Ben Franklin’s Easter confidence

The acclaimed American documentary film-maker Ken Burns has done it again.

Rev David Clarke
Rev David Clarke

Three decades ago he detailed the ebb and flow of the American Civil War, using archive photographs, eye-witness testimony and haunting music.

That series was followed by others on the history of subjects as diverse as jazz, baseball, country music and the Vietnam War. Now the television channel PBS America has screened, over two evenings, a four-hour documentary on the life of Benjamin Franklin, one of the revered Founding Fathers of the United States.

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Franklin began life as a printer, but his inquiring mind led him into scientific experiments. He successfully demonstrated that lightning is a form of electricity and is credited with the invention of the lightning conductor.

In the turbulent years of the mid-eighteenth century, when the American colonies were becoming increasingly disenchanted with British rule, he began to be involved politically. He contributed to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1777, and, aware of the danger that might follow, uttered the celebrated remark, ‘We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately’.

Thereafter, he acted as American envoy to the French court. When Thomas Jefferson was eventually appointed to that position, he was introduced as the man who replaced Franklin.

The ever-fastidious Jefferson dared to correct the person making the introduction; ‘I succeed Benjamin Franklin, no one could replace him’.

Franklin had a gift for the memorable phrase, such as ‘In this life nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’, and ‘There never was a good war or a bad peace’.

Once in a whimsical mood, he drafted his own epitaph. It reads (with its antiquated spelling), as follows;

“The body of B. Franklin, Printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out, and stript of its lettering and guilding, lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more perfect edition, corrected and amended by the author”.

That epitaph is the essence of the New Testament faith.

The resurrection of Jesus on the first Easter Day is the foundation of the Christian belief in the life everlasting.

The apostle Paul summarised the meaning of the Resurrection when he wrote to the Corinthians; ‘ The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body…….’When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true; ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’.

Paul then went on to pose a rhetorical question; ‘Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?’(1 Corinthians 15; 42-44 and 54-55).

Let’s learn to rejoice in the message of Christ’s Easter victory.

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