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in the use of unusual poetic language; that the speakers were “in a high-wrought excitement," which showed itself in figurative and mystic terms. There are others, again, who have suggested, as sufficient explanation of all that occurred, that the amazement expressed on the day of Pentecost was simply that the fact that Galilean fishermen should discourse on religious topics in the ordinary dialect of their every-day conversation.
Different theories of a speculative character have also been suggested by supporters of the common view. Augustine, for example, maintained that every one who had the gift of tongues, either did speak, or at any time, could speak in all the languages of the earth. Chrysostom supposed that a special language was assigned to each individual, and that this indicated at once the particular country in which he was called to preach the Gospel. Some imagine that the gift came with the occasion; others, that it was restricted to a certain number of languages, either seventy or seventy-five, according to the number of the sons of Noah, or Jacob, or a hundred and twenty, according to the number of the disciples. And, lastly, the theory supported by Professor Plumtre in Dr. Smith’s “Dictionary of the Bible,” is that the disciples, on the day of Pentecost, only gave utterance to words which they had heard before. “At every feast," he says, "which they had ever attended from their youth up, they must have been brought into contact with a crowd as varied as that which was present on the day of Pentecost, the pilgrims of each nation uttering their praises and doxologies. The difference was that before, the Galilean peasants had stood in that crowd, neither heeding, nor understanding, nor remembering what they heard, still less able to reproduce it ; now they had the power of speaking it clearly and freely. The divine work would, in this case, take the form of a supernatural exaltation of the memory, not of imparting a miraculous knowledge of words never heard before."
We shall not attempt to discuss these theories separately, but proceed at once to our own examination of this “sign and wonder.” In doing so, we would lay down at the outset, the following three propositions, as warranted by the facts of the case, and indispensable to a just conclusion.
In the first place, no theory can be correct which denies the supernatural and miraculous, and reduces the phenomena to the operation of the ordinary laws of nature.
Secondly, no theory is admissible which severs the occurrence at Pentecost from the signs in the Corinthian church.
Thirdly, no theory can be complete which is not in perfect harmony with the historical narrative in the Acts, and also with the apostolic exposition in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
It is easy enough to find arguments in support of any theory, if we may assume, in opposition to the plainest words, that there was nothing supernatural or miraculous about the phenomenon at all; or if we may proceed upon the assumption that there was no connection whatever between the tongues at Jerusalem and those at Corinth, so that the statements of Paul furnish no clue to the nature of the occurrence at Pentecost, and the facts which took place at Jerusalem have no bearing upon the signs in the Corinthian church. But if we are not prepared to throw discredit upon the veracity and credibility of the writer of the Acts of the Apostles, it is impossible to read the carefully written and elaborate account in the second chapter, and come to any other conclusion than that we have here the record of a miracle of an unusually stupendous character. And, notwithstanding the fact that on the day of Pentecost, the disciples are said to have spoken “with other tongues," whereas the others
“ are only said to have spoken “with tongues,” there is no ground whatever for imagining that the variation in the expressions implies a diversity in the phenomena referred to. The accompanying circumstances are exactly the same, the believer is filled with the Spirit, and begins at once to speak with tongues; and the change in the expression is so small, that no unbiassed reader of the tenth or nineteenth chapter of the Acts would ever suppose that Luke is referring to a totally different occurrence from that which he has described in the second. And, although Paul usually adopts the shorter expression, yet, in his quotation from Isaiah, he gives his own free rendering, as if for the simple purpose of introducing a similar term to that employed in the Acts, other tongues.” But
, if the phenomena were the same throughout, no interpretation of the Epistle to the Corinthians can be correct which does not tally with the Acts, and no interpretation of the occurrence at Jerusalem can be correct which is not in perfect harmony with all the attendant circumstances on the one hand, and with the exposition given by Paul on the other.
What, then, were these "other tongues?".
There are many difficulties connected with the prevalent opinion, that the gift in question consisted simply in the ability to speak in foreign languages, and that the object for which this new power was conferred, was to enable the first Christians to preach the Gospel at once to all the nations of the earth. In the first place, there was apparently no necessity for any such gift in the days of the Apostles. So far as we have any reliable and trustworthy account of the labours of the first preachers of the Gospel, they visited no countries, where they could not be understood when preaching in one of the two languages with which they were already familiar. The state of the world at that time was very peculiar, and perhaps unparalleled. Through the Greek conquests, the diffusion of Greek literature, the demands of commerce, and the intercourse it promoted, the world was diglottic to an extent unequalled either before or since. Judea and Galilee, for example, the ordinary conversation would be carried on in some dialect of Aramaan, but the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Scriptures would be understood from one end of Palestine to the other; and when Paul addressed the crowd at Jerusalem, who had gathered together with the expectation of hearing an oration in Greek, it is simply stated that they kept the more silence when they heard that he spoke in the Hebrew (Aramean) tongue to them. Throughout the whole of the life of the Apostle Paul there is no recorded instance of his having ever addressed the people in their own national dialect or language, unless it were either Greek or Aramæan; whereas it is thought worthy of special notice in Acts xiv. 11, that when Paul was in Lycaonia, the people themselves “lifted up their voices in the speech of Lycaonia,” the inference being certainly a natural one that Paul addressed them in his own tongue. But without dealing in conjecture, if we have not the actual discourses of the Apostles to refer to, we possess their writings in their own words. Now, these are all in Greek, and if we are warranted in assuming that the Apostles possessed the supernatural ability to preach or speak in the languages of other men, there is something inexplicable in the fact, that Paul should ever have thought of writing an Epistle in Greek to a Church at Rome. The only possible explanation of so strange a fact is, that the Apostle was not supernaturally endowed with the ability to write in Latin, and simply selected from the two languages, with which he was already familiar, the only one that would be understood in Rome.
Secondly, if we turn, on the other hand, to the different occasions on which the power to speak with tongues was actually exercised, we do not find a single instance mentioned in which there were foreigners present to profit by the gift (apart, that is to say, from the day of Pentecost, which we shall examine afterwards). In Cornelius' house “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word,” so that there were none present to hear but the companions of Peter. At Ephesus there is a simple meeting in private with twelve disciples, who “ were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them and they spoke with tongues and prophecied.” And at Corinth, again, whilst the Apostle speaks in his Epistle of the possibility of men that are “ unbelievers or unlearned” coming in, he never hints at the probability of their being visited by foreigners as a reason for the exercise of the gift of tongues. If, therefore, we assume that the new gift bestowed upon the Church was the ability to speak the languages of other men, we are brought to the following marvellous result, that a gift of the greatest practical worth was in the possession of the Christian Church, but that this gift was generally used where it was not needed, and when needed, was not used.
But, thirdly, the greatest difficulty connected with the common opinion arises from the full and distinct exposition given by the Apostle Paul of the gift as it appeared in the Corinthian church. And if we had only the fourteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians to deal with, it would certainly never have occurred to any one, that the gift referred to was such as is commonly supposed. Let us carefully analyse the chapter in connection with the popular theory.
1. If the gift were conferred to facilitate the preaching of the Gospel to foreigners, the object must have been to speak to men. But Paul says, (v. 2): "he that speaketh in a tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God.”
2. The intention must also have been that he might be the better understood. Yet according to Paul (v. 2) “no man understandeth him.”
3. With such a gift he would certainly study to make things clear; whereas, the fact really was (v. 2) that he spoke "mysteries," mysteria, things hidden or obscure.
4. The purpose of all language being that we may communicate our thoughts to others, such a gift could only have been conferred to enable them the better to edify others. But this was not the case : "he that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself" (v. 4).
5. One of the principal objects of such a miraculous power would certainly be, that when they preached to foreigners there might be no need for an interpreter. Yet the peculiarity of “the tongue” was, that it always needed interpreting: “if any man speak in a tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and let one interpret (v. 27).
6. At any rate the possessor of such a gift would be always able to interpret his own words, and would be the person most qualified to do so. Just as an Englishman who might find it impossible to translate into French, would never be unable to translate his own French back into English ; so whatever the difficulties connected with speaking in tongues might be, it could never be difficult for the possessor of such a gift to render his own Persian, Coptic, &c., back into his native tongue. Yet the ability to interpret a power as supernatural and miraculous as the “tongue" itself: “Let him that speaketh in a tongue pray that he may in
terpret" (v. 13). “If there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church" (v. 28).
7. The ordinary theory assumes that the gift of tongues was intended as a special qualification for preaching. Yet this is the one thing with which it is never associated. The men in Cornelius' house spoke with tongues and magnified God (Acts 10, 46). And in 1 Cor. xiv. 14–17, the only things which Paul associates with this spiritual gift, are praying, singing, and giving thanks.
8. It is impossible to see what opposition there could be, or even where the point of distinction is, between speaking in any number of languages and speaking with the understanding. If there be any one thing which requires a special activity of the understanding, it is just this. Yet Paul affirms: “If I pray in a tongue, my understanding is unfruitful,” (v. 14); and says, “I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (v. 19).
9. Lastly, the ultimate intention of such a gift would assuredly be to facilitate conviction and conversion. But Paul says, that this was just the thing which would not be effected by speaking with tongues. Frophecying would produce conviction; but tongues at the most could only serve as a sign," and would sometimes lead men to say they were mad (v. 22, 23).
Apart then from the account which is given in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, every word in the New Testament points to but one conclusion, viz. that the gift of tongues was altogether supernatural or celestial in its character as well as in its origin; that it did not consist in any ability to speak the languages of other men, and had no connection whatever with the preaching of the gospel. Whether the possessor of this spiritual charisma spoke with tongues in perfect solitude or in a public meeting of the Church, it was to God that he spoke and not to man. Under the influence of feelings wrought up to the highest pitch of ecstatic excitement by the Spirit of God, he lifted up his voice to God, not in unintelligible jargon and wild unearthly shrieks and groans, but in sounds of lofty praise, such as never were uttered by human lips before, and from their very sublimity proved that their origin was heavenly and divine. The "groanings which cannot be uttered” found here and there a fitting language, perhaps not far removed from the words which Paul heard, but could not utter. The speaker was no doubt conscious of the full purport of his new tongue, for he edified himself; but he could not interpret himself at the time, though occasionally he could do so afterwards, however much may have been lost in the rendering. The tongues originated