Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from George Whitefield, 17 January 1755

From George Whitefield

MS not found; reprinted from A Select Collection of Letters of the late Reverend George Whitefield, M.A. (London, 1772), III, 114–15.

Virginia, Jan. 17, 1755

My dear Mr. F[ranklin],

I hope that this will find you safely arrived at Philadelphia, from your northward expedition, and ready to come further southwards.5 This leaves me in my last Virginia stage, near the borders of North-Carolina. People as I came along have been very willing to attend on my feeble labours, and I hope that some real good hath been done. If this be effected, it matters little how the labourer himself may be sometimes fatigued.

His presence doth my pains beguile,

And makes the wilderness to smile.6

Lovely delusion this! Living, dying, and after death I hope to be possessed of it. I have seen your Epitaph.7 Believe on JESUS, and get a feeling possession of God in your heart, and you cannot possibly be disappointed of your expected second edition, finely corrected, and infinitely amended. Verbum sapienti sat est. I could say more, but time is short. Glad shall I be to wait on you and Mr. H[unter] at the Orphan-house. I send you both my cordial respects, and praying that you may have what good Colonel G[ardine]r8 once wished me, “A thriving soul in a healthy body,” I subscribe myself, my dear Sir, Your affectionate, obliged friend and ready servant,


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5BF had spent the fall in Boston, and on December 30, accompanied on the first stage of his journey by Catharine Ray, he set out on a leisurely return through Newport, New Haven, and New York, reaching Philadelphia late in February. He had given Whitefield, who was also in Boston in October, reason to believe he and William Hunter, his colleague as deputy postmaster general, might inspect the southern post office.

6A misquotation from Joseph Addison’s version of the Twenty-Third [The rest of note 6 and note 7 are overleaf.]

Psalm, in “The Spectator,” no. 441. The fourth and final stanza of the original reads:

Tho’ in a bare and rugged way,

Through devious lonely wilds I stray,

Thy bounty shall my pains beguile:

The barren wilderness shall smile

With sudden greens and herbage crown’d,

And streams shall murmur all around.

The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison Esq. (4 vols., London, 1721), III, 536.

7This is the earliest reference yet found to BF’s Epitaph. See above, I, 109–11.

8Probably Col. James Gardiner (1688–1745), whom Whitefield met in Scotland in 1742. He was noted for his conversion to religion after a dissolute youth. Luke Tyerman, The Life of the Rev. George Whitefield (London, 1877), II, 33–4; DNB.

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