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NEGLECT OF KNEELING AT CHURCH
WHERE THE LITURGY DIRECTS IT.
Reverend Brethren, I HAVE judged it expedient to address you on a subject which may not perhaps have hitherto attracted your observation, but which appears to me, as I hope it will to you, after you have perused this Letter, well worthy of your most serious attention. .
For many years past I have observed with extreme concern, in different churches and chapels, both in the metropolis and in various parts of the country where I happened to be
present, present, a practice prevailing (and evidently gaining ground every day) of a considerable part of the congregation SITTING during those parts of divine worship where the rubric expressly enjoins every one to KNEEL. It may be thought, perhaps, that the posture of the body in offering up our prayers, is a circumstance too trivial to deserve such serious notice as this. But can any thing be trivial that relates to the Almighty Governor of the universe? Does not every one know too, that the mind and the body mutually act upon, and influence each other, and that a negligent attitude of the one will naturally produce indifference and inattention in the other? Look only at the general deportment of those who sit at their devotions (without being compelled to it by necessity) and then say whether this remark is not founded in truth and in fact. Let me appeal to every man addicted to this practice; let me ask him whether if he found it necessary to request a favour from any earthly sovereign, or even from any superior whatever, he would prefer his petition in the attitude of sitting? Common decency, common usage, and common sense revolt at the very idea of such a thing. And are we then to treat the great Lord of all with less ceremony and less respect than we should observe towards a fellow-creature in any degree superior to us? No one, I think, can seriously maintain so monstrous a doctrine as this. Consider too, for a moment, what it is we are asking in our prayers? Nothing less than the supply of our daily wants, the pardon of our daily sins, protection from danger, support under affliction, the comforts and conveniencies of the present life, and everlasting felicity in the life to come. And are these such trivial, such contemptible things, that we may ask them perfectly at our ease, and in the very same indolent and familiar attitude in which we should hold a conversation with a friend on the news of the day, or view a public spectacle for the amusement of the moment? I shall be told, perhaps, that there are some denominations of christians that stand, and others that sit at their devotions. It is very true; and they must be left to judge for themselves; but my concern at present is not either with any particular description of christians in foreign countries, or with any particular
sectaries sectaries in this; but with members of the church established by law in these realms. That church, in her admirable form of public •prayer, allows in different parts of the service the different postures both of standing and sitting; which, with its usual wisdom and discretion, it adapts to the respective circumstances of those particular parts. But where the solemnity and importance of our supplications require it, there it positively enjoins the posture of kneeling; and to disobey that injunction is unquestionably an offence against the discipline and usage of that venerable church to which we have the happiness to belong.
It is also contrary to the practice of the best, and greatest, and wisest men, both before the promulgation of the gospel, and after it. The exhortation of king David in the 95th Psalm, which we have adopted into our liturgy, is, “ O come let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.” When Solomon dedicated his magnificent temple to God, he kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven, while
he poured forth one of the most sublime and affecting prayers that ever fell from the lips of man. It was the custom of the prophet. Daniel to kneel upon his knees three times a day, and pray and give thanks unto his God. Our Saviour himself in his last agony kneeled down and prayed; St. Stephen in his last moments kneeled down and prayed for his murderers; and St. Paul, when he took his last solemn leave of his brethren, kneeled down, even on the sea shore, and offered up his petitions to heaven for their everlasting welfare,
After these injunctions of the church, and these examples from Scripture, no one I think who calls himself a christian, and a member of the church of England, will (unless prevented by illness or infirmity, where the necessity of the case most evidently gives a claim to indulgence) refuse to kneel down before the Lord his Maker. But if you perceive any part of your congregation habitually neglecting to do so, I must request you to represent to them in forcible terms, the great impropriety and indecency of such a practice.' It is very possible they may have fallen into