Speaking with Tongues.

A Present-day Delusion.
W. J. Hocking.


The following pages were written to help, if the Lord should be pleased to honour the imperfect effort, some who have been attracted by the specious claims of certain persons to spiritual manifestations in this twentieth century of the same nature and degree as those attributed to the Holy Spirit in the first century. It was of the utmost importance to examine these startling claims in the light of Holy Scripture, and the attempt to do so is submitted to the prayerful consideration of those interested in the subject.

Some of our readers may be unaware that similar pretensions were made in London nearly a hundred years ago by Edward Irving and his followers, the founders of the Catholic Apostolic Body. That movement began with utterances in tongues, which were said to be directly of God. It proceeded to appropriate all the gifts and functions of the early church, claiming the revival of apostles, prophets, angels, etc., and ended by the promulgation of blasphemous doctrine concerning the Person of our Lord.

One Robert Baxter, a “gifted” person among them, was mercifully delivered from the destructive snare. He wrote a long and detailed account of his experiences. The following quotation from his “Narrative of Facts” describes how the power came upon him on one occasion, and affords a typical instance of the delusion: —

“By a constraint I cannot describe, I was made to speak — at the same time shrinking from utterance and yet rejoicing in it. The utterance was a prayer that the Lord would have mercy upon me, and deliver me from fleshly weakness, and would graciously bestow upon me the gifts of His Spirit, the gift of wisdom, the gift of knowledge, the gift of faith, the working of miracles, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; and that He would open my mouth and give me strength to declare His glory. This prayer, short almost as I have now penned it, was forced from me by the constraint of the power which acted upon me; and the utterance was so loud that I put my handkerchief to my mouth to stop the sound that I might not alarm the house.”

He says further that “an unnatural and in many cases a most appalling utterance was given to me.” For a time Robert Baxter thought this was of God, but he eventually discovered to his shame that he had been under the power of the great enemy of Christ.

Similar experiences of an uncontrollable power occur in connection with the more modern Tongues movement. Sir Robert Anderson records the testimony of one of the leaders of the movement in India. He relates his first experience of the impulse, for which he praises God!

“For the first time I knelt at the altar on Sunday afternoon, March 17, the power began to seize me, and I laughed all through the following communion service. In the evening, about 11 p.m… after some little waiting I began to laugh, or rather my body was used to laugh with increasing power until I was flat on my back, laughing at the top of my voice for over half an hour.”*

{*“Spirit Manifestations, and the 'Gift of Tongues,'” by Sir Robert Anderson.}

We add another instance cited by Miss Ada Habershon. This was a well-authenticated case of a Christian lady, deluded by the Tongues movement. She heard voices in the night, and imagined that she had become a prophetess. In 1907 she was recovered and separated herself from the association, warning others of its evil. Alas, she suffered a relapse, and then she undoubtedly became demon-possessed, as the following evidence, furnished by cautious investigators, shows:-

“The demoniacal manifestations consisted chiefly in fearful contortions of her body and its members … and distortion of her features. The organs of speech would not only be used intelligibly, but also in uncanny hissings, whinings and groanings. Awful blasphemies would be hurled against heaven, while the fists would be clenched.”*

{*“The Strong Man Spoiled: The 'Self-Exposure of so-called “Pentecost” Spirits,'” by Ada R. Habershon.}

Happily the lady was again delivered from her fearful condition to warn others still more vigorously than before of the terrible risk of tampering with spiritual manifestations, which, while they often begin with an aspect of piety, often lead on the unwary to open blasphemy, of which she herself was an instance.

The claim of one gift of apostolic days led, in the case of the Irvingites, to the claim of the possession of all the gifts. And the following extract from a periodical now circulating among the adherents of the Tongues heterodoxy displays a similar tendency to rapid development. It shows how those who once venture upon the slippery slope of declension from God's revealed truth are speedily precipitated into the abyss of error, from which few, if any, are reclaimed.

As we read the following boastful extract, we cannot but ask ourselves, Where is this movement likely to end?

“Interpretation is present, prophecy is being bestowed, discerning of spirits is in operation, miracles are not unknown, gifts of healing are in the midst, and of others there are the buds of promise. We frankly admit that they are present in many cases in embryo, but whereas they were unknown absolutely before tongues came, they are in more or less operation now. The need to go on to perfection is agreed upon at once, but as far as He can, the Holy Ghost is bringing the gifts back in the train of the tongues. Ten years ago Acts 19 was a blank to some of us. Today we can affirm that it has all been enacted in the sphere of our immediate knowledge. Hallelujah!”§

{§“Things New and Old,” Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 5(August, 1921).}

These words seem to be an echo of the vain-glorious speech of Laodicea: “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17), and they will surely meet a like judgment from the Lord of the churches in the day of Christ. Meanwhile, they recall the maxims of the wise man: “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.” “Whoso boasts himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain” (Prov. 20:6; Prov. 25:14).

16th August, 1922.

Speaking with Tongues.

A Present-day Delusion.

“Love never fails; but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8, R.V.).

Great pretensions are being made by persons in some directions to the possession of the Holy Spirit in a special manner, and they seek to support their pretensions by claiming the ability to speak with tongues as was done in the early church. We are exhorted to prove all things, and the assembly at Ephesus was commended by the Lord in that they had tried those who called themselves apostles and had found them false (1 Thess. 5:21; Rev. 2:2). It is proposed therefore to subject these modern claims to a brief examination in the light of Holy Scripture.

In the first place, it may be well to state what is an undoubted fact, and what must be accepted as a painful and humiliating truth. An outstanding sin of the present times is the unbelieving neglect of the personal presence of the Spirit of God in the church in that sense in which He became present at Pentecost and in which He was not present in the world prior to Pentecost (John 7:39; Acts 19:2, R.V.). Even as the Son of God was ignored and despised when He visited His people, so the Holy Spirit of God is ignored and despised in Christendom today.

Further, it must be admitted with additional shame that many of those who profess belief in the present indwelling of the Spirit in the believer and also in the church do not habitually nor often submit themselves to His leading and to His manifold operations in that degree which would be most glorifying to God and most useful to themselves and to others through them.

While, however, this widespread failure to recognize the gift of the Spirit is true to a deplorable extent and calls for confession and reformation, it is needful to learn from the scripture itself what are the true marks of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. There are both the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error, and caution and discrimination are necessary. The apostle John wrote to the whole family of God, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We are therefore warranted in making our test of this assumption of modern times. And we accordingly ask whether there is any just ground for believing that the full operation of the Holy Spirit is invariably accompanied by the gift of tongues, or for believing that speaking with tongues constitutes the sole, or even the principal, proof of His presence and unfettered action in an individual? We believe that on examination it will be found that there is no scriptural ground for such a conclusion. On the contrary, the Epistles of the New Testament combine to teach us that the operations of the Spirit of God in the midst of the church are directed to produce in the saints a moral and spiritual conformity to Christ. It is by the activity of the Spirit of the Lord that we are changed into the image of Christ from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18). His fruit in us is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; but in that list signs of outward power are not included (Gal. 5:22-23). We do not learn that the Spirit of God enables the saints generally to utter diverse kinds of tongues, but we do learn that He makes intercession for them with groanings which cannot be uttered (Rom. 8:26).

But we will at once turn to the scripture itself, for it is proposed in this short enquiry to examine the various references given therein to the practice of speaking with tongues at the beginning of the church's existence with the view of ascertaining whether there is any warrant whatever for expecting manifestations of such a power at the present time.

On examination we find that the miracle of tongues is mentioned by three only of the writers of the New Testament, viz.: —
Mark in his Gospel (Mark 16:17);
Luke in the Acts (Acts 2:4, 6, 11; Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6);
3) Paul in one of his Epistles (1 Cor. 12 — 14).

When these passages are read we gather that each writer has written of tongues from a distinct standpoint, and that the main subject of each of the three passages is as follows: —

(1) Mark records the Lord's promise that this gift of tongues should be bestowed after His ascension;

(2) Luke narrates the historical fulfilment of the Lord's promise in three striking instances which took place in Jerusalem, in Caesarea, and in Ephesus respectively;

(3) Paul gives important principles of truth which shed divine light upon the use and abuse of the gift of tongues.

(1). The Testimony of Mark

We now proceed to consider these three passages in the order named. At the close of his Gospel, Mark relates the terms of the commission given to the apostles by the Lord Jesus immediately before He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. This allusion to be understood must be considered in connection with the scheme of the Second Gospel, which presents Christ as the Perfect Servant. The Servant of Jehovah was about to leave the sphere of His labours on earth, and He deputed these servants to carry on the work for which He had previously called them to Himself. From this same Gospel we learn what was the nature of their work (Mark 3:14-15). At their original appointment, the twelve were set apart by the Lord —
(1) to be with Him;
(2) to be sent forth to preach;
(3) to have power to heal sicknesses; and
(4) to cast out demons.

In accordance with this calling, the Lord in due course during His own ministry sent out the apostolic band, two and two, into the cities of Israel to preach that men should repent. They went out therefore and preached, and in virtue of the power given to them they cast out many demons in the name of Christ, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them (Mark 6:7-13). The signs given accompanied and confirmed the word preached.

Now at the Lord's departure out of the world, these servants received from Him fresh instructions, which had a wider scope than the previous ones. They were now bidden to go out beyond Judea and Galilee into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believed and was baptized should be saved, and he that disbelieved should be condemned (Mark 16:15-16). Such a task was a far greater one than anything that had previously been assigned to them, and how would they be able to undertake such an increased responsibility, particularly as it appeared to them that they were about to be deprived of the presence of their Lord and Master to whom they had been accustomed to bring their difficulties and failures in service?

In order to dispel any such fears, the servants of Christ, we read, were encouraged to go forward in their future service fortified by the assurance that the power attending their labours would in no wise be diminished by the Lord's own absence. In His words of assurance which Mark records, the Lord declared that exhibitions of power which accompanied their preaching at the first when He was with them would be renewed and amplified when He had Himself gone on high. Formerly, their words were associated with the gifts of healing and exorcism, but after the ascension of Christ, these signs would be granted with greater fulness and variety. The Lord said, “These signs shall follow them that believe:
(1) in My name shall they cast out demons;
(2) they shall speak with new tongues;
(3) they shall take up serpents;
(4) and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them;
(5) they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18).

It will be noted that three fresh signs in connection with apostolic service are named in this list, viz. — speaking with tongues, power over serpents (cp. Isa. 11:8), and immunity from poison.

The suitability of such endowments made to these worldwide missionaries is apparent. The redeemed to God by the blood of the Lamb were in future to be sought in every kindred and tongue and people and nation (Rev. 5:9), and the servants for preaching of such varied scope were empowered to speak with new tongues. The effect of this gift in expediting the spread of the gospel message was marvellous. In about thirty years the gospel had spread to all quarters of the known world (Col. 1:6).

In their labours they would encounter the antagonism of a world under the power of Satan, that old serpent, but He that was in them would be greater than he that was in the world (1 John 4:4). See the case of literal protection in the incident of Paul and the viper (Acts 28:1-6). Further, the enemies of the gospel would unscrupulously seek the lives of the preachers, but the Lord promised that they would be safe until their hour had come and their work finished, even when the most subtle means, that of poison, for instance, was employed.

But we need not even consult the later part of the New Testament to find a record of the fulfilment of this promise. Mark does not close his Gospel without recording it in a summary manner: “And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20, R.V.).

What then do we learn regarding the gift of tongues from this brief testimony by Mark? We learn therefrom that speaking with new tongues was one of five special sign-gifts which, as the Lord promised the apostles, should follow their service as vouchers of the divine character of the gospel proclamation.

The gospel of salvation through a crucified and ascended Christ was a new thing in the earth, and God was pleased to corroborate this announcement of His great salvation by outward signs of a public nature so that the hearers of the apostolic message might have no legitimate excuse for disbelief and refusal to accept its offers. Miracles were introduced in connection with special divine messages for a similar purpose in former times. This, for instance, was the case when Moses was sent from Midian to the people of Israel in the land of Egypt (Ex. 4). Moses had raised objection to this service, and said, “They will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice: for they will say, the LORD has not appeared to thee.” Thereupon Jehovah gave Moses three signs which he was to perform in presence of the people — his rod becoming a serpent, his hand becoming leprous, and the Nile water becoming blood. These signs were given to remove all occasion of unbelief from the Israelites in the promise of their speedy deliverance from the house of bondage.

John the Baptist might seem to be an exception to this rule. He did no miracle, and his testimony was unaccompanied by signs. But it must be remembered that his prophecy as the forerunner was that the Messiah was at hand, and the validity of his witness was established by the appearance of the Lamb of God before the eyes of his audience in the presence of the prophet himself at Jordan. No sign-gifts were needed therefore in this case.

When, however, the Lord Jesus entered upon His public ministry, and He preached the gospel of a kingdom which was not of this world, signs were given in confirmation of the word; the things that men heard were corroborated by the things seen. Accordingly, when doubts of the Messiahship of Jesus assailed the imprisoned Baptist, the Lord reminded him of this substantiation of His gospel. “Tell John,” He said to the messengers, “the things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them. And blessed is he whosoever shall find none occasion of stumbling in Me” (Matt. 11:4-6, R.V.).

Thus we see that confirmatory signs were given in conjunction with our Lord's own preaching, and in like manner we find that signs followed the ministry of the servants of Christ after Pentecost. The argument of the apostle in the Epistle of the Hebrews to show his readers the seriousness of neglecting or despising the word of the gospel is based upon this fact. He says, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord was confirmed to us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3-5, R.V.). The miracles and signs, the existence of which was indisputable, established the authenticity of the new preaching, and made the position of those who rejected it indefensible. The gift of tongues was of course included with the signs to which the apostle refers.

Now, it cannot be gainsaid that tongues (to speak now of this sign alone) were given at the beginning to verify the divine origin of the word of the gospel which was preached everywhere by the apostles and prophets, and which was the means used by the Holy Ghost in the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). Such vouchers were essential at the beginning before the word of God was committed to writing, and before its life-giving subjects were expressed in unchangeable terms once for all by the pen of inspiration. Before the Gospels and Epistles were written, the addresses of preachers delivered in various parts, such as Cappadocia, Pisidia, Macedonia, Italy, etc., were, in the wisdom of God, confirmed by the appointed signs. And only when the pure unadulterated word of Christ was preached would the preaching be guaranteed by the Holy Ghost. Thus the only gospel was safeguarded in its world-wide distribution. Men everywhere heard and received and believed the new tidings which came to them with an authority equalled only by the Old Testament scripture though the message was verbal only and not then in a written form. Those who were duped and blinded by the god of this world and disbelieved the preaching were condemned in their rejection, and by reason of the supernatural signs they had no excuse for their refusal.

The gift of tongues therefore served the purpose for which it was given in the early days of Christianity, but we have now to inquire what warrant there is, if any, in the testimony of Mark to expect the continuance of this supernatural manifestation. And after the closest scrutiny not a single word can be found in these verses which even hints of such a thing. Nothing at all implies that such signs as are mentioned would continue to accompany the preaching until the end of the age.

The commission recorded by Matthew differs in this respect from Mark. The First Gospel looks to the end, and we have the distinct command by the Lord that after His ascension the work of making disciples and teaching them was to continue, and this charge is coupled with the promise of the Lord's personal presence with His followers always until the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20). As the work was to be uninterrupted so the Lord would be with them without intermission as long as the present age lasts. Matthew however records nothing whatever about signs — nothing about their beginning nor their continuance. And Mark who mentions that there would be certain attendant signs at the inception of the church period, gives no indication that they were to be a permanent feature in connection with the work of the Lord's servants.

After carefully examining this passage in Mark, we can discover no support for the modern claim to “speak with tongues.” If any should attempt to argue that because the passage does not specify that the tongues were only temporary, we might reasonably conclude that they were a permanent gift, we should reply that such an argument is self-destructive. If tongues were to continue, then we must believe equally that the other signs named along with them were to continue also. Do those who claim to speak with new tongues, cast out demons also? Do they take up serpents? and drink poison? and heal the sick? These five signs were all mentioned by our Lord together as serving, a similar purpose. And an argument founded on this passage for the continuance of one would apply equally to the continuance of all.

As we may gather from the general scheme of scripture, the truth is that in all the successive ages miracles were never more than temporary. They were exceptional events always, and were wrought for some specific purpose. Without the suitable occasion the miracles did not occur. For example, miracles were worked by the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the course of their service, but not by Ezekiel nor Daniel.

Every believer is therefore entitled on scriptural grounds to suspect any persons who at this late day claim to imitate the supernatural powers which were the signs of the apostles and prophets at the beginning of Christianity.

(2). Tongues in Jerusalem, in Caesarea, and in Ephesus.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

Mark records the Lord's promise of the gift of new tongues, and the evangelist associates this gift with His command to the apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15-18). Luke in the Acts records the fulfilment of the promise of tongues, and he there associates that fulfilment with the descent of the Holy Spirit. We find, therefore, from the latter account that, in accordance with the promise of the Father, the Lord Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon His followers at Pentecost, and as a consequence, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

The other signs besides tongues mentioned in Mark 16:17-18, were no doubt bestowed at the same time, since we read, “Many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43).

Further, the sign of tongues was granted to others besides the apostles. The Lord's words to the eleven were: “These signs shall follow them that believe … they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). Luke in the Acts shows the fulfilment of this promise in Caesarea in the case of those who believed through the preaching of Peter, and in Ephesus in the case of those who believed through the preaching of Paul (Acts 10:41-46; Acts 19:15).

(A). In Jerusalem (Acts 2).

The disciples of the Lord were tarrying in Jerusalem, as He had directed them, in order to receive this gift. The Lord had told them, “Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). When therefore the Holy Spirit came upon them, they thereby became competent witnesses; and one form of their newly-received competency was displayed when they began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. They themselves found that there was a power other than their own with their mouths, enabling them to testify to the truth. The Lord had instructed them beforehand that they need not be anxious in this respect. In an early stage of their training He said, “When they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaks in you” (Matt 10:19). At Pentecost the apostles experienced for the first time the power of the Spirit acting in a manner which was in accordance with this early promise of Christ, and which would soon be demonstrated before governors and kings, as well as before the general populace in Jerusalem.

Outward Tokens of the Presence of the Spirit.

On the day of Pentecost proofs of an external nature were granted by God to show that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was then an accomplished fact. There were phenomena of sight and sound, which constituted outward evidence to the disciples themselves. There appeared to them cloven tongues as of fire. Also they heard a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, filling the house where they were sitting. In addition to these audible and visible signs, they commenced to speak with other tongues, proving to one another in their own assembly that they were “filled with the Holy Ghost.”

But these outward proofs of the presence of the Holy Spirit were not only given to the disciples themselves in the private or semi-private upper room where they were assembled, but supernatural signs were also displayed in the streets and public places in Jerusalem, to its inhabitants, and to the multitude of visitors from various parts of the world. The power of the apostles to speak with other tongues was demonstrated in the hearing of the crowds assembled, probably in the temple-courts or in other places of general resort. Such an exhibition of power was astonishing and inexplicable to the audiences. Not that the words of the disciples were unintelligible to their hearers, nor that they spoke gibberish, for it is stated that the import of their speech was understood by those that heard.

The wonder to the multitude of “devout” persons that came together was that, as they listened to the Galilean disciples, “every man heard them speak in his own language [dialect].” “How hear we,” they exclaimed, “every man in our own tongue [dialect], wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:6-8).

These remarks of the multitude indicate that what the people heard was not, as some have supposed, uttered in the upper room itself, where the disciples were assembled at the descent of the Holy Spirit. We find that at least fifteen districts are named (Parthia, etc.) from which representatives were found in the crowd. As some of the districts mentioned covered wide areas of country (cp., “parts of Libya about Cyrene”) it is most likely that more than fifteen dialects were spoken by the disciples and were recognised by the listeners.

Now there is not a word in the record intimating that the multitude of devout persons attracted by the rumour of what had occurred entered the upper room where the disciples gathered for prayer. From the limited character of such accommodation found in those times, it is unlikely that the room would hold many more than the hundred and twenty. The disciples would probably vacate their private meeting place and proceed to the temple-courts for the purpose of public testimony as was customary.

The plain and simple statement of the historian that every man heard in his own dialect the wonderful works of God is proof that there was no confusion arising from several speakers addressing the same audience at once. In the streets on the way to the temple-courts, and in the courts themselves, there would be ample time and opportunity before the third hour of the day (9 a.m.) for the disciples to witness to the wonderful works of God, as indeed we read that they did.

It is important that we should, even at the risk of a charge of repetition, ask our readers to note very carefully the nature of the evidence at this stage. The narrative in Acts 2 clearly indicates that the general public in Jerusalem heard the witnesses of Christ proclaiming their message concerning the “works of God” in a variety of foreign languages and dialects, which the hearers recognised as those with which they had been familiar from their birth. Moreover, they were able to judge that what they heard was not the speech of fools and knaves, but sane utterances by sensible men. The Spirit by whose aid they spoke was, and is, the Spirit of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7), and the “devout” persons who listened said, “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” We can ignore the stupid remark of some enemies of Christ and partisans of the Pharisees and Sadducees who said, “These men are full of new wine.” Its absurdity calls for no serious reply today, since Peter answered the insinuation on the spot.

Clearly, the outstanding fact established by Luke is that a number of persons, assembled in Jerusalem on the occasion of a great Jewish feast from the various quarters of the known world, heard natives of Galilee speaking audibly and intelligibly in diverse languages. Those who heard were mystified by the striking phenomenon, and, while unable to deny the fact of the tongues, they were equally unable to account for it on natural grounds. “What means this?” they said one to another.

Peter's Explanation of the Tongues.

The public explanation of what had taken place that day was made by the apostle Peter, who addressed his remarks specially to the men of Judea and the inhabitants of Jerusalem as those who were directly responsible for the rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah, speaking to His audience, no doubt, in the language commonly used in that city.

Peter showed to them that the gift of tongues might have been anticipated from the Old Testament scriptures. To prove this point, he referred to the prophecy of Joel, which definitely foretold the gift of the Spirit prior to the coming of the day of the Lord. It must be observed, however, that the apostle did not declare that the whole of Joel's prophecy was then fulfilled. Plainly, the wonders in heaven above and the signs in the earth have not even yet come to pass (Acts 2:19). We read below (verse 43) that “many wonders and signs were done by the apostles”; but these were not the ones foretold as “blood and fire and vapour of smoke, the sun being turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” (verses 19, 20); though a promised outpouring of the Spirit did take place in Jerusalem, and the prophecy therefore was to that extent partly fulfilled. This fact the apostle set out to impress upon his listeners. The connection between the apostle's quotation from Joel and the conclusion of his address can be readily traced by the word “poured” which occurs in verses 17, 18 and 33, only it must be noted that in the last instance the word is translated “shed” in the Authorised Version. In the Revised Version we read, “Being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He has poured forth this which ye see and hear.”

The effect of the testimony rendered on the day of Pentecost, by Peter mainly, but possibly by others also, was that many (about three thousand) were brought into the company of believers. But this effect was because the word spoken and received was the incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23-25), not because it was uttered by the preacher in a tongue new to him, and which he had not acquired through the ordinary channels of learning a language.* The living and energetic word of God awakened sleeping consciences, but the fact that the speeches were delivered in other tongues awakened surprise and wonder only in the hearers (Acts 2:7), and without converting, left the great mass in Jerusalem more hardened than ever in their unbelieving hatred of the Messiah whom they crucified but whom God had exalted to His right hand.

{*There is no reason to suppose that Peter spoke in a “tongue” the address recorded in Acts 2:14-36. But others earlier in the day had spoken in tongues, as is plainly stated in the preceding verses.}

Since the confusion of language which Jehovah inflicted upon men in the plain of Shinar shortly after the deluge (Gen. 11:1-9), free intercourse among nations was impeded on that account to that extent. And the existence of so many diverse tongues in the earth in the time of the apostles constituted a serious hindrance to the easy and speedy execution of their commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. But at the outset these servants of the Lord were shown that this difficulty was as nothing when met by the energy of the Spirit of God. He was able in a moment to endow the disciples with the power of addressing men in their native dialect concerning the  “wonderful works of God.” Thus in that one Pentecostal day, there was an open demonstration in Jerusalem of the operation of the gospel scheme whereby the news of salvation was to be carried quickly to the ends of the earth. It was shown that He who made man's mouth could tame the tongue, that unruly member which no man can tame, and as its Lord use it to speak the words of life to men in their diverse dialects.

Moreover, the fact that the dew of the Spirit fell upon the fleece and not upon the ground was a warning sign to the nation of the Jews. Truly those who were filled with the Holy Spirit were Jews, but they were exclusively those Jews who had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The mass of the earthly people who did not believe were excepted. They heard as it were the sound of the blowing wind, but they knew not whence it came nor whither it went. The Holy Spirit was the seal of God put upon those who were Christ's. He passed by the priestly families, the elders and the scribes, and came upon the few believers praying together in the upper room. Their power of supernatural speech was the instant and undeniable evidence rendered in Jerusalem that the Promised One had come upon the Nazarenes.

It must not be lost sight of in this inquiry that the gift of tongues, along with other miraculous signs, was given at the beginning in order to establish the authenticity of the messengers and the message of grace as coming from God, as they professed to do. The “works” of Christ's servants showed that God the Holy Spirit was with them. The Lord Himself said, “The works that I do bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me,” and again, “Believe Me for the very works' sake” (John 5:36; John 14:11).

The various signs wrought by the apostles established the presence of a new thing in the earth, whether men believed it or not. They could not deny the existence of the diverse tongues, though they refused to accept what the new tongues declared. And these supernatural signs were found with the followers of the crucified Nazarene, and not with the accredited representatives of the Jewish nation. Men were made to see that Israel was no longer the servant of the Lord, but that His testimony was now committed to the confessors of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for widespread distribution. The law was given at Sinai in one tongue, for it was restricted to one people, but the gospel of the glorified Lord and Christ was on the very day of its inauguration set out in many tongues, for, in contrast with the law, it was to be declared to every nation under heaven without restriction or qualification for every man's acceptance.

It is impossible, however, to discover in this second chapter of the Acts any suggestion that there would be a continuance of these miraculous signs in the assembly to the present time. No believer would question that such a thing is impossible, for “with God all things are possible.” This is a fundamental and unchanging truth. But we must inquire, not what God can do, but whether the revelation of His ways warrants us to believe that He will do a certain thing. In this case, we find no such evidence, but we do find that tongues with other signs marked the commencement of a new era which was in sharp contrast with its predecessor. Pentecost initiated the period during which Christ is on high and the Spirit on earth, in which grace succeeds law and faith succeeds works, and in which the overtures of mercy and salvation are extended to the ends of the earth. As soon as the body of the disciples of Christ had assumed its cosmopolitan character, and the gospel had secured believers, and consequently fresh witnesses, throughout the world (Col. 2:6), the need for supernatural signs disappeared, and the display of New Testament miracles appears to have ceased.

(B). In Caesarea (Acts 10).

In this second case we are instructed that the Holy Spirit was given to Cornelius and to those that were with him at Caesarea, and that they thereupon spake with tongues, as the disciples did in Jerusalem at Pentecost. We now proceed to inquire what were the special features, if any, in this instance which warrant the modern claim that the power of tongues is an invariable accompaniment of the possession of the Holy Ghost.

It will be at once observed that Cornelius and his kinsmen differed in one very important particulars from those in Jerusalem. The latter were Jews who had known the Lord in the days of His flesh, and who had received from Him personally the promise that He would send the Holy Spirit upon those whom He was leaving behind in the world. But those in Caesarea were Gentiles who had believed on the Lord through the word of the apostle. We read, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46).

In each of the two cases there was a public authentication of the gift of the Holy Ghost by means of the tongues which were bestowed, but the occasions differed. In Jerusalem the persons publicly authorised were preachers and witnesses of Christ, and this gift was known in its exercise not only to the usual dwellers in that city, but to those Jews who had come up from all parts of the Roman world to the headquarters of their religion. In Caesarea, the verification was not of those who did the preaching, but of those who received the preaching.

Hitherto, the gospel had been proclaimed to, and received by, Jews only, the Samaritans (Acts 8), among whom our Lord Himself ministered, being included with the Jews for this purpose. The case now was that of a Roman military officer, who, with his kinsmen and near friends, was in deep exercise of heart and conscience. Officially, Cornelius belonged to the conquerors and oppressors of God's ancient people, nevertheless Peter was specially deputed by the Spirit of God (Acts 10:19-20) to carry to him the knowledge of the forgiveness of his sins through faith in the anointed Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 10:34-43).

This act of Peter was of the highest importance in the history of the church. It was nothing short of the opening, for the first time, of the door of faith to the Gentiles, whereby they were accorded the privileges of grace equally with the Jews. Was such a step of God? and how should it be demonstrated once for all that it was the will of God there should in future be no difference between Jew and Greek? If henceforth converted Romans were to take their places in the assemblies side by side with converted Jews, and if all ancient racial distinctions were for ever obliterated, it was necessary that Peter's preaching to the Gentiles should be duly authenticated in a way that would settle the question for all time. It must be shown by adequate evidence that Cornelius and his friends were accepted of God as confessors of Christ equally with the believing Jews.

Now Luke's history records that while the preaching of Peter was proceeding, God gave the same gift in Caesarea to the Gentile believers as He had done formerly in Jerusalem to the Jewish believers. As God publicly acknowledged the Cornelian company, Peter was thereby empowered to receive them: “Can any man,” he said, “forbid water, that these should not he baptised, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? “And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Now we find that the right of Peter to recognise the small band of Gentile believers in this manner was challenged immediately by the saints. They very properly inquired what was the apostle's authority for so doing: “When Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them” (Acts 11:2-3). The apostle in defence showed the objectors that at Caesarea he acted throughout under the direction of the Holy Ghost. Referring to his preaching to Cornelius and his house, he said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptised with water; but ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:15-17). This evidence showed the brethren at Jerusalem that the reception of the Gentiles was in order, while the fact that they were suddenly endued with the power of speaking with tongues proved that they had received the Holy Ghost, equally with the Jewish brethren on the memorable day of Pentecost.

Yet another reference to this important crisis was made at a later date. This occurred when the great conference was convened at Jerusalem to consider what was the proper attitude of Gentile believers towards the law of Moses. The apostle Peter on that occasion again brought forward what took place at Caesarea. He said, “Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God which knows the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did to us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:7-9). Here again the gift of the Holy Ghost is quoted as the voucher upon which the Jewish Christians acted in their first reception of their Gentile brethren to a recognised position in the new community.

It is interesting to observe in passing that this single fact of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit is stated in slightly differing terms in the following various passages: —
(1) The Holy Ghost fell on all them who heard the word (Acts 10:44);
(2) He fell on them even as on us at the beginning (Acts 11:15);
(3) On the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:45);
(4) These have … received the Holy Ghost as well as we (Acts 10:47);
(5) God bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as He did to us (Acts 15:8).

These varying expressions (falling, pouring out, giving, receiving) all refer to the gift and action of the Spirit whereby these Gentile believers were baptised into the one body (1 Cor. 12:13). But the special work of the Spirit, it must be remembered, is inward in character. He shall be “in you,” the Lord said. Because He works subjectively, the outward manifestation of His presence is often slow, and is developed only by degrees. At Caesarea some evidence was required at once, so that Peter and those with him might know on the spot that God had granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.

Accordingly, the identical sign was given on this occasion as was given at Pentecost — the gift of tongues. The Gentiles in the wisdom of God publicly received equal credentials with the Jews. By such means all prejudice against the whole-hearted reception of believing Gentiles as fellow-members of Christ was removed. And the racial jealousies which survived in the early church in spite of this supernatural voucher is practical proof of the necessity for the precautionary measure taken at the outset to show that there was no difference between them on God's side.

From the above considerations it is evident that the circumstances in which the tongues were given on this occasion were unique, and would not occur again. Once the fact was publicly established that it was God's will that Gentile believers should be admitted into the assembly, there was no further occasion on similar grounds for a recurrence of the miracle. The tongues served a special purpose at Caesarea, which was to constitute an immediate warrant that the Holy Spirit had been given of God to certain Gentile believers, and Peter acted upon that warrant, and commanded that they should be baptised with water. Showing that the evidential value of the tongues was only transitory, we have seen that when Peter referred back to the incident on two subsequent occasions he mentioned the gift of the Holy Spirit, but not the evidence on which he knew they had received that gift, namely, the exercise by them of new tongues.

We conclude, therefore, that nothing can be adduced from the scripture in Acts 10 in support of the idea held by some that the power of speaking with tongues might be expected to continue as an abiding witness of the indwelling of the Spirit of God. They were given then on the unique occasion of the initiation of Gentile believers into the church of God an event which would not be repeated.

(C). In Ephesus (Acts 19).

Here again an exceptional case arose in the course of the apostolical labours which required that a divine witness should be given, corresponding in its character with that previously bestowed at Jerusalem and Caesarean The gift of tongues in this instance demonstrated a further fact, namely, that the action of the Holy Spirit was uniform when such exceptional circumstances arose, whether they arose in the ministry of Paul or of Peter.

The persons concerned at Ephesus were not believers in the Lord Jesus from among the Jews as in Jerusalem, nor from among the Gentiles who knew not God as in Caesarea. The apostle Paul found there about twelve men who were disciples of John the Baptist.

No doubt these men were in their fatherland when John was preaching in the wilderness of Judea that men should repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. These men moreover, had believed the preaching of John and were baptised in Jordan confessing their sins.

Now, twenty years or so later, Paul meets with these men at Ephesus, still waiting for the promised King and His kingdom. Not knowing the Lord Jesus, they were ignorant of the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost. Having ascertained their spiritual condition, the apostle spoke to them of the Lord who had come according to the testimony of the forerunner. The men believed the word of Paul, and showed the sincerity of their confession in that they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.

“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: and he said to them, Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed? And they said to him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptised? And they said, Into John's baptism. And Paul said, John baptised with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-5, R.V.).

Now it is plain from the narrative that when Paul found these followers of the Baptist, they had not believed either in the Son of God or in the Spirit of God. Nevertheless they were separate as a party from both the Jews and the Gentiles who were opposed to Christ (Acts 4:26.) How then should these be received? Were they to be regarded as upon an equal footing in the church with Jewish and Gentile believers previously received in other places? God showed there and then that they were admitted to a place of similar standing, and they were given the fulness of Christian blessing. Accordingly we read, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (19:6).

These disciples of John the Baptist therefore became the nucleus of the assembly in that great city wherein the apostle went on to labour for about three years, and the seal of their acceptance corresponded with that given in the Palestinian cities of Jerusalem and Caesarea. The Holy Spirit, however, would not come upon them while they believed only in a Christ who should come, but when they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, believing that He had come, and that He was delivered for their offences, and raised again for their justification, and, moreover, was now glorified at the right hand of God, He fell upon them as He did at the beginning upon those of their brethren according to the flesh who believed likewise.

(3). The Testimony of Paul.

“If any man speaks in a tongue … let one interpret: but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.” “Love never fails:
but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether they be tongues, they shall cease; whether there shall be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part: but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 14:27; 1 Cor. 13:8-10, R.V.).

We now come to the Epistle addressed by the apostle Paul to an assembly that came behind in no gift (1 Cor. 1:7). Enriched as they were, however, with the gifts of the Spirit in abundance and variety, they had fallen, amongst other grave errors, into the snare of using these gifts for the gratification of their own vanity rather than for the glory of God and for mutual edification. One of the gifts so misused was that of tongues. And it is proposed, therefore, for our guidance today, to examine specially the instruction the apostle gave to the assembly in Corinth on this subject.

First of all, it may be pointed out that the very fact that speaking in a tongue is a gift of the Spirit establishes the important truth that even when it was bestowed in the early days some in the assembly received the gift but not all. For this reason, the modern claim falls to the ground that speech in a tongue is an invariable accompaniment of the presence of the indwelling Spirit and an indication that such a person is full of the Holy Ghost. Young girls in their teens are now claiming to possess the gift of tongues; being carried away in their ignorance and immaturity by foolish delusions on the subject. These delusions must be considered for the most part to be either temperamental or demoniacal.

What is it to be Filled with the Spirit?

We do not find in the scripture any corroboration of the idea that those indwelt by the Spirit are also full of the Spirit, nor of the correlated notion that those full of the Spirit speak with tongues as evidence of that fact. It is the teaching of the New Testament that the possession of the Spirit is a credential of Christianity proper, for “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). All those who have heard and believed the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13). But it is nowhere stated that all such are consequently full of the Holy Spirit, though all are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

Some, however, seeking to set aside this statement, quote from the Acts the passage recording the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, and refer especially to the words, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:4). But this case at the inauguration of the church was evidently exceptional, and there is no record that a similar case occurred again where the whole company of the followers of Christ were equally filled with the Spirit. The propriety of bestowing the gift in its fulness at the outpouring of the Spirit according to promise can be readily recognised. Then it was indeed true that all were filled with the newly-come Paraclete, and all spoke with tongues.

But to be full of the Holy Spirit is in scriptural language not applied to all believers, but is associated with certain persons on special occasions or under special circumstances. There are even instances which occurred prior to the Pentecostal day. Not to go back so far as Bezaleel (Ex. 31:3), it is written concerning both the father and mother of John the Baptist, as well as concerning the prophet himself, that they were filled with the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:15, 41, 67). But in each of these cases the filling was for the utterance of prophecy, and therefore temporary, as in the case of the prophets of olden time (1 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:21).

On a special occasion the twelve told the disciples in Jerusalem to look out seven men “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) to undertake the distribution of alms. Clearly the whole assembly was not filled with the Spirit, for if so, such a qualification would not be prescribed. On another occasion, a company of the believers made special prayer to God because they were forbidden under penalties by the Sanhedrin to speak His word. Their prayer was answered, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

The same fact is also mentioned as being true on special occasions in the history of Peter; of Stephen; of Barnabas; of Paul; of the disciples at Antioch in a time of persecution (Acts 4:8; Acts 7:55; Acts 11:24; Acts 9:17; Acts 13:9, 52). Had it been the case that these persons were always filled with the Spirit and that the same condition was equally true of their brethren, there would be no force in the specific record of the fact in the special instances noted. Moreover, we know that the apostle Paul exhorted the saints generally to be filled with the Holy Ghost (Eph. 5:18), although he had in the same Epistle reminded them that they had been sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13; Eph. 4:30).

It will be seen that the condition of being filled with the Spirit is only once associated with speaking with tongues, and that was when the Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost. On the other occasions it is variously connected with wisdom and joy, and particularly with the rendering of verbal testimony by the servants of Christ to those who knew not or who opposed the gospel. And so far from the ability to speak with tongues being possessed by the whole assembly, we find that the apostle laid down certain directions for the guidance of those who had received this gift, but who were using it improperly. Paul does not at all contemplate that every one of the saints in Corinth had the gift. The exact contrary is implied when he asks them, “Do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” (1 Cor. 12:30).

On the other hand, all have received the baptism of the Spirit, for in the same chapter we read, “in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13, R.V.). This scripture shows that the baptism of the Spirit is true of all who are members of the body of Christ, and that it is not confined to those who speak with tongues as some at the present day allege.

Tongues in the Assembly.

Turning now to the Epistle to the Corinthians, we observe that the references to the gift of tongues are all found in the section in which questions of church order are treated (1 Cor. 12-14). Amongst the gifts of the Spirit enumerated, that of tongues as well as that of the interpretation of tongues are both included.

We must remember that the gospel brought believing men of all races, nationalities, and tongues, into close and intimate relationship in the assemblies. Brothers in Christ would be passing in the way of trade and commerce from time to time between such places as Antioch, Ephesus, Troas, Corinth, Thessalonica, and other towns. They would be certain to visit the assemblies as they had opportunity, for because of their faith they were no longer of the world. In the assembly differences of language would constitute a serious hindrance to the fellowship of the Spirit. Prayer, worship and ministry would all be unintelligible to the person ignorant of the language usually spoken in the local assembly. In like manner, if the stranger took part and spoke in his own language, he would be unintelligible to his audience. And the Spirit's ministry of New Testament truth at the beginning was exclusively a spoken, and not a written one. Hence the greater need for tongues to facilitate the communication of truth among the members of the body.

Now we shall see in these chapters that God provided in the body of Christ some who had diverse kinds of tongues and others who were able to interpret tongues. And the apostle enunciates for the guidance of all in this matter that unless there was present one who could interpret, a man with a tongue should keep silence in the church, and speak to himself and to God (1 Cor. 14:27-28). Apart from interpretation, the assembly could not have fellowship with him in the exercise of his gift, and he was therefore to remain quiet, and not to make a mere display of his tongue out of the vanity of his own heart.

The matter of tongues is taken up by the apostle in conjunction with other gifts, but in doing so he presents the great facts underlying God's gracious provision for the maintenance of the church as a self-contained unit here in the earth. It will help us in grasping the truth of this Epistle to observe the general subject before the apostle in each of the three chapters: —
12. — The variety of gifts provided by the Spirit.
13. — The superiority of the exercise of love to the exercise of gifts.
14. — The divine order for the exercise of gifts in the assembly.

Tongues a Lesser Gift.

In chapter 12 then we find that the apostle names nine gifts bestowed by the Spirit and wrought by Him. He writes: “For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom … to another diverse kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these works the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as He will” (1 Cor. 12:8-11, R.V.). Tongues and their complement, the interpretation of tongues, are placed at the close of this list, indicating their relative importance from the divine point of view. The primary gifts are always those whereby the church is developed in love and faith and the knowledge of Christ. The sign-gifts, on the other hand, are always in scripture placed lowest in the scale, though man is apt to value them otherwise and unduly.

This grading is shown also towards the close of the chapter, where apostles are placed first, and tongues last: “And God has set some in the church, first apostles, … divers kinds of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:28). Then Paul proceeds to exhort his readers to mark this order, which is God's order, and to strive after what He regards as the most worthy and useful in the church. They did not all possess all the gifts he mentions, but he exhorts them to covet earnestly the greater ones. “Have all the gifts of healings? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But desire earnestly the greater gifts” (1 Cor. 12:30-31, R.V.). The greater gifts were not miracles and tongues, but apostles, prophets, teachers, which were given for the establishment of the church in the great truths of its heavenly calling and its association with Christ en high. Those who cry up “tongues” today and their paramount importance are at variance with both the letter and the spirit of this apostolic teaching. And as apostles and prophets have not remained until this day, so we are not entitled to expect the continuance of the miracles and tongues mentioned in the same enumeration.

Love Abides, Tongues Cease.

In the next chapter (1 Cor. 13) the apostle shows that love is of much greater value to the saints than tongues, in this way abasing the vain pretensions of those who boast in a mere display. The assembly may make advances in spiritual power and holiness without tongues and miracles, but not without holiness. Love is of God, for God is love. Love is for the eternal state, as well as for the present time.

To excel therefore in love should be the first and foremost aim of every believer. The way of love is the more excellent way, to which the apostle directs the saints in Corinth who were too much enamoured of those gifts which appealed to their senses rather than to their souls. He says to them, “And a still more excellent way show I to you. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 12:31 — 13:2, R.V.).

Whatever the estimate of the value of tongues in modern days, the apostle rates them, whether of men or of angels, to be, in the absence of love, no more than “a mere instrument of sound without sense, dead, mechanical, devoid of moral worth.” There is much clangour and clatter, but no true ministry of the Spirit bearing witness to the spirits of the saints. No edification results, for it is love that builds up, while tongues like knowledge puff up.

Now as the apostle mentions tongues, prophecy, and knowledge, at the beginning of the chapter, as just quoted, so he refers to all three in the latter part of the chapter, by way of depreciation as compared with love. They are but temporary while love is unending in its character and activities. We must put love first. Prophecy, knowledge and tongues are proper only to the circumstances of an immature state, but love will never be superseded. Love is the atmosphere of glory, even as it is the life-breath of the assembly on earth,

“Love never fails; but whether prophecies, they shall be done away; or tongues, they shall cease; or knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part: but when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10, J.N.D.).

A careful reading of this passage in a version such as that of the Revisers, J.N.D., W.K., and others, wherein the identity of the Greek terms is preserved in the translation, shows us that the cessation of tongues is stated in a special way. Prophecies and knowledge “shall be done away,” but tongues “shall cease.” The different phraseology is the more striking inasmuch as the tongues are interposed between the other two. Prophecy and knowledge shall be abolished, but tongues shall be discontinued. This distinction is difficult to understand if tongues were not to cease until prophecy and knowledge were done away.

Again, the two which shall “be done away” will be abolished “when that which is perfect is come.” What is only partial will give place to what is perfect when it comes. But tongues are not mentioned in this connection. We prophesy in part and we know in part, the apostle says, but he does not say we speak tongues “in part.” Why is this variation of phrase? It must have a significance. Does it not teach that the gift of tongues would lapse in the organisation of the assembly so soon as the wisdom of God saw that the time had come when it was no longer needful?

It has been assumed by some that tongues will continue until the Lord's coming, because it is then that that which is perfect in respect of the saints will come. But it will be seen that only imperfect knowledge and prophecies are actually named as being “done away” at that time, although “tongues” is included with the other two in verses 1, 2, and in verse 8. There must be some special reason for this omission. And it certainly leaves room for the interpretation that the cessation of tongues would take place before knowledge and prophecies were done away.

There are some gifts that abide so long as the church is here; but “tongues” is not named among those that remain “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).

When God's earthly people were scattered and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70, the sign-gifts seem to have ceased. At any rate we read nothing about them in the later writings of inspiration. There were certain gifts of the Spirit associated with the founding of the church, such as apostles, prophets, miracles, tongues and their interpretation. When the foundation was laid and the word of God was complete (Col. 1:25), such gifts would lapse as the occasion for their bestowment no longer existed.

Without Interpretation “Tongues” must be Tied.

In chapter 14 the apostle gives regulations for the exercise of Spirit-given gifts in the assembly, and special reference is made to that of tongues. We need not now do more than mention these passages briefly, and state their general teaching. It will be clear, however, from the texts that there was to be no use of the tongues in the assembly unless there was interpretation. And these texts are stated by the apostle to be the commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37), a word of solemn warning to those who wantonly set them aside.

(1) The gift of prophecy is superior to that of tongues because he that prophesies speaks to men to edification and comfort and consolation, and the assembly is edified thereby. One speaking in a tongue (without interpretation) speaks not to men but to God, and edifies himself only. The apostle adds, “I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied; for greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying” (1 Cor. 14:1-5).

(2) If the apostle himself came to Corinth speaking with tongues, he would not profit them unless he spoke to them by way of revelation or prophesying or knowledge or teaching (ver. 6). The apostle further thanked God that he spoke with tongues more than all of them, yet in the assembly he would rather speak five words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue (verses 18, 19).

(3) Prayer which is primarily a direct address to God was not to be in a tongue unless there was interpretation. This also applied to the giving of thanks, for as others in such cases could not understand they could not say, Amen (verses 13-17). Spirit-given communications in the assembly would be intelligible to all present.

(4) The apostle quotes a passage from Isaiah (Isa. 28:11-12) to show how they were overrating the spiritual value of tongues. Because of the apostasy of the people of Israel God would not speak to them in the language they could understand: “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers will I speak to this people; and not even thus will they hear Me, says the Lord.” Thus, hearing they would hear but not understand, as the same prophet said in another place (Isa. 6:9). Why should the Corinthians be so proud of the tongues which were given to attract the attention of unbelievers to what they did not understand, rather than to convince them of its truth? “Wherefore,” the apostle concludes, “tongues are for a sign not to those that believe, but to them that believe not” (ver. 22).

(5) Edifying was to be the prime consideration in the exercise of gifts. This would not be the case if, when the whole church was assembled together, all spake with tongues. Such an exhibition of the lack of spiritual sobriety and self-control would lead a stranger to pronounce the place a bedlam (ver. 23). What a dishonour to the Holy Spirit of God!

(6) If there was speaking with tongues in the assembly it was to be by two or three only who were to follow consecutively, and there must always be one to interpret. In the absence of an interpreter, a man must keep silence in the assembly, and speak only to himself and to God (verses 26- 28). Confusion and disorder are not of God in the assembly, which is His house.

(7) At the end of the chapter the apostle sums up his instructions. He condemns unsparingly the extravagant and unauthorised use of tongues in the assembly, but he does not disparage what the Spirit gave. His gifts must be used under His guidance, which will be in His order and to the edification of the saints, i.e., by interpretation. “Wherefore my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. But let all things be done decently and in order” (verses 39, 40).

We have now considered the relevant passages in this Epistle on the subject in hand, and we ask the question with which this inquiry was begun: is there any ground for believing that the power of tongues was to be perpetuated in the church down to the present day? And our conclusion is that no such warrant exists here any more than in Mark and in the Acts. Miracles and gifts of healing are named equally with tongues as being in exercise at the beginning, but there is no hint of their continuance in the assembly when departure from the faith displayed itself in apostolic and still more in post-apostolic days.

In this Epistle Paul addresses serious warnings to the saints in connection with the various gifts, but it is remarkable that he gives more attention to their abuse of tongues than to that of any other gift. Being showy in its nature, it was on that account attractive to the natural conceit of man, and evidently it became a snare to the assembly then, as it appears to be still, in the case of some misguided ones.

In grading the various gifts according to their value in the church, the apostle places, as we have seen, tongues last on the list in order of merit. It was a sign not to believers, but to unbelievers. It was useless to the assembly unless there was the concurrent gift of interpretation. And the apostle, when pressing upon the church the overriding claims of love, as the mainspring of the assembly life, he mentions that tongues shall, in contrast with love, cease. If then the Spirit-given tongues of the apostolic time have ceased, what are the modern pretensions to that gift? If the latter are not of the Spirit of God, from whom do they spring?

Satanic Speech through Human Mouths

The Jews were guilty of the unpardonable sin of attributing the power of the Spirit of God working in our Lord Jesus to Beelzebub, the prince of the demons (Matt. 12:22-32). There is a danger today of falling into the converse sin of attributing what is the power of Satan to the Holy Spirit of God. The danger of this egregious error was not absent in the early church. The saints in a heathen city, like Corinth, were specially liable to the introduction into their midst of the oracular utterances of demons. The apostle reminded them of the idolatrous influence exercised upon them in their unconverted days (1 Cor. 12:2): “led away to dumb idols howsoever ye might be led.”

Satan, who was so active among the twelve in the days of our Lord, was ever seeking to corrupt the servants of Christ after His departure. At Philippi, for instance, there was the case of a maid, possessed of a spirit of divination [Python, margin], who brought much gain to her masters by soothsaying. She deluded persons by the evil spirit who spoke through her, and she sought to ally herself with the preachers of the gospel by crying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16-13). The utterance sounded well enough, but it was spoken by the spirit of deceit and not by the Spirit of God. And Paul cast it out of the damsel. There were women at Philippi who laboured with him in the gospel (Phil. 4:3), but the apostle would not have any association with the power of darkness but rather reproved it, and exorcised it in the case of this damsel.

Now Satan would not only use such seducing spirits in the streets, but he would seek to bring such into the very midst of the assembly of the saints. And if a man were speaking in a tongue, how would the assembly decide whether he was led by the Spirit of God or by an evil spirit? When it is known what is being spoken, the saints can prove the utterance by the word of God; for every spirit that confesses not Jesus Christ come in the flesh is not of God (1 John 4:1-3). Hence where tongues were used the apostle insisted upon the interpretation of tongues, as at Corinth, so that all might judge whether the utterance in a tongue was from a divine source. Let us not be deceived. Satan can send a lying spirit into the mouth of a man now as of old (1 Kings 22:22-23). And unclean spirits can cry out with a loud voice now as they did in Samaria (Acts 8:7).

We find from scripture that Satan wrought formerly among the people of Israel by using human “tongues” to draw them away from the living God. Instead of having recourse to Jehovah, they were persuaded to “seek to them that have familiar spirits and to the wizards that chirp and that mutter” (Isa. 8:19, R.V.). These diviners chirped and muttered in cries that were no more intelligible than those of birds and beasts. These weird and mysterious voices of the evil spirits which delude their votaries are again alluded to by the prophet in another connection: “Thou shalt … speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust; and thy voice shall be as one that has a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper [chirp] out of the dust” (Isa. 29:4). See also the reference to “whisperers” in the margin of Isa. 19:3.

It should not be forgotten that Satan can imitate the miracles and wonders and signs wrought by the Spirit of God in the way of tongues as well as in other ways. The prophet Ezekiel (12:24) referred to the counterfeit prophecies of his time — the “vain vision” and “flattering divination” in the house of Israel. In the future, the coming Antichrist will, it is foretold, exercise infernal power to such an extent that he will give breath to the image of the political beast, and cause it to speak (Rev. 13:15). If then Satan used supernatural powers in the past by speaking through men's mouths to deceive, if possible, the very elect, we may be sure he works similarly in our day, though perhaps not to the same degree as he will do in the days of Antichrist.

From the precepts and examples of scripture we therefore come to the conclusion that a man's or a woman's mouth may be taken into possession by a power outside himself or herself, and things may be uttered unintelligible to either speaker or hearer, and that power may be Satanic or demoniacal in origin. As we have no scriptural ground for expecting the operations of the Spirit of God in this way at the present time, the presumption is that the modern movement of tongues is not of God, and that it must lead its adherents further and further away from the truth of scripture as they give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy to deceive and to destroy.

Many earnest believers are led astray because the votaries of this cult of tongues assume a garb of extreme piety. We are warned, however, in the word of God, not to be deceived in this respect. Ravening wolves will come in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15). False prophets wear a hairy mantle to deceive (Zech: 13:4). Ministers of Satan fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

We condemn the sincerity of no one; of this God alone is judge. But many are deceiving themselves, and it will benefit us all to heed the apostle's injunction: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

(4) General Remarks.

We have now examined the testimony of Mark, Luke and Paul with respect to the use and abuse of tongues, and in no instance do their words warrant us to expect that the supernatural display of tongues which occurred in the early days of the church would continue throughout or would be revived at the close of the church's history. In the later writings of the New Testament it is significant that there is no mention even of the tongues. Where were they when Paul was a prisoner in Rome, and John was an exile in Patmos? These apostles speak of the apostate condition of the church which had then set in and which was destined to grow worse and worse, but they do not give a single word of promise that amidst the distressing confusion God would bear His witness to the faithful ones by granting to them signs and wonders as He had done in Jerusalem, Caesarea and Ephesus. By tongues and healings and other miracles God at the beginning showed outwardly that He was abandoning His people Israel and taking up the followers of Christ to be His servants. But having made that distinction plain to all men, and placed the facts on record, it is unwarrantable to assume, as some seem to do, that God means to distinguish between the faithful and the unfaithful in Christendom by the restoration of the signs of power in our time.

We are, therefore, unavoidably led to the conclusion that those who claim to be speaking with tongues today are in the very serious position of being unable to show any reliable scriptural voucher in support of their claim. They deceive themselves and deceive others under the garb of piety. They are guilty of ascribing to the Holy Spirit of God uncanny utterances in an unintelligible jargon, understood neither by the speakers nor the hearers. They are, we feel, very much like the false prophets whom Jehovah condemned through His servant Jeremiah: “I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake I to them; they prophesy to you a lying vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their own heart.” “They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD” (Jer. 14:14; Jer. 23:16).

Some of the defenders of this hallucination state that there is no direct scripture in the New Testament indicating the discontinuance of tongues, and therefore they have a right to expect that they will still be given in answer to prayer.

But if such persons carefully considered the present broken and divided condition of the church, foretold in scripture and manifest to every spiritual eye, they would see how inappropriate such petitions would be. Is the church in a condition to exercise the gifts of power?

The Lord admonished Ephesus that He would remove the candlestick from the assembly. unless there was repentance (Rev. 2:1-7). On its removal, how could unrepentant Ephesus pray for its restoration, when she no longer had her first love, nor did her first works? The church at large fell from her first state of devotion to the Lord even in apostolic days, and the outward marks of power, so conspicuous at first, were removed in consequence. The church at large remains unrepentant today. What misapprehension of the mind of God concerning the present ruin to pray for the restoration of the gifts of external power!

Without a direct scripture, the fact of the discontinuance of tongues is patent to all, except to those deluded to believe otherwise. But reference has already been made to 1 Cor. 13:8, which does say that tongues shall cease. Apart, however, from the direct bearing of this scripture upon this point, it will be remembered that we have no scripture which affirms the discontinuance of apostles and prophets; of elders and deacons; of the unbroken unity of the church as displayed in Jerusalem; of the common purse for the saints (Acts 2:41-47). These outward and visible signs of the Spirit's presence and power in the assembly, striking and remarkable as they were, have ceased. We know that the church, even in the days of the apostles, fell from obedience as Adam did, and was corrupted, evil doctrine permeating its ranks in all directions (Acts 20:28; 29; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:10-11). In view of that apostasy Paul did not commend the Ephesian elders to miracles and tongues, which were to be temporary, but to God and the word of His grace, which were eternal and unchangeable and sufficient, whatever the state of the church.

There was no warning in the Pentateuch that the miraculous gift of manna would cease, but when the people entered the promised land it was no longer given (Joshua 5:12). Similarly, the gifts of power were bestowed at the beginning for the establishment of the church as God's vessel of testimony in the earth. When Israel was finally displaced at the destruction of Jerusalem and the apostles and prophets had completed the foundation of God's spiritual temple which is the habitation of the Spirit (Eph. 2:21-22), we hear no more of tongues nor powers of healing. They passed away when the occasion for them passed away. It is for the propagandists of the Tongues movement to show from scripture that there is any occasion for their revival today or that any promise to that effect is contained in the scripture.

Misleading Statements Corrected.

It is now proposed to add one or two further remarks on some scriptures and scriptural phrases which are misused by the supporters of this erroneous doctrine.

(1) The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is said that Christians should pray to be baptised with the Holy Spirit that they may speak with tongues as believers did on the day of Pentecost.

This notion is an error of understanding. Pentecost will not be repeated. This baptism in scripture refers only to the sending the Holy Spirit as another “Comforter” to abide with the saints for ever (John 14:16). The promise of the gift of the Spirit was fulfilled at Pentecost, and not before nor since. The Lord breathed upon His disciples the Spirit of life directly after His resurrection (John 20:22). This clearly was not the baptism which was promised, because the Lord Himself said to the same disciples subsequently, “Ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). The “many days hence” were only accomplished when “the day of Pentecost was fully come.” Then when the Lord Jesus was glorified He shed forth what He Himself had called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And since the Lord has long ago fulfilled His promise to baptise with the Holy Ghost, what unbelieving presumption to ask Him to do it again, and to do for individuals what He did for the church in its corporate unity once for all?

Now it is important to observe that baptism is never applied in scripture to the Spirit's action upon an individual. It is the whole company of believers that is baptised, not single disciples, as is wrongfully assumed by the leaders of the Tongues movement. This fact will appear as we consider the references in the New Testament which are few but sufficient to give the guidance we need on the matter. They comprise:
(i) The prophecy by John the Baptist — in the Gospels.
(ii) The promise by the Lord Jesus — in the Acts.
(iii) The allusion by the apostle Paul — in 1 Corinthians.

Taking the references in this order: (i) John the Baptist made this announcement concerning the coming Messiah, “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16) It will be seen that Mark 1:8 and John 1:33, in their record of this prophecy, omit the words, “and with fire,” which look onward to the day of the judgment of the Lord when He will come to purge His floor and to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:12). The application of this clause by the Irvingites to the personal purging from sin of the believer by the Holy Ghost is utterly opposed to scripture generally and to the context particularly.

John therefore foretold this baptism, and said it would be the work of Him upon whom the Spirit descended and remained — the Son of God (John 1:33-34). He does not, however, say when this great act of baptism of those who received the Lord Jesus would take place.

(ii) The Lord disclosed the time when the baptism of the Spirit would take place, and where. He instructed His followers to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father, and He also said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit would take place a few days later (Acts 1:4-5). The Lord Jesus therefore baptised the whole company of believers with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, as He said He would do.

The Lord having fulfilled His promise, and the Holy Spirit having descended to stay in the assembly which the Lord was building (Matt. 16:18), there is no need for a fresh baptism, unless indeed the Spirit has departed and the Lord's word has failed! To pray now for His coming is worse unbelief than that of John who sent to the Lord to ask, “Art Thou He that should come, or look we for another?” The Spirit is here now, as truly as the Messiah was there then.

The Holy Spirit was given to Cornelius and his friends when they received the gospel, but it is not said that they were baptised of Him, as some careless readers of scripture have alleged. Peter said he remembered the Lord's promise, “Ye shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:16). But it is not said that these Gentiles were baptised, though the Spirit fell on them as on the believing Jews at the beginning (11:15). The baptism of the Spirit was corporate not personal, and all through the Acts we have no single instance of a recurrence of the term.

(iii) The use of the term by the apostle Paul confirms what has been said already regarding its signification. He shows that the baptism of the Spirit was the great act whereby believers on the earth were consolidated into one living organisation of which Christ is the Head on high. He says, “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:12-13).

The baptism of the Spirit seems to be His action upon the community as such, maintaining it in that vitalised connection with the Head of the body on high, which began at Pentecost. The Lord adds converts to the company from time to time (Acts 2:47), and those that receive the gospel of salvation are anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). But it is man not duly subject to the word of God who confounds the anointing and sealing of the Spirit with the baptism, which was spoken only of the initial formation of the body of Christ.

(2) Further Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is said God in His word has promised to pour out His Spirit, and we ought to pray for this to be done.

But these promises are made to the house of Israel, and they will be accomplished upon the restoration of the nation to their own land in millennial blessing (Isa. 32:15; Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 29:29; Joel 2:28-29). So far as the church is concerned, God did, as none can deny, pour out His Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:33; Acts 10:45). We cannot pray for what is already given to us, nor for what is promised to be given to someone else, that is, to the earthly people. We have no right to pray for it as members of the body of Christ, because to do so would be a total disregard of the Spirit's own testimony in the word that He came at Pentecost to dwell in the church “for ever” (John 14:16; 1 Cor. 3:16).

Moreover the Spirit also dwells in individual believers (1 Cor. 6:19). He is in their hearts (Gal. 4:6), crying, Abba, Father. In our hearts He also sheds abroad the love of God (Rom. 5:5). How then can believers pray that the Spirit may be poured out except on the ground that they deny that the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church at Pentecost was a permanent one?

It is said further that the Lord promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who asked Him (Luke 11:13). This statement is true, but it is overlooked that this promise was fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Father did give the Holy Spirit to those who continued with one accord in prayer and supplication (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1).

The Holy Spirit is God, and the plain but marvellous truth revealed in the scripture is that He is now here in a sense in which He was not here before the Lord Jesus was glorified. See John 7:39: “The Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” The Son of God was here as the Word made flesh, and the Spirit of God, though not incarnate as the Son, is now here, the Unchanging Paraclete, abiding among the believing saints to glorify Christ before their eyes and to conform them to His image. It is surely either ignorance or culpable unbelief, certainly not faith, that induces persons to intercede today for a repetition of the Pentecostal event.

(3) The last days. It is said that God promised to pour out His Spirit in the last days, and that these are the last days. Therefore if we seek them, we ought to expect manifestations of the Spirit as at Pentecost.

This statement shows a total misunderstanding of the prophecy of Joel, and of the purpose for which it was quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost. The Hebrew prophet did not foretell the history of the church, and the last days of which he speaks are therefore not the last days of the church.

The subject of the church was not revealed to Old Testament prophets (Eph. 3:5), and the subject of Joel's prophecies was expressly the nation of Israel and particularly Judah, as his language shows. He treats of the coming of the day of the LORD (Joel 2), which will be the occasion of the restoration of the Jews; of the judgment of the Gentiles; and of the establishment of full millennial blessing in the earth (Joel 3).

Through this prophet, then, Jehovah had undertaken to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh before the day of the LORD should come (Joel 2:28-31). See also Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:24-27; Ezek. 37:14). Those whom Peter addressed in Jerusalem knew these Old Testament predictions of the outpouring of the Spirit. And the apostle quoted the prophecy to convince them that what had taken place was not the result of fleshly excitement, but of the advent of the Spirit, which had now taken place before the coming of the day of the Lord.

It is, however, an error to assume because of its quotation by Peter that this prophecy was wholly fulfilled at Pentecost. Undeniably the Spirit was then given, but the kingdom was not set up for Israel. Joel's general theme was the coming of the day of the Lord, but that day has not yet come. At the same time, the apostle called the men of Judea to observe that as God will pour out of His Spirit before that great and terrible day, and as men will then prophesy, so in Jerusalem He had then poured out His Spirit because the Lord whom the Jews had crucified God had glorified. Therefore, like many others in the Old Testament, Joel's prophecy only received a partial fulfilment; its fulness is yet to come.

With regard to the words, “the last days,” it will be seen that they form part of Peter's quotation: “It shall come to pass in the last days” (Acts 2:17). The term therefore has its application to the people of Israel. But what are these last days as applied to the earthly people? They are the days in which God spoke to the nation by His Son; as we read, He “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:2). They are the last days for the Jew which run on to the millennium. The nation now is not only in the “Lo-ammi” state, but under the guilt of crucifying their King. And the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy concerning the pouring out of the Spirit will take place after the church is removed, and before those days close. The careful reader will note that in Joel the phrase “in the last days” is represented by the word “afterward.”

When Paul, writing to Timothy, speaks of the perilous times that shall come in the “last days” (2 Tim. 3:1), he is referring as an apostle to the last days of the church, in which we now are. But it is inexcusable confusion to suppose that the church period has any connection with the last days mentioned either in Acts 2:17 or in Heb. 1:2.

(4) Praying for the Holy Ghost. It is said we ought to pray for the Holy Spirit to come in power and blessing.

Such a prayer by a believer today is one of ignorance. It in effect ignores that the Lord Jesus has fulfilled His promise and has sent the Comforter to abide with His own for ever, that is, until He Himself comes (John 14:16-17). It therefore amounts to a denial that the Spirit's own record of His own coming at Pentecost is authentic (Acts 2). As true prayer is by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 8:26; Jude 20), how can we believe that He would lead a person to pray for Himself to come, when He is already here, and indeed given by God to all those who obey Him (Acts 5:32)?

(5) Desiring the gift of tongues. It is said that we are exhorted in scripture to covet earnestly that we might speak with tongues.

Though this injunction is strongly and frequently urged by the advocates of the Tongues movement, it is not according to scripture. The apostle does say, “Covet earnestly the best [or, greater] gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31). But a perusal of the scriptures will show that “tongues” is one of those gifts they were not told to covet earnestly. It is as a gift one of the least in the apostle's estimation, and placed last in his list (1 Cor. 12:28). He does, on the other hand, press upon them to desire to prophesy, because prophecy edified and comforted the church, while tongues were only a sign to unbelievers. Paul's words are, “Follow after love, and desire earnestly spiritual [gifts], but rather that ye may prophesy.” “Wherefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues” (1 Cor. 14:1, 39 R.V.).

It is well to observe the distinction the apostle makes in the last verse quoted. The Corinthian saints should covet that they themselves might prophesy, but meanwhile they were not to forbid other persons to speak with tongues. Paul's words were in no sense an encouragement to any one at Corinth who had not the power of tongues to desire earnestly that he might have that power. And yet some refer to it as if such was the bearing of the text.

(6) Unintelligibility. It is said that the possession of the gift of tongues is denoted by the utterance of inarticulate sounds.

We here touch a side of our subject, the seriousness of which it is impossible to exaggerate. The apostle, writing to the Corinthians, insisted that there should be no exercise of tongues in the assembly unless the tongues were interpreted (1 Cor. 14:27-28). Why was this? That the assembly might judge what was said. They were responsible to do this even with the greater gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14:29) They were not to “despise prophesyings,” it is true; but why do not those who refer to this exhortation in fancied support of the admitted vagaries of modern utterances continue the quotation? We are also to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:20-21). If one speaks in the assembly the hearers are entitled to prove or test whether it be of God.

Now if a person gives utterance in an assembly to some uncouth gibberish which no one can understand, how do those present know that the person is not cursing the Lord Jesus? We must remember that the apostle starts writing about spiritual workings with such a possibility in view. He says, “Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking in the Spirit of God says, Jesus is anathema; and that no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3, R.V.). They were exposed to the danger of fellowship with demons, and one safeguard against such an abomination was to try the spirits whether they were of God (1 John 4:1-3) by what they said. How could the Corinthians, and how can we, judge, if the utterances are without sense to the audience? And if a person professes to interpret today, how do we know that the interpretation is not false also? If the gift of interpretation has ceased in the church with the gift of tongues, as we believe, it must be false, and must spring directly or indirectly from the father of lies.

One of the marks of the communications of the Spirit of God is a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). We have no confidence in those who understand “neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm.” When the Lord opened the mouth of Balaam's ass, so that she spoke with a man's voice, the prophet understood what was said and knew it was a message from God. But he would not have known if she had simply brayed in some unusual fashion. We repeat that in cases of senseless jabber no one can be sure that the name of the Lord Jesus is not being blasphemed, though we can be sure it is not of the Spirit of God to minister Christ in such a way.

We feel it right in this connection to draw attention to the fact that many, if not all modern writers in support of the Tongues heterodoxy withhold the title of Lord when mentioning the Lord Jesus. We do not say they always do, but that they do it so frequently that the practice calls for remark. Now the Holy Spirit who came because God had made the Crucified One both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), uses the mouth of man to confess His Lordship, while He is still rejected by the world (1 Cor. 12:3). Demons do not admit this title. The evil spirit at Ephesus said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know” (Acts 19:15). He did not say, “the Lord Jesus,” but gave Him no more title than he did to Paul. See also Mark 1:24; 5:7. God has decreed that eventually every tongue, including that of infernal beings as well as that of wicked men, shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11). This confession evil spirits will not make now, nor those led by them (1 John 4:3). And the omission marks what is not of God.

It is not hereby asserted that all whose organs of speech are surrendered by their own wills to an influence apart from themselves are under the influence of evil spirits, as in the case of those known as “spiritists,” though they are liable to be possessed at any time. But any who have a knowledge of hypnosis or psycho-therapeutics are aware that it is possible for persons to exercise a power of thorough compulsion over others when the patients submit. In that condition, where the control is human and not demonic, things are said and done of which the subject is quite unconscious. We say no more on this topic, and only allude to it because of the shameful irregularities which have been attributed to the Holy Spirit by the deluded votaries of the cult of Tongues.


In conclusion, we can only reiterate the warning against an eagerness for miraculous manifestations on the part of the individual Christian or of a company of Christians. The better way is an ever-deepening abasement of self and an ever-nearer and more chastened walk with God. Let us seek neither to quench nor to grieve the Holy Spirit, but to allow that Divine Indweller to possess us thoroughly to the utmost confines of our inner being. So shall we be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), and fitted for every good word and work.

Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My dear Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread, through all the earth abroad,
The honours of Thy Name.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy!

Charles Wesley, 1741