This article appeared years ago in "News & Truths." Its truth is still needed today.
Evils of the Mourner’s Bench
By H. Boyce Taylor, Sr.
QUESTIONS FROM A "MOURNER'S BENCH-ITE"
1. Can an accountable sinner be saved without hearing, looking, reasoning, yielding, turning, forsaking, coming, seeking, praying, sorrowing, repenting or believing?
2. If so, please name the ones that can be left out?
3. Isn't Godly sorrow mourning?
4. Isn't it an altar of prayer and a mourner's bench wherever the sinner prays and mourns?
5. If the altar work, including the mourner's bench, is salvation by works, why do Campbellites fight it so hard?
6. Do Catholics have revivals and use the mourner's bench?
7. Isn't it fact that you have been inviting sinners forward for prayer in your own church?
1. In the first question the querist has "yielding" and "seeking" as if they were synonymous. If a man is yielding he isn't seeking. Yet the querist puts yielding before seeking. That is like a Campbellite putting faith before repentance. That is a sample of his legalism and reveals that his whole system is based on the energy of the flesh and not on the power of the Spirit. Was Paul seeking Christ when he was found by Christ on the road to Damascus? Do those who are born again seek Christ or does Christ seek them and they yield to Him? The Bible says: "I was found of them that sought Me not" and that has special reference to the Gentiles - the very folk to whom these questions and answers apply. (See Romans 10:20).
The Gospel of John is the only book in the New Testament that was written to sinners. Most any book in the Bible will tell a sinner how to be saved; but John's Gospel was written especially to folk who were not believers to bring them to believe in Jesus. (John 20:31). In that Gospel the Master puts the emphasis on receiving and believing, not seeking.
2. Godly sorrow is not the kind of mourning you have at a mourner's bench. The kind of mourning you have at the mourner's bench in so-called altar services is the kind that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 7:10, which he calls the sorrow of the world and he says that kind works death. The whole appeal of the mourner's bench is to "feelings," and "feelings" as used and appealed to in altar services are wholly of the flesh; sob-stuff. When Christ is held up before the sinner, the whole appeal is to faith, not feeling, not to the emotions. That is the curse of the "altar" work, so-called. The Bible knows nothing of an "altar" in the New Testament. That is Roman Catholicism. But back to what we started to say. The mourner's bench makes its appeal to the feelings, and when the sinner has wept until he can weep no more and from sheer exhaustion quits, they tell him he's "got it," to get up and tell it. "The last state of that man is worse than the first." He got nothing but a shadow. When Christ lays hold of the sinner and he receives Him, he does not have to be told he's "got it." He knows for himself that Christ is his and his heart is filled with peace and rest and satisfaction.
3. "An altar of prayer and a mourner's bench may be where a sinner prays and mourns," the querist suggests; but when Christ is preached and the sinner receives Jesus, it is neither an "altar of prayer" nor a "mourner's bench." It is heretical to talk of an "altar of prayer." It is penance instead of repentance to talk of a "mourner's bench."
There are two words for "altar" in the New Testament. One refers to the heathen altar spoken of in Acts 17:23. The other is found 23 times in the New Testament. Twenty-two out of the 23 times it is used in the New Testament, it refers to the altar in the temple or in heaven and when the temple veil was rent from top to bottom, everything connected with that altar in the temple was done away with. The only instance in the New Testament where the word "altar" refers to believers is Hebrews 13:10. There it refers to eating. There is not in the New Testament anything that looks like an altar of prayer. All the talk about "an altar of prayer" is Romish and ritualistic.
4. His sixth question wants to know why Campbellites fight "altar work," if "altar work" is a species of salvation by works. For exactly the same reason they fight the Jews and the Mormons and the Holy Rollers and the balance of the heretics, who teach salvation by works.
5. Roman Catholics have what they call revivals. They call them missions. Roman Catholics teach penance instead of repentance. Roman Catholics teach "seeking" and go on for years seeking peace and not finding it, just like the "mourner's bench" folk. Martin Luther sought it from all his higher officials in the Roman Catholic Church but the burden got heavier instead of rolling away. Finally he went to Rome. The Pope told him to ascend the steps of the Vatican so many times a day on his knees and stop on each step and say a prayer and that if he would so this so many days he would find peace. One day this Scripture was brought to his remembrance: "The just shall live by faith." Right there he received Jesus and went back to Germany to make Europe and the world tremble because of his mighty polemic in favor of justification by faith. The "mourner's bench" crowd go through the same process that Luther did, when he was seeking peace in Rome. If they ever get the relief that Luther got, they will go to work on the unconverted members and preachers in their churches like Luther did in his.
6. His last question misses the mark as far as the others. I never talk of a "mourner's bench" and an "altar of prayer." I do not even invite men to come to be prayed for. I do sometimes invite inquirers to come to the front for instruction. Then I take time to tell what the Bible means by repentance and go over it again and again, because of the radical misconception many folk have that tears and prayers constitute repentance. I learned my lesson many years ago. I aided in a meeting at Flint. I was a young preacher. We had 60 odd additions and a big baptizing. That hot-air, high-pressure meeting practically killed the Flint church in time. I have confessed my sin many times; but that has not put life back into the church nor has it opened the blinded eyes of those who got into the church during that meeting. Some of them are already in hell. "By their fruits ye shall know them." So much for the questions. But that isn't all.
The querist does not ask about this. But while we are on the subject we want to call attention to "The Evils of the Mourner's Bench."
1. It magnifies a bench or "altar," instead of magnifying Christ. There isn't an instance in the New Testament of an "altar of prayer." The Holy Spirit knew all things and He tells of folk being saved everywhere except at a "mourner's bench."
2. The "mourner's bench" puts mother or wife or a preacher as a mediator between the sinner and Christ. It is as bad as Roman Catholicism. The Bible says there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. The “ ____ in Answer to Her Prayer," has damned thousands; it has led them to go out into eternity depending on mother's prayers to save them instead of depending on Christ. All so-called conversions that are worked up by feelings and sob-stuff are -spurious. No man is saved except by the truth. "If the truth shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." The mediation of Christ, not the prayers of mother, is what saves lost sinners. God has respect to Christ and His intercession and to nothing else.
3. The first parable the Master gave was the parable of the sower. Only one out of the four hearers was saved. The wayside hearer, the thorny-ground hearer, the stony-ground hearer were all lost. The good-ground hearer was saved and he alone. Men and women whose main stock in trade is dying testimonies and pathetic stories damn many and do not save any. Philip took time to teach the eunuch until he understood the Scripture. That is how men are saved. Understanding the Word is essential to the salvation of any sinner. The average song, "Tell Mother I'll Be There" - "mourner's bench" is a regular babel or bedlam. Even an honest inquirer cannot understand anything in a confusion like that.
4. The contention of the "mourner's bench" crowd is that it takes tears to save. It isn't so. The publican, the thief, the woman at the well, Saul of Tarsus, Matthew and a host of others shed no tears. Faith saves, not tears. Weeping will not save. The water that runs out of a sinner's eyes will no more save him than the waters of baptism.
5. The gospel that saves is a gospel of grace. The gospel of tears is as truly the gospel in water as the Campbellite gospel, which they call the gospel of water. Neither one of them ever did or ever will save a lost sinner.
6. The "mourner's bench" magnifies seeking Christ instead of receiving Christ. Christ is seeking the sinner. The whole "mourner's bench" theory is wrong. Christ's work is a finished work and the preacher is Christ's representative, beseeching the sinner to trust Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21. What would you think if you had provided a sumptuous feast and announced that all things are ready and invited whosoever will to come, and some one should begin to mourn and wail and run around seeking and begging something to eat? The whole "mourner's bench" system is a slander of the finished work of Christ.
7. The "mourner's bench" belongs to a gospel of works and has the idea that a man has to seek and do penance and get better, and then when he gets good enough, he may finally get the Lord Jesus in the notion of saving him. It is a gratuitous slander of God's free and abounding grace.
8. The "mourner's bench" is another gospel from that Paul preached. Galatians 1:6-8, 2 Corinthians 11:2-3. Paul preached Christ's finished work; they plus the work of Christ with man's prayers and tears and penance and works.
9. The "mourner's bench" gospel is Arminian and not Pauline. The mourner's bench came from Methodism, not from the Bible.
10. "Mourner's bench" gospel is wholly a gospel of "confidence in the, flesh." The feelings belong to the flesh. Paul "had no confidence in the flesh," but depended wholly on the Spirit, not on feelings.
11. The "mourner's bench" gospel is no gospel. The gospel is received by faith, not by feeling. Justification is by faith, not by feeling. Sanctification is by faith, not by feeling. Eternal life is received by faith, not by feeling. Pardon is received by faith, not by feeling. Sonship is by faith, not by feeling. No man would ever know he had the blood except by believing the Word. "Faith comes by hearing (not by feeling) and hearing by the Word of God."
12. The "mourner's bench" manipulators and the Campbellites are exactly alike in a good many ways. One of the chief ways in which they are alike is that both of them make salvation to depend upon some bodily act. The bodily act the "mourner's bench" folk depend upon is not baptism like Campbellites, but it is kneeling or shaking or waving hands or beating them on the back or some other bodily act. I have heard them again and again come out in the open and tell those engaged in altar work to get them up and get them to doing something. That makes salvation depend on the activity of the body. Salvation is wholly of the Lord and men are saved by believing with the heart, not by bodily acts.
13. Talking about altars, Roman Catholics have altars, Episcopalians have altars, Methodists have altars, the Masons have altars, the heathen idolaters have altars, Holy Rollers have altars; but there are no altars in New Testament churches. A throne of grace, not an "altar of prayer," is the Bible form of sound words. All who speak of an "altar of prayer" put works of the flesh somewhere, somehow in the place of the finished work of Christ. Altars belong to ritualists and formalists. They speak the language of Judaism, not of Calvary. When Jesus cried "it is finished" and the temple veil was rent from top to bottom, every thing that an altar typified was fulfilled. The Book of Hebrews was full proof of that. The only time an altar is spoken of in New Testament worship is Hebrews 13:10. There it is spoken of as a place to eat, not a place to pray. The Lord's Supper represents all altar work as finished and belonging to Old Testament types and shadows. Altar work was a shadow, and in Colossians 2:13-17 Paul shows all shadows had been done away. Paul plainly says in Hebrews 13:10 that all who do altar work have no right to the Lord's table. Altar work belongs to types and shadows and so had to do with the unfinished work of Christ. The Lord's Supper symbolized the finished work of Christ and that meant all altar work was dead.
14. The "mourner's bench" legalists, like the Baalites in Elijah's day, think that they are heard for their noise. "Cry louder" is their call, wave your hands and say 'glory.' Make more fuss. Beat them on back; perhaps the demons may be driven out that way. God pity such perversions of the gospel of grace.
In conclusion, may I give one more testimony to the finished work of my adorable Lord? Preach Jesus and His finished work if you want men saved. The Holy Spirit delights to honor Jesus as we hold Him up. Anywhere that men see and receive Him, they are saved. No sort of manipulations, no "altar," no bench, no hitting the trail, no anything between the soul and Christ. Preach Him and the Spirit will reveal Him. Paul found Him on the road, the thief found Him on the cross, the publican standing in the temple, the woman at the well, Zaccheus up a tree, Matthew at his business, the blindman in the crowd.
[Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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