System of the Catechism — Its theological ground and constitution — Its general methods and forms of action — Historical exemplification.
The system of the bench tends to disorder—Connects itself readily with a vulgar and irreverent style in religion— Women praying in public—Influence unfavorable to deep, earnest piety—Relation of the system to that of the Catechism.
The Bench vindicated on insufficient grounds :—1. As bringing the sinner to a decision;— 2. As involving him in a committal;—3. As giving force to his purpose;— 4. As a penitential discipline;—5. As necessary for the purposes of instruction;—6. As opening the way for prayer.
Action of the Bench—It creates a false issue for the conscience— Unsettles true seriousness—Usurps the place of the Cross—Results in widespread, lasting spiritual mischief.
Nature of Quackery— To rely on forms or measures shows inward weakness— “New Measures” a substitute for true strength— Where they are in honor, ample space is found for novices and quacks.
The merits of the Anxious Bench not to be measured by its popularity; nor by its seeming success—Circumstances in which it is found to prevail—No spiritual force required to give it effect
Design of the Tract—Occasion for inquiry—Importance and solemnity of the subject
Yes, I've begun a podcast in which I'll simply be reading chapters of The Anxious Bench by the Rev. John Williamson Nevin. Why? Well, way back at the end of the (so-called) Second Great Awakening, Nevin looked around at how the methods of the revivalists were creeping into even his small denomination, the German Reformed Church. He wrote this tract against not simply the "anxious bench" but the entire system it represented, calling the Church back to what he called the "catechism," or the older system of disciple-making.
I've been very concerned for years about the fruit revivalism has borne in the circles in which I work, and in our society in general. I've thought The Anxious Bench should become required reading for everyone involved in the leading of worship services in the Church. It's a hard read, both in Nevin's style and content. You'll find it challenging in both ways but I'm making it easy. I hope you enjoy it.