In the late 1700’s there was something called the “mourner’s bench.” An altar call would be given, and people who desired to become Christians would come down front to a bench at the front and pray until they “felt” saved. They would be seeking a “strange warming of the heart” as they called it. Unfortunately, many people prayed and prayed and prayed and still never felt this movement of God’s Spirit in their hearts. Some became so inconsolable by this that they committed suicide.
In 1835 a great evangelist by the name of Charles Finney emerged and changed his approach to the mourner’s bench, renaming it the “anxious seat”. In his book “Revivals of Religion” (1868) he wrote:
“The church has always felt it necessary to have something of this kind to answer this very purpose. In the days of the apostles, baptism answered this purpose. The gospel preached to the people, and then all those who were willing to be on the side of Christ were called out to be baptized. It (baptism) held the precise place that the anxious seat does now as a public manifestation of their determination to be Christians.” (Russell E. Boatman “The Mourner’s Bench” The Kentucky Evangel, Glasgow KY)