Benjamin Franklin gravesite plaque with epitaph

Benjamin Franklin gravesite plaque with epitaph

When Benjamin Franklin was a young man, he composed an epitaph for himself:

The body of B. Franklin, Printer,

Like the cover of an old book,

Its contents torn out,

And stripped of its lettering and gilding,

Lies here food for worms.

But the work shall not be lost,

For it will, as he believed,

Appear once more

In a new and more elegant edition,

Corrected and improved

By the Author.

Benjamin Franklin Gravestone

Benjamin Franklin Gravestone

However, the inscription on Franklin’s gravestone in the Christ Church Cemetery, Philadelphia, reads simply: “Benjamin and Deborah Franklin 1890.” A nearby metal plaque at the cemetery records Franklin’s self-epitaph but then explains: “This epitaph, written by Franklin as a young man, was not used. His nearby gravestone was prepared in exact accordance with the instructions contained in his will.”

Ezra Stiles

Ezra Stiles

Not long before his death, Franklin responded to an inquiry from Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale University, concerning his religious beliefs. Franklin stated: “As to Jesus of Nazareth, I have some doubts as to his Divinity. Tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.”

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Franklin died doubting that Christ Jesus is God the Son, much less trusting in Jesus as his Savior from sin and the source of eternal life. Any hope that Franklin ever entertained of being resurrected “in a new and more elegant edition” by God did not materialize.

1 John 5:11-12 provides the testimony of God Himself on this matter: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son [Jesus]. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Of the resurrection to life eternal, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 teaches: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [died]. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.”

That last phrase, “those who belong to Him,” refers to Christians, those who die believing in Jesus as their Savior from sin and sole source of eternal life. They are the ones who, when Christ Jesus returns, will be resurrected in perfectly-restored bodies to live with Him forever. (Read all of 1 Corinthians 15 for much more teaching from God’s Word on the future resurrection of all who truly trust in Jesus for salvation and eternal life.)

This Easter Week we remember Christ’s death on the cross and celebrate His resurrection from the grave to provide salvation and eternal life for all who would believe in and receive Him as their Savior and Lord. Those of us who know Jesus as our Savior rightly thank Him from the depths of our hearts for graciously providing us with those unspeakable, undeserved gifts. Any who have not yet done so, but who turn in repentance from sin to faith in Jesus, will likewise receive salvation and life eternal through Him.

Copyright 2017 by Vance E. Christie

William SangsterWilliam Sangster (1900-1960) was a prominent evangelical Methodist minister in Britain. From 1939 to 1955 he pastored Westminster Central Hall, a prestigious Methodist church not far from Westminster Abbey in London. During World War 2 the basement of Sangster’s church was used as an air raid shelter. For 1,688 nights Sangster ministered to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all types of people who gathered there for safety. After the war he spearheaded a spiritual renewal movement in Methodist churches across the country.

In 1958, however, Sangster was diagnosed as having an incurable disease that caused progressive muscular atrophy. When he learned of the diagnosis, he made four resolutions: “I will never complain. I will keep the home bright. I will count my blessings. I will try to turn it to gain.” Later he wrote: “There have been great gains already from my sickness. I live in the present. I am grateful for little things. I have more time – and use it – for prayer.”

Over the course of two and a half years he experienced the gradual paralysis of his muscles, which left him with no voice and able to move only two fingers. With them he communicated with others by writing, but eventually even that became illegible.

John 11:25On Easter morning, just a few weeks before his death, he managed to write: “How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, ‘He is risen!’  Far worse, to have a voice and not want to shout.”

This Easter season may our hearts and mouths be full of exuberant praise for our risen Savior Jesus Christ. He not only conquered death Himself. His resurrection is the guarantee that all who believe in Him, even should they die before His return, will similarly be raised from the dead to experience life eternal with Him in heaven.

The Apostle Paul states of those who die believing in Jesus as their Savior: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. … But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

Christ's ResurrectionAnd Jesus Himself declares: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

Such a Savior is worthy of our deepest gratitude and highest exaltation!

Copyright 2016 by Vance E. Christie