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Augustine on the cessation of sign gifts

August 20, 2007

Please pardon the anachronistic title used to attract better the reader’s attention. Augustine writes below in Retractions 1,13 to clarify a comment he made in his book Of True Religion. I found this quote interesting. He believes that miracles have ceased in one respect, but that they continue in another respect.

I said (chap. xxv), “These miracles were not permitted to last till our times, lest the soul should always seek visible things, and the human race should grow cold by becoming accustomed to things which stirred it when they were novel.” That is true. When hands are laid on in Baptism people do not receive the Holy Spirit in such a way that they speak with the tongues of all the nations. Nor are the sick now healed by the shadow of Christ’s preachers as they pass by. Clearly such things which happened then have later ceased. But I should not be understood to mean that to-day no miracles are to be believed to happen in the name of Christ. For when I wrote that book I myself had just heard that a blind man in Milan had received his sight beside the bodies of the Milanese martyrs, Protasius and Gervasius. And many others happen even in these times, so that it is impossible to know them all or to enumerate those we do know.*


*Augustine, Earlier Writings, trans. John H. S. Burleigh (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1953), 220.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2007 9:31 am

    Interesting. Thanks

  2. August 21, 2007 3:37 pm

    So Pentecostalism is out, and Benny Hinn is in. Sw33t!

  3. brad permalink
    August 22, 2007 5:26 am

    I know Ryan D is in jest, but what if someone held that position seriously. Could you make anything of the fact that Augustine says there are healings (“many others”) but not healers?

  4. Ryan DeBarr permalink
    August 24, 2007 10:05 pm


    I think you could say that based on the above passage, Augustine wouldn’t approve of modern faith healers.

  5. brad permalink
    August 25, 2007 11:07 am


  6. Raj permalink
    November 9, 2008 1:21 pm

    Who is Augustine that I should listen to him – he is not an apostle and neither is he Paul. The scripture does NOT say what he says. Thus I will listen and follow only what is written IN the scripture and NOT a doctrine ABOUT scripture and scripture is NOT about cessation

  7. Wesley Wyckoff permalink
    May 26, 2009 4:52 pm

    It seems to me that Augustine’s position on cessationism was based almost completely, if not completely, upon his particular observation of history. Did he ever attempt to make a case for this position based upon Scripture?

  8. Paracletos permalink
    September 25, 2009 6:21 pm

    Augustine of Hippo was a significant theologian who has influenced Western Christian thought in many positive ways. However, like all theologians, he wasn’t always right. His views on mariology were wrong; Mary having never sinned or that she was “ever a virgin” (I’m sure Jesus’ brothers would have been fascinated to know they too were immaculately conceived). Likewise we can appreciate his stance on abortion that it was wrong – but only after 40 days for males and 90 days for females. His position on cessationism is a reaction to supernaturalism of the Montanists. Montanus criticized the church for it’s powerlessness by the second century and observed it was becoming a “church of bishops.” Though I believe he was right, I also think the movement (which lasted into at least the 6th century, and by some estimates the 8th) was judged by its extremes. And the reactionary doctrine of cessationism became a convenient excuse for a powerless “church of bishops.”

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