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V. P. Simmons on the Church History of Tongues

The early Pentecostal writer V. P. Simmons on the Church history of tongues.

V. P. Simmons is an unknown name in the annals of pentecostal history and even moreso in the general historical records. However, the impact of his historical thesis which connects the speaking in tongues of the 1900s with the first-century rite still echoes in pentecostal establishments everywhere. His name may be forgotten but his framework is relatively intact.

The pentecostal theology of speaking in tongues has a distinct historical framework and interpretative system. This unique framework can be traced to his article in a religious newspaper called the Bridegroom’s Messenger back in 1907. Not much is known of Mr. Simmons outside of his contributions to this newspaper.

The Bridegroom’s Messenger held him in the highest honor: “Brother Simmons is known among Pentecostal people as a writer and thinker and an observer of religious movements for years. He has known something of “Pentecost” for about fifty-two years. His observations and research has made his judgment valuable and reliable.”(1)Bridegroom’s Messenger. Sept. 15, 1909. Vol. 2. No. 46

His History of Tongues work was published and republished on a number of occasions in the Bridegroom’s Messenger — an important and influential early pentecostal newspaper that was published out of Atlanta. It arguably supplanted the Azusa Street newspaper, Apostolic Faith in reach and influence by 1908. The Church History of Tongues was converted into a tract and sold by the Bridegroom’s Messenger which gave it a wide reading through North America and the world.

Other writers and editors greatly expanded on the same historical framework penned by him later on. He was somewhat a patriarch of the tongues movement. He had been actively following the subject since the late 1850s.

Enclosed are entire articles by Simmons, a number of quotes, some background texts from the Bridegroom’s Messenger and a few additional notes.

Articles, Quotes, and Notes

Dec. 1, 1907. Vol. 1. No. 3

“A History of Tongues” V. P. Simmons (Frostproof, Fla.)

With the passing of the apostolic age, only one reference in the writings of the early fathers concerning praying, speaking, or singing in tongues, has come down to us. It is more than probable that records of martyrdom on the one hand, and the theological controversies on the other, has crowded out much pertaining to spiritual devotion and spiritual exercises in the church.

We will briefly note what facts have cropped out in church history upon the subject of “tongues.”

1. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, born probably, in Asia Minor, A. D. 115, died at Lyons, France, A. D. 202, for twenty-five years Bishop of Lyons, was a scholar of Polycarp, who, in turn was a disciple of the Apostle John. Drifting westward as far as France in A. D. _77, he became the leader of the Christians and their most learned defender of the faith. In his Adv. Haer. VI page 6, he writes, “We have many brethren in the churches, having prophetical gifts, and by the Spirit speaking in all kinds of languages.” From this statement of Irenaeus the inference is quite conclusive, that, for at least one hundred years after the apostles, “tongues” continued in the church; thus confuting the oft repeated statement that it was confined to the apostle’s day only.

2. After the reformation under Luther a century and a half passed before anything definite is recorded concerning “tongues.” The Protestant French Huguenots were a godly people, who for long generations furnished many thousands for martyrdom, and still more for banishment—a full million banished from their native land, and many ten thousands sealing their faith by their blood, during that long Catholic persecution. It naturally speaks for itself that the Holy Spirit put His sealing grace upon so steadfast and devoted a people. Upon this true people for generation, the spiritual supernatural gifts seemed to rest. From the repeal of toleration, A. D. 1685, the Catholics, like wild beasts, hunted this devoted class of their countrymen, wiping out 166 of their towns, devastating their country, sparing neither men, women, nor children, as they fled to the mountains, to dens and caves of the earth. God was with them, and the Holy Ghost fell on them in mighty power, and supernatural manifestations. Among the Huguenots were some well uneducated; speaking the purest French; others back in the mountain seclusions, like the Camisards, the Cevennes, and others, speaking a very illiterate dialect. On both classes, the learned and the illiterate, came the supernatural manifestations. I quote from the Library of Universal Knowledge, Vol. III, page 352. (From A. D. 1685-1705, again A. D. 1715-1729, also A. D. 1775-1789): “There was a singular psychologic or spiritual phase in the history of the C. that must be noticed. It was a sort of inspiration or ecstasy. The subject who had endured long fasting, became pale, and fell insensible to the ground. Then cam violent agitations of the limbs and head; and finally the patient, who might be a little child, a woman, or half-witted person, began to speak in good French of the Huguenot Bible, warning the people to repentance, prophesying the immediate coming of the Lord in judgment, and claiming that these exhortations came directly from the Holy Ghost; after a long discourse the patient returns to his native patois (that is, to his illiterate dialect) with no recollection of what he had been doing or saying. All kinds of miracles, so they believed, attended upon the Camisards, strange lights guided them to places of safety (from their prosecutors), unknown voices spoke encouragement, and wounds were often harmless. Those who were in ecstasy of trance fell from trees without sustaining hurt.” “The supernatural was part of their life.” Such is the statement of Andrew Findlater, LL. D., acting editor of the fifteenth volume Library of Universal Knowledge, 1880 edition.

Dr. Philip Schaff, in his History of the Christian Church, also in Religious Encyclopedia, speaks of the Camisards, prophets of the Cevennes, as speaking in unknown tongues, as well as talking in pure French, when in natural conversation theirs was an illiterate dialect.

Before leaving this devout people, it might be added that, from the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France, A. D. 1814 and 1815, another bitter persecution, even to martyrdom, broke upon the Protestants of France, and with it these supernatural manifestations seemed to be again revived.

3. Dr. Shaff also mentions the early Quakers and early Methodists as “speaking in tongues,” but not having the data for either will pass them until such time as we can present facts in this case.

4. “Lasure” movement in Sweden, A. D. 1841-1843, the phenomenon of speaking in tongues is also recorded in history.

5. In connection with the Irish revival (Protestant), A. D. 1859, was the “speaking in tongues.” See Shaff’s History of Christian Church for particulars.

6. Under the ministry of Edward Irving, born in Scotland, A. D. 1792, died A. D. 1834, much of the supernatural was manifested. Irving taught school A. D. 1812 at Huddington, where Jane Welsh, afterwards wife of the historian Carlyle, was among his scholars. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, in A. D. 1815 began preaching __ became assistant pastor under Dr. _____ at Glasgow, A. D. 1822, called to the Caledonian church of the Covenanters at London. So rapid was this church under his ministry that in two years it grew from a small people to a congregation of 6,000. In his ministry Irving made the second personal coming of Christ very prominent, also an entire abandonment of self to God, of which he was an example. Thomas Carlyle, himself a cold and critical writer, said of Edward Irving (A. D. 1835): “His was the freest, brotherlinest, bravest human soul mine ever came in contact with. I call him on the whole the best man I have ever found in this world or hope to find.” Such was the man that became leader of the “Catholic Apostolic Church,” sometimes called “Irvingites,” after the Presbyterian body threw him overboard. He lived and walked too near God for any ecclesiastical organization to manage. In the spring of A. D. 1830, on the shores of the Clyde, Scotland, among some pious Presbyterian men and women, the Holy Spirit fell in wonderful manner. The speaking in tongues quickly spread into widely separated parts of Scotland.

“Mr. Cardale, a Scotch lawyer, brought the news to London, and in 1831 his wife and Mr. Taplin began to ‘prophesy’ and to speak in an unknown tongue in Irving’s church. Irving fell in with the movement, heartily convinced of its scriptural basis and divine authority. Forsaken by a large part of his congregation, he began to hold services on May 6, 1832, with 800 communicants in a new place of worship.” — Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II, page 1119. “The order of this movement was: The ‘prophesyings’ were addressed to the audience in intelligible English, and like the Quaker utterances; but the ‘tongues’ were monologues or dialogues between the speaker and God which non one could understand.” Encyclopedia as above, Vol. 1, page 422. This marvelous, supernatural work continued with this people for years, even after the death of the saintly Irving.

7. Among the Second Adventists of America the talking tongues was manifest. In A. D. 1854, Elder S. G. Mathewson spoke in tongues and Elder Edwin Burnham interpreted the same. The writer knew both of these men of God well, has often sat under their preaching. They were large men physically, mentally an spiritually. By some, Edwin Burnahm was regarded as the most gifted in eloquence and used the most glowing rhetoric of all the preachers connected with the Second Advent movement since the days of Edward Irving.

In the early Seventies, A. D. 1873, and onward again among a portion of the Second Adventist believers, the talking in tongues, accompanied largely with gift of healing, was manifested in New England. They were called the “Gift Adventists.” Their most noted leader was Elder Doughty, a man, all things considered, the writer regards as having the strongest faith and power in prayer of any person with whom he ever became acquainted. On Elder Doughty abode the gift of healing in a wonderful degree.

In this recital but one other case will be noted.

8. Charles G. Finney was born A. D. 1792, in Western Connecticut, born again A. D. 1821. Quickly after his conversion he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and began speaking in tongues. A subject to which in his early experience his attention had never been called. He did not know what to make of it. An indescribable sweetness took control of his whole being. From that hour he abandoned the law business for gospel work. For fifty-four years an active evangelist, much of which time also president of Oberlin, Ohio, College. It is claimed that more than one hundred and fifty thousand were converted under his labors. On him abode such Holy Ghost power that people were powerfully convicted by just his looking at them without speaking. Probably his equal as an evangelist of divine power has not been known to the church since the days of the Apostle Paul. The case of Finney speaking in tongues and concealed by his friends and biographers, as a weakness in the great man, has had a parallel in the experience of many another consecrated laborer. Let not those who have received the Comforter—with tongues, doubt the anointing of a harrowed labourer in the Master’s vineyard whose experience is unknown.”

Republished in February 1, 1908. It is announced in the March 1, 1908 that it is published in a tract form. A version very similar to his but the initials of someone else, Feb. 1, 1911. Vol. 4. No. 79. Reprinted in the White Wing Messenger, March 31, 1928. Vol. V. No. 7 Pg. 3 and continued in April, 14, 1928, Vol. V. No. 8.

April 15, 1908. Vol 1. No. 12

“History of Tongues: Additional Testimony” by V. P. Simmons.

“In writing up testimony concerning prominent persons in the Church in earlier times of Christianity, following the death of the apostles, it behooves one to be very careful whom he indorses or condemns; for prominent writers of those times were either bitter in condemnation, or worshipful in praises of leaders among them. Taking Arius, for example, some writers denounce him as a bitter, obnoxious heretic, while others hold him up as the most saintly church leader of his time.

1. The Montanists, the followers of Montanus, who, A. D. 156, appeared as a new prophet of Ardaban, in Phrygia, on the frontier of Mysia. Both Montanus and his disciples were subjects of severe criticism of ecclesiastics, and by others praised for their fervent piety, their self-denial, their courage in facing martyrdom, their long continuance in prayer, their ardent belief in the supernatural. Like the Pentecostal people of today, they had bitter assailants and zealous defenders; and also like the Pentecostal believers of our times they talked in tongues.

Montanus called “the prophet” and two very active Christian women, named Priscilla and Maximilla, called “the prophetesses,” saintly in their lives, ardent in the gospel labor, laying great stress upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and inward illumination, prophesying, speaking in tongues, in all things led of the Spirit, given to fasting, prayer and self-denial, they were very separate from the world, and insisting that an ecclesiastical organization was not the Church, but “an inward illumination of the Holy Spirit upon believers did constitute them the true Church.” See History of Universal Knowledge, Vol. 10, page 160-1. Also Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, page 1561-2, third edition. For full four hundred years the Montanists contained a separate existence, suffering persecution, even to martyrdom, from the heathen, and bitter exclusion from the Catholic party. Rigid in morals, laying great stress on divine leading, they ever affirmed that the very substance of the Church was the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Philip Schaff, former professor in the Union Theological Seminary, New York, says, “Montanism was simply a reaction of the old, the primitive Church, against the obvious tendency of the Church today to strike a bargain with the world, and arrange herself comfortably in it.”

2. Tertullian, born A. D., 145 (some affirm A. D., 150 as date of his birth), was perhaps the finest scholar, the most extensive writer, the most brilliant leader of the Church of his generation. Born and educated at Carthage, at that time a seat of learning, he was a man of radical temperament, strong convictions, born leader. He early espoused the teaching of Montanus, prophesying, talking in tongues, spiritual visions, practicing self-denial, ardent in labors, opposing the growing ecclesiasticism of the Church. On all social questions he ever drew a distinct line between the Church and the world, he filled out a long life, being an active disputant to the last, and is ever mentioned by Christian writers as a father of the Church.

3. Cyprian, also born at Carthage, about the beginning of the third century, was but a young man when Tertullian died. He early became a disciple of his illustrious townsman, adopting all of Tertullian’s views. He too, was a finished scholar, even in early manhood venerated for his piety. In him, so-called Montanism had an able defendant. The inner life of the Holy Spirit’s leadings, prophesying, tongues, visions, the actual necessity of a positive Holy Spirit given experience. He was wont to call Tertullian his master. Probably more biographies have been written of Cyprian than of any other of the early fathers of the Church. He went to martyrdom A. D., 258.

Thus we have in a period of one hundred years, not less than four great leaders of the early Church championing the Pentecostal teaching of our own times; all of them men of no mean ability, learning, or piety, to wit: Irenaeus, of Lyons, Montanus, of Phrygia; Tertullian and Cyprian, of Carthage; together with two illustrations Christian women mentioned in this article. Each and all of these had a large following, while all of them battled the then growing spirit of Roman Catholicism.”

June 1, 1909. Vol. 2. No. 39

Historians Dodging Tongues

The many bits of history down through the ages, showing the cropping out of speaking in tongues, are but an indication that hidden under the surface is far more that might have been written had not biographers and writers of church history concealed facts about this subject.

If clear headed Christian scholars like Irenaeus, Tertullian and Cyprian of the earlier centuries endorsed the Montanists, defending them in their speaking in tongues, it is probable those eminent men were not alone in their approval of tongues and prophesying.

In fact, Irenaeus, in his Adv. Heur, page 6, writes: “We have many brethren in the churches having prophetical gifts, and by the Spirit, speaking in all kinds of languages.”

The English language abounds with many elaborate encyclopedias; most of them scarcely mention the subject of “Tongues,” leaving for Andrew Findlater, LL. D., acting editor of encyclopedia of universal knowledge, and Philip Schaff, D. D., LL. editor of History . . . [a portion of the copy is illegible]

Lutheran writers . . .[a portion of the copy is illegible] silent about the tongue movement in Sweden about A. D. 1841-1843, leaving it to Dr. Schaff, of another denomination, to bring out. Methodist literature abounds in Christian biography and history of Methodist religious awakenings, but how silent are they all upon any tongue talking in their membership, leaving Dr. Schaff and Dr. Bushnall (in his work, “Supernaturalism”), to mention tongue talking among Methodists. Most Presbyterian and Congregational writers give us facts of Methodist history concealed by Methodists themselves.

Elder I. C. Welcome wrote a large, excellent work, “History of the Second Advent Message,” showing great research in compiling; but not a word about Adventists speaking in tongues; and yet from A. D. 1845 to the present time, both in the ministry and laity, this spiritual exercise has almost continually been manifest among some of the most devout and saintly of Second Advent believers. (The writer is collecting quite a goodly number of facts for future publication on this line.)

I do not say that biographers and historians are dishonest in concealing these matters from the readers. They evidently consider tongue talking a fanaticism, a weakness, to be kept out of sight; but in some way it will out, and readers will know that their biographers and compilers are not impartial.

June 1, 1910. Vol. 3. No. 63

“The Exercise of Tongues.” By V. P. Simmons.

The writer having had no personal experience concerning “tongues,” can only judge by observation, and the general effect of “the tongue” movement.

The variety of exercises of “tongues” seems to be: (1) Talking in tongues, (2) exhorting in tongues, (3) singing in tongues, (4) praying in tongues, (5) writing in tongues, (6) interpreting in tongues, (7) playing in tongues upon musical instruments.

Having witnessed nearly of these various exercises, not excepting even a counterfeit of tongues, and having made the tongue movement a study for more than fifty-years, both from church history and the many recitals concerning it in these last of the last days, the following are our conclusions:

1. It has positive, and repeated Bible authority.

2. Not a hint can be found in the Bible that it has been done away, or will be done away, so long as this gospel dispensation lasts.

3. The class who are exercised with “tongues,” are as a rule the most consecrated, the most crucified, the most given to Bible study, the most self-denying, the most humble, loving, prayerful and saintly; far in advance of the ordinary conscientious church members. Their simple child-like faith with which they take the Bible as it reads, is really marvelous in this sceptical age, when even ministers study the Bible to explain it away.

4. To be even remotely associated with them, to attend their services, their camp meeting, to watch them from the outside, is to feel their quiet power. In short one comes to the conclusion that God is with them. Invalids have repeatedly expressed the soothing influence they experienced when under the quiet nursing of this class of believers.

5. The positively supernatural manifestations and exercises, connected with the tongue movement have convinced many thoughtful mean and women, who even came to criticise; but went away acknowledging that God was with them of a truth.

6. The world wide, rapid spread of this so-called Pentecostal work bears the very mark of divinity upon it.

Some without any natural musical gift, who could not even sing, have, while exercised with tongues, sung sweetly, have played upon musical instruments, and even sung in “tongues,” all with a harmony, and melody equal to a trained musician.

To give anything like an analysis would be careful work for one living in the experience of tongues; but for only an observer, it seems somewhat doubtful business.

F. Bartleman in the Way of Faith, concerning “tongues,” says: “Much of it is evidently no particular language. But Paul suggests the possibility of our speaking even in the ‘tongue of angels.’ I Cor. 13:1. We must keep humble, sober, however. Children must not get foolish. And may we not be given also an ‘ecstatic utterance,’ a ‘new tongue’ spoken neither by men nor angels?” Again he says: “This ‘tongue’ may be for private exercise, devotion, prayer, etc., mainly. Some languages, spoken in prayer and otherwise, have been understood. Possibly some never will, nor can be, except by spiritual interpretation. Let us keep a sound mind at all hazards for God.” We infer from I Cor. 14:18, 19, that much of Paul’s speaking in tongues was in private, for his own comfort, and the spiritual rest it imparted. I Cor. 14:28 seems to confirm this thought, while verse 22d brings out another phase of tongues. “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” At such times the tongue spoken may be in a language that some unbeliever present understands; or a new tongues that another gives the interpretation of, “And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest.” Benjamin Wilson in his Emphatic Diaglott thus render I Cor. 14:10: “It may be there are so many kinds of languages in the world, and no one is unmeaning.” His rendering of I Cor. 12:10 is in harmony with this thought. “To another different languages.” It is not possible that all believers living up to their highest privileges may have for their comfort a heavenly “tongue?” to exercise either alone, or with the saints, while those who have the “gift of tongues” (plural) may speak in languages, which either themselves or another may interpret, or an unbeliever present may understand, and so become a recipient of the grace of Christ?
Occasionally one might be permitted of the Spirit to speak in another language for the benefit of a hearer, or hearers. Some three years ago a Christian woman from Los Angeles went as a missionary to Africa. She was permitted to give two discourses in the native language, after which she had to learn their language, to any further instruct them. Some of her converts in speaking in tongues were permitted to speak English, without having learned the same.

August 15, 1911. Vol. 4. No. 92

A Faithful Worker Called Home

On Tuesday morning, August the first, Mrs. Gertrude E. B. Simmons of Frostproof, Fla., died at her childhood’s home in Plainfield, Con.,

. . .Married in 1873 to V. P. Simmons, an ardent temperance worker and preacher of the Second coming, she found full scope for all her rare mental and social gifts.

. . .In October, 1907, at Durant camp meeting Mrs. Simmons received her Pentecost, speaking in another tongue.”

Nov. 1918. Volume 12. No. 207.

With Long Life Will I Satisfy Him.—Ps. 91:16

Dear Sister: I am glad that you have again started the Bridegroom’s Messenger. No other Pentecostal periodical quite fills the place of The Bridegroom’s Messenger to me.

. . .On November 3rd I will be 83 years of age. I have several times been sick, but I pleaded Bible promises for length of days, and the Lord raised me up.

For more information:

References   [ + ]

Speaking in tongues Quiz 2

Gift of Tonques Quiz 2

So you think you know a lot about speaking in tongues? The first quiz was made over 6 months ago and the feedback was amazing. So here is the second part. This Quiz has fourteen questions that covers the time period from the fourth to nineteenth-centuries. There is a legitimate way to cheat. All the answers are found at the Gift of Tongues Project website by reading the summary of the church father or movement listed. Good luck!
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If you want to try the original test, here it is too:

Gift of Tongues Quiz 1

So you speak in tongues, know someone who does, or are simply curious about the subject? The following 16 questions will see how well you know the subject. The questions range from contemporary tongues speaking today, all the way back to the 1500s. The questions start easy and quickly move to being very hard. Good luck!
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The Camisards, tongues and prophecy

The 18th century Camisards in southern France and their religious rite of speaking in tongues.

A Protestant Assembly surprised by Catholic troops by Karl Girardet, 1842.
A Protestant Assembly surprised by Catholic troops by Karl Girardet, 1842.

The Camisards have a special narrative in the annals of Christian history and it is a sad one. Their story would have been forgotten if their speaking in tongues and their habitual use of prophecy was their mark in history. However, these are mere expressions of a greater problem of political and religious persecutions that continually harassed and cost so many lives. It is estimated that 500,000 Camisards fled France or were killed.(1)Catharine Randall. From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World. Georgia, USA: The University of Georgia Press. 2009. Pg. 18 These pogroms are the more important story, but the persecutions opened new Protestant expressions of piety that were unique, especially the realms of speaking in tongues and prophecy.

A deep look at Maximilien Mission’s book, Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes ou Recit de Diverses Merveilles, published in 1707, gives some vitals answers to the Camisard religious experience. This is the sole primary source for this article. He took eyewitness accounts of the Camisards from this period and organized them according to each person’s testimony. Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes is a seminal work into the minds and workings of the Camisard movement.

This book piques those who are curious about the history behind the Christian doctrine of tongues.

His work clearly defines the Camisards speaking in tongues as a foreign language, especially the spontaneous waxing eloquence in French. There was no reference to a non-human or angelic language. Nor was there any association with the idea of glossolalia within the Camisard experience.

This miracle in the French language gave the Camisards a perceived divine approval. The empowering was their sign of judgement on the French King and the Catholic Church. The sign was specifically directed to the French universe and did not extend to other Protestant controlled countries such as England.

One must understand that the Camisards did not speak French as their native tongue. They spoke a language called Occitan that, at least in the 1700s, had a closer affinity to Spanish. The majority of Camisards were illiterate and uneducated.

The above statements cannot be left unqualified. The rest of this article will explore this statement along with the role of prophecy within the Camisard movement.

The Camisards were part of the Huguenot movement in the late 1600s and early 1700s in the rugged mountains of south-central France called Cévennes. The Huguenots were France’s version of the Protestant faith that had spread to various communities throughout Europe and the Americas.

They were a sub-culture of the greater Huguenot community. Because of the persecutions and the absence of any defined leadership, their forms of worship evolved into distinct expressions.

For political and religious reasons, the Catholic-influenced French Government called on the military to eradicate the Huguenots and its subsidiary Camisard movement within their borders. Soldiers were billeted to Huguenot homes and their mission was to dragonnade the Huguenots to Roman Catholicism. This dragonnade represented a special rank of the French military who were arguably scripted from the basest and worst elements of the army. They began an unbridled policy of brutality and suppression. In the eyes of the French soldiers, Huguenots had no legal rights to property, possessions, security or any protection under the law. These conditions were ripe for pecuniary gain and personal abuse by the soldiers. The Huguenots were ultimately given ultimatums; lose all property and personal rights, face imprisonment, death, rape, children removed and given to Catholic families, torture or exile. These conditions could all be revoked if they converted to Catholicism. Those who were leaders or teachers of the Protestant faith suffered an even worse judgement. They were immediately killed or forced to flee.

The testimonies contained in Maximilien Mission’s book showed a strong distaste to Catholic based authority. They believed the Pope was the Antichrist and the Catholic Church was the new whore of Babylon. These perceived signs, along with the severe persecutions, were signals heralding an end-of-world scenario.

The Camisards were poor and geographically isolated. The Huguenots in other regions of France were generally better-off and had easier access to neighbouring, non-hostile countries. These circumstances slowly forged the once pacifist Camisards into a reactionary force. The war between themselves and the better equipped French military can better be described as an insurrection. A war that the Camisards could never realistically win.

Prophecy strengthened the community resolve against the relentless pressure from King Louis XIV and his forces from 1685 to 1705. Prophecy was the vehicle by which they expressed their anxiety, tension, rhetoric and communal vision.

Catharine Randall definitively narrates the role of prophecy and tongues in the Camisard life. Her book, “From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World,” synthesizes the complex pieces of the Camisard faith and describes these two offices in detail:

Often, several prophets arose within the same family. Camisards gathered in great numbers to hear the prophecies; greatly consoled and inspired, some in the audience themselves experienced the “gifts.” In the absence of the clergy, the Camisards viewed these new, experiential manifestations as para-ecclesial ways to continue their conversations with Christ. The prophecies embodied the most literal understanding of the Protestant rejection of the Catholic doctrine of intercession and mediation, and of Calvinist reliance on scripture: these humble folk spoke directly with God through their prophesying, experiencing him face to face. In Relation sommaire des merveilles que Dieu fait en France (1694), Claude Brousson describes this belief in immediacy of access to the divinity: “Deprived of the word of God, of evangelism, of a regular worship service, of orderly sermons, of an emotionally appealing but also rational form of religiosity, the Camisards turned towards a belief in ‘inspiration.’”

As these prophecies evolved from consolation and instruction to calls for militancy, the Camisard began to select as leaders exclusively men who experienced this gift of tongues and prophecy. If such manifestations ceased, the leader was promptly replaced by another inspiré.(2) Catharine Randall. From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World. Georgia, USA: University of Georgia Press. 2009. Pg. 17

The Camisards believed that when a person went into a spiritual empowered state, it was usually demonstrated in these conditions:

  • grand agitations throughout the whole body, and particularly the chest(3) avait de grandes agitations de tout le corps, et particulièrement de la poitrine.
  • speaking while sobbing – a sign of humility and repentance (4)Il parlait avec sanglots
  • falling to the floor(5)tomba dans des agitations
  • prophesying or speaking divine things that is signified with the following introductory words, “Je te dis, mon enfant. . .”

One or more of these types of manifestations must take place in order for it to be a confirmed prophecy.

The Camisards then called this state l’inspiration and often employed the synonym, l’ecstaxy. The formal use of the article demonstrates a special religious significance. There may be a distinction between the two words, but the author did not supply enough material to make an informed declaration on the difference between the two. L’Ecstaxy could easily be interpreted by the modern French reader to mean excitement. However, this noun has a specific religious usage that is rooted into the Latin language and Roman Catholic mystical practices. The word was originally found in the Latin and made its way untouched into English. Unfortunately ecstasy presently has strong sexual connotations outside of religious usage in contemporary American society but there is no alternative solution. Ecstasy denotes a special divine religious experience in this context.

The Camisard testimonials are very quick to identify that the miracles of emboldened or miraculous speech happened to both male and females, infants, mothers, youth, and adults. This strengthened their perceived argument that the Camisards were a movement directly controlled by God.

In reference to miraculous tongues-speech, it is hard to tell whether they were especially relating to the gift of tongues or emphasizing boldness of speech. This boldness empowered anyone at any time who normally did not have the persuasive speech to speak against the established authority.

The Bible, specifically Matthew 10:17-19, contains references to a specially anointed boldness that God will endow people when they are put on trial, persecuted, or imprisoned for faith reasons. This persecution validated the Camisard experience, and conversely vilified the French Government and the Catholic Church.

This divine emboldening allowed illiterate people to articulate clearly and persuasively. Infants also had the power to persuasively preach the power of repentance in a foreign language unknown to them beforehand which they thought to be the divine sign of speaking in tongues. Infants speaking in tongues is a distinctive practice of the Camisards and cannot be traced to any other earlier influences, nor did it propagate after them. For example, this is the testimony of a Jean Vernet, given in 1707:

About a year before my departure, two of my friends (Antoine Coste and Louis Talon) and myself, went to visit our mutual friend Pierre Jaquet at Moulin de l’Eve near Vernou. As we were together, a girl of the house came calling her mother who was with us, and said to her, “Mother, come see the child.” After which the mother herself called us, saying to us that we should come see the little child who was speaking. She added that it was not meant to frighten us and that this miracle had already occurred before. We all immediately ran towards the child.

The infant, aged 13-14 months, was swaddled in the cradle, and had never yet spoken by himself or walked. When I entered with my friends, the child was speaking distinctly in French, of a fairly high voice given his age; in such a way that it was easy to hear him through the whole room. He exhorted (like the others I had seen in the inspiration) to works of repentance, but I was not paying close enough attention to what he was saying to recall any of the circumstances. There were at least twenty people in the room where this infant was, and we were all weeping and praying around the cradle After the ecstasy ceased, I saw the child in his ordinary state. His mother said to us that he had some agitations of the body at the beginning of the inspiration, but I did not notice this when I came. It was a difficult thing to acknowledge because he was wrapped-up in his swaddling clothes! I also heard of another small child at the breast who spoke too at Clieu, in Dauphine.(6)My translation from Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé, Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes, ou Régit des Diverses Merveilles. A. Bost. ed. 1847. Pg. 141

Jacques Dubois, de Montpellier’s eyewitness account added to this concept of children miraculously speaking eloquent French. He related a remarkable story of a child speaking in French but also prophesying, “qu’une partie de la grande Babylone serait détruite l’an mil sept cent huit.” — “that a portion of Babylon the Great will be destroyed in 1708”.(7)My translation from Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé. Pg. 152-154 This testimony shows the blending of prophecy, tongues and apocryphal vision into one seamless theme.

He also stated that he had seen more than 60 children between the ages of three to twelve speak and prophesy under inspiration.(8)Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé. Pg. 152-154

The gift also was also found among the adult community. Jean Vernet explained about his mother and sisters who spoke in tongues and prophesied:

I left Montpellier around May 1702. The first people I saw in inspiration were my mother, my brother, my two sisters and a cousin Germaine. It has now been thirteen years at least since my mother received her gifts; she always had them since that time until my departure, and I learned from the various people who had seen her not long ago, she is still in the same state. She has been detained in prison for eleven years now.

My sisters received the gift some time after my mother had received it; one at the age of nineteen, the other eleven. They died in my absence. My mother’s greatest agitations were of the chest, which made her produce great tears. She spoke nothing but French during the inspiration; which gave me a great surprise the first time I heard her; because she had never tried to say a word in this language, nor has ever done since, at least to my recollection;. . .(9)My translation from Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé. Pg. 139

It is not understood why the Camisards emphasized women and children prophesying and speaking in tongues. From my understanding of the Irvingites later on in 19th century England, women speaking in public or taking any form of leadership was severely frowned upon. This may not extend to French Camisard life. However, one can make a consensus that the features of women and children in the forefront of the Camisard religion are a peculiar characteristic to them and relative to their times. Maybe it was because the majority of older men had fled, were imprisoned or had died.

Jean Cabanel witnessed a gathering of Camisards for worship in the woods – the Camisards were forced to hold their meetings in secret. He describes Occitan-speaking adult Camisards speaking in French – a language foreign to them, especially since they were uneducated.

I believe I saw at least fifteen people of one and the other sex speaking at different times under the inspiration. They were all speaking French and I am quite sure that some of these that I specifically knew, that did not know how to read, would not have had the ability to express themselves in such good French being outside of ecstasy.(10)My translation from Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé. Pg. 142

Jacque Dubois declared that sometimes the people under ecstasy spoke in foreign languages.

I have seen many people of one and the other sex who in ecstasy were pronouncing certain words that the assistants believed to be a foreign language. Afterwards, they that were speaking explained several times the meaning of those sayings which they had been uttered.(11)My translation from Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé. Pg.154

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Notes:

References   [ + ]

The Camisard French text on Speaking in Tongues

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A digitization of text related to speaking in tongues by the 18th century Camisards in south-central France.

The Camisards were a French Protestant group who predominately lived in a mountainous area called the Cévennes from the 1600’s and onwards. The proper term for French Protestants is Huguenots.

This digitization is especially important in the history of tongues. What did the Camisards speak when they had the gift of tongues? Was it in foreign languages, ecstatic utterances, or something altogether different? The texts demonstrate a clear answer.

The following digitization is taken from A. Bost’s Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé, Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes, ou Régit des Diverses Merveilles. 1847

This is an updated version of Maximilien Mission’s, Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes ou Recit de Diverses Merveilles. Londres. 1707.

Only the portions related to divine tongues-speech are digitized. Portions that were not relating to this subject are omitted. Please refer to the actual book Les Prophètes Protestants. Réimpression de l’ouvrage intitulé, Le Théatre Sacré des Cévennes, ou Régit des Diverses Merveilles to see the complete text. Page numbers are added by me in parentheses. Italics are found in the text. The reason why some words and phrases are italicized, I do not know.

————

Jean Vernet, de Boîs-Chatel, dans le Vivarais, a declaré ce qui fuit, le 14 janvier 1707.

[Pg. 139-141]

Je sortis de Montpellier vers le mois de mai 1702. Les premières personnes que j’ai vues dans l’inspiration; étaient ma mère, mon frère, mes deux soeurs et une cousine Germaine. Il y a présentement treize ans, pour le moins, que ma mère reçut ses gràces ; elle les a toujours eues depuis ce temps-là jusqu’à mon départ ; et j’ai appris, par diverses personnes qui l’ont vue, il n’y a pas longtemps, qu’elle est encore dans le même état. Il y a onze ans qu’elle est détenue en prison. Mes soeurs reçurent le don quelque temps après que ma mère l’eût reçu ; l’une à l’âge de dix-neuf ans, et l’autre de onze. Elles sont mortes en mon absence. Les plus grandes agitations de ma mère étaient de la poitrine ; ce qui lui faisait faire de grands sanglots. Elle ne parlait que Français, pendant l’Inspiration ; ce qui me causa une grande surprise la premier fois que je l’entendis ; car jamais elle n’avait essayé de dire un mot en ce language, ni ne l’a jamais fait depuis, de ma connaissance ; Et je suis assuré qu’elle ne l’aurait pu faire, quand elle l’aurait voulu. Je puis dire la même chose de mes soeurs. Elles faisaient toutes trois de grandes exhortations à l’amendement de vie ; et en mon particulier, comme j’étais un peu libertin, elles me sollicitaient fortement à me gouverner avec plus de sagesse. Quand l’Esprit me parlait en elles ; il disait toujours, Je te dis; mon enfant, etc. Nous avons souvent observé, comme étant une chose infaillible, que quand ma mère, ou mes dites soeurs étaient dans l’extase, et qu’elles prononçaient ces paroles : Je te dis, mon enfant, que tu ne parleras pas davantage, pour le présent ; c’était une signe assuré que quelque personne dangereuse allait entrer dans la maison. Cela ne manquait jamais d’arriver.

— Etant, un jour, cinq ou six ensemble, proche de notre maison, le nommé Jaques Reboux, de notre compagnie, qui avait reçu les gràces, et qui était assis fur un rocher escarpé, tout auprès de nous, à la hauteur de sept ou huit pieds, tomba dans le chemin, ayant été soudainement saisi de l’Esprit ; mais il ne se fit aucun mal. Les agitations continuèrent et furent violentes dans tout son corps. Quelqu’un de nous, qui n’était pas accoutumé à voir de pareilles choses, crut qu’il avait eu quelque faiblesse et qu’il s’était blessé par la chute ; de sorte qu’on alla promptement lui chercher d l’eau-de-vie ; mais il n’avait garde de la recevoir, en l’état où il était. Aprés les plus grandes agitations, il se mit à parler et il fit de grandes exhortationes à la repentance.

— Environ un an avant mon départ, deux de mes amis (Antoine Coste et Louis Talon) et moi, allàmes visiter Pierre Jaquet notre ami commun, au moulin de l’Eve, proche de Vernou. Comme nous étions ensemble, une fille de la maison vint appeler sa mère aui était avec nous, et lui dit : Ma mère, venez voir l’enfant. Ensuite de quoi la mère elle-même nous appela, nous disant que nous vinssions voir let petit enfant qui parlait: Elle ajouta qu’il ne fallait pas nous épouvanter ; et que ce miracle était déjà arrivé. Aussitôt nous courùmes tous : l’enfant, âgé de 13 à 14 mois, était emaillotté dans le berceau, et il n’avait encore jamais parlé de lui-même, ni marché. Quand j’entrai avec mes amis, l’enfant parlait distinctement en français, d’une voix assez haute, vù son âge ; en sorte qu’il était aisé de l’entendre par toute la chambre. Il exhortait (comme les autres que j’avais vus dans l’inspiration) à faire des oeuvres de repentance ; mais je ne fis pas assez d’attention à ce qu’il pour me souvenir d’aucune circonstance. La chambre où était cet enfant se remplit : il y avait pour le moins vingt personnes, et nous étions tous pleurant et priant autour de berceau. Après que l’extase eut cessé, je vis l’enfant dans son état ordinaire. Sa mère nous dit qu’il avait eu des agitations de corps au commencement de l’inspiration ; mais je ne remarquai pas cela quand j’entrai. C’était une chose difficile à reconnaître, parce qu’il était enveloppé de ses langes! j’ai beaucoup ouï parler d’un autre petit enfant à la mamelle, qui parlait aussi, à Clieu, dans le Dauphiné.

— J’ai assisté à une petite assemblée dans une cave, auprès de Bois-chàtel, où une jeune fille dit dans l’inspiration, après avoir déjà parlé assez longtemps : Je t’assure, mon enfant, qu’il y a des gens qui ont dessein de vous surprendre : il faut vous retirer bientôt (ou quelque chose de sembable) ; et quand elle fut revenue à elle-même, elle continua de dire qu’il fallait se retirer promptement. En effet les soldats vinrent visiter la maison aussitôt après.

VI. Jean Cabanel, d’Anduse, a déclaré ce qui suit. A Londres, le 14 janvier 1707.

[Pg. 142]

— Dans une seule de ces assemblées, qui dura une grande partie de la nuit (dans un bois à une demi-lieue d’Anduse), je crois avoir vu pour le moins quinze personnes de l’un et de l’autre sexe parler à divers temps dans l’inspiration. Ils parlaient tous français ; et je suis bien assuré que quelques-uns d’eux, que je connaissais particulièrement et qui ne savaient pas lire, n’auraient jamais pu s’exprimer en si bon français, étant hors de l’extase.

VII. Jeanne Castanet, de St-Jean de Gardonenques, a déclaré ce qui suit. A Londres, le 14 janvier 1707.

[Pg: 143]

— Tous ceux de ma connaissance que j’ai vus dans l’extase parlaient français mieux qu’ils ne l’auraient pu hors de l’extase. Les quatre assemblées où j’ai assisté ont duré pendant la plus grande partie de la nuit ; il y avait beaucoup de lampes, de sorte que chacun se voyait et se connaissait ; les discours ordinaires de ceux qui étaient inspirés étaient pour exhorter à la repentance. Ils prédisaient aussi la ruine de l’Antechrist et la déliverance de l’Eglise. Un jour, Cabrit étant en extase dans l’une de ces assemblées prononça ces paroles : Ne voyez-vous pas les anges qui se réjouissent de nous voir ici? Avant qu’il tombàt dans ce moment même extase, un autre qui était aussi saisi de l’Esprit, dit : Voyez-vous la colombe qui descend sur Cabrit? Et ce fut dans ce moment même que Cabrit tomba dans l’extase.

Jacques Dubois, de Montpellier, a déclaré ce qui suit, à Londres, le 4 janvier 1707.

[Pg. 152-154]

Je partis de Montpellier et du pays, et j’arrivai à Genève au mois de mai 1705. Dès l’année 1701 j’ai vu des personnes inspirées; et divers endroits du pays. j’ai vu pour le moins deux cents personnes dans ces inspirations, en divers temps et lieux, de tout âge et de tout sexe. j’ai vu, entr’autres, un garçon de quinze mois, entre les bras de sa mère, à Quissae, qui avait de grandes agitations de tout le corps, et particulièrement de la poitrine. Il parlait avec sanglots, en bon français, distinctement et à haute voix ; mais pourtant avec des interruptions : ce qui était cause qu’il fallait prêter l’oreille pour entendre certain paroles. L’enfant parlait comme si Dieu eût parlé par sa bouche, se servant toujours de cette manière d’assurer les choses : Je te dis, mon enfant, etc. Ce même enfant fut mis avec sa mère en prison (ce qui se pratiquait ordinairement en pareil cas). Je suis persuadé que j’ai vu plus de soixante autres enfants entre l’âge de trois et de douze ans qui étaient dans un sembable état. Les discours de ces enfants tendaient toujours à exhorter puissamment à l’amendement de vie, etc. Ils prédisaient aussi plusiers choses.

— Dans une vallée nommée la Combe du Renard, proche de la Rouvière; à une bonne lieue d’Anduse, je fus chez un de mes amis, dans la maison de qu’il y avait un petit garçon de six ans qui s’y était réfugié, ou plutôt caché. Cet enfant tomba, en sa présence, dans des agitations de tête et de poitrine, etc., parla à voix haute et en bon français, exhorta beaucoup à la repentance ; fit aussi quelques prédictions, et dit entr’autres choses, qu’une partie de la grande Babylone serait détruite l’an mil sept cent huit.

— Je suis témoin qu’un garçon de huit ans, étant dans son extase, à Montpellier, prophétisa touchant le rétablissement de la religion protestante en France.

— j’ai vu plusieurs personnes de l’un et de l’autre sexe, qui, dans l’extase, prononçaient certaines paroles que les assistants croyaient être une langue étrangere. Ensuite celui qui parlait déclarait quelquefois ce que signifiaient les paroles qu’il avait prononcées.

XI. Gilliam Bruguier, d’Aubessargues, proch d’Usez, a déclaré ce qui suit. A Londres, le. . . février 1707.

[Pg. 159]

— j’étais aussi présent lorsqu’une fois la petite Susanne Jonquet, qui était âgée de quatre à cinq ans, tomba dans des agitations à peu près sembables à celles du petit Bousige. Elle parla haut et distinctement, en bon français, et je suis sûr que, hors de l’extase, elle n’aurait pas parlé ce langage. Elle dit que la déliverance de l’Eglise était prochaine, et elle exhorta beacoup à l’amendement de vie. Ce deux enfants se servaient l’un et l’autre de cette expression : Je te dis; ,on enfant, etc.

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This is one of many source texts on the gift of tongues throughout the centuries. For more authors and literature on the subject see the Gift of Tongues Project.