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How did Byrd, Edwards, & Franklin differ in their religious outlook?

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William Byrd II, Jonathan Edwards, and Benjamin Franklin were three well know and respected me around the same time period and have many qualities in common. Although these men have similar prospects in life, they had a very different views in religion. I think this was caused by the different orientation they received as children by their parents, their lifestyles, and the place where the lived. In the following paragraphs I will explain in detail how these three outstanding men differed in their religious outlooks.

William Byrd was born on his father’s plantation in Virginia but brought up in Essex and remained in England for most of his early life. Aged thirty when his father died in 1704, William returned to Virginia to manage the family’s 26,000 acre estate and later built a fine house there which stands today. William was hardy and energetic and, like most Virginians of his time, often in the saddle. A great traveler, he was no ordinary pioneer: this was a man of culture, wide accomplishments and considerable charm, a genial host who had powerful friends on both sides of the Atlantic. William attended Felsted Grammar School near Braintree for nine years when Christopher Glasscock was its headmaster and then studied law at the Middle Temple.

He was called to the Bar in 1695, served a short apprenticeship in Holland and visited the Court of Louis XIV. In London William was becoming known as a satirical writer and wit, and in 1696, through the good offices of his mentor Sir Robert Southwell, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. His influence grew and he was appointed Virginia’s colonial agent in London and was thus at the heart of the conflict between Crown and Colony that was eventually to spark into Revolution. No man had a better preparation for representing the old world in the new and vice versa. William Byrd II was an aspiring English cavalier; at the end, a protean Enlightenment figure.

Jonathan Edwards was a very admirable and enthusiastic preacher. His father and grandfather were ministers in the Congregational Church. At age 13, Edwards entered Yale University for theological studies. After his grandfather’s death Edwards had to take over the duties as pastor of the Northampton Congressional Church. After the years passed people began to gather to hear Edwards electrifying sermons on damnation and salvation. In his famous sermon called “Simmers in the Hands of Angry Gods” he warned and terrified people with his vivid descriptions of the horrors of damnation, and with his sermons on the eternal punishments facing those who failed to seek and find salvation. His dire warnings, coupled with his urgent call for repentance, helped usher in the religious revival known as the Great Awakening.

Benjamin Franklin was a very respected gentlemen for his accomplishments as printer, writer, scientist, inventor, politician, and many other things. As a child his parents gave him an early religious impression. He had been educated as a Presbyterian but at fifteen he was doubting when he found disputes in the different books he read against Deism. Franklin was a man that was never without some religious principle and never doubted the Deity. He also believed in the Thirteen Virtues to achieve moral perfection.

These men have given us excellent examples to follow and have contributed to our history in many ways. They truly deserve the respect and honor that people still have for them today.

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