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Tongues and Other Miraculous Gifts in the Second Through Nineteenth Centuries, Part 3: From the 5th to the 13th Centuries


Part 1 of Tongues and Other Miraculous Gifts

Part 2 of Tongues and Other Miraculous Gifts

cloven tongues

Richard M. Riss presents evidence for the operation of the gifts of the Spirit throughout the Church Age.


The North African Revival

We have seen that Augustine had adopted the view that miracles had ceased with the close of the apostolic age. In the last two or three years of his life, however, his opinion changed concerning the relative unimportance of contemporaneous miracles. This was precipitated by a revival in North Africa, where Augustine lived. Suddenly, miracles seemed to proliferate. Augustine quickly decided to publicize the miraculous healings in North Africa, and as bishop in Hippo, he examined and recorded each report that came to his attention. He gave verified reports of healings a maximum of publicity, and he insisted upon receiving a written report from every person who claimed to be healed. This report, or libellus, would then be read publicly in church, in the presence of the writer, and would later be stored in Augustine’s library. He attempted to persuade his colleagues to use the same system, but without great success. In the case of the healing of a noble lady in Carthage, Augustine was disappointed that she failed to use her rank and influence to publicize a miracle of healing that she had experienced. A renowned twentieth-century specialist in Augustine, Peter Brown, stated that Augustine attempted to bring together various incidents of miracles “until they formed a single corpus, as compact and compelling as the miracles that had assisted the growth of the Early Church.”45 Some of the material that Augustine collected appears in the last book (Book 22) of his work, City of God, the eighth chapter of which contains a very lengthy description of miracles which he had either witnessed himself, or about which he had heard from those whom he considered to be reliable witnesses.46

The account in City of God is too lengthy for detailed treatment here, but included in it are reports of healings of blindness, multiple rectal fistula, cancer of the breast, gout, paralysis, hernia of the scrotum, and other diseases. Augustine recounts other miracles in which farm animals were cured, demons were cast out of certain individuals, and the dead were raised. In one case, a poor man who lost his cloak prayed, and later found a huge fish squirming upon the beach. He sold it to a restaurant, where a gold ring was found in the gullet of the fish and given to him. In another case, a cart drawn by oxen ran over a child. After his mother prayed, the child not only returned to consciousness, but he showed no sign of the crushing he had suffered.


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Category: Church History, Spring 1999

About the Author: Richard M. Riss (as of Fall 1998) is Assistant Professor of Church History at Zarephath Bible Institute in Zarephath, New Jersey. He holds a Master of Christian Studies degree from Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia (1979) and a Master of Arts in Church History from Trinity Divinity School (1988). He is currently finishing a Ph.D. degree in Church History at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Richard M. Riss has authored several books including The Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1977), The Latter Rain Movement of 1948 and the Mid-Twentieth Century Evangelical Awakening (1987), A Survey of 20th-Century Revival Movements in North America and with Kathryn J. Riss, Images of Revival (1997).

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