfect Character might be attended with the Inconvenience of being envied and hated.? Franklin realizes that he is going to be much more liked by man and have better relationships with his friends if he does not achieve moral perfection.
Edwards knew no individual could make themselves morally perfect and wasn?t afraid to use his mind?s arguments to explain worldly things. Edwards however might have taken this a bit far when he started convicting his congregation from the pulpit. On page 441 the introductory author depicts the extent of perfection Edwards puts onto his congregation, ?When he named backsliders from his pulpit- including the children and parents of the best families in town- and tried to return to the old order of communion.?
Franklin came to the understanding that he should not attempt to become morally perfect because it would not be good for him socially. Edwards, however, realized the importance of correcting himself and tried to instill these beliefs on his congregation, even though it eventually caused him to lose his job. While Franklin stopped his attempts to improve himself due to social acceptance, Edwards continued with his drive to correct himself and others to the point of losing the social acceptance of others.
Edwards and Franklin possessed common views regarding their pride and desire to improve themselves. However they differed in their views of perfection and their reaching of understanding about it. Franklin and Edwards took different views on going about achieving self improvement, but Franklin and Edwards still had much in common dealing with their pride and learning that it may be the ?true evil sin? that is unconquerable.
The Norton Anthology American Literature Fifth Edition Volume 1