A Puritan Sermon?

8 August 2016

Seventeenth-century sermon techniques in Benjamin Franklin’s “Way to Wealth” communicate his secular eighteenth-century principles. First, Franklin’s structure contains a text, a doctrine section, and an application section as a Puritan sermon would. Franklin addresses a question concerning the financial problems of the day, and he takes his text from “Poor Richard’s Almanac.

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Based on the issue raised concerning finances, Franklin formulates the thesis that the tax commissioners are unable to ease the people of their burden because they tax themselves with idleness, pride, and folly (221); however, Franklin provides three eighteenth-century principles that he considers useful solutions to the taxes: industry, prudence, and frugality. As application, Franklin incorporates a Biblical allusion that he hopes will stir the emotions of the people and that allusion is that “Job suffered, and was afterwards prosperous” (225).

Second, “Way to Wealth” has a didactic purpose. The virtues, industry, prudence, and frugality communicate this didactic purpose well. First, Franklin declares, “Industry pays debts, . . . gives comfort, and plenty, and respect” (222). For Franklin, however, industry must not go without frugality, and to demonstrate this he says, “we must add frugality, if we would make our industry more certainly successful. . . . [For] If you would be wealthy, . . . think of saving as well as of getting” (223).

In conclusion, Franklin gives one warning concerning these virtues. He warns that we must be charitable to those without the virtues while at the same time asking the blessing of heaven upon the virtues (225). Finally, Franklin’s work demonstrates the Puritan Plain style. As a Puritan sermon would quote from the Bible, Franklin utilizes a plethora of quotes from the Almanac. Each time He makes a point Franklin says, “As Poor Richard says,” or “Poor Dick says,” or “Poor Richard likewise observes” (221), and the list goes on.

Another way Franklin demonstrates Plain Style is his focus on the message rather than the writer. The fact that Franklin uses a fictional Father Abraham to give the sermon is proof enough that the writer was not vying for attention. Though Franklin’s quotes are all from his works, never once does he draw attention to himself as the author. Through the entire work, Franklin utilizes the Puritan sermon techniques. Through these techniques, Franklin teaches what he believes are the core values of the eighteenth century.

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