The publication of that book has a long and complex history. An English version was published in 1793 but that was a year after both a German and Swedish version had been published. Also, that English version was a translation of a French translation of the original English, which means that being doubly translated, Franklin's original intention in the words was likely "lost in translation." So how did we get that French translation? On November 13, 1789, Franklin himself sent a copy to his friend Louis Guillaume Le Veillard. In 1791, Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin, traded the final manuscript he owned for that original. Meanwhile, Veillard had already had it translated, and that translation was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1908 (www.loc.gov).
Today, consider a portion of that autobiography dealing with the invention of the Franklin stove, which Franklin himself considered one of his more important inventions. In those days, most homes were heated by fireplaces. Anyone who has tried to do that understands that most of the heat goes right up the chimney. In addition people were dying every year due to the hazards of fireplaces, and on top of that, Pennsylvania was experiencing a wood shortage.
Ben Franklin tackled all those issues by creating a freestanding fireplace that burned wood efficiently, using less wood and producing more heat with less danger. The first Franklin stove was called a Pennsylvania Fireplace, and though its original model was not perfect, it was the precursor of today's wood stoves and fireplace inserts. Although he was offered one, he refused to patent it stating in his autobiography, "That as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by an invention of ours…"
We installed an insert in our fireplace when we lived in South Carolina for three years. The difference in the heating value between it and a fireplace was like night and day. Now I live in Florida but up here in North Florida we still have a little bit of winter. Usually on cold nights, we fill up our freestanding Ashley woodstove, which burns out by morning and we don’t need any more till the next night, or maybe not for a few nights, depending upon the vagaries of cold fronts. Sometimes, though, I have had to keep that fire burning all day, adding a log or two every couple of hours. You see, if you let it burn down too far, it goes out. Even adding wood will do you no good if the coals are no longer glowing.
Sometimes we let our souls go out. Instead of stoking the fire, adding fuel as needed, we seem to think we can start it up at will and as needed, with just a single match I suppose. Try holding a match to a log—a real log, not a manufactured pressed log with some sort of lighter fluid soaked into it. You will find that you cannot even get it to smoke before the match dies. Starting a fire anew takes a whole lot more effort than just keeping the old one going.
God has a plan that keeps the fire going. He has made us a spiritual family. He commands us to assemble on a weekly basis. He has given us a regular memorial feast to partake of. He has given us his Word to read any time we want to. He will listen to us any time of the day. And perhaps, knowing how he has made us, that is why those songs he has given us keep going round in our heads all week—words at the ready to help us overcome and to remind us who we are. All of these things will keep the fire from dying. Just as those people who actually saw and heard Jesus on a daily basis said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" Luke 23:32, his voice can come to us through the Word, through the teaching in our assemblies, and through the brothers and sisters he has given us.
Once a month attendance won’t keep the fire burning. Seeing our spiritual family only at the meetinghouse will not stoke the fires of brotherly love. Picking up our Bibles only when we dust the coffee table won’t blow on the embers enough to keep them glowing. Sooner or later my heart will grow cold, and no one will be able to light a big enough match to get it warm again.
Our God is a consuming fire, and he expects that to be exactly what happens to us—for us to become consumed with him and his word and his purpose. Nothing else should matter as much.
Take a moment today to open up that woodstove of a heart and see how the fire looks. Throw in another log before the fire goes out.
My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah. Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Psalm 39:3-7.