WHAT SPIRIT IS THIS?
AN INTERPRETATION OF "CHARISMATIC RENEWAL" AND ITS RELATION TO CATHOLIC TRUTH
MOVEMENTS WITHIN HISTORICAL PROTESTANTISM
Luther, Zwingli and Calvin, could all safely be said to be literary men of an academic (if not always a balanced) temperament. Although Luther at times demonstrated mystical qualities of mind and thought, in the end it was the professor and biblical exegete who prevailed over the prophet in him.
It was undoubtedly not their intention, but the "reformers" the movment which they initiated, far from leading only to a sober and "reformed" communion of believers dedicated to the principles of sola scriptura, sola fidei, soli deo gloria, was nearly overshadowed by individuals who claimed to be illuminated and led by the Holy Spirit.
The hyper-individualism of the reformers essentially created a chain reaction which, in a few decades, would lead to hideous civil wars in Germany and among the Swiss cantons, and a terrible reaction on the part of the nobility against the peasants:
The first movement of this nature to arise among the followers of the "reformers" were the Anabaptists. The name "Anabaptist" derives from their insistence on the rebaptism of adults. The movement itself began with the appearance of the so-called "prophets of Zwickau" , Thomas Munzer and Nicholas Storch, in 1520. They were at first welcomed by Luther in his struggle against Rome, but Luther was soon after to denounce them and their followers with some of the strongest invective of which he was capable:
Widespread among the peasantry, Anabaptism was universally persecuted. The sect had become notorious when, in the summer of 1535, a group deposed the bishop of Munster and established a communal "Kingdom of Zion" for a short time in that city. When told free love was being practiced there, Luther said it was "clear as day: the devils are squatting one on top of the other like toads." He had long since given up hope for such rabble. (H.G. Halle, Luther: An Experiment in Biography, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, NY 1980, pge. 125)
Whatever "inspirations of the Holy Spirit" that Luther and the other "reformers" may have claimed at the beginning of their revolt against Rome, quickly gave way to a harsh reaction against the Anabaptists, both in a theological and political sense. The excesses of these sectarians and their followers, who were made up largely of the peasant class caused Luther himself , on occasion, to despair of ever organizing the forces he had unleashed into a united front against Rome. No doubt Luthers encouragement to the German nobility to slaughter, burn and exterminate the "thieving hordes of peasants" was due to their predilection for the Anabaptist sect and the millenarian message of the prophets of Zwickau.
The Anabaptists shared many traits in common with later movements which were to arise within prostestantism, such as the Pentecostals:
They aimed at restoring what they claimed to have been primitive Christianity
In a more consistent manner than the majority of Protestant Reformers, they maintained the absolute supremacy and sole sufficiency of the canonical Scriptures as a norm of faith. However, private revelation and religious sentiment played an important role among them.
Infant baptism and the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone were rejected as without scriptural warrant.
The new Kingdom of God, which they purported to found, was to be the reconstruction, on an entirely different basis, of both ecclesiastical and civil society. (Anabaptists, from the Catholic Encyclopedia Online Edition, cit.)
J. Massyngbe-Ford documents similar tendencies among the so-called Type-I Pentecostals:
The People of Praise Covenant Community now has doorkeepers established at the entrance to the meeting place to question strangers and to keep out those who will not accept the "theology of the leaders." The theology is fundamentalist. Like the Anabaptists, the distinguishing mark of Type I is personal conversion, and "new life" which is obtained by passing through the catechumenate (cassette 109) of the Life in the Spirit Seminars as did the Anabaptists, Type I Pentecostals regard the Church as at least partly degenerate. (Massyngbe-Ford, op. Cit., pge. 48)
No doubt it was in part due to this radical reliance on private inspiration and revelations that the Anabaptists and other like minded groups would eventually fall into the utopianism so characteristic of religious groups which seeks to be guided exclusively by charismatic authority.
(Interestingly enough, the commune they established in the city of Munster, of which the notorious John of Leyden was named "King", was called "New Sion." As we shall see, a future religious commune named "New Sion" will have important connections to the beginnings of Pentecostalism.)
Owing to their supression in the wake of the peasants rebellion, the Anabaptists were dispersed throughout Europe, and many elements of their teaching live on (in a kinder, gentler fashion) in groups such as the Mennonites.
This was the fly in the ointment for the "Reformers" insofar as their theory of private judgment with regards to the Scriptures was concerned. The Anabaptists and similar sects from the very beginning were using this theory to justify the most outrageous practices and accept the wildest millenarian prophecies. Many of their number were convinced, via the prophecies of their leaders, that the Parousia was imminent.
Faced with such abuses, the Reformers ultimately had to establish a "magisterium" which based itself on their own exegesis of Scripture, and thus, the churches of the Reformation were to become more and more institutionalized as time went on. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that John Calvin was a "cessationalist"-maintaining that virtually all of the charisms ceased in the post-apostolic Church once the canon of Scripture had been established. Such notions are characteristic of strict Calvinists down to our own day. When one studies the history of early pentecostalism, one is struck by the strident and condemnatory attitudes of the "conservative" protestant theologians of the day.
While such ignorance is certainly not justified, I would venture to guess that most people today have derived their ideas about Quakers mainly from a smiling face on a cereal box. However, the original Quaker, George Fox, was in his own day anything but non-controversial:
In 1650, a judge sentenced young George Fox, who later founded the Society of Friends, to six months in prison for preaching a blasphemous message in the form of his own testimony in which he claimed that he was free from sin. Foxs Pendle Hill vision later reinforced his belief in perfectionism. His vision was that of a "people to be gathered to the Lord", who would be freed from the power of sin in their lives. There was a strong apocalyptic theme to Foxs messages. He believed that the world had entered "a new age of the Spirit" Fox emphasized the uniqueness of his perfectionist beliefs indeed, he viewed as his mission in life bringing people out of the carnal sects and into a "spirit-filled" life: "I was to bring them off from all the worlds fellowships, and prayings, and singings, which stood in forms without power; that their fellowship might be in the Holy Ghost, and in the Eternal Spirit of God; that they might pray in the Holy Ghost, and sing in the Spirit, and with the grace that comes by Jesus." (Ruth A. Tucker, Another Gospel: Alternative Religions and the New Age Movement, Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989, pge. 39)
At any rate, the most prominent doctrine of Fox and the Quakers is that of the inner light, a kind of "spark of divinity" within each human being, which is to be listened to and heeded, above and beyond the teaching and traditions of any church, or even of Scripture itself. It is obvious that Foxs final appeal was to subjective religious experience, as is that of most persons who claim to have their whole lives guided by the Holy Spirit. Some of the manifestations among the Quakers are quite similar to those which one witnesses today at the so-called "revivals":
Whether or no the Quakers derived any of their rigorism from the Anabaptists, they
certainly resemble them in their enthusiasm, and in the effects it produces-warnings,
exorcisms, judgments, miraculous healings, and so on. There is no doubt Fox was
perfectly earnest in believing that he had power both to work miracles and to discern
As the discerning of spirits was a gift claimed by many of the Anabaptists,
Foxs pretensions excited no surprise- Bickley is well inspired in thus calling
attention to the milieu in which Fox moved, and its habits of thought. It was only to be
expected that, in such a milieu, religious convincments would be accompanied
and attested by strange spiritual manifestations. I was taken with the Power,
Aldam writes to Fox, in a great trembling in my head, and all of the one side while
I was speaking to them. And the Lancashire Petition, uncontradicted by Nayler and
Fox, claims against the Quakers that Men, women and little children at their
meetings are strangely wrought upon in their bodies, and brought to fall, foam at the
mouth, roar and swell in their bellies. (Knox, opus cit., pge 150)
Glossalalia, or tongue speaking, was also reported to have occurred quite frequently in the early days of Quakerism. The Quakers are now known as the Society of Friends.
THE FRENCH PROPHETS OR "CAMISARDS"
I went (having long been importuned thereto) to a house where was one of those commonly called French prophets. She seemed of an agreeable speech and behavior. She asked why we came. I said, "To try the spirits, whether they be of God." Presently, after she had leaned back in her chair, and seemed to have strong workings in her breast, with deep sighings intermixed. Her head and hands, and, by turns, every part of her body, seemed to also to be in a kind of convulsive motion. This continued about ten minutes, till, at six, she began to speak (though the workings , sighings, and contortion of her body were so intermixed with her words that she seldom spoke half a sentence together) with a clear, strong voice, "Father, thy will, thy will be done. Thus saith the Lord, If anyone of you that is a father, his child ask bread, will he give him a scorpion? Ask bread of me, my children, and I will give you bread. I will not, will not give you a scorpion. By this judge of what ye shall now here."
She spoke much (all as in the person of God, and mostly in Scripture words), of the fulfilling of the prophecies, the coming of Christ now at hand, and the spreading of the Gospel all over the earth. Then she exhorted us not to be in haste in judging her spirit, to be or not to be of God; but to wait upon God, and he would teach us, if we conferred not with flesh and blood (John Wesley in his Journal, entry of Sunday, February 28, 1739)
The French Prophets, Camisards, or Cevennes, as they were known (since they wore a black shirt, or camise, while prophesying, and were from the Cevennes region of France) were a sect of Huguenot extremists who arose in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Militant anti-Catholics who preached an imminence of the millenium, as a movement they were ultimately to foment out acts of violence and destruction against Catholic parishes in the region, including the murder of priests and the burning of Catholic churches. This in turn led to a violent repression against them by the kingdom of France, and many of their number were forced into English exile, where they were to become known as the "French Prophets", as is noted in the above extract from John Wesleys journal.
It is not difficult to imagine the spiritual environment in which the French Prophets were to take root; the Saint Bartholomews massacre and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes were undoubtedly fresh on the minds of those marginalized pockets of Huguenot dissenters who populated the rural regions of the south of France. This region could safely be said to be a perpetual cradle of heresies for the western Church- as evinced by the medieval Albigensian (Cathar) kingdom.
A "siege mentality" and the fear of persecution were undoubtedly factors in whipping up both their expectations of an imminent millenium and their characteristic spirituality of direct inspiration and revelation, which characterized the manner and mode of their prophesying:
Despite surveillance, the Huguenots tried to preserve their religious traditions In Languedoc and Dauphine, as nowhere else in France, arose lay preachers (predicants) to meet the needs of 150,000 Huguenots bereft of a regular ministry. The predicants convened the faithful in illicit assemblies whose format was that of the Protestant service: a psalm, scriptural exegesis, a sermon. The assemblies were held late at night in wilderness places where the singing of psalms might not carry to prowling royal troops. Such was the origin of the"Desert", a metaphor at once for the spiritual desolation of Huguenots in southeastern France Sustained by Desert meetings, Huguenots were also consoled by the possibility that their trials were part of Gods scheme for the coming of the Millenium. (Hillel Schwartz, The French Prophets: The History of a Millenarian Group in Eighteenth Century England, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1980, pp. 14-15)
It is interesting to note the striking parallels between the influence on the nascent Pentecostal movement in the nineteenth century exercised by the millenarian speculations of individuals such as John Nelson Darby (whom we shall consider below), and that of similar ideas on the first Camisards:
Early in the century, Pierre du Moulin had examined St. Johns Revelation for clues to the divine chronology. ..it was clear to du Moulin that the Beast would endure for 1260 years and from other passages it was equally clear to him that the Beast was the Pope of more immediate interest, du Moulin ascertained that the persecution of the True Church by the Beast (the Pope) would end with the resurrection of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 in 1689. (Ibid, pge. 15)
It would not be long until such a tinderbox of spiritual expectation and religious tension would be set ablaze. Indeed, the accounts of the first French Prophets, (formerly known as Cevennes) are nothing if not truly remarkable for their similarity to thesubsequent descriptions of revivals, camp meetings, and, if I may say, the alleged "manifestations of the Spirit" in both the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements:
When the first prophets appeared among them in 1688, the people of the Desert exulted, for truly, then, were these the last days, and persecution could not last much longer. The prophets were messengers half-expected, and they were only children.
They prophesied while asleep The ecstasy of the first prophet, a sixteen year old shepherdess in Dauphine, seemed at the beginning to be "a sort of apoplexy, or natural lethargy, into which she fell without any appearance of a vilent motion." Isabeau Vincent had been baptized as a Catholic, but now she returned to original faith of her parents. On the night of February 3, 1688 asleep in the home of her uncle she suddenly cried out and began to sing the Ten Commandments. (Ibid, pge. 17)
These manifestations, which were either the results of a somnambulistic trance, or of demonic possession, continued to draw the attention and veneration of the Huguenot communities all throughout the region:
Isabeau lay on her back and fell asleep swiftly. She sang the Ten Commandments in rhyme, then a psalm. After a pause, she preached fluently. Her gestures were as rapid as her speech, and sometimes the "Natural Lethargy" gave way to full agitations. She woke in the morning, and did not remember what had occurred during the night. "It is not I who speak, but the Spirit that is within me," she proclaimed, reciting the prophecy of Joel which is repeated in Acts 2:17: "In the latter days your young people shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams." [ibid, pge. 18)
Interestingly, this is the same prophecy that most Pentecostals and Charismatics quote regarding their movements appearance, "a new Pentecost." (The true and complete fulfillment of this prophecy, as acknowledged by St. Peter himself , occurred on the day of Pentecost.)
After the bountiful harvest of 1688 more than sixty had received the Holy Spirit by the years end. By January, 1689 the inspires became more violent and apparently more irresistible Enemies said that a glassmaker taught children to "beat their hands on their heads, to throw themselves down on the ground on their backs, to close their eyes, to puff up their stomachs and throats, to rest unresisting [assoupis] in this state for some moments, and then, waking up with a start, to spout out anything that came out of their mouths." The myth of the glassmakers shaping children into prophets has been discredited, but the description of phycical symptoms was accurate. Shaking, falling, choking and convulsions would characterize future inspires and also the prophets in London. (ibid, pge. 19)
As is the case with nearly all such movements, transformation was inevitable. From being a phenomenon mainly associated with children, adults began to "catch the Spirit" as well. The "prophetic spirit" of the Camisards was translated from France to England, via the exiles, and many novelties were proposed in the alleged prophecies. One of these is eerily similar to the Pentecostal claims nearly two-centuries later. One of the emigres, Elie Marion, was the center of events eerily similar to those of the beginning of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement nearly two centuries hence:
He was granted a vision of a new Pentecost and promised signs and miracles in answer to those who demanded proofs of his divine commission The new Pentecost began upon the publication of Marions Avertissements on April 8. In the subsequent week seven French men and women discovered their prophetic gifts. The presence of the new prophets called for constant attention on the part of all followers and for more time spent with the group. Both the millennial state, and the evidence of the Holy Spirit now had London referents .(ibid, pge 82 My italics)
Anyone familiar with the Charismatic renewal will recognize the phrase "new Pentecost", which has lately been appropriated by that movement. There is no question, therefore, that the idea of a " new Pentecost" is a totally unique concept that sprang out of the head of John XXIII in 1960, as did Athena from the head of Zeus!
The Prophets, with their paroxysms and fantastic speculations were bound to produce controversy among the English clergy; such is evinced by the circulation of this declaration by the Huguenot clergy in London:
the agitations of these pretended Prophets are only the Effects of a voluntary Habit, of which they are entirely masters, though in their fits they seem to be agitated by a Superior Cause But the way in which they make the Spirit speak is still more unworthy of him, which is by perpetual hesitations, childish repetitions, unintelligible stuff, gross contradictions, manifest lies, conjectures turned into predictions or some moral precepts which may be heard every day much better expressed, and have nothing new but the grimaces with which they are expressed. (ibid, pge 80)
It was inevitable that the appearance of this group in the Huguenot circles of England would arouse interest in a nation where similar sects, such as the Quakers and the Ranters proliferated.
As is documented by Hillel Schwartz in the work which I have so copiously cited, the French Prophets made many converts in England. One of these, John Lacy, apparently was able to speak in tongues; he spoke Latin on one occasion, Greek on another, and also, like Agnes Ozman, the first person to officially undergo the "Pentecostal experience" practised the occult form of mediumship known as automatic writing.
The following quotation brings to mind the "dumbing down" of spirituality throughout much of the so-called Renewal. As we mentioned before, anti-intellectualism plays a large part in such movements, and the idea that "letting go" of oneself, and acting like a fool, cavorting, dancing, etc. somehow makes one a more decorous "temple of the Holy Spirit", as if the Holy Spirit were a divine puppet master pulling the strings of the human beings whom He loves and indwells in a capricious and violent, gratuitous manner. The French Prophets indulged in such mystical practices, and, interestingly enough, anticipated the so-called "holy laughter" lately popularized in such spurious manifestations of spirituality as the "Toronto blessing" and the "Pensacola revival" :
The wild physical movements of the inspired recalled the countryside. ..City women who experienced agitations were able to escape social restraints on physical expression Educated men equipped themselves with a new vocablulary in which they could be happily simple- minded and yet eloquent of body the French prophets opened up a space in which believers were at liberty to play and to involve the body in play. So there could be a holy laughter, a joyful dialogue at which opponents might be shocked. (ibid. pge. 229)
So much for the stern Sola Scriptura of Calvin! In much the same way as the Convulsionary Jansenists, (whom they probably influenced) the French Prophets were the "anointed" of their day. The movement was eventually to die out, giving way to the more discreet, yet unmistakable emotionalism of the Wesleyan revival, and the period of classic revivalism, which was to be the cradle of the Pentecostal movement.
The Philadelphians actually preceded the French Prophets in time, but they were by no means as influential on the course of future developments, nor as notorious as the latter group. The two groups undoubtedly influenced one another. There are unmistakable similarities between this group and the Pentecostals and charismatic movements. There is not likely to be a direct historical link between them, but their similarities outweigh the areas in which they diverge.
The names of those involved at the inception of the Philadelphians reek of occultism:
The history of the Philadelphians might begin with the eminent antiquarian and astrologer, Elias Ashmole, who granted Dr. John Pordage (1607-81) the clerical living at Bradfield (ibid, pge. 45)
Although the name of Elias Ashmole probably does not ring a bell with most readers, he is renowned in occult circles as being the first officialy enrolled "speculative" Freemason, as well as a Rosicrucian and founding member of the British Royal Society. Anybody familiar with the issue knows that Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism are irreconcilable with orthodox Christianity. As such, the whole matter begins in an ambience of Hermetic anti-Christianity. Let the reader take note of the following:
Pordage, a student of medicine and alchemy, had a wife who was a spirit medium, and he was ejected from his living in 1654 for convoking spirits and claiming the power to bestow gifts of the Spirit upon whom he pleased. (ibid)
So, as early as 1654, in a totally occult environment, we find an individual offering to bestow the "gifts of the Spirit" on whom he pleases! As indicated by Schwartz, Pordage then attempted to develop a system of thought based on the writings of Jacob Boehme, a heterodox German mystic whose theological tenets sound surprisingly similar to New Age ideas about an age of Aquarius, of millenial bliss-which he termed the Enochian age. Boehme also posited a theory about a "natural language" which supposedly pre-dated Adams fall, and which may have influenced the developing ideas with regards to speaking tongues. Boehme also had some very heterodox notions of the divine spirit, as a kind of pantheistic, female principle immanent in the entire universe.
Boehme explicitly taught that, as he was created in the Divine image, Adam was androgynous-both man and woman-as a reflection of the reality of the Divine Nature, wherein the alchemical conjunctio oppositorum (the uniting of the opposites) had its true fulfillment. It may have been at this juncture that the first stirrings of the feminine, Gnostic concepts of Sophia, or Divine Wisdom, as a supplanter of the Holy Spirit of the orthodox Trinity were to worm their way into the mainstream of Christianity. One is struck by the similarities of the speculative work of the occultist Pordage and many so-called Catholic thinkers today, who, in their rush to placate radical feminist notions, introduce a "femininity"to the Blessed Trinity; upon consulting the works of Boehme, Pordage went even further than the heterodox Lutheran:
he came away with a slightly different treasure: the image of the Virgin Sophia, or Wisdom, female counterpart to male divinity Pordage embroidered upon Boehmes image of Sophia, discerning a role from Wisdom as an organizing force in human progress toward the millenium. (ibid, pge 46)
Incredible as it may seem, such rhetoric is mirrored by a prominent theologians of the Charismatic Renewal, Heribert Muhlenn, who goes to great pains to excoriate the Angelic Doctor in order to justify his own immanentist and androgynous vision of the Holy Spirit:
Since both the ancient and medieval systems of thought viewed the feminine, maternal principle as passive and receptive Thomas was forced by the logic of his system to eliminate any maternal aspect of being from analogical description of the divine life The God of the Bible goes out beyond himself; he acts upon the history of men, even to the extent of becoming fully involved in it. This occurs precisely through that dynamis, which is called Pneuma. (Heribert Muhlenn, Power and the Holy Spirit: The Catholic Charismatic Renewal, cited., pge.
After Pordages death, the leadership of the organization begun by Pordage, devolved upon a certain mystic named Jane Lead:
Stirred by Leads inspiration that there was "much to be done in the Kingdom of this World by a plentiful effusion of the Spirit than yet hath been," the Philadelphians prepared to give public, open testimony to their private faith and their Enochian walk into the "Celestial Globe of Eternity."(ibid, pge 48)
In language that would reappear with the advent of the "ecumenical Charismatic movement nearly two hundred and fifty years later, and repeating the old heresy of the "spiritual super church", the Philadelphians announced themselves thus:
the germ of the commencement of the sole true Church, Virgin Bride of Jesus Christ, whose members, dispersed among the diverse Religions of the World, are soon to appear and unite with them, in order to form this pure and holy Church, such as the church of Philadelphia was a the birth of Christianity
In their own statement of purpose, the Philadelphians announced that their public
assemblies would keep the spirit of love burning and would nourish apostolical faith
"We design not to set up any Form, or to lay any burden either upon our Selves, or
upon others; but to maintain the
Liberty of Prophesying, to all those that are, or shall be, Anointed with the Spirit of Christ." (ibid, pp. 48-49)
As noted above, the exact same sentiments were expressed at the inception of the "Charismatic Renewal proper. No longer were those "anointed" by the Spirit to let the walls of denominationalism divide them; they were to enjoy the free reign of the "Spirit" regardless of dogma, doctrine or discipline.
Another "mystic" who was prominent during the period of the Philadelphians, and undoubtedly influenced by both the French Prophets and Philadelphians was Hannah Wharton. Again, we observe the same so-called "outpouring of the Spirit", the same feverish millenarianism, the same prophetic utterances:
In her forty days ministration at London (April 23-June 2, 1730), Hannah Wharton spoke of "spiritual moisture", "outgoings" and "indwelling" of the Spirit, "centers of fullness," the "Blessings of power," the Gospel of "power, wisdom, and love." Her theology was that of continental pietism: divine communications enriched personal movement toward God; where the indwelling Spirit was known, it was more and more desired. ..
Wharton used language in her spiritual discourse that is virtually indistinguishable from that of many modern day "Pentecostal-Charismatic" revivalists:
"This indwelling Power which is Spirit, which is the Revelation of Jesus, as each one must have to Witness to the Revelation, and know that the Witness in them is indeed that of the Spirit, which Spirit is life and power, and it is to be known an indwelling Power, notwithstanding this inward life knows not at all times the same exercise of Power in itself, but yet the Witness remains, and this Witness, which is of God holds all the Senses and Faculties of the inward Mind in that Conformity of a passive humble waiting as that every Moving of divine Power may be known ."
Each disciple was to wait, "until in waiting he finds the Increase of this Power, which is putting on Knowledge as a Garment." There was now a "Blessing of Waiting" in which the Spirit operated as it had never done before, even in Apostolic times. (ibid, pp 196-197)
"The Power" is something referred to by Pentecostals and Charismatics quite often. As a matter of fact, it was the desire to obtain this "power" that led the first group of Bible students in Topeka Kansas to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit "with evidence" for the first time. One characteristic that the above groups share with the current "renewals and revivals" is that perennial desire to "walk by sight and touch, and not by faith," requiring the reassurance of outward manifestations of the so-called "Spirit", not being content with that faith which , as the Book of Hebrews points out, is the "substance of things hoped , the evidence of things not seen."
Such groups, deprived of the true faith in its fullest expression, require outward signs, and an emotionally charged fervor to dull the restlessness of which St. Augustine spoke. Such will characterize those who are sincerely seeking the truth, and not yet in its full possession.
For those not willing to go the full distance towards the acceptance of the Catholic faith, this restlessness pushes them on, and incites a feverish desire for "signs and wonders" and "blessed assurance." They are unwilling to face the intellectual Calvaries of an Augustine or a Newman-their distrust of Catholicism outweighs their desire for truth. So they fall into pseudo-mysticism, and into an emotionally charged euphoria which is evidence enough that what they adhere to is the truth. Their experience becomes the religion.
I have no right to pass judgment on the individual adherents of such movements; perhaps these phenomena and beliefs were the devils sparrows swooping down on the seed sown on the road. It could very well be that in doing so, he prevented these obviously fervent and well-meaning souls from arriving at the fullness of truth which is found only in the Catholic Church.
"MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT" IN CLASSICAL REVIVALISM
Revivalism was certainly not always considered as a mere vehicle for emotionalism or supernatural manifestations; it was at first undoubtedly a venue for eminent preachers (usually of the Calvinist variety) to travel about their respective countries issuing a stern message repentance and judgment. But hysterical manifestations, much like those witnessed at todays so-called revivals, were invariably to accompany such fire and brimstone preaching. The first preachers of revivalism (including John Wesley) were certainly no strangers to such things:
The question naturally suggests itself, Was it only Wesleys preaching that produced these strange phenomena? Or was it a common experience of his fellow Evangelists? The question is evidently of importance, for if Wesley stood alone in this respect, we might be led to conjecture that there was some literally hypnotic power in th eman which carried his audiences away. But it seems clear that other preachers of the revival were accustomed to similar interruptions. Daniel Rowlands sermons in Wales made many cry aloud in the most awful manner; a heckler at Bristol, on being called a contemptible little worm, by Howell Harris, fell down in a trembling fit from which (it is said) he never recovered. Cennick, when he was a lay preacher at Bristol in Wesleys own connexion, had people lying before him with swollen tongues and necks, held down sometimes, and with difficulty, by as many as seven men. (Knox, opus cited, pp. 525-526)
There was one important difference, though, between the incipient days of revivalism and our own-such manifestations were by no means unanimously considered to be evidence of the Holy Spirits presence; as a matter of fact, such men were often at a loss over how exactly to categorize these things. Some revivalists, like Jonathan Edwards, were suspicious and downright hostile to such demonstrations; others, like Wesley were more ambiguous towards the phenomena.
John Wesley and his principal collaborators, such as his brother Charles, and the evangelist Whitefield, (with whom he was to separate, due to their differences on the question of election and the distribution of grace) are certainly sympathetic and admirable figures. Certainly nobody with an open mind could read John Wesleys journals and come away not liking the man-or fail to be in awe at his perseverance and his devotion to what he considered to be the true gospel of Christ.
At the same time, it was primarily Wesleys interjection of the conversion experience characterized by emotional fervor and "blessed assurance of salvation" into mainline protestantism, that was to give the great era of the two revivals greatest impetus, and it was his popularisation of the "born-again experience" , and "second experience of sanctification" that was to exercise such an enormous influence on Protestant Christianity (and via the Charismatic Renewal, on millions of Catholics) in the succeeding centuries. Interestingly enough, it was a friend of Wesleys who was the first to popularize the notion of the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit":
In the matter of experiential salvation, Wesley was influenced considerably by the Moravians, a sect of German Pietists, who trace some of their origins to Jan Hus, and some to Luther; they professed the Lutheran idea of justification by the mere imputation of Christs righteousness to the believer. They also accepted the doctrine of the "eternal security of the believer" (the idea that "once you have been saved by being born again you can never lose that salvation"). Although their "feeling of assurance of salvation" was by no means as violent or emotional as it was to be in its revivalist expression, it was on this point that they probably most influenced Wesley. The founder of Methodism, although he had been living the life of a devoted Christian, was, up to 1738, still experiencing pangs of doubt and fears of death. It was his in particular his correspondence with a Moravian preacher by the name of Peter Boehler, that led him to seek this "assurance of salvation". In his journal entry of May 24, 1738, Wesley, after providing a brief spiritual autobiography, describes his conversion experience:
By absolutely renouncing all dependence, in whole or in part, uponmy own works or righteousness; on which I had really grounded my hope of salvation though I knew it not, from my youth up.
2. By adding to the constant use of all the other means of grace, continual prayer for this very thing, justifying, saving faith, a full reliance on the blood of Christ shed forme; a trust in Him, as my Christ, as my sole justification, sanctification, and redemption.
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luthers preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken awaymy sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. (John Wesley, Journals, May 24, 1738)
In a way it could be said that the greater part of the modern evangelical movement owes its existence to this moment in the life of Wesley; for this is the true origin of the modern day revival per se-the altar call, the testimonies, the "commitments to Christ", et al. Wesleys experience was to lay the groundwork for the great period of classical revivalism which was to subsequently sweep the English speaking world. Emotion or feeling was now a virtually indispensable element in the born-again experience:
Now this it is certain a man may want, although he can truly say, I am chaste; I am sober; I am just in my dealings; I help my neighbor, and use the ordinances of God. And however such a man may have behaved in these respects, he is not to think well of his own state till he experiences something within himself, which he has not yet experienced, but which he may be beforehand assured he shall, if the promises of God are true. Thatsomething is a living faith; a sure trust and confidence in God, that by the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favor of God. And from this will spring many other things, which till then he experienced not; as, the love of God shed abroad in his heart, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and joy in the Holy Ghost; joy, though not unfelt, yet unspeakable, and full of glory.
"7. These are some of those inward fruits of the Spirit, which must befelt wheresoever they are; and without these, I cannot learn from Holy Writ that any man is born of the Spirit. I beseech you, Sir, by the mercies of God, that if as yet you know nothing of such inward feelings, if you do not feel in yourself these mighty workings of the Spirit of Christ, at least you would not contradict and blaspheme. When the Holy Ghost hath fervently kindled your love towards God, you will know these to be very sensible operations. As you hear the wind, and feel it too, while it strikes upon your bodily organs, you will know you are under the guidance of Gods Spirit the same way, namely, by feeling it in your soul (Wesleys Journals, cit., entry for July 31, 1738)
So it was unlikely that Wesley would not askance at so called manifestations of the "Spirit", even if they involved rather violent or questionable concomitants:
Mon.JANUARY 1, 1739. Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hatchins, and my brother Charles, were present at our love-feast in Fetter-Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing constant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice,
"We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord."(ibid)
Such an attitude of acceptance on the part of Wesley led to an amiable disagreement with Whitefield, as the preacher who he refers to in the following passage of his Journal:
Saturday 7-I had an opportunity to talk with him of those outward signs which had so often accompanied the inward work of God. I found his objections were chiefly grounded on gross misrepresentations of matter of fact. But the next day he had an opportunity of informing himself better: For no sooner had he begun (in the application of his sermon) to invite all sinners to believe in Christ, than four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without either sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third had strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God, with strong cries and tears. From this time, I trust, we shall all suffer God to carry on his work in the way that pleaseth Him. (ibid, Saturday, July 7, 1739)
One particularly telling episode in Wesleys long and productive life were the famous manifestations at Everton:
.Saturday Feb 21-I preached at Weavers Hall: It was a glorious time. Several dropped to the ground as if struck by lightning. Some cried out in bitterness of soul. I knew not where to end, being constrained to begin anew, again and again. In the acceptable time we begged of God to restore our brethren, who are departed from us for a season; and to teach us all, to "follow after the things that make for peace," and the "things whereby one may edify another." (February 20, 1742)
May 20. Being with Mr. Bll at Everton, I was much fatigued and did not rise. But Mr. B. did, and observed several fainting and crying out while Mr. Be was preaching. Afterward, at church, I heard many cry out, especially children, whose agonies were amazing: One of the eldest, a girl ten or twelve years old, was full in my view, in violent contortions of body, and weeping aloud, I think incessantly during the whole Service. And several much younger children were in Mr. Blls view, agonizing as this did. The church was equally crowded in the afternoon, the windows being filled within and without, and even the outside of the pulpit to the very top; so that Mr. Be seemed almost stifled by their breath. Yet feeble and sickly as he is, he was continually strengthened, and his voice for the most part distinguishable, in the midst of all the outcries. I believe there were present three times more men than women, a great part of whom came from far; thirty of them having set out at two in the morning, from a place thirteen miles off. The text was, Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. When the power of religion began to be spoke of, the presence of God really filled the place. And while poor sinners felt the sentence of death in their souls, what sounds of distress did I hear! The greatest number of them who cried or fell, were men; but some women, and several children, felt the power of the same almighty Spirit, and seemed just sinking into hell. This occasioned a mixture of various sounds; some shrieking, some roaring aloud. The most general was a loud breathing, like that of people half strangled and gasping for life. And indeed almost all the cries were like those of human creatures dying in bitter anguish. Great numbers wept without any noise; others fell down as dead; some sinking in silence; some with extreme noise and violent agitation. I stood on the pew seat, as did a young man in the opposite pew, an able bodied, fresh, healthy countryman. But in a moment, while he seemed to think of nothing less, down he dropped, with a violence inconceivable. The adjoining pews seemed shook with his fall. I heard afterward the stamping of his feet, ready to break the boards, as he lay in strong convulsions, at the bottom of the pew. Among several that were struck down in the next pew, was a girl who was as violently seized as him. When he fell, Bll and I felt our souls thrilled with a momentary dread; as when one man is killed by a cannon ball, another often feels the wind of it. "Among the children who felt the arrows of the Almighty, I saw a sturdy boy, about eight years old, who roared above his fellows, and seemed in his agony to struggle with the strength of a grown man. His face was red as scarlet; and almost all on whom God laid his hand, turned either very red, or almost black. When I returned, after a little walk, to Mr. Bes house, I found it full of people. He was fatigued, but said he would nevertheless give them a word of exhortation. I stayed in the next room, and saw the girl whom I had observed so particularly distressed in the church, lying on the floor as one dead; but without any ghastliness in her face. In a few minutes we were informed of a woman filled with peace and joy, who was crying out just before. She had come thirteen miles, and is the same person who dreamed Mr. B would come to her village on that very day whereon he did come, though without either knowing the place or the way to it. She was convinced at that time. Just as we heard of her deliverance, the girl on the floor began to stir. She was then set in a chair; and, after sighing awhile, suddenly rose up, rejoicing in God. Her face was covered with the most beautiful smile I ever saw. She frequently fell on her knees, but was generally running to and fro, speaking these and the like words, O what can Jesus do for lost sinners! He has forgiven all my sins! I am in heaven! I am in heaven! O how he loves me! And how I love him! Meantime I saw a thin, pale girl, weeping with sorrow for herself, and joy for her companion. Quickly the smiles of Heaven came likewise on her, and her praises joined with those of the other. I also then laughed with extreme joy; so did Mr. Bll; (who said it was more than he could well bear;) so did all who knew the Lord, and some of those who were waiting for salvation; till the cries of them who were struck with the arrows of conviction, were almost lost in the sounds of joy. (ibid, May 20, 1759)
Although some present day defenders of Wesley insist that he was eventually enlightened to the point of deeming such incidents as spurious and counterfeit manifestations, the evidence is to the contrary, as is evinced by Wesleys Journal entry for June 4, 1772, nearly twelve years after the foregoing passage:
At our meeting on Tuesday, eleven more were filled with the peace of God. Yet one young man seemed quite unconcerned. But suddenly the power of God fell upon him; he cried for two hours with all his might. On Saturday evening God was present through the whole service, but especially towards the conclusion. Then one and another dropped down, till six lay on the ground together roaring That evening, six were wounded and indeed all of them were in such agonies, that many feared they were struck with death Edward Farles was struck to the ground, so distressed that he was convulsed all over. (ibid, June 4, 1739 quoted in Knox, op. Cit., pge 530)
Wesley seems to have accepted most of these manifestation as evidence of a kind of "wounding and healing" wrought by the Holy Spirit, leading to repentance, justification and salvation. However, there is no question in my mind that his (and others) acceptance of such paroxysms would undoubtedly lead, via the revivalism of the nineteenth century, to both the founding of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement, and the wild exaggerations of the revivals and "blessings" of the present day. The vast majority of such phenomena were undoubtedly attributable to hysteria, temporal epilepsy, suggestion and self-hypnosis, although in some cases there may have been a "preternatural" or demonic element. And it was Wesleys teaching on a "second blessing of sanctification" which would, via the Holiness Churches, eventually metamorphose into the Pentecostal idea of a "baptism in the Spirit":
But what is it to be justified? What is justification? This was the Second thing which I proposed to show. And it is evident, from what has been already observed, that it is not the being made actually just and righteous. This is sanctification; which is, indeed, in some degree, the immediate fruit of justification, but, nevertheless, is a distinct gift of God, and of a totally different nature. The one implies what God does for us through his Son; the other, what he works in us by his Spirit. So that, although some rare instances may be found, wherein the term justified or justification is used in
so wide a sense as to include sanctification also; yet, in general use, they are sufficiently distinguished from each other, both by St. Paul and the other inspired writers. (John Wesley, Sermon V, Justification by Faith, II-1)
One of the foremost scholars of Pentecostalism, Dr. Vincent Synan, certainly considers Wesley and Wesleyism as the direct lineal ancestor of Pentecostalism:
Perhaps the most important immediate precursor to pentecostalism was the Holiness movement which issued from the heart of Methodism at the end of the Nineteenth Century. From John Wesley, the Pentecostals inherited the idea of a subsequent crisis experience variously called "entire sanctification,"" perfect love," "Christian perfection", or "heart purity". It was John Wesley who posited such a possibility in his influential tract, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (1766). It was from Wesley that the Holiness Movement developed the theology of a "second blessing." It was Wesley's colleague, John Fletcher, however, who first called this second blessing a "baptism in the Holy Spirit," an experience which brought spiritual power to the recipient as well as inner cleansing. This was explained in his major work, Checks to Antinominianism (1771). During the Nineteenth Century, thousands of Methodists claimed to receive this experience, although no one at the time saw any connection with this spirituality and speaking in tongues or any of the other charisms. (Vinson Synan, Origins of the Pentecostal Movement, Oral Roberts Universtity, Tulsa Oklahoma, 1997)
Not all revival preachers accepted such behavior as befitting the presence of the Holy Spirit. Charles Finney, the renowned American revivalist of the nineteenth century, warned of the abuses and dangers which were often the direct consequence of the hysterical fervor which accompanied many revivals:
The preaching is very much in a strain of vituperation, and this begets, almost of course, the like spirit and strain in everything else connected with the excitement. There seems to be in it a deep, turbid, and bitter current of feeling that is the very essence of fanaticism. The spirit of Satan, instead of the Spirit of God, has, no doubt, been poured out on the people. It has been an outpouring of a spirit, but not the Holy Spirit of God. It seems to be a going forth of infernal agencies, a letting loose of the powers of darkness, a season of deep delusions; and what is surprising is that even good people are often for a time carried away with it, and for weeks, and perhaps for months, do not consider their mistake. As a brother, who had himself been laboring under this mistake expressed it, "I have been trying to cast out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of devils." (Charles Finney, Revival Fire, letter viii, Excitement in Revivals pge. 40)
Finney goes on to describe how this atmosphere of feverish expectation goes on to distort, even totally obfuscate, the Gospel message of a true revival. These are words I believe that even the great St. John of the Cross would approve of:
The particular thing to which I would now call the attention of the brethren is this:
There is a class of persons, in a season of deep excitement, and especially when there is
a good deal of preaching on the necessity and reality of Divine influences, the spirit of
prayer, being led by the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, etc., who are extremely apt
to give themselves up to be led by impulses. Mistaking the true manner in which the Spirit
of God influences the mind, and not realizing that He enlightens the intelligence, and
leads the Christian who is under His influence to be eminently reasonable and rational in
all his views and movments, they are looking for the Spirit to make direct impressions on
their feelings, and to lead them through the influence of their feelings, and not through
their intelligence. Hence they are very full of impressions...-in short, there is no end
to the forms in which these delusions appear. (ibid, pge. 43)
Finney was certainly no stranger to the disruptive, even chaotic nature that revivals could take on, when deprived of a solid and sound doctrinal and Biblical foundation. (What it is important for the Catholic to remember here is that the Bible is a "proper gift " of the Church, and insofar as Protestants rightly interpret it and preach it, they are preaching truth. When a Protestant minister, for example, exhorts his flock to repent of their sins and ask forgiveness of God through His Son Jesus Christ, he is preaching truth, even if such is only a partial truth. Therefore, it could certainly be said that there is a positive side to sound Protestant revivals, insofar as they cause Protestants to repent of their sins, and trust the mercy of God and (perhaps) preparing them for the fullness of truth which is to be found only in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, any so-called revival which would exhort Catholics to in essence abandon their membership in the one true Church, and embrace the Protestant notion of salvation could not be good at all.)
No doubt Finneys words were a response to the excesses of the "second great awakening", a wave of religious fervor which had swept over the United States in the early decades of the twentieth century. Revivalism, especially in America, was to be characterized by manifestations which became wilder and wilder as the years progressed. There would be talk of people, who, "falling under the power" would "bark up the devil"; people would howl, roar, break out in spontaneous prophecy, etc. The era of revivalism would produce two great revivals in the United States: the first great awakening, which was generally a traditional Calvinistic revival to repentance and "Godliness", and the "second great awakening", less characterized by the Calvinism of its forerunner, more sensitive to the promptings of the "Spirit":
At the beginning of the new century, a fresh wave of revivalism broke over the country, unexampled, perhaps, in its religious history. You read of people
Trembling, weeping and swooning away, till every appearance of life was gone, and the extremities of the body assumed the coldness of a corpse. At one meeting not less than a thousand persons fell to the ground apparently without sense or motion Towards the close of this commotion, viz., about the year 1803, convulsions became prevalent The rolling exercise consisted in doubling the head and feet together, and rolling over and over like a hoop The jerks consisted in violent twitches and contortions of the body in all its parts When attacked by the jerks, the victims of enthusiasm sometimes leaped like frogs, and exhibited every grotesque and hideous contortion of the face and limbs. The barks consisted in getting down on all fours, growling, snapping the teeth, and barking like dogs. Sometimes numbers of people squatted down, and looking in the face of the minister, continued demurely barking at him while he preachedto them. These last were particularly gifted in prophecies, trances, dreams, visions of angels, of heaven, and of the holy city.
Men and women fell in such numbers that it became impossible for the multitude to move about without trampling them, and they were hurried to the meeting house. At no time was the floor less than half covered. The preachers would at times creep along the ground, crying out that they were the old serpent who had tempted Eve, and exhorting their hearers to agonize and be saved.
Such, in Kentucky at least, was the pattern of the revival. (Knox, op. Cit., pp. 560-561)
As Knox goes on to relate, one of the illegitimate offspring of this second great "revival" was to be the heterodox movement of the Shakers. This was also the religious milieu which young Joseph Smith was so immersed in. It is a well known fact that Palmyra, New York,where Smith was raised, had been a hot bed of revivalism during the "second great awakening". Smith drank deeply of the enthusiastic atmosphere promoted and encouraged by the revival, and it was his search for the "true denomination" that ultimately led him into his conferences with the demon who called himself "Moroni." It is also interesting to note that both movements, Shakerism and Mormonism, practiced glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, long before the advent of modern or classical Pentecostalism, which certainly does not speak well for the Pentecostal (or Charismatic) claims that the movement represents a unique latter-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The Irvingites were an early and mid nineteenth century sect gathered around the preaching and teaching of Edward Irving, a Scottish Presbyterian minister. Irving would eventually break away and form his own congregation, the Catholic Apostolic Church, and teach the heretical doctrine that human nature was totally evil. But in the meantime, through means of his preaching and prophesying, he was to exercise quite an influence over the religious climate of nineteenth century Britain:
Irving was already a well-known preacher, and had become even better-known among those who shared an extreme interest in end-times ideology. Regent Square was not a poor-man's church; it had among its regular attendees members of Parliament, authors, insurers, bankers and such. Leading religious figures in the United Kingdom would visit there when they were in London Irving decided to teach classes regarding the power of evil in the world. It appears that, as part of the course, he instructed these parishioners to seek the Holy Spirit, and that if they did, the Spirit would become manifest in them. Soon, his students began speaking in known tongues and giving words of knowledge It didn't take long before this started to show itself on Sunday, with an escalating series of happenings that we today would think of as being typically 'charismatic' or even 'Pentecostal'. For the first few months, he tried to get those going through the experiences to go outside before letting loose, so as not to disturb worship (and get him fired). This, despite the fact that this behavior was the direct result of his teachings .Irving did tell one parishioner not to return until she could control herself.
In the spring of 1832, he had decided to stop fighting it and allow these gifts to show themselves in the Sunday worship services. This got him thrown out post-haste. He and a bit over half his flock left and formed their own congregation and denomination, the Catholic Apostolic Church (ibid)
What was the nature of Irvingite glossolalia? From most of the contemporaneous accounts, it would appear that it was virtually identical to what passes for "the gift of tongues" in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, along with the so-called gift of interpretation:
It must be expressed that the characteristic specimens of Irvingite glossolaly which have been preserved to us are beyond the reach of any lexicon. Such utterances as Hippo gerostos niparos boorastin farini O fastor sungor boorinos epoongos menati or Hey amei hassan all do hoc alors loore has heo massan amor ho ti prov his aso me hardly bear out the claim that the languages are distinct, well inflected, well compacted languages if we are to judge these results by merely human standards, we must admit that a child prattles no less convincingly. (Knox, op. Cit., pge 553)
Knox is quoting Dr. Drummond, the prominent banker and member of the sect, who claimed that the glossolalia which was being practised among Irvings congregation had all the characteristics of a true language. This is the perennial argument of modern day tongues speakers-at first they maintain that the gift of tongues which they possess is a true foreign language. When proof of this is not forthcoming, they almost invariably fall back on a second argument-that the tongues are unknown languages, or languages of angels. And when it is demonstrated that the tongues in question obey no linguistic rules at all, but are merely a meaningless bunch of random syllables, they fall back on their extreme subjectivist argument: the tongues are a private, therapeutic prayer language, and not miraculous at all. When faced with these facts, Pentecostal and Charismatic apologists for the "end times restoration of tongues" will engage in a verbal "dog and pony show" in order to defend the movement:
Tongue speaking is also a (modest and peaceful) challenge to the limitations and platitudinous character of everyday language. It represents an escape, a non-violent release At a deeper level, glossolalia reverses the ordinary religious process in which men move, often unsuccessfully, from language to life
As a preconceptual type of utterance, glossolalia meets the need for an ineffable language that attempts to reach God through discourse of the apophatic (negative, or "beyond language") kind, or in a more positive way, by imitating "the tongues of angels" in Pauls phrase (1Co. 13:1) From this point of view, glossolalia may rightly be said to be a nonlanguage. (Laurentin, op. Cit. pge 81)
Laurentin pulls out all the stops and employs all the high sounding excuses he can to justify the fact that modern glossolalia is not xenoglossia, or true foreign language. It was the same with Irvingite glossolalia, which also went through a similar phase. When it was adequately proven that none of the "tongues" spoken in Irvings congregation were in fact human languages, a new raison d etre had to be found for their existence:
It was easy for the cynic to infer that that the whole notion of angelic tongues was a mere subterfuge of propaganda (Here Knox quotes the Cyclopaedia of Religions) After much diligent inquiry, no satisfactory evidence could be found that it was a real language spoken by any portion of mankind. It was then concluded to be, in the literal sense of the expression, an unknown tongue, and viewed merely as a sign of the Holy Ghost (Knox, op. Cited, pge. 553)
Knox does not, however, agree with the conclusions expressed by the Cyclopaedia with regards to the tongues being a totally unknown language-as is evident, the prominent glossalalists, the Macdonald brothers, expected their tongues to be understood only under the inspiration of the Spirit; thus, they introduced into the the notion of tongue speaking the "mediumistic or telepathic type of interpretation" totally at variance with the Pauline concepts of eJrmhneu>w, or the idea of rational interpretation or translation of languages, which is undoubtedly what is referred to in 1 Corinthians.
Such a mediumistic role for the "interpreter" is now the rule in Charismatic prayer assemblies-but nowhere in Christian tradition does one find such a manner of interpreting tongues. Whenever anyone begins speaking in an unknown tongue, another "inspired" member of the assembly will claim that the person is saying such and such-but such interpretations never amount to anything more than platitudes or truisms; except in certain exceptional cases where there may be a preternatural agency involved. This may be the manner in which the Pythoness at Delphi was interpreted by the priests of Apollo, or the way in which Shamans operate, but it is emphatically not a Christian mode of prayer or prophecy. St. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to pray for the gift of interpretation, or translation; and it was not until the Irvingites came on the scene that the gift of tongues was considered anything but an articulate, understandable and existing human language-Laurentin himself admits as much (ibid. pge 67). The gift of tongues itself will be dealt with further on.
it looks as if the Macdonald brothers did not expect their utterances to be interpreted by any natural means. James Macdonald when repeating over the concluding words of what he had spoken in the tongue, which were disco capito, said The shout of a King is among them.
It seems that a certain Mr. Pilkinton attended the Regent Square church, and was so carried away by the atmosphere of it that he broke into prophecy himself. But he was something of a linguist, and thought he could translate some of the phrases he had heard used by other speakers. He identified Gthis dil emma sumo as meaning, I will undertake this dilemna; Hozehamenanostra as Jesus will take care of this house; no doubt he expected Irving to be pleased by his disclosures. Instead of that, he was severely lectured on the impiety of attempting to interpret the unknown tongues when you were not in the spirit. Evidently Irving and his colleagues regarded the interpretation of tongues , no less than the tongues themselves, as dictated by the Power to certain gifted persons without any appeal to the understanding.
The gift of tongues, when so understood, loses its main evidentiary value; nobody who is present in a merely inquiring spirit will be impressed by the sight of A talking gibberish and B saying the gibberish means this and that. (ibid, pp 554-555)
It would appear that little has changed with respect to this controversy in the nearly two centuries which separates our generation from that of the Irvingites. Interestingly enough, some of the tongue speaking practiced by the sect sounds almost identical to the glossolalia I heard while in a Charismatic prayer group in Mexico:
Look to it, look to it! Ye have been warned! Ye have been warned! Ah Sanballat, Sanballat, Sanballat! The Horonite, the Moabite, the Ammonite! Ah, confederate, confederate with the Horonite! (Mrs. Oliphants Life of Irving, in ibid, pge. 556)
The person who speaks in tongues in a prayer group almost always begins in this fashion-emitting repetitive acclamations of praise, or supplication, or hymns, or something similar. Then, in the middle of the repetitive phrases or chants, the glossolalia will begin with syllables like those above, or ha na na, shama na, shama na, or any number of vowel combinations-often influenced by a few words in Hebrew, or Greek the person picks up in Bible study classes. In my experience, there was very seldom any interpretation done of the tongues.
Although the vast majority of the Irvingite tongues and prophesying must have been due to euphoria or hysteria, there may have been cases of diabolical influence:
Sometimes, at least, they seem to have worked themselves up to prophesy, in a disconcertingly mediumistic fashion. This is Pilkingtons description of it:
Her whole frame was in violent agitation, but principally the body from the hips to the shoulders, which worked with a lateral motion. The chest heaved and swelled, the head was occasionally raised from the right arm, which was placed on the forehead, while the left hand and arm seemed to press and rub the stomach. She was but a few seconds in this state when the body swayed, the neck became stiff, the head erect; the hands fell on the lap, the mouth assumed a circular form, the lips projected, and the Tongue and English came from her in an awful tone. (ibid, pge. 556)
As is the case with most of the groups we have seen so far, both Protestant and "Catholic", the Irvingites preached, and more importantly, prophesied, the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ. In Irvings case, such ideas probably began with the following prophetic utterances of his acquaintances, the aforementioned Macdonald brothers:
"On April 20, 1830, in the first recorded instance in modern times, James
The consequences of Irvings interest in eschatological prophecies, and his own speculations on the matter would have staggering consequences on the future of evangelical Protestantism. It is known that, apart from the prophecies of his own sect, Irving was influenced by the writings of a Chilean Jesuit by the name of Manuel De Lacunza y Diaz, a converted Jew, who wrote a book entitled The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty under the pseudonym of Juan Josafat Ben Ezra, and the work itself became known as Ben-Ezra. The book was eventually condemned by the Holy Office because of its hyper-semitism and its millenarianism.:
The Ben-Ezra document laid the foundation for Edward Irving's millenarianism Though historic "Chiliasm" has always been around, that faith had fallen into the background. It was revived by Lacunza, Irving and Darby, each adding his unique ideas, and, with those added ideas, re-energized "Chiliasm" had been circulating for over a hundred years before Scofield published his book. That faith had been gaining gradual acceptance, but it was Scofield's notes that injected it into Christian society as the major Christian "doctrine." (www.preteristarchive.com )
Irving, aside from having Ben-Ezra translated into English, also wrote a 200 page introduction to the work, in which he put forth his speculations on the end-times, and in which he posits the perennial "end times restoration of the Spirits gifts":
Irving's contribution to the subject was his discussion of the charismatic outpouring he expected to occur just prior to the Lord's return a "latter rain." ( .)
This is critically important, since it establishes that the concept of a "latter rain" outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit near the time of the Lords return can be traced directly to the Irvingite cult. "Latter-rain" is well known in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles as the a virtually interchangable phrase for "New Pentecost". Not only the phrase, but the concepts are virtually identical:
Isabella Campbell, a young woman ill with the tuberculosis that took her life, Isabella Campbell, spontaneously burst forth in ecstatic speech in communion with God. After her death, her sister Mary began to look for the gifts of tongues and prophesy in order to equip her to do missionary work. In March of 1830 she spoke in tongues, and soon was added the gift of "automatic writing" (writing in strange characters with amazing speed while in a trance-like condition) others also received the gift. A few miles from the Campbell home in Gare Loch, in the town of Port Glasgow lived the Macdonald family. The influence of Scott and Irving, and of another, Mcleod Campbell, had stirred up their expectations for the gifts as well. Margaret Macdonald was reportedly healed upon the command of her brother James. But before this took place, according to her narrative, she had lengthy visions of the end times.
A record of these visions is given in Dave MacPherson's, The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin.18 The meaning of her recorded visions is at many points difficult to decipher because of the meandering style of her descriptions, but she seems to speak of a secret coming of the Lord for the saints that cannot be seen by the natural eye. She then speaks of the appearance of "THE WICKED" (one individual) "with all power and signs and lying wonders, so that if it were possible the very elect will be deceived." It is difficult to determine whether this one is to appear before or after the Lord comes for His own. Therefore it seems that MacPherson's thesis that this is the origin of the pre-trib rapture theory is surrounded by questions.
Several incidents before and after this visit seemed to confirm Scott's teaching. Two or three years earlier, Isabella Campbell, a young woman ill with the tuberculosis that took her life, Isabella Campbell, spontaneously burst forth in ecstatic speech in communion with God. After her death, her sister Mary began to look for the gifts of tongues and prophesy in order to equip her to do missionary work. In March of 1830 she spoke in tongues, and soon was added the gift of "automatic writing" (writing in strange characters with amazing speed while in a trance-like condition). News of these things spread like wildfire. And others also received the gift. A few miles from the Campbell home in Gare Loch, in the town of Port Glasgow lived the Macdonald family. The influence of Scott and Irving, and of another, Mcleod Campbell, had stirred up their expectations for the gifts as well. Margaret Macdonald was reportedly healed upon the command of her brother James. But before this took place, according to her narrative, she had lengthy visions of the end times
A record of these visions is given in Dave MacPherson's, The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin.18 The meaning of her recorded visions is at many points difficult to decipher because of the meandering style of her descriptions, but she seems to speak of a secret coming of the Lord for the saints that cannot be seen by the natural eye. She then speaks of the appearance of "THE WICKED" (one individual) "with all power and signs and lying wonders, so that if it were possible the very elect will be deceived." It is difficult to determine whether this one is to appear before or after the Lord comes for His own. Therefore it seems that MacPherson's thesis that this is the origin of the pre-trib rapture theory is surrounded by questions However, this is not the only theory that associates the beginning of the secret rapture theory with the charismatic revival of the early nineteenth century. In September of 1830 a party of Londoners was sent to examine the Gare Lock phenomena for themselves, and upon receiving their positive report, a number of people in Irving's church began praying for the same. In April of 1831 the answer came,. P. Tregelles, known for his scholarship in the history of the Greek text, and one of the early leaders in the Brethren movement, tells us in The Hope of Christ's Second Coming (1864) that a secret coming of Christ had its origin in an "utterance" in Irving's church. He writes:
"I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there should be a Secret Rapture of the Church at a secret meeting coming until this was given forth as an utterance' in Mr. Irving's church from what was then received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether anyone ever asserted such a thing or not it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose."
(Mark Sarver, Dispensationalism: The Genesis and Development of Dispensationalism in Nineteenth Century England: The Millenarian Revival)
John Nelson Darby, the founder of the Plymouth Brethren, knew Irving personally, and was undoubtedly influenced by the prophecies of the Irvingites; it was Darby who was the first to popularize the idea of a "pre-tribulation" rapture (as prophesied by the female trance medium, Margaret Macdonald), and was essentially the first to proffer the idea of a separate covenant with the Jews whereby the nation of Israel would be totally restored during the last times, in order that the Old Testament prophecies regarding "national Israel" could be fulfilled before the end-times. The Church has always taught, following St. Paul, that the Jews will be converted to the Church at the end of the world, and once again return to Palestine. However, this clearly has nothing to do with the present secular State of Israel. It is precisely this teaching of dispensationalism which, by means of the Schofield Reference Bible, has so influenced the thinking of Evangelicals (and Pentecostals) world-wide. Such books of eschatology fiction as the Late Great Planet Earth, exercise an undue influence, via the Charismatic movement, on Catholics as well, who ignore the true, Catholic teaching on the end-times:
Large numbers of contemporary Catholic pentecostals firmly believe the Second Coming of Christ is imminent. This expectation seems to be based on a borrowing from classical Protestant pentecostalism rather than on a specific prophecy delivered to a Catholic prayer group. (Fichter, op. Cit., pge 125)
Some of these "Catholic" Pentecostals even go so far as to defend un-Catholic concepts such as the rapture-in deference to their no doubt wiser Protestant brethren. The tragedy in all this is that, due to the enormous infusion of such spurious and false eschatology into the body of the Catholic faithful, via the influence of the Charismatic movements more extreme members, that the true Catholic teaching on this matter has all but been relegated to oblivion, lost amid an avalanche of endless speculations spurred on by visions, "prophecies", alleged apparitions of the Blessed Mother, of the saints, and the infusion of Protestantized teachings on the end times.
To Be Continued in Part Four