A brief survey of books on speaking in tongues from the early 1900s on speaking in tongues from a holiness/pentecostal perspective
Early Pentecostal Books
These books were selected because the authors were either contributors or eyewitnesses to the Pentecostalism of the early 1900s. This fits in with the goals of the Gift of Tongues Project which aims to make important works about speaking in tongues digitally available.
W. B. Godbey
“William B. Godbey was one of the most influential evangelists of the Wesleyan-holiness movement in its formative period (1880-1920).Thousands of people experienced conversion or entire sanctification under his ministry, and Godbey gained a reputation for having revivals everywhere he went.”1 Mr. Godbey preceded the pentecostal movement by a few years but his thoughts of revival and tongues are important to note in the birthing of Pentecostalism. Godbey believed the supernatural gift of tongues was already in operation before Azusa. This is found in his book, Spiritual Gifts and Graces.
Spiritual Gifts and Graces. Cincinnati: M.W. Knapp. 1895
Pg. 42 “. . . Bishop Taylor is perhaps the brightest and most spiritual Christian in the world. He says this power to speak (Pg. 43) unknown languages is enjoyed at the present day by some of his missionaries in Africa. He speaks of a young lady whom he appointed to preach to a nation of whose language she was utterly ignorant. She began preaching through an interpreter, but when the bishop came round in two or three months, to his surprise he found her preaching fluently and powerfully in the native language without an interpreter. None of these gifts supersede our own efforts; but what little we do in the way of study bears an insignificant proportion to the magnitude of the Gift bestowed by the Holy Ghost. The Gift is destinied to play a conspicuous part in the evangelization of the heathen world, amid the glorious prophetical fulfillment of the latter days. All missionaries in heathen lands should seek and expect this Gift to enable them to preach fluently in the vernacular tongue, at the same time not depreciating their own efforts. Preaching through an interpreter conduces to the development of a humdrum style, unfavorable to spirituality. Hence the distressing inefficiency of many missionaries.”
T. B. Barratt
T. B. Barratt was a powerful Norwegian/British orator and writer. He was the intellectual and promotional person behind the Pentecostal expansion into Europe.
The following oration turned into a small book that “was specifically delivered to answer the criticism’s that had been made by the famed American Bible teacher, Dr. A. C. Dixon who had preached against ‘Pentecost’ the day before at The Tent of Meeting, Kristiania, on Friday 19th June, 1914.”2
A lecture by Barratt put into print: The Gift of Tongues. What is it?
Address delivered in Möllergaten 38, Kristania, Saturday evening, June 20th, 1914
Pg. 20 “Then Dr. D. went on to say “When such ecstasy occurs, it must be interpreted or expounded. If we have a reason for getting up to such heights, when we are cooled down we can give the interpretation. This will keep you from fanaticism, and from going off at a tangent; and if you cannot explain it, keep quite; otherwise you may injure both yourself and others.” ”
“Dr. D. constantly imagines tongues to be only a high pitched speaking in ecstasy, and that we must be normal in order to acquaint our friends with what we have experienced and expressed with numerous wonderful exclamations.”
Pg. 21 “But this presentment of the ordinary speaking in tongues is mistaken. By the “ordinary speaking in tongues” I mean that which takes place when the “gift” is employed. By “the gift” I mean the tongues that continue after one has received the Baptism. Many speak in tongues only on the one occasion when the Spirit falls on them. Others retain the tongues, and from that hour forward speak in tongues whensoever the Spirit inspires them.
It is possible, as I have said, that occasionally there may be a “language of the Spirit” which only the Spirit can interpret, or a language which the angels speak (I Cor. xiii. I), or a human language also. “Divers kinds of tongues” are amongst the gifts. But Dr. D. is trying to exclude entirely all thought of human languages at Corinth. This he has not right to do.
Great theologians who have had nothing to with the “Pentecostal Movement,” think that the expression “tongues” means languages.
Dr. Fausset, one of the great commentators of the Church of England, says, touching I Cor. xiv., that “tongues means languages.”
“It cannot, as the theologian Neander imagined, mean ecstatic unintelligible rhapsodies,” he says.
But if it is languages, there must also be interpretation (translation*) if it is to be understood, and not only exposition. There may be exposition also if God wills it.
Bishop Rördam is convinced that languages are here intended, and adduces verse 21 as a proof thereof. He says that this speaking in tongues was “a sign that the same Spirit who on the Day of Pentecost came upon the first Church was still present and working.”
Pg. 22 “People have obtained the idea that languages are not intended, he says, because of a mistaken application of the Greek word “glôssa.” If we had only “speak in tongues” (glôssais), there might have been some ground for thinking of a speech full of words and expression without any definite connection.
“But the Apostle generally uses the singular : speak in (a) tongue (γλωσση), which would have been meaningless,” he thinks if languages were not meant –“not to speak of the impossibility of conceiving that such speech could be a ‘grace-gift’ of the Spirit of God” (i.e., a speech which was not language) “and that anyone could expound it.”
So far Rördam.
We must in any case come to the conclusion that when Dr. D. tried to get rid of the expression “other tongues” at the expense of the expressions “tongues,” etc., or in other words tries to prove that “other tongues” means real languages whilst “tongues,” “divers kinds of tongues,” “unknown tongues,” etc., cannot be anything other than ecstatic disconnected exclamations, the view point in the matter is not perfectly correct.
The Bible represents the same kind of tongues in both Jerusalem and Corinth. If they spoke in ecstatic exclamations in Corinth, then they did so in Jerusalem also. Possibly they spoke both in language and in ecstasy in both places.
I do not think that all who spoke in tongues on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem themselves knew what they said. Dr. Brown, in “The Portable Commentary,” maintains the same idea:
“It is next to certain that the speakers themselves understood nothing of what they uttered.”
The popularity of the Azusa Street Revival would have never occurred without the prolific coverage by Frank Bartleman. William Seymour may be symbol for the restoration of the supernatural gifts, but Bartleman ensured the restoration message was frequently and consistently communicated in the major religious newspapers and periodicals. Bartleman was a Baptist turned Wesleyen and then finally an independent Pentecostal. His work How Pentecost came to Los Angeles has historical significance and is one of the main sources for understanding the Azusa Street Revival.
How Pentecost came to Los Angeles. Self-Published. 1925.
“Pg. 14 “G. Campbell Morgan’s little tract on the “Revival in Wales” spread the fire in the churches wonderfully. I did a great deal of visiting among the saints also, and began to sell S.B. Shaw’s little book, “The Great Revival in Wales,” among churches. God wonderfully used it to promote faith for a revival spirit. My tract work was continued among the saloons and business houses.”
Pg. 18 “I had written a letter to Evan Roberts in Wales, asking them to pray for us in California. I now received a reply that they were doing so, which linked us up with revival there.”
Pg. 22 “The revival spirit at Brother Smale’s rapidly spread its interest over the whole city, among the spiritual people. Workers were coming in from all parts, from various affiliations, uniting their prayers with us for a general outpouring. The circle of interest widened rapidly. We were now praying for California, for the Nation, and also for world-wide revival. The spirit of prophecy began to work among us for the mighty things, on a large scale. Some one sent me 5000 pamphlets on “The Revival in Wales.” These I distributed among the churches. They had a wonderful quickening influence.”
Pg. 49 “God was working at “Azusa.” All classes began to flock to the meetings. Many were curious and unbelieving, but others were hungry for God. The newspapers began to ridicule and abuse the meetings, thus giving us much free advertising. This brought the crowds.”
Pg. 56 “Friday, June 15, at “Azusa,” the Spirit dropped the heavenly chorus” into my soul. I found myself suddenly joining the rest who had received this supernatural “gift.” It was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe. In the beginning this manifestation was wonderfully pure and powerful. We feared to try reproduce it, as with “tongues” also. Now many seemingly have no hesitation in imitating all the “gifts”. They have largely lost their power and influence because of this. No one could understand this “gift of song” but those who had it. It was indeed a “new song,” in the Spirit. When I first heard it in the meetings a great hunger entered my soul to receive it. I felt it would exactly express my pent up feelings. I had not yet spoken in “tongues.” But the “new song” captured me. It was a gift from God of high order, and appeared among us soon after the “Azusa” work began.”
Pg. 59 “We were delivered right there from ecclesiastical heirarchism and abuse. We wanted God.”
Pg. 65 “A. B. Simpson said: “We are to witness before the Lord’s return real missionary “tongues” like those of Pentecost, through which the heathen world shall hear in their own language ‘the wonderful works of God,’ and this perhaps on a scale of whose vastness we have scarcely dreamed, thousands of missionaries going forth in one last mightly crusade from a united body of believers at home to bear swift witness of the crucified and coming Lord to all nations.”
Pg. 71 “On the afternoon of August 16, at Eighth and Maple, the Spirit manifested Himself through me in “tongues.” There were seven of us present at the time. It was a week day. After a time of testimony and praise, with everything quiet, I was softly walking the floor, praising God with my spirit. All at once I seemed to hear in my soul (not with my natural ears), a rich voice speaking in a language I did not know. I have later heard something similar to it in India. In a few moments I found myself, seemingly without volition on my part, enunciating the same sounds with my own vocal organs. It was an exact continuation of the same expression that I had heard in my soul a few moments before. It seemed a perfect language.”
Pg. 72 “In the experience of “speaking in tongues” I have reached the climax in abandonment. This opened the channel for a new ministry of the Spirit in service. From that time the Spirit began to flow through me in a new way. Messages would come, with anointings, in a way I had never known before, with a spontaneous inspiration and illumination that was truly wonderful.”
Pg. 74 “I felt after the experience of speaking in “tongues” that languages would could come easy to me. And so it has proven. And also I (Pg. 75) have learned to sing, in the Spirit. I never was a singer, and do not know music.”
Pg. 76 “We will quote from well known authors some interesting extracts on the subject of “speaking in tongues.” Dr. Philip Schaff, in his “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. I, page 116, says: “The speaking with tongues is an involuntary psalm – like prayer or song, uttered from a spiritual trance, and in a peculiar language inspired by the Holy Ghost. The soul is almost entirely passive, an instrument on which the Holy Ghost plays His heavenly melodies.”
Pg. 77 “Conybeare and Howson, commentators, write: “This gift (speaking in tongues) was the result of a sudden influx of the supernatural to the believer. Under its influence the exercise of the understanding was suspended, while the spirit was wrapped in a state of ecstasy by the immediate communication of the Spirit of God. In this ecstatic trance the believer was constrained by irresistible power to pour forth his feelings of thanksgiving and rapture in words not his own. He was usually even ignorant of their meaning.” Space forbids our quoting from other standard commentators on this subject. Many have written very illuminatingly on the same subject, and to the same general end as those we have quoted. We will quote from just one more writer.
Stalker, in his “Life of Paul,” page 102, has the following to say: “It (the speaking in tongues) seems to have been a kind of tranced utterance, in which the speaker poured out an impassioned rhapsody, by which his religious faith received both expression and exaltation. Some were not able to tell others the meaning of what they were saying, while others had this additional power; and there were those who, though not speaking in tongues themselves, were able to interpret what the inspired speakers were saying. In all cases there seems to have been a kind of immediate inspiration, so that what they did was not the effect of calculation or preparation, but of a strong present impulse. These phenomena are so remarkable that, if narrated in a history, they would put a severe strain on Christian faith. They show with what mighty force at its first entrance into the world, Christianity took possession of the spirits it touched. The very gifts of the Spirit were perverted into instruments of sin; for those possessed of the more showy gifts, such as miracles and tongues, were too fond of displaying them and them into grounds of boasting.”
Pg. 90 “ “We are coming back from the ‘dark ages’ of the church’s backsliding and downfall. We are living in the most momentous moments of the history of time. The Spirit is brushing aside all our plans, our schemes, our strivings, and our theories, and is Himself acting again…” ”
Stanley Howard Frodsham
With Signs Following: The Story of the Pentecostal Revival in the Twentieth Century
Mr. Frodsham stands at the forefront of the pentecostal movement from the very inception. His religious life as a Pentecostal began under the hands of A. A Body, who, along with T. B. Barratt brought the pentecostal message to Europe. Frodsham started a publishing ministry in Britain which led to his moving to the United States and taking the helm of the Assemblies of God magazine, Pentecostal Evangel. He soon became the General Secretary and directly involved with the Assemblies of God’s Statement of Fundamental Truths. This makes his work and history critically important.
“With Signs Following: the Story of the Pentecostal Revival in the Twentieth Century,” is unknown to many, but was once the definitive book on anything Pentecostal by a Pentecostal. First published in 1926, and revised many times, even after 1946, is a very good, well documented book for the first three quarters of its composition. Likely the best of any early Pentecostal histories. However, the last quarter had me confused. The first 17 chapters of the book documents people miraculously speaking in foreign languages, and then an unexplained shift occurs in his writing. He concludes at the end of the book that christian tongues is a secret speech, something between man and God.3 The abrupt change in thought is more a mystery to me than the historical analysis that he documented. It is a question that the Gift of Tongues Project has invested a high level of resources to solve.
Charles Fox Parham was a self-appointed itinerant/evangelist in the early 1900s who had an enormous early contribution to the modern tongues movement. It was his teaching and missional emphasis that encouraged a number of his followers, especially Lucy Farrow, and later William Seymour to go to California and become major patrons in the Azusa Street Revival. He is also the person who codified the Baptism of the Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues as a cornerstone identity in the pentecostal movement.
One of the major books that details Parham’s life and doctrine is his biography written by his wife. The Life of Charles F. Parham: the Founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement
This book affirms Parham believed that speaking in tongues was the miraculous endowment of a foreign language. He solely believed this to be the definition and all others were false.
Pg. 116 — 117 “During the wonderful altar service, the audience, having been previously dismissed, moved quietly and informally about, hearing and witnessing the marvelous demonstrations of the power promised to believers. Sometimes as many as twenty various languages were spoken in one evening, not an unintelligent utterance of mere vocal sounds, but a clear language spoken with the intonations and accents only given by natives, who repeatedly gave testimony to that effect.
It was my privilege to be frequently in concourse with some professors from the city schools and colleges, all of whom spoke some foreign language and one of them spoke five languages. He said to him the most marvelous thing about the use of these languages was the original accent they (the workers) gave. They demonstrated that under instruction, it was impossible for an American to learn. They gave the REAL FOREIGN ACCENT SO PERFECTLY, that when he closed his eyes, it seemed to him as though he were listening to utterances from his native masters in the Old World.
To me this was very convincing, coming from those unbiased and competent judges. They oftimes interpreted for me when languages they knew were spoken. Many foreigners came to the meetings and were frequently spoken to in their native tongue, with the original accent that could not be perfectly acquired. This, more than anything else, convinced them that it was wrought by some power above the human. Their hearts were always touched and they frequently went to the altar for prayer, convinced that it was the real power of God.”
A persistent theme in this book was that speaking-in-tongues was not gibberish — a tome directly aimed at what Parham accused the Azusa Street Revival of doing:
Pg. 163 “I hurried to Los Angeles, and to my utter surprise and astonishment I found conditions even worse than I had anticipated. Brother Seymour had come to me helpless, he said he could not stem the tide that had arisen. I sat on the platform in Azusa Street Mission, and saw the manifestations of the flesh, spiritualistic controls, saw people practicing hypnotism at the altar over candidates seeking baptism; though many were receiving the real baptism of the Holy Ghost.
After preaching two or three times, I was informed by two of the elders, one who was a hypnotist (I had seen him lay his hands on many who came through chattering, jabbering and sputtering, speaking in no language at all) that I was not wanted in that place.
For more information:
- A digest of early Pentecostal newspapers and periodicals relating to speaking in tongues Early Pentecostal Tongues: Notes and Quotes
- Modern Pentecostal Books on Speaking in Tongues
- Charles Parham on Speaking in Tongues
- The Apostolic Faith Newspaper on the Azusa Street Revival
- Stanley Howard Frodsham. With Signs Following: the Story of the Pentecostal Revival in the Twentieth Century. Missouri: Gospel Publishing House. 1946. Pg. 269