|Professor John Williamson Nevin (1803-1866)|
"The Anxious Bench" by John Williamson Nevin (1803-1866). A few notes about Nevin, prior to posting excerpts from his book. Nevin was reared as a Presbyterian. He graduated from Union College (1821), studied theology at Princeton Theological Seminary (1823-1828). He studied under the infamous and magnificent Charles Hodge (1826-1828). Nevin was professor of Biblical literature at Western Theological Seminary (now Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) from 1830-1840. In 1840, he resigned his chair and taught in the (German Reformed) Theological Seminary at Mercersburg, PA. "The Anxious Bench—A Tract for the Times" was written in 1843. In it, he attack the excesses of revivalistic methods then gaining cross-denominational influence. Dr. Nevin was also a co-labourer alongside one of America's premier historian, Dr. Philip Schaff (e.g. the three-volume Creeds of Christendom and the eight-volume History of the Christian Church, both "must reads").
Some excerpts from Dr. Nevin's "The Anxious Bench" in quotation marks, with emphasis added in italics, with sundry comments outside the quotation marks.
Truly, the Finneyite system and Anabaptification of American churches has curved in on itself, as source of their own embarrassment.
"With the reproaches that have been showered upo/ me personally, in different quarters, I have not a I lowed myself to be much disturbed. I had looked foi it all beforehand ; knowing well the spirit of the system, with which I was called to deal. I knew o) course, that I should be calumniated as an enemy to revivals, and an opposer of vital godliness. But I felt satisfied at the same time, that the calumny would in due season correct itself, and recoil with disgrace on the heads of those from whom it might proceed. It has begun to do so already, and will continue to do so, no doubt, more and more."
Reformation Churches would oppose the anxious bench, altar calls like Billy Graham's, and the mechanistic gimmickry of Anabaptistic and Pentecostalist evangelicals, said to include, but not limited to: Rick Warren, TBN, etc.
"It is with a very bad grace, that reference is made occasionally by some, to the idea of a foreign spirit in the tract, as related to the German Churches. It is in full sympathy with the true life of these Churches, as it stood in the beginning. The charge of seeking to force a foreign spirit on them, lies with clear right against the other side. The system of New Measures has no affinity whatever, with the life of the Reformation, as embodied in the Augsburgh Confession and the Heidelbergh Catechism. It could not have found any favor in the eyes of Zuingli or Calvin. Luther would have denounced it, in the most unmerciful terms. His soul was too large, too deep, too free, to hold communion with a style of religion so mechanical and shallow."
Almost prophetic, namely, that the Revivalist "Anxious Bench" proceeds where ignorance rules and is a fertile ground for the Anabaptification and Pentecostalification of the gullible. Our sense is that this prevailed more largely in the U.S. than in England.
"The general mind unhappily has not been furnished thus far with proper protection and guidance, in the way of full religious teaching ; and the result is that in these interesting circumstances it has become exposed more or less, at almost every point, to those wild fanatical influences, which in this country are sure to come in like a desolating flood wherever they can find room. Upstart sects have set themselves to take possession if possible of the entire field in this way, on the principle that the old organizations are corrupt and deserve to be destroyed. Their reliance of course in this work of reformation, is placed largely on New Measures! Thus a whole Babel of extravagance has been let loose upon the community, far and wide, in the name of religion, one sect vieing with another in the measure of its irregularities."
The enthusiasts, Methodo-Anabaptifiers and Pentecostaholics, on Nevin's view, predictably produce doctrinal falseness, shallowness and non-accountability.
"No account is made comparatively, of the danger of bringing both the truth and power of God into discredit, by countenancing pretensions to the name of a revival where the thing itself is not present. The danger itself is by no means imaginary. Spurious excitements are natural and common. Gross irregularity and extravagance, carried often to the point of downright profanity, are actually at work, in connection with such excitements, on all sides. The whole interest of revivals is endangered, by the assumption impudently put forward, that these revolting excesses belong to the system. False and ruinous views of religion, are widely disseminated."
Pentecostalism, one direct fruit of the gimmick-meisters of extravagance, rant, noise and disorder. "Justified by feeling" is a choice phrase below.
"If Finneyism and Winebrennerism, the anxious bench, revival machinery, solemn tricks for effect, decision displays at the bidding of the preacher, genuflections and prostrations in the aisle or around the altar, noise and disorder, extravagance and rant, mechanical conversions...justification by feeling rather than faith, and encouragement ministered to all fanatical impressions ; if these things, and things in the same line indefinitely, have no connection in fact with true serious religion and the cause of revivals, but tend only to bring them into discredit, let the fact be openly proclaimed."
I recently attended a Pentecostalist hothouse. See: http://reformationanglicanism.blogspot.com/2011/05/my-recent-experience-in-pentecostalist.html Quite in keeping with that experience, Nevin rightly claims:
"It is a popish maxim, by which ignorance is made to be the mother of devotion."
Luther strongly resisted the Enthusiasts and wild Phrygian Montanists in Germany; Calvin did also. Cranmer also resisted them...so should we today.
|Old snake-eyes himself, Charles Finney (1792-1875)|