Did Miracles wane after the Ancient Church?

A common statement I have heard is that after the beginnings of Christianity, miracles, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, were no longer found as much in the Church. What do you make of this? What are some stories of miracles occurring after the beginnings of the Church, going into the medieval Church? For example, John Wesley (Methodism founder), stated:

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…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 Christians. 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; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left." The Works of John Wesley, Vol. VII, 89:26,27

Now, I’m sure that we can say that Wesley was merely making a conclusion to support his own purposes, namely Methodism. My question is, is there any truth to his statement about miracles, the gifts of the Spirit, after the 3rd century? Where can one learn about such matters? And of course canonized saints from those periods that exhibited these gifts are always helpful.


If one looks at biblical miracles and the purpose for them, it can help one understand why we don’t see them today. One of the purposes for miracles in the past was to convince others that God was with someone such as Moses (Ex 4:30-31) and Jesus (John 9:17, 31-33). This reason for miracles no longer is needed. When one looks at some who claim to heal they do it to promote themselves and not God or Christ.

Another reason for miracles was to get the Christian congregation started rapidly (Acts 4:4). The Christian congregation is now established. This reason for miracles is no longer necessary.

Frequently the miracles such as those Jesus performed were open and public (Mt 8:16; 9:35; 12:15) and so there was no doubt that they occurred.

Wesley wasn’t a Methodist, actually. He died an Anglican. It was never one of his intentions to be the father of another denomination.
I wonder what happened to miracles, too… hmm…


Nope. No miracles these days, eh?

Surprisingly, I have to largely agree (except for they grayed line).

True, he was an Anglican always, though his theological views did help begin Methodism, as he is seen traditionally as the “founder”.

As far as miracles, I’m wondering if there were any changes in “frequency”, at least in documented cases, post 3rd century, as Wesley and others claim. I do know that miracles did and do occur, however the question is one of frequency.

Dan Parker, thanks for your views, that is a plausible reasoning.

The article on “Miracle” in the Catholic Encyclopedia should be helpful, especially the last paragraph in Part VI. THE FACT, where some mention is made of reports of miracles throughout Church history.

You might want to try Raised From the Dead.

Numerous miracle accounts in that book.

The idea that miracles disappeared after Apostolic times is actually a distinctive Protestant one - which emerged at the Reformation. This is why the OP quote is from Wesley.

It may be a surprise to many modern Potestants - particularly Pentecostals, but rejection of miracles was one of the fundamental teachings of most of the Protestant Reformers. They and their successors then pushed this back to the 2nd Century, claiming that all claimed miracles since were fakes. Only fairly recently did some Protestant denominations start to recognise, and then claim miracles once more - another example of the ever-changing teachings of Protestants.

Many protestants did and still do believe that there was a “dispensation” when miracles occurred, and that ended with the deaths of the Apostles.

Catholicism has never taught this, and in fact there have always been miracles claimed, recorded and verified by the Church. Read the stories of the Saints from all ages.

Well, as I understand it (and I may not understand correctly) saints, before they are declared saints, must be found to have been instruments of God and associated with 3 miracles. If that is correct, how many saints has the Church canonized? Multiply that number by 3. In addition, keep in mind the number of miracles associated with Our Lady. There was Fatima, there was and still is Lourdes, and there may certainly be others but those are the two that stand out in my mind. How many cures have been associated with Lourdes? I really do not believe that miracles have decreased over time.

The Early Church Fathers said so.

Saint Chrysostom said:

This whole passage [1Cor 12, speaking of miraculous gifts] is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more?
[RIGHT]Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, #24

Unfortunately, he leaves us hanging (and I don’t think he ever got back to the question), for his next words are:

This however let us defer to another time

But St Augustin answered the question:

In the earliest times, “the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spake with tongues,” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to shew that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away. In the laying on of hands now, that persons may receive the Holy Ghost, do we look that they should speak with tongues? Or when we laid the hand on these infants, did each one of you look to see whether they would speak with tongues, and, when he saw that they did not speak with tongues, was any of you so wrong-minded as to say, These have not received the Holy Ghost; for, had they received, they would speak with tongues as was the case in those times?
[RIGHT]St Augustin: Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily VI, #10

I was speaking about these ones in that part of the quote:

NJB Matthew 7:22 When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?” 23 Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, all evil doers!

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