Bishop Francis Atterbury John (1662-1732)
From 18th Century Literary Anecdotes

IN 1715 I dined with the Duke of Ormonde at Richmond.... During the dinner there was a jocular dispute (I forget how it was introduced) concerning short prayers. Sir William Wyndham told us that the shortest prayer he had ever heard was the prayer of a common soldier just before the Battle of Blenheim, `O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!' This was followed by a general laugh. I immediately reflected that such a treatment of the subject was too ludicrous, at least very improper, where a learned and religious prelate was one of the company. But I had soon an opportunity of making a different reflection. Atterbury, seeming to join in the conversation, and applying himself to Sir William Wyndham, said:

`Your prayer, Sir William, is indeed very short; but I remember another as short, but a much better, offered up likewise by a poor soldier in the same circumstances: `O God, if in the day of battle I forget thee, do not thou forget me!'

This, as Atterbury pronounced it with his usual grace and dignity, was a very gentle and polite reproof, and was immediately felt by the whole company. And the Duke of Ormonde, who was the best bred man of his age, suddenly turned the discourse to another subject.

From Political and Literary Anecdotes of his own Times. By Dr. William King, Principal of St. Mary's Hall, Oxon. (1819), pp. 7-9.

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