The "Tongues” Movement.
Many earnest Christians, mourning over the weakness and failure around them, look back longingly to those early days when, as at Pentecost, all believers were of one mind, and all were filled with the Spirit. They long to experience the same wonders; to exercise the same powers. Knowing that God has not changed, that His arm is not shortened, they think the fault must be in the want of faith of modern Christians, and that if only they exercise more faith, the gifts will be restored. Not having an “understanding of the times,'' they are thus an easy prey for any deceptive manifestation that may arise. Great caution is therefore needed.
“By their fruits ye shall know them" is true of whole movements in the present day, as well as of individuals, and when we find as the result of certain teaching that Christians are divided, work is broken up, soul-winning is set aside, and even that workers become insane, we may well doubt whether the movement is of God. If the Apostle Paul were with us to-day, would he not have cause to repeat his warning? “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them" (Rom. xvi. 17).
Such are the conveniences of modern travel and transit, that it does not take long for things to spread over the whole world. Alas, that error seems to spread more rapidly than truth!
The so-called "Tongues" movement that seems to have had its origin in Los Angeles, sent its emissaries in every direction, and from many countries, we have heard personal reports of the lamentable results—from India, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, and alas! from various parts of our own land also.
A well-known Christian from one of these European countries, told us how he had been in Los Angeles at the time of the first outbreak, and how he joined with several spiritually-minded ministers and workers in investigating every case of so-called speaking with tongues, and they came to the conclusion that in not a single case, was it a genuine God-given power. And if the beginnings were spurious, is it likely that the outcome would be genuine?
It is quite certain that many of those who have been drawn into the movement are earnest Christians, and therefore much that they hold is Scriptural. This makes it all the more difficult to discriminate between the true and the false and has led many to think that part of the movement is of God even while part of it is from the enemy. But on the other hand, the fact that some of those who professed to have received the “gift of tongues" were living lives contrary to God's Word, has been used in some places to open the eyes of those who were in danger of being carried away. An unholy life can never characterize one who is really filled with the Holy Spirit, but the absence of the breastplate of righteousness leaves one open to the fiery darts of the evil one.
When we examine the question in the light of Scripture, we come to an important conclusion, viz.: that there is no reason why the miraculous gift should be continued through this dispensation.
There is no doubt that there was in the Apostles’ days, a supernatural power which showed itself in “speaking with tongues” and apart from the Pentecostal manifestation, it was specially seen in Corinth. In his first Epistle, the apostle Paul shows clearly that “the gift of tongues” was a dispensational sign. In his explanation for the purpose for which the sign was given (1 Cor. xiv.), there is one word which is entirely overlooked by those who claim that we ought to expect its continuance in the present day. It is the conjunction “wherefore” in verse 22, which links it with the preceding verse. He quotes a remarkable prophecy in Isaiah concerning the turning to the Gentiles on account of Israel's apostacy. “In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and yet for all that, will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that, believe, but for them that believe not.” Thus, he asserts that Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled in the “gift of tongues” in Corinth, and was a sign, not so much to unbelieving Gentiles, but to the unbelieving nation, that the threatened judgment had fallen upon them. If we turn to the history of the founding of the Church at Corinth (Acts xviii.), we see how suggestive this fact is. It took place at one of the four great crises in the final casting aside of Israel. In Corinth, as in Jerusalem and Antioch, and afterwards at Rome, i.e. in Judea, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, the Jews rejected the second offer of the gospel. (Acts vii.; xiii. 46; xviii. 6; xxviii. 25-28.) “They opposed themselves and blasphemed"; Paul therefore said, “From henceforth, I will go unto the Gentiles." And leaving the synagogue, he went next door into the house which “joined hard to the synagogue” and there “many of the Corinthians hearing, believed.'' It was in the church thus formed that the gifts were so abundantly manifested. The Jews in the adjoining synagogue must have heard of the wonder, and had they understood their own Scriptures, might have known that these manifestations were a sign from God, that He had turned to the Gentiles, for Isaiah had prophesied of this “gift of tongues."
Is there any reason why God should continue to give a sign to the unbelieving nation of Israel that He had turned from them? Has it not been abundantly proved? Because the change of dispensation (of which this was one sign) has not been recognized, many have had a craving for miracles which has led to disaster. Miracles are signs, and it is unbelief and not faith which longs for a sign. Not a few of the extreme movements of modern days, had their beginning in unscriptural importunate prayer for the evidential gifts of the Spirit, and because the prayer, which was not in accordance with God's will, was persisted in, counterfeits were received instead.
For any who are still in doubt respecting the movement, may I add a word of personal experience as to how my mind was finally set at rest? Having read a pamphlet which depicted the movement in glowing colours, and spoke of seraphic music, "heavenly feelings, and wonderful experiences, I turned prayerfully to the Bible and read the second epistles, which are so specially descriptive of the last days (2 Timothy, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Peter, and also Jude). They are filled with solemn warnings against deceptions and delusions, which come to us with tremendous power when read side by side with the literature of the "Tongues” movement. If it were quite easy to decide whether a thing were of God or not, there would not be anything deceptive about it, and the warnings would be unnecessary.
There are indications in Scripture that in days to come after the close of this dispensation, miracles will again be worked and counterfeited, and it seems as though, if the “gift of tongues" and other evidential gifts should be restored, they would be the precursors of this—"the powers of the age to come”—rather than the much-longed-for revival of the pentecostal power of Acts ii., which we are told have been lost through want of faith. It was not lack of faith on Israel's part that caused the pillar of cloud to be withdrawn. It was with them as long as they needed it, but when it had served its purpose, it was seen no more.
“Friends Witness to Scriptural Truth” 1911