Benjamin Franklin Advises Daughter Sarah on Matters of Faith

They Were Believers, Benjamin Franklin

Editor’s Intro: At the age of fifty-eight Benjamin Franklin penned the following letter to his daughter. Principles discussed: keeping the commandments, avoiding even the very appearance of evil, church attendance,  study of Book of Common Prayer, Book of Common Prayer v. sermons, looking for gems in the sermons of imperfect men, Providence of God, love of family and neighbors.


Reedy Island, November 8, 1764.

My Dear Sally,

We got down here at sunset, having taken in more live stock at Newcastle, with some other things we wanted. Our good friends, Mr. Galloway, Mr. Wharton, and Mr. James, came with me in the ship from Chester to Newcastle and went ashore there. It was kind to favor me with their good company as far as they could. The affectionate leave taken of me by so many friends at Chester was very endearing. God bless them and all Pennsylvania.

My dear child, the natural prudence and goodness of heart God has blessed you with make it less necessary for me to be particular in giving you advice. I shall therefore only say, that the more attentively dutiful and tender you are towards your good mamma, the more you will recommend yourself to me. But why should I mention me, when you have so much higher a promise in the commandments, that such conduct will recommend you to the favor of God. You know I have many enemies, all indeed on the public account, (for I cannot recollect that I have in a private capacity given just cause of offense to any one whatever,) yet they are enemies, and very bitter ones; and you must expect their enmity will extend in some degree to you, so that your slightest indiscretions will be magnified into crimes, in order the more sensibly to wound and afflict me. It is therefore the more necessary for you to be extremely circumspect in all your behavior, that no advantage may be given to their malevolence.

Go constantly to church, whoever preaches. The act of devotion in the Common Prayer Book is your principal business there, and if properly attended to, will do more towards amending the heart than sermons generally can do. For they were composed by men of much greater piety and wisdom, than our common composers of sermons can pretend to be; and therefore I wish you would never miss the prayer days; yet I do not mean you should despise sermons, even of the preachers you dislike, for the discourse is often much better than the man, as sweet and clear waters come through very dirty earth. I am the more particular on this head, as you seemed to express a little before I came away some inclination to leave our church, which I would not have you do.

For the rest, I would only recommend to you in my absence, to acquire those useful accomplishments, arithmetic and book-keeping. This you might do with ease, if you would resolve not to see company on the hours you set apart for those studies.

We expect to be at sea to-morrow, if this wind holds; after which I shall have no opportunity of writing to you, till I arrive (if it please God I do arrive) in England. I pray that his blessing may attend you, which is worth more than a thousand of mine, though they are never wanting. Give my love to your brother and sister,1 as I cannot write to them, and remember me affectionately to the young ladies your friends, and to our good neighbors. I am, my dear child, your affectionate father,

B. Franklin

Source: Writings of Benjamin Franklin by himself, with introductory note, formatting for the Internet, and spelling modernization by They Were Believers editor, Steve Farrell.

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They Were Believers is researched, compiled, and edited by Self-Educated American Founder and Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell. Steve served as one of the original and most popular pundits at (1999-2007), and is the author of the highly praised inspirational novel, Dark Rose. Original document copyright is held in the Public Domain; as presented with introductory note, spelling modernization, and formatting for this edition, Copyright © 2012 – 2013 Steve Farrell.

Self-Educated American recommends Carl Van Doren’s, 1939 Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece (the best biography ever written on Franklin), BENJAMIN FRANKLIN