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GENERAL BAPTIST MAGAZINE,
ON A BECOMING POSTURE IN PUBLIC WORSHIP.*
BY T. W. MATHEWS.
EVERY one who thinks on the sub- No one will, I trust, suspect that ject at all will probably allow that this external matter is about to be there must be such a thing as is represented as of essential imporindicated in the title of this essay tance, or as comparable with the that some postures are decidedly spirit of worship. If we are not unbecoming, and that of all permis- worshipping God in the Spirit and saðle attitudes some are more proper in the truth, all external forms, howthan others. As long as we in- ever decent and reverential in themhabit. material bodies some posture selves, are destitute of value. Inis unavoidable, at all times and in deed, I know nothing to be more every place; some posture, there- jealously guarded against, as a fatal fore, we must assume when we instrument of self-deception, than a assemble for the professed worship of sedulous cultivation of the outward our Maker. The question before us rites and ceremonials of religion. is— What is the posture that best It is wonderful, it is humbling, it befits this solemn, sublime, and is alarming, to contemplate the heavenly engagement ?
Ritualism prevailing in this country My remarks will be chiefly directed in the present day. To think that to the posture we ought to be in Christians (so called) should attach during prayer. For our customs any importance to a rule, which says during the other parts of public that when certain words are uttered, worship- the reading of the sacred one man should stand and the rest Scriptures, the hearing of sermons, should kneel, and when other words and the service of song—are, as far are used, all should stand; that as I know, proper enough. But on when the words of the apostles are the point of prayer I think there is, read you should sit, but must be on in most congregations, room for your feet to hear the words of the blame, and need of improvement. evangelists; that during the chief
* This Essay is printed by request of the Conference at which it was read. We gladly insert it, and ask that it may be perused and pondered by all into whose hands it may come. Those who give it this attention will, we are persuaded, support the vote of the Lincolnshire Conference, in heartily thanking its amiable and venerable writer.--EDITOR.
Vol. LXX.-NEW SERIES, No. 13.
portion of the meeting you may gion, pure, spiritual, heavenly reliturn in any convenient direction, gion, must have a Form. God but at the recital of the creed you Himself had to be manifest in the must mind and turn to the east; * flesh, and take on Him the form of and on “ Trinity Sunday must omit a servant. “He' that made that the words, Holy Father.” Can the which is within made that also which heavenly religion of Jesus Christ is without”—the earthly, material have developed itself into such silli- body, as well as the intelligent, nesses as these ?
ethereal spirit. And are we not What can be the use of all this sensible that the suitable expression ceremony, this change of attitude of our inward sentiments, whether and orientalisation ? of this abun- by words or by gestures, tends both dance of actions, of dresses, and of to sustain those sentiments in ourutensils, neither called for by human selves, and render them influential convenience, nor instituted by com- on others ? Must we not allow mand of God? Are they designed that there is often observable in to relieve the fatigue produced by Nonconformist places of worship a long continuance in one posture ? want of reverence in our manners Is there any supposed merit in these and appearance, which, not without visible compliments ? Can intelli- reason, is an offence to those who gent beings really fancy that in any are accustomed to more dignity and sense we are the better for observ- decorum, and which really impairs ing these things, or the worse for our own impression of the solemnity omitting them ? Are they done of Christian worship ? People somejust that we may be seen of men, times enter the place of assembly and that others may perchance think with an inconsiderate noisiness which what very devout people we are, and is distracting to the worshippers, how well we know how to do the and even with a jauntiness quite proper thing at the proper moment? incompatible with the gravity of the Or have these actions all been insti- occasion. Not unfrequently during tuted by the mere wantonness of the reading of the oracles of God, power, usurped by presumptuous the singing of His praise (possibly, priests and self-willed rulers ? Sid- also, even during the act of invocaney Smith called this attention to tion), there is a careless staring posture imposture. I repeat it, it about, and an interchanging of the is humbling and alarming, that in language of the eye, demonstrating this nineteenth century people call- that the heart is not seeking Him ing themselves Christians can be who has promised to be with those found in England thus playing at who meet together in His name religion as children play with toys; Yes: we must have forms. Words and that others should go in crowds are forms, actions are forms, posto look at their childish sport, their tures are forms. Sincere words are pretty dresses, and their ecclesias- the just utterances of the thoughts tical gymnastics. Ah! there is a of the mind. Words, however exdeep, deep evil out of which all these cellent, which do not fairly express performances issue.
the then present state of the heart, But while we censure others, let are hypocrisy. The Lord's Prayer us modestly and seriously inquire (in my judgment the simplest yet whether we are not ourselves ob
the sublimest, most comprehensive, noxious to blame. After all, reli- most wonderful form of prayer ever
composed) becomes, in the lips of an * Wheatley, p. 149. Bohn's Edition. 1853. unintelligent, careless person, the language of hypocrisy.* If this be worship always are — for healthy so, what a great mass of hypocrisy, persons to put themselves into posithen, must be every week accumu- tions suitable for the infirm is lazilated in the religious assemblies of ness; unbecoming, unedifying to England !
themselves, and injurious to those Forms, as before said, both ex- who may happen to observe them. press and sustain the sentiments In my opinion this censure atthey embody, and they serve to taches to those who sit during prayer. reproduce them in others. If, then, Far be it from me to say that this we are reasonably solicitous that our attitude is not compatible with sinwords should be true interpreters cere and even earnest worship ; but of our heart-worship, we should be it is not natural for either humility, correspondingly careful that our or reverence, or penitence, or ferpostures should be so too. These vency, or grief, or desire, or transare as expressive, as edifying, and port, thus to exhibit itself. I know as reproductive as those. They are, that it is once said of David that he or at least they ought to be. And as “went in and sat before the Lord,” when we speak in prayer or praise we and spake to God (2 Sam. vii. 18); should have regard not only to our but that was private not public own edification but to that of others worship – individual, not social. also, so should we also consider the William Penn thought that silently edification of others in our very sitting was the best posture for pripostures. Both are really impli- vate meditation. For this purpose cated, though not to an equal ex- let every one try, ascertain, and tent. in the impressiveness and practise for himself the attitude he benefit of public worship.
finds most beneficial. A painful posture should be avoided.
But for united worship this posReligion is not a penance, but a joy.
ture is unsuitable—it tends to dullA painful attitude would in a little
ness; and certainly no stranger time call off to itself the attention
looking on a company of sitters which ought to be fixed on the
would be likely, from sympathy with divine object of our worship.
them, to be impressed with the A lazy posture on the other hand
solemnity of worship, with the awis equally to be shunned.
ful majesty of the Being they are
Religion is rest, but it is not slothfulness.
addressing, or even with the earnestIf, indeed, any one is sick, his best
ness or the joyfulness of those who posture for prayer is lying in bed ;
profess to be this holding “commu
nion with the Father and with His but that is for private or domestic,
Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” And if not for public, worship. If a person is so frail that he cannot stand or
our united worship does not mean
this, what does it mean? kneel, then let him accommodate his feeble frame as best he may to the
Of all attitudes for prayer kneeling service of the sanctuary_let him
seems the most appropriate. Even to lean, let him recline.
a fellow creature, in times of great These are,
agitation, when some eminent favour however, exceptional cases. But for healthy persons, such as the vast
is to be solicited, especially when majority of attendants on public
pardon is to be asked, men will offer
their entreaties on their knees. * Is it not a curious fact, and one worthy of Subjects, and even courtiers, do so consideration by those who are sticklers for
to their sovereigns, and especially words, that hardly ever in my life have I heard, in the Established Church or out of it, the children to their parents. “All of Lord's Prayer repeated in the words of our Lord ?
us probably kneel habitually in our
closets. So we do at the bedside of every principle of adoration, reverthe sick and dying; and even in our ence, gratitude, penitence, and hope, occasional and social meetings with the universal exhortation of Psalm our Christian friends. We do the xcv. 6 is founded—“O come, let us like oftentimes at our prayer meet- worship and bow down : let us kneel ings, and probably always at our before the Lord our maker." family worship.
Some blame, therefore, is attriJesus “ kneeled down and prayed” butable to us, I think, even with (Luke xxii, 41).
respect to the structure of our Paul kneeled down and prayed meeting-houses. No provision is with the elders of the church at usually made for this natural, reaEphesus (Acts xx. 36); and with sonable, expressive, and scripturally the disciples at Tyre “he kneeled sanctioned posture in prayer. Among down on the shore and prayed” us people hardly ever kneel in pub(Acts xxi. 5). Indeed it was his lic worship, for, indeed, without expression for usual habitual prayer; great effort they cannot. ---" For this cause I bow my knees The modern Jews, I believe, in to the Father of our Lord Jesus their synagogues usually keep their Christ” (Eph. iii. 14).
hats on. Christian men universally So Peter knelt in prayer. (Acts take them off. Why? Certainly ix. 40).
because the apostle Paul has plainly So did Stephen, even when being enjoined this practice (1 Cor. xi.. stoned to death. (Acts vii. 60). 4-16.) Now if we follow the
Daniel also, as is recorded with apostolic injunction in one point, frequency.
why not in another? With decision And Ezra.
and clearness Paul says (1 Tim. ii. And David.
8), “I will therefore that men pray And Solomon. The beautiful pos- ever where, lifting up holy hands, ture in which that then wise and without wrath and doubting.” Notpious monarch offered up his prayer withstanding this distinct direction in the great congregation at the as to the attitude Christians should dedication of the temple, is circum- observe in prayer, I apprehend that stantially described (2 Chron. vi, 13). few among us even so much as “ For Solomon had made a brazen think of the words, or do what they scaffold, of five cubits long, and five prescribe. Nay, so entirely dead cubits broad, and three cubits high, among us is this decent, lovely, and and had set it in the midst of the edifying custom, that I can hardly court: and upon it he stood, and cherish the hope that all who are kneeled down upon his knees before even hereby reminded of it will dare all the congregation of Israel, and to be so singular as to conform spread forth his hands toward themselves to it. heaven.”
I am far from approving of the In many passages of Scripture, careless, listless, unmeaning, irreveremote from each other, the blessed .rent posture of our dissenting conGod, declaring His great design in gregations in general. Look at the formation, sustentation, and them. The minister says, “ Let us government of the human family, pray;" but the people sit just as expresses His holy resolution, that, they were ; except, perhaps, that as He liveth, every knee shall bow many of them put their hands down to Him. (Isaiah xlv. 23; Romans before them, or fold their arms and xiv. 11; Phi]. ii. 10).
lay them on the book-board, or let On this divine prediction, and on them repose on the coping of the
pew before them, and then recline I found existing when I first entered their heavy head on the cushion of on my office, which I presume we their arms, just as if praying meant inherit from our venerated foresleeping. Or perhaps they just sit fathers, and which I think is next up as they did before, and gaze at best to kneeling, viz., that when the minister; while he, most likely prayer is about to begin, the people with his eyes shut, is speaking, in rise and stand with their back to the their name professedly, to the heart- minister; I trust, also, that, like searching God. Many of the hearers himself, they close their eyes, in are probably in the meantime staring order that they may more effectually about, as if the worship were no impress on their minds the solemn concern of theirs, or at the best just consciousness of the presence of the thinking what an eloquent prayer it Infinite Being they are invoking, is! Let us put an end to this and may shield themselves from all irreverence, brethren. Let us learn, such wandering thoughts as might let us resolve, to “lift up our hands enter by the eye-those miserable with our hearts to God in the heaven.” inward distractions which we have
In the congregation to which I all great reason both to fear and to have the happiness of statedly deplore, to bewail for the past, and ministering, a custom prevails, which to deprecate for time to come.
MEMOIR OF MR. J. BAILEY, WOODHOUSE EAVES,
If the righteous shall be “ in ever- Owing to losses, and other adverse lasting remembrance," and " the circumstances, his parents were unmemory of the just is blessed,” it able to give him any education, so seems but meet and right that some that in every sense he was a selfrecord should be preserved of one made man. Before even he was who, for more than half a century, eight years old he was no stranger so faithfully “served his genera- to daily toil, but when ever he retion.” If, however, we were to fol- ferred to the struggles of his early low the desires and inclinations of life, it was never in a complaining him who rests from his labours, not spirit; for he was ever ready to a single line would ever be written. acknowledge the good hand of God It is only in deference to the re- in the trials of his early as well as peated requests of his numerous his later life. friends that we have consented to We much regret that we cannot prepare this sketch of his life. give, a definite account of his con
The late Joshua Bailey was born version, as we have been unable to in Manchester on July 10th, 1790. find any memorandum of this imHis early days were spent in Lough- portant change. He received, we borough; and amongst the com- believe, his first religious imprespanions of his childhood were the sions from a brother, but his mother, late Dr. Yates, the eminent linguist, who was a woman of piety and inof Calcutta, and the Rev. J. Wallis, telligence, exercised considerable intutor of the College at Leicester. fluence over him. We have heard