Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
1 Corinthians 14:15
I. Christian teaching and Christian prayer and Christian praise are to be intelligible to the people, yea, to the meanest among them. To conduct any of these in a foreign tongue, which the people do not understand, is an absurdity so monstrous that nothing but the fact of its having been done, and now being done in the Church of Rome, could ever reconcile us to the mention of such a thing. For what is prayer? The expression of the heart to God, the breathings of man's inner spirit to the Father of his spirit, the Abba Father of the reconciled and adopted son in God's family. Surely, if anything should be hearty and earnest, this should! Some tell us of holy places on earth, and men have lavished cost to represent by stately form and gorgeous colour and dim religious light the presence of God, and have erected altars before which men should bow in reverence, and shrines which they should pass with soft and trembling steps; but I would have you know but one holy place in this world, and that place is the footstool of the throne of grace, when a Christian's heart is lifted in prayer. The liturgy of the sanctuary is the universal utterance of mankind; it speaks in the lisp of infant, in the falter of the aged, in the silent assent when the voice has failed. There the true Cross of Jesus is uplifted before the eye of faith. There is the mercy seat, and the mild and reconciled presence of Him who once dwelt awful and unapproachable between the cherubim. And there every believer, at every time, has boldness to enter by the blood of Jesus.
II. A distinction must be made between public and private prayer. Men's private prayers represent their individual wants, and are necessarily tinged by their individual constitutions. Not so with the Christian congregation. Public prayer in that expresses the great and invariable cry of human weakness for Divine strength which every believer, at all times, is ready to utter; that constant sacrifice of humble thankfulness for mercies bestowed which, amidst all chances and changes, forms the reality of the Christian's life. It seems to follow, from the very nature of public prayer, that it must consist of set forms of words. The important point is, that our use of those forms should not become a mere formality.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. i., p. 34.
References: 1 Corinthians 14:15.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. iv., p. 208; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, p. 115; J. Stalker, The New Song, p. 194; R. L. Browne, Sussex Sermons, p. 181; H. P. Liddon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 98; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 129. 1 Corinthians 14:20.—J. Oswald Dykes, Sermons, p. 51; Saturday Evening, p. 187; Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 357. 1 Corinthians 14:25.—W. T. Bull, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 332. 1 Corinthians 14:25-40.—F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 195. 1 Corinthians 14:26.—E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 216; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 258; Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 187. 1 Corinthians 14:34.—H. P. Liddon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. x., p. 1. 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 289. 1 Corinthians 15:1.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 224; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 169.
For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
And 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?
For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
What is it 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.
Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
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 to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
If any man speak in an unknown tongue, 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; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
Let all things be done decently and in order.