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guage; if not intelligible to the hearers, there could be no manifestation to them of the Divine Spirit; nor would they answer any good purpose. The testimony of the foreign hearers was, These are our languages, the languages we learnt in childhood (verses 6 and 11). Why should it be imagined that instead of this, these were sounds unheard before by any? Why that the sounds were previously unintelligible both to speaker and to hearer ? Sounds and their signification may be associated in the minds of speaker and hearer by ordinary and by extraordinary causes. The history states that the cause was extraordinary in the speakers, but that it was ordinary in the hearers. The utterances are also referred to by St. Peter as resulting from the influence of the Holy Spirit only on the speakers (v. 33), while the hearers are addressed as not at present participating in any extraordinary spiritual endowment (v. 38).
If the narrative were alone, there probably would not be two opinions respecting the meaning of the writer. The chief objections to the obvious and common interpretation of the statements concerning the day of Pentecost are all drawn from other passages. Those which are advanced, as suggested by the narrative itself, come apparently from additions made to it. The narrative is brief, and some things not mentioned doubtless took place; but no additions should be made which are needless, and merely create difficulties. Surely the suppositions are improbable, that the one hundred and twenty were speakers, and that they all spoke together, and that they were so near that their voices would mingle into a compound noise, and that their respective audiences had no special affinities. It is more likely that the Apostles and a few besides were the only speakers, that they would stand apart, and that gradually there would be grouped around each speaker those who were of the same country, and who recognized as their own the language of the speaker.* Some of the hearers, it is said, did understand what was spoken, and they were astonished because the speakers were Galileans. Others did not understand, and to them the impassioned but unintelligible discourse seemed to be the utterances of intoxicated persons (v. 13).
In most discussions, where there is conflicting evidence, much depends on the part which is first considered. The statements of an historian when a subject is first mentioned, are more likely to be complete, and consequently intelligible by themselves, than any references to the subject by a writer addressing
* The supposition that the 120 were all speaking together does not agree with the direction of the Apostle that, when only two or three spoke in a tongue, they should do so separately (1 Cor. xiv. 27).
those to whom it is already well known. It is, therefore, evidently right to begin with the Acts of the Apostles, and to use the statements of St. Luke in interpreting the references of St. Paul, and wrong to begin with the Epistle, and to interpret the history according to the interpretation which has been given to the letter. The expressions of the latter may possibly be more clear and complete, but most probably much less so. Deferring, therefore, the consideration of the evidence supplied by the Epistle, we proceed to the other passage of the history.
It is well observed that Christian miracles are not mere marvels, and this should always be remembered. They all have a moral and spiritual significance; and this character belongs, as might be expected, to the peculiar miracle which marked the public establishment of the Christian Church. The Jews alone had been the peculiar people of God, and the ministry of the Lord had been, during His life on earth, restricted to His own country. But His kingdom was to extend over the whole world, and all nations were to be members of His Church. The comprehensiveness of the Gospel was one of its most important characteristics. This had not been set forth by any previous miracle: and it was now clearly shown. The help afforded to the first preachers of the Gospel by some acquaintance with a foreign language would unquestionably be some advantage. But there was much more than this. The great religious importance of the miracle was its symbolical signification. It was a Divine declaration that, by the Spirit of Christ, the divided nations of the earth would be made one. A very partial knowledge of the languages then first used by the Apostles, would be sufficient for the full accomplishment of this purpose. It would be a sign of what their work was to be, and some help to its performance. In both of these respects it would agree with other miraculous gifts; and it would also be like them in that it was not intended that the supernatural should supersede the natural. At the commencement and at the close of his address St. Peter refers to the universality indicated by the symbol. He says that the Spirit would be poured forth “on all mankind” (v, 17), and that the promise was to Jews and to Gentiles—"to all who were afar off" (v. 39). Now if the gifts of tongues was designed to be, not merely a help to the preachers of the Gospel, but a sign of Christian unity, it may be expected that, as it was conferred on Jews to bring them into communion with Gentiles, so it would be conferred, in some similar form, on Gentiles, to bring them into communion with Jews. The new converts were not to be separated from the old. The law of Moses was not for the Gentiles; but the histories, and songs, and prophecies of the Old Testament were for them. If the gift of tongues was to
be a complete sign of what belonged to the Christian Church, not only must Jews be able to offer instruction to Gentiles, but Gentiles must be able to join in the worship of Christian Jews. It would not be desirable that all Gentile converts should be able to speak Hebrew. But if it was desirable that some Jewish teachers should be supernaturally endowed, that they might preach to Gentiles, so it would seem to be equally desirable and proper, as a symbol of Christian equality and union that some Gentile converts should be supernaturally endowed, that they might at once unite with their Jewish brethren in the expressions of praise and prayer, which were a precious possession received from their forefathers. That this was granted appears from the subsequent statements of the history.
After the narrative of the day of Pentecost, no mention is made of the gift of tongues till the account of the conversion of Gentiles, in the house of Cornelius the Roman officer. It is there said that the Jews recognized the presence of the Divine Spirit in the Gentiles, because “they heard them speaking in tongues, and magnifying God” (Acts x. 46). They heard this, and, therefore, the utterances were intelligible, and they were in more than one language. Some of them were probably in Greek, the language of common intercourse with Romans and with Jews, But there was more than Greek, or there would be no sense in the statement that they spoke with tongues, and no manifest proof of a Divine influence, similar to that given at the day of Pentecost (x. 47, xi. 15). Another language intelligible to the Jews was that which was used in their synagogues; and that uninstructed Gentiles should employ in worship the sacred tongue of the Jews would be a sign to them that Jews and Gentiles were henceforth to be one. They saw that God was doing for Gentiles what he had before done for Jews, bringing them into a religious fellowship, through faith in Christ: and therefore the new converts were at once baptized. The only other passage in the history is in the 19th chapter. Some persons who were disciples of John the Baptist, received Christian instruction and baptism from St. Paul; and after the imposition of the Apostle's hands, "they spake with tongues and prophesied” (v. 36). The little information given respecting these twelve disciples adds nothing to the information afforded by the passages already noticed. It may, however, be noticed that Ephesus and Corinth were places distinguished by the concourse of strangers from many countries, where, consequently, the use of various languages would be peculiarly useful for the diffusion of the Gospel.
We advance now to the examination of the statements made by St. Paul. These were occasioned by the disorderly practices which prevailed in the Church at Corinth. There were those who had this spiritual gift, and who did not use it properly. Now, as the references are all occasioned by the abuse of this and other spiritual gifts, it should not be assumed that the statements of the Apostle are to be understood as referring to its proper use. Rather may we expect that he will be found to speak of it as it was misused. The proper use of the gift of speaking in any language is, to employ it in the hearing of those by whom it is understood. Then, and only then, the Apostle says can it be for edification. An improper use of the gift would be to employ it for show, or self-exaltation, speaking before others a language which they could not understand. Would not this, it may be asked, be very silly and childish ? Certainly it would : and this is exactly the character which the Apostle gives to the conduct which he reproves. It could not be of any proper use of the gift that the Apostle would say, that ten thousand words thus spoken were not worth five words that were intelligible, and intended to profit the hearers (1 Cor. xiv. 19); that the speakers made themselves as foreigners to their hearers (v. 11); that they would seem to be madmen if strangers came into their company (v. 23); and that their practice corresponded to predicted punishments (v. 21).
The statements of St. Paul become contrary to the common interpretation of St. Luke's statements of the day of Pentecost, and the Apostle's words become not only hard to be understood, but sometimes quite unintelligible, merely from the assumption that he is referring to the proper use of the endowment, and not to the improper. But it is the improper exercise of this spiritual gift that he has occasion to refer. His language is elliptical, and the requisite completion may be drawn from one supposition or another. He who spoke in the way the Apostle censured, did not speak to men but to God; for no one understood him, and therefore none could profit, though he spoke the secret things which were revealed that they might be known (v.2). The statement that he who spoke in a tongue did not speak to men, must be taken with some condition, otherwise it would be not only contrary to the account of the speaking at the day of Pentecost but inconsistent with what follows; for where there was interpretation there was speaking to men. The first statement of the Apostle may be understood thus : he who speaks in a tongue (before those who know not the language); or thus, he who speaks in a tongue (when no interpreter is present). It will scarcely be maintained that one ellipsis is much more simple than the other. Of the person speaking what he alone understood the Apostle says, that he may edify himself, but that he cannot possibly edify others. They can receive no profit, unless to them . the words are interpreted, the advantage belonging entirely to interpretation (v. 5). The direction which the Apostle gives to those who thus abused their gift, that they should pray that they might interpret (v. 13), has been brought to show that they were really unable to do so. But this is not a necessary inference. If unable to interpret, they would be unable to understand, and the direction would be rather that they should pray for intelligence, than for interpretation. But if they were using the gift improperly, for ostentation and not for edification, they were wanting in due regard to the good of others; and the meaning of the direction might be, that they should pray for such a disposition of mind as would lead them to make all their discourse intelligible to others. Or, by telling them to pray, he may have no more meant that his words should be taken literally, than when he directed the women who would not cover their heads, to allow them to be shorn (ii. 6). There may be some irony in his language. Surely you cannot interpret, or you would not be so foolish as to speak what your hearers cannot understand. If it be so, then of course you should pray that you may be able to interpret. This agrees with the admonition, " Brethren, become not little children in your minds” (v. 20). A similar ironical direction is given (vi. 4) where the Corinthians are told to choose the least worthy of their number to be judges. Of course, the Apostle did not wish that this should be done. But even this would be better than the conduct censured, and the direction is merely designed to show the impropriety of their practice.
To pray aloud before others in a language not understood, the Apostle describes as praying with the Spirit, but not with the understanding. There might be devout feeling, but there could not be right intention; the purpose proper to public prayer. He who thus spoke would not utter a prayer that he did not himself understand, but his utterance would be purposeless, it would answer no end. He who spoke before others did so that men might hear, but if he prayed in a language they did not understand, the purpose of public prayer was frustrated. His prayers and praises might be good, but others could not be profited thereby (v. 17).*
• The word translated understanding denotes the mind not merely as having intelligence, but as using this intelligence for some end, as having intention. The intention which should exist, the Apostle states (v. 19), “ that others also may be instructed.". Purpose, 'rather than understanding, is the meaning of the similar term in v. 20. The noun here used does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament; but the corresponding verb is often employed to denote minding, in the sense of regarding, seeking: “Thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men' (Matt. xvi. 23).