By Arthur Vess
We find other occasions on which the Holy Ghost was poured out, and where they spake in other languages. Let us see whether they were known or unknown tongues or languages. Peter seems to have been the Pentecostal preacher. He followed the revivals and led the people on into the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, as a Second Work of Grace.
It is the witness of the Spirit within, and not the wagging of the material tongue without, that testifies to our having the Holy Ghost within. "Whereof the Holy Ghost is witness." It is a spiritual witness, not a material witness. If there were no others to speak to, we would not need another language. Language is always a means cf communication to others, and not to ourselves. We already know our own thoughts, feelings, and impressions before we speak.
Let us check the instances where the disciples, after Pentecost, received the Holy Ghost.
At Samaria -- In Acts eight we have a record of the great revival in Samaria as a result of Philip's preaching. The people received the message, great miracles were performed, and there was great joy in the city, as there is in every place where there is a great revival of old-time salvation.
When the apostles at Jerusalem heard about the great revival in Samaria, they sent Peter and John, "who when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost." Remember that they had been only converted at this time -- no record of any other work of grace. "Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." Mark you that in this first instance of receiving the Holy Ghost after Pentecost they did not speak in tongues! Why? Because it was not necessary, for the Samaritans spoke and understood the same language as Peter and John who heard their testimony in their own language. There was no need for the gift of language on this occasion, and therefore it was not given.
At Caesarea -- After God had appeared to that saint, Cornelius, in a vision, telling him to send for that old-fashioned holiness preacher, the Apostle Peter, God also appeared unto Peter and gave him a vision to prepare him for the transition. God works on both ends of the line. When the messengers from Cornelius came and invited Peter, he went down and preached to them under the power of the Holy Ghost. And "while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Peter's Jewish companions were surprised and astonished, that "on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." How did they know that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost? Why, they heard them testify, and understood their testimony, "for they heard them speak with tongues (languages), and magnify God." Oh, I can almost hear those Gentile converts as they would blaze out their burning testimonies to their own Gentile brethren, and then turn or whirl around and pour out their testimony in the Hebrew to Peter and his Jewish companions, who under-stood every word they said. How do we know that they understood them? Because they spoke in tongues, and magnified God. If they had not understood, how could they have known that they "magnified God"?
THE DISCIPLES AT PENTECOST spoke so that the Gentiles could understand, but here at Caesarea the Gentile Christians spoke in the Hebrew language so their Jewish brethren could hear and understand, and could go back to Jerusalem and report that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost, and thus override racial prejudice. "And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Please note that their hearts were purified and sanctified when they received the Holy Ghost -- not before or afterward. There is no record here of any "unknown" tongue, but instead, they spoke in the language of the Jews present so that they could know that they had received the same Holy Ghost as they themselves had received at Pentecost.
What plainer language could anyone use than is used here? The tongues, or languages, were supernaturally imparted for a definite purpose of an understanding between the Jews and the Gentiles, and they understood them when they "magnified God." If God gave them the Holy Ghost, as He did on the Day of Pentecost, their "tongues," or languages, were understood as they were at Pentecost, or else it was not the same. Do not forget that they understood their tongues here, as at Pentecost, and that their hearts were purified by faith when they were filled with the Holy Ghost. (See Matthew 1: 11.) Any other interpretation is confusing and untrue to facts. When the heart is purified, the Holy Ghost enters. God never performs miracles to satisfy curiosity, but for a definite purpose. They heard them speak with tongues and magnify God," with their understood language.
THE DISCIPLES AT EPHESUS -- Acts 19:1-12 -- We quote V. 6: "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." Since this is a similar case to that at Caesarea, we need only to note that when the Ephesian disciples received the Holy Ghost "they spake with tongues, and prophesied." If they had not understood what they said, they could not have known whether they prophesied, testified, or what they said. Honest hearts need no further explanation. Here again God gave the Gentile Christians the power to speak in the language of the Apostle so that he would understand what they said, and know that they received the Holy Ghost as they did at Pentecost.
In a tender, kind spirit may I not ask, Which is the greater evidence that a man or woman is filled with the Holy Ghost -- (l) speaking in our own language in harmony with the Bible and our own transformed spirits, with words understood by our hearts and minds, or (2) hearing someone, with a far-off look, jabbering in some gibberish or supposed unintelligent, unknown tongue? We are not "barbarians" or heathen, but enlightened, intelligent, spiritual Americans, if we be Christians.