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


Many of the miracles that Augustine recounts are associated with the relics of saints, especially the early martyr Stephen, and the shrines that were built to contain these relics. People believed that if they could but touch a certain relic, or a given altar at a given shrine, then they would be healed. It appears that the faith that these people had for healing under certain prescribed conditions was not disappointed. Because they had faith for it to happen in that way, God rewarded their faith and healed under the exact circumstances for which they had faith for healing.


Leo the Great

Another fifth-century believer in the presence of the miraculous gifts in his day was Leo the Great (A.D. 400-461), who was bishop of Rome from 440 until 461. Leo was able to prevent the destruction of Rome in A.D. 452 when he persuaded Attila the Hun to withdraw from the city. In his seventy-fifth sermon he unequivocally affirms the existence of the gift of tongues in his own day. Quoting Acts 2:4, he writes, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak other tongues, as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance.”47 He continues as follows:

Oh! How swift are the words of wisdom, and where God is the Master, how quickly is what is taught, learnt. No interpretation is required for understanding, no practice for using, not time for studying, but the Spirit of Truth blowing where He wills, the languages peculiar to each nation become common property in the mouth of the Church. And therefore from that day the trumpet of the Gospel-preaching has sounded loud: from that day the showers of gracious gifts, the rivers of blessings, have watered every desert and all the dry land.48

It is clear from the context that Leo is writing about the gift of tongues, for he specifically quotes Acts 2:1-4. That sign of His presence, tongues, according to Leo, is “still perpetuated in His work and gift” at the time that he is writing.50


Genevieve of Paris

Leo the Great must have been aware of the operation of tongues and other gifts of the Spirit in his day. One of his contemporaries, for example, Genevieve (A.D. 422-500), as Attila the Hun was preparing to invade Paris, the inhabitants began to make preparation to abandon the city, but Genevieve told them that the city would be saved if the people would fast and pray. In answer to this, many women of the city prayed with her. She assured the people of God’s protection, and Attila and his invaders suddenly changed the course of their march.51 According to an ancient biography of Genevieve written by a contemporary eighteen years after her death, the people of many cities throughout Gual, including Meaux, Laon, Tours, and Orleans, bore witness to her “miracles and remarkable predictions.”52


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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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