Before entering upon the discussion of the text of this article, I beg to make an apology. I have been so nervous the past several months that it has been impossible for me to sit still and concentrate long enough to write a letter. I trust the readers of the Signs will find in their hearts a spirit of forgiveness to forgive me for not writing before now. I have to be convinced over and over again that the will to write is not sufficient. I must be given the ability in the self-same hour that I attempt before I can write.
May I evade further to tell you that we have been highly honoured to have Elder Spangler and Sister Spangler, Elder Griffin and Sister Griffin to visit us in our little home, as well as the homes and churches in this vicinity since writing you. Their graceful preaching at the churches and over the radio will long be remembered in this section of the country as inspirational, edifying, and very comforting. Now, may the Lord bless us to meditate upon the text in answer to a request from an esteemed elder.
The best definition of tongue, as used in the Scriptures, is that it is a particular language or dialect spoken by any particular people. We want to base our remarks upon one of the five signs that shall follow them that believe, as recorded in Mark 1:17, "They shall speak with new tongues." The believers are the particular people, and the new language given them by the Lord by the direct operation of His Holy Spirit, is the new tongue. We maintain that the new language spoken by God's people after the work of regeneration is unknown to the world and cannot be learned or understood by them.
The early ministrations of the Spirit in the manifestation of the power thereof was evidenced in the performance of natural miracles which were signs, types or figures of spiritual miracles. Jesus raised the natural dead, signifying His power to raise the spiritual dead unto spiritual life. Natural blind eyes were opened; natural deaf ears were unstopped; the lame walked, the palsied were made whole; they spake in different natural languages; -- all to figurate the spiritual work in regeneration of His people. This was evidenced on the day of Pentecost according to Acts 2:3,4, "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance." Even though there were people of many different languages, each heard in his own tongue. Today, if we speak the truth to the edification of the Lord's little children we have to speak as the Spirit gives utterance with the tongue as of fire from heaven. All hear in his own language.
I shall never forget attending a meeting of colored people one time. The colored minister was so blessed to tell my experience and to speak my thoughts and belief that I said to those accompanying me, "They speak our language." It is marvelous to note the similarity of expressions in the different parts of the country. I was so deeply impressed on my first trip to the east coast that I said to those strangers in the flesh, "I am persuaded that we all have the same Teacher, as we speak the same language."
I am glad the record says 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 10:45,46). This new tongue magnifies God, thus abasing man. The gift of tongues in those days caused them to Prophesy according to Acts 19:6, "And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied." Paul said in Cor. 12:4, "He that prophesieth edifieth the church." Jabbering that can neither be understood by the speaker nor any of the hearers could not be edifying.
I do not believe God give gifts in vain. I believe the gift of tongues is the gift of a particular language – not something that is a language that cannot be understood by anyone. We can see the necessary use of these special natural gifts of the Spirit as several languages were spoken by the people of the same locality. It would be foolish for me to make a display of the gift to speak the French language in a congregation where there were none who understood French. If I should go to a country where the people only spake and understood Latin, it would be improper for me to speak English in the church there unless there was an interpreter, according to 1st Cor. 14:27,28.
If my lot were cast among people who spoke many different natural languages, to prophesy there would be a necessity for the gift of speaking different languages. I believe this could be just as possible in this day as in days gone by and is the case when necessary. I know of men who have the special gift of speaking several languages. Paul said in 1 Cor. 14:9, "Except ye speak words easy to be-understood, how shall it be know what is spoken for ye shall speak in the air." Paul said he had rather speak five words with understanding in the church than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue (1 Cor. 14:19).
I think the true significance of the gift of tongues as prevalent today is whether they speak with the tongue of men or the tongue of angels. Paul inferred a possibility of being in possession of the gift of the tongue of angels and at the same time having not charity. He states that the result of this would be as "sounding brass or tinkling cymbal." This would give an uncertain sound (see 1 Cor. 13:1). We would like to contrast the "tongue of men" and "the tongue of angels" or the "old" tongue and the "new" tongue.
We call your attention to Psalms 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray, as soon as they are born, speaking lies." So, the tongue of men is a lying tongue. David's natural tongue was a false and deceitful tongue, as he prayed, "Deliver my soul O Lord, from lying lips and a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?" (Ps. 120:2,3.) David realized something had to be given to, or done for that terrible tongue which he was unable to do. Therefore, he prayed to God. In Proverbs 4:24, we read of "A froward mouth and perverse lips."
This kind of tongue speaks contrary to right reason, contrary to the law of God; things that are foolish, filthy, unjust, and untrue. According to Eccl. 5:2,3 and Prov. 10:19, hasty speech and multitude of words are sin. The tongue has to be restrained, bridled, and tamed. The tongues of men enter into contention, become a snare to their soul, and are as whisperers and tale bearers as proved by Proverbs 18:6-8. Yes, it talks of fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, foolish talking and jesting; (Eph. 5:3,4) anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy communication (Col. 2:8).
James 3:5 says that the tongue is a little member and boasteth great things. The natural tongue boasts of the ability of man. When we hear one boasting of what he can do we may be assured that he is speaking in the old or natural tongue which has never been supplanted by the new. The natural tongue boasts of self-righteousness.
When one speaks boastfully of his own righteousness, we may know that is the old tongue. James also says that it defiles the whole body, being an unruly evil which is full of deadly poison.
Can the tongue be tamed? Man may put bridles into horse's mouths and direct them. He may tame beasts, birds and serpents, and may direct a ship with a very small helm wheresoever he desireth even against fierce winds, but can he tame the tongue? According to the third chapter of James many may do all the above "but the tongue can no man tame" (James 3:8)
According to the words of James and my experience, it is impossible for a man upon the volition of his own will to tame the tongue that it will not lie, deceive, wound, talk foolish and jest. If man cannot tame or bridle the tongue, then I want to know as David did, what must be given or done to it? and who can do it?
I am persuaded that the Lord must give us the new tongue by the direct operation of His Holy Spirit before we can manifest a bridled tongue. If you will notice in Mark 16:17, that it says, "They shall speak with new tongues," not in new tongues. The tongue must be given them.
Let us read Isaiah 50:4, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning. He wakeneth my ear to hear as the learned." If I am in possession at any time of the learned tongue it is because it has been given me by the Lord. I believe there is a time and a season for every word properly spoken to the weary to their comfort and edification.
I cannot learn how to do this. I do not know when certain words ought to be spoken. Even though I try to learn when, how, and what to say to certain people on certain occasions, I learn by sad experience that I cannot learn those things, but must depend on the words being put in my mouth that would edify and comfort. The learned tongue is the gift of God. The learned tongue speaks words in proper season. The learned tongue gives a soft answer that turns away wrath. The learned tongue confesses Jesus as our Savior. Quoting Romans 10:10, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
God does not begin something that He doesn't finish. He begins by giving the new heart that believes. He continues that good work begun by giving the new tongue that confesses. You may be a believer and think you are hiding it, but are not your speech betrays you. You talk of your unfitness, unworthiness, and of your inability; you say if you are saved it will be solely because of God's mercy and grace based on the merits of Jesus. You speak a different language; you sing a different song.
Let us meditate upon Psalms 40:3, "He hath put a new song in my mouth even praise unto our God." You sing of His mercy, grace and truth; you sing of His power, wisdom and holiness. Your song is now in harmony with the Scriptures. It is in perfect accord with the experience of your brethren. The old song was sung in the key of man 0 the praise of man being the keynote. The new song is sung in a different key – the key of Jesus. This new song praises God. If you want to hear a discord in natural singing try singing in a different key to the others in the class. If you hear some praising man and some praising God, you hear a discord. The old tongue can't learn to sing a new song. The new song must be put into the mouth by the direct operation of God's Holy Spirit, thereby the new tongue is given to sing the new song.
We read in St. Luke 12:12, "For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say." the instructions say to take no thought how are what ye shall answer. As I stated before, I am guilty of taking thought, which manifests one of my many weaknesses. I learn continually by sad experience, that my efforts are in vain. I am allowed at times to speak upon the subject that I have premeditated to use at a certain time, and often it makes me sick. Sometimes I have tried to re-use a line of thought that was so inspirational to me when I experienced it, but behold, worms have gotten in it and it is stale; it has lost food value.
James says, "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain" (James 1:26). Ture religion must manifest a bridled tongue. No man is able to bridle it; so, it must be the new tongue that God enables you to bridle. This bridled tongue is a wholesome tongue. In Proverbs 15:4 we read, "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life…" It is soothing and healing to be in the company of those who speak words that are edifying. The wholesome tongue speaks sound doctrine which cannot be condemned. Those in possession of this tongue speak healing words to wounded consciences. They speak of the pardon, peace, righteousness, redemption and salvation through the life and blood of Jesus, motivated by the love, mercy and grace of God, our Father.
May God bless us with this new tongue that drives away wrath instead of stirring up anger. May He bless us to edify, comfort and heal. May we not be hasty in speech, but may we speak "As the oracles of God." Peter wrote by inspiration, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…" (Peter 4:11). If man speak as the oracles of God it is by divine utterances. It would be in accord with the Scriptures.
I realize that I have not been enabled to do justice to the text. I trust that the readers will be charitable to forgive imperfect expressions and that you realize all errors are expressions of the old tongue. If there be anything wholesome in this article, it is evidence of the new tongue, and be assured that God is to be praised for it.
Elder E.J. Lambert
"Tried in the Furnace."
Signs of the Times Vol. 163, No. 4 – April 1995