Elder Joe Hall
TO THE BRETHREN AND SISTERS OF THE UNION ASSOCIATION
Dearly Beloved Brethren:
Having been appointed by you last year to write a circular letter, I will now endeavor to comply with your request by addressing you from I Cor. 14:2. “For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men, but unto God: for no man understands him; although in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”
From this text it is being taught by some that the term “unknown tongue,” means a tongue not known to man and not known to human speech and that the person so speaking in the unknown tongue does not himself understand what he says, and for proof of this contention points to Paul’s language, “No man understands him,” and use that term in a universal and unlimited sense. Not for the purpose of criticizing those who hold and teach this doctrine, but for fair and impartial investigation of this subject, I submit the following deductions:
1. That Paul meant and used the term in a limited sense, and meant, that no man not of the language of the speaker would understand the person speaking in another language not used, or understood by the people addressed.
2. That the term “Tongue” and “language” are used interchangeably in the scriptures. To illustrate the first point, if a German should attempt to address a congregation of English speaking people, none of whom had studied the German language, we would say, “No man understands him,” and the term would not be limited to the congregation of English people and would not mean that no man universally the world over would understand him, for the Germans would all understand him, and we are constrained to say that Paul used the term in a limited sense and did not mean that no man the world over would understand. These same people in our midst limit the term themselves, for they say God gives them interpreters and if so the interpreter understand the person speaking in the unknown tongue, and so to get their meaning, they would have to say, “No man understand, but the interpreters.” Well then, if they are going to limit it to no man but the interpreters, why are we not justified in limiting Paul’s language to the people not of the language of the speaker. That Paul meant an unknown language not known or understood by the people addressed he makes plain in the 27th and 28th verses of this same chapter in which he says, “If any man speaks in an unknown tongue (language is not understood by the people addressed) let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret, but if there be no interpreter let him keep silence in the church.” This shows that Paul had reference to different languages and that when there was no interpreter the person of a language not understood by the church, congregation should hold his peace and keep silent.
But these people violate this plain injunction of the apostle, and without any interpreter, by scores at a time, all claim to speak in an unknown tongue, which neither themselves nor any one else understood. Was not the gifts of tongues, as spoken of by Paul in this chapter, meant for purpose of instruction of the people and for edification of the church? In this same connection Paul says, “Now brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, (different tongues), what shall I profit you, except, I shall speak to you, either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine.” But those of this movement come preaching to speak with tongues, that they do not understand, and at times when and where there are no interpreters, and without anyone knowing what is piped, or what is harped. Would God so work in any people, by His Holy Spirit so miraculously and all to no purpose? Would He lash the mighty ocean into fury, merely to float a feather or to drown a fly? Every sane person will know that God would not display such miraculous powers and gifts to no end, and for no purpose. Yet this people in our midst have been so claiming all these miraculous powers and these extraordinary gifts for years without a single advancement in revelation, in knowledge, or in doctrine. Surely, if they had such gifts of God, He would bring some great good out of it. The Apostle Paul in the 7th verse of this same chapter laid the axe to the root of the Babel of confusion by saying: “Even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped, or harped.” But these propagandists give no distinction in the sounds and neither they themselves, nor any one else, according to their own contention, knows what is piped, or harped. Paul would say: “Let all things be done unto edification.” and again he says: “What then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also.” So it is plain that the gift of tongues in the church in the apostles’ day was for the purpose of revelation, of knowledge and of doctrine, but out of this Holy Roller movement has come no revelation, no knowledge, no doctrine. Is not this enough to put the stamp of falsehood on their claim to such extraordinary gifts?
But to the second point: I find the term tongue as used in the scriptures is used interchangeably with that of language, and in all places in the scriptures has reference to human language or human speech. For proof let us turn to the Acts of the Apostles 2:6-8, “The multitude came together and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying, one to another, Behold are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” Here we see clearly, that the term “Language,” was used in the 6th verse has reference to the same thing as the term “tongue” as used in the 8th verse, and that the terms, “tongues” and “language” are used interchangeably and mean one and the same thing. John when in the Isle of Patmos, saw the redeemed out of every nation, kindred, people and tongues (Rev. 7:9). Here the term tongues means languages. Again the same writer says: “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth and every nation and kindred and tongue and people.” (Rev. 14:6.) Here again we see clearly that the term “tongue” means language, human speechand in every place in the scriptures where the term is used it has reference to “language” or human speech and for any one to contend that he is gifted to speak in a tongue, not known to man and not of human language or human speech is to contradict the plain teachings of the scriptures. The gifts of tongues on the day of Pentecost was used to instruct the multitude and each man was enabled to hear in his own tongue, or language in which he was born to the end that he might hear and understand the wonderful works of God. It was given by the Holy Spirit and was manifested by revelation, by knowledge and by doctrine. But in the Holy Roller meetings they claim to be endued to so speak in the unknown tongue, when no interpreter is present and the speaker does not understand what either piped, or harped, and the gift is without revelation, without knowledge and without doctrine, and hence could not be of any benefit to any living person. How different from the scriptural order and how contrary to the Bible plain?
But this same people claim to have and be endued with the same miraculous gifts and power as that of the apostles and which was manifested in the apostolic age, or first century. They for proof of their contention appeal to Mark 16:17-20, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. ”From this scripture the signs following the preaching of the word were for the purpose of confirming the word, but it does not say that these sings shall follow the preaching of the word throughout every age and dispensation of the church. Then the question arises, how long shall these miraculous signs follow? It is my contention that the Bible does not leave us to guess how long these signs were to follow confirming the word. I shall contend that the apostolic gift, being the first extraordinary gift in the church was for a special and extraordinary purpose-that of writing, completing and confirming the canon of the New Testament scriptures and these signs were to follow until the same was written, and when thus written and completed and confirmed, the writing of scriptures were to then cease, and the signs confirming the same were also to cease and when the canon of the New Testament scriptures were completed these ceased. If the reader will turn to Daniel 9:24 he will see that the seventy weeks determined upon the people, or the 490 years was to last until the finish of transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for inequity, being in everlasting righteousness and to “seal up the vision and prophecy.” The term “seal up the vision and prophecy” means to complete the canon of the New Testament scriptures. It is an error to suppose that this 490 year period was only to extend to the birth of Christ, but was to extend still further and until the canon of the New Testament was completed. It is an error to suppose as do the Roman Catholics, that there was to be apostolic succession. True there is a succession of the church, but no succession of the apostles, the apostolic office, or the extraordinary and miraculous signs given to confirm the word during the writing of the same. It is a matter of historic knowledge that as soon as John wrote the book of Revelations, as appears from the writings of the fathers of the church, that the whole church accepted it as the close of the New Testament, and these extraordinary gifts then ceased in the churches. The vision and prophecy having been completed, closed and sealed, the signs confirming the same were also closed and since that time no one has raised the dead and done the miraculous things that were done during the first century and during the time the New Testament scriptures were being written. Like the manna that followed the children of Israel through the wilderness but when they reached the promised land and found sustenance in the fat of the land, these being no longer a necessity for the manna, the manna ceased. So the New Testament having been written, completed and confirmed there being no more necessity for them, the confirming signs ceased and was no longer found in the churches.
But dearly beloved, having these scriptures let us take them as our only rule of faith and practice and let us look to the same Holy Spirit that inspired them for wisdom to understand and proclaim the same faith once for all delivered unto the saints. Let us cherish the general gifts and callings of God set in the church, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry and let us not be deceived by the boastful claims of those who teach contrary to the scriptures.
Dear brethren, this may be the last opportunity I will ever have of addressing you in the form of a circular letter, and I will admonish you all to live in peace, earnestly contend for the true faith, be not tossed about by the doctrine of men but stand firm upon the true foundation of Christ and both by your precepts and your actions adorn the doctrine of God our Savior and when our trials and labors are over we can enter into the joys of our Lord and may we so live that we can receive the acclaim, “Well done you good and faithful servants, you have been faithful over a few things and I will make you ruler over many, enter into the joys of your Lord.”
Yours in the patience and service of the Master.