An example of a report of charismatic gifts before 400 AD is the testimony of St. Macarius of Egypt (source).
An example of a report of charismatic gifts after 1700 AD is the testimony of John Wesley (source 1, source 2, source 3).

What about the period in between (400 AD - 1700 AD)? Are there any notable reports of charismatic gifts in operation from this period of church history?

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First we should define "charismatic gifts." This concept is derived from Paul's list in 1 Cor. 12:8-10:

8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

Some of these gifts are easier to recognize than others. For example the utterance of wisdom or of knowledge could be attributed to virtually any Doctor of the Church from Augustine to Aquinas and, if one is not a Catholic, might also include the great Protestant Reformers such as Luther and Calvin et al. And this does not include thousands of unknown wise or knowledgeable people who may have been charismatically inspired. Likewise, the gift of discernment is likely to have gone unreported more often than not.

Faith is another charismatic gift, and this could certainly be attributed to Christian or Protestant martyrs of in the period described as well as many unknown believers who maintained their faith in the face of trials, persecution and personal tragedy.

Turning to healing there are many examples, especially if one accepts the hagiographies of saints who performed and/or healing miracles. An inspired medical ministry may be considered to manifest the charism of healing even without miracles. A few of these include:

There are at least 30 Saints to whom Catholics can turn to receive healing, and many or their stories are from the period in question. For Protestants, in the healings were reported among the Waldensians and Hussites as well as to Martin Luther and other reformers. In the seventeenth century they were reported among English Baptists and Quakers. See Miracles in Church History by William Young.

The working of miracles overlaps the category of healing. According to Young, several nature miracles were reported by the Venerable Bede, whose History of the English Church and People covers the period up to 731. Other miracles reported by Bede include an exorcism and the raising of the dead. How reliable these reports are, of course, is debatable. However, there are surely many others which have not come down to us in English.

When we reach the gift of prophecy we are faced with a new problem because traditional orthodoxy holds that prophecy stopped after the period of the early church. Prophets have usually been declared to be heretical if they claim this title. However, those saints and preachers who took stands on moral and political issues can easily be understood as fulfilling the role that the Jewish prophets performed. Among them we might mention Francis of Assisi, Bernard of Clairvaux and many others. For Protestants we might consider the major reformers.

This brings us to the gift of tongues and interpretation. Hildegard of Bingen is said to have learned foreign languages miraculously. Bernardo de Siena and Vincent Ferrer both reportedly had the gift of tongues. The Gift of Tongues: Women's Xenoglossia in the Later Middle Ages by Christine F. Cooper-Rompato surveys this phenomenon with a special emphasis on gender issues.

So we can say that charismatic gifts continued to be in evidence throughout the period in question, depending on how we define them. A possible exception is prophecy if one adheres to church authorities that deny its existence after the 2nd century.


A couple of examples of testimonies to healing miracles in the 16th century are mentioned in an article by Ronald K. Rittgers:

In the spring of 1542, Martin Luther (1483–1546) remarked to his friends, “We have prayed three people on the brink of death back to life: me, my Katie, and also Philip, whose eyes had already become lifeless.”

The same article points out that, later in the century, Lutheran pastor Lucas Osiander (1534–1604) wrote:

It was a custom in the primitive church that when Christians . . . still had the gift of healing, they would draw near to the sick and anoint them with oil, pray, and also thus restore them to health. This custom had begun with the apostles concerning which Mark writes, “And going forth they were preaching that people should repent, and they were casting out many demons, and they were anointing many sick people with oil, and they were being healed,” Mark [6:12–13]. This custom of anointing was rightly observed in the church as long as it was gleaming with miracles. And with the cessation of miracles unction also had to cease.

The cessation of miracles during this time can be partially explained by a lack of prayer. For example, Martin Luther wrote in his Large Catechism:

If we gathered all the churches together, with all their clergy, they would have to confess that they have never prayed whole heartedly for so much as a drop of wine. For none of them has ever undertaken to pray out of obedience to God and faith in his promise, or out of consideration for their own needs.

Indeed, the human heart is by nature so desperately wicked that it flees from God, thinking that he neither wants nor cares for our prayers, because we are sinners and have merited nothing but wrath.


Let us consider statements by the following scholars based upon their survey of Christian history:

Tad R. Callister

With rare exception, after the second or third century AD, there is no mention of miracles, healings, prophecies, speaking in tongues, or other gifts of the Spirit. (The Inevitable Apostasy p.92)

This statement acknowledges that yes, there were such manifestations, but they were much fewer and further between than in prior centuries.

Paul Johnson

It had been acknowledged at least since imperial times that the 'age of miracles' was over, in the sense that Christian leaders could no longer spread the gospel, like the apostles, with the aid of supernatural power--at any rate as a rule. (A History of Christianity p. 162)

This statement too acknowledges that yes, there were such manifestations, but they were much fewer and further between than in prior centuries.

Relics rapidly became, and for some 800 years remained, the most important single element in Christian devotion. They were the Christian's only practical defense against inexplicable suffering. (A History of Christianity p. 161)

This reliance upon relics would have been unnecessary if the charismatic gifts such as were described in the New Testament were regularly in effect.

John Wesley

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the church for more than two or three centuries We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian, and from a vain imagination of promoting the Christian cause thereby heaped riches, and power, and honour, upon the Christians in general; but in particular upon the Christian clergy. From this time they almost totally ceased; very few instances of the kind were found. The cause of this was not (as has been vulgarly supposed,) “because there was no more occasion for them,” because all the world was become Christian. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause was, “the love of many,” almost of all Christians, so called, was “waxed cold.” The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine his Church, could hardly “find faith upon earth.” This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church (Sermon 89 - The More Excellent Way)



Each of these examples supports that claim that such gifts became rare after the first few centuries AD. In doing so, however, they also acknowledge that they were not entirely non-existent.

I am indebted to Tad R. Callister's work for the compilation of these any many other quotations on this subject

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