1 This plan does not exist in the manuscript Journal found among Dr. Franklin’s papers; which appears, by a note thereon, to be a "copy made at Reading in Pennsylvania, October 2nd, 1787. "—W. T. F.
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"It was addressed to Mr. J. R., that is, James Ralph, then a youth of about my age, and my intimate friend afterwards a political writer and historian. The purport of it was to prove the doctrine of fate, from the supposed attributes of God; in some such manner as this. That in erecting and governing the world, as he was infinitely wise, he knew what would be best; infinitely good, he must be disposed, and infinitely powerful, he must be able to execute it. Consequently all is right.
"There were only a hundred copies printed, of which I gave a few to friends; and afterwards disliking the piece, as conceiving it might have an ill tendency, I burnt the rest, except one copy, the margin of which was filled with manuscript notes by Lyons, author of the Infallibility of Human Judgment, who was at that time another of my acquaintance in London. I was not nineteen years of age when it was written. In 1730, I wrote a piece on the other side of the question, which began with laying for its foundation this fact: ‘That almost all men, in all ages and countries, have at times made use of PRAYER.’ Thence I reasoned, that, if all things are ordained, prayer must among the rest be ordained. But, as prayer can procure no change in things that are ordained, praying must then be useless, and an absurdity. God would therefore not ordain praying, if everything else was ordained. But praying exists, therefore all other things are not ordained, &c. This pamphlet was never printed, and the manuscript has been long lost. The great uncertainty I found in metaphysical reasonings disgusted me, and I quitted that kind of reading and study for others more satisfactory."
Among Franklin’s papers I have found a curious manuscript in his handwriting, which contains a new version of the Lord’s Prayer. The condition and appearance of this manuscript prove it to have been an early performance, but its precise date is not known. The form in which it is, written is here preserved.
OLD VERSION. —Our Father which art in Heaven.
NEW VERSION. --Heavenly Father is more concise, equally expressive, and better modern English.
OLD VERSION.—Hallowed be thy name. This seems to relate to an observance among the Jews not to pronounce the proper or peculiar name of God, they deeming it a profanation so to do. We have in our language no proper name for God; the word God being a common, or general name, expressing all chief objects of worship, true or false. The word hallowed is almost obsolete. People now have but an imperfect conception of the meaning of the petition. It is therefore proposed to change the expression into
NEW VERSION—May all revere thee.
OLD VERSION. —Thy kingdom come. This petition seems suited to the then condition of the Jewish nation. Originally their state was a theocracy; God was their king. Dissatisfied with that kind of government, they desired a visible, earthly king, in the manner of the nations around them. They had such kings accordingly; but their happiness was not increased by the change, and they had reason to wish and pray for a return of the theocracy, or government of God. Christians in these times have other ideas, when they speak of the kingdom of God, such as are perhaps more adequately expressed by the
NEW VERSION. —Become thy dutiful children and faithful subjects.
OLD VERSION. —Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; more explicitly,
NEW VERSION. —May thy laws be obeyed on earth as perfectly as they are in heaven.
OLD VERSION.—Give us this day our daily bread. Give us what is ours seems to put in a claim of right, and to contain too little of the grateful acknowledgment and sense of dependence that become creatures who live on the daily bounty of their Creator. Therefore it is changed to
NEW VERSION.—Provide for us this day, as thou hast hitherto daily done.
OLD VERSI0N.—Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Matthew). Forgive our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us (Luke). Offerings were due to God on many occasions by the Jewish law, which, when people could not pay, or had forgotten, as debtors are apt to do, it was proper to pray that those debts might be forgiven. Our Liturgy uses neither the debtors of Matthew, nor the indebted of Luke, but instead of them speaks of those that trespass against us. Perhaps the considering it as a Christian duty to forgive debtors was by the compilers thought an inconvenient idea in a trading nation. There seems, however, something presumptuous in this mode of expression, which has the air of proposing ourselves as an example of goodness fit for God to imitate. We hope you will at least be as good as we are; you see we forgive one another, and therefore we pray that you would forgive us. Some have considered it in another sense. Forgive us as we forgive others. That is, if we do not forgive others, we pray that thou wouldst not forgive us. But this, being a kind of conditional imprecation against ourselves, seems improper in such a prayer; and therefore it may be better to say humbly and modestly,
NEW VERSION.--Forgive us our trespasses, and enable us likewise to forgive those who offend us. This, instead of assuming that we have already in and of ourselves the grace of forgiveness, acknowledges our dependence on God, the Fountain of Mercy, for any share we may have of it, praying that he would communicate it to us.
OLD VERSION.—And lead us not into temptation. The Jews had a notion that God sometimes tempted, or directed, or permitted, the tempting of people. Thus it was said, he tempted Pharoah, directed Satan to tempt Job, and a false Prophet to tempt Ahab. Under this persuasion, it was natural for them to pray, that he would not put them to such severe trials. We now suppose that temptation, so far as it is supernatural, comes from the Evil One only; and this petition continued conveys a suspicion, which, in our present conceptions, seems unworthy of God, therefore it might be altered to
NEW VERSION.—Keep us out of temptation.