The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Her New Benevolence

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

Reflections on her conversion.

But we ought to add, that her care was not limited to her family, to the exclusion of other appropriate objects of Christian benevolence. She had means of doing good, which she did not fail to employ. The income of her husband's property, or rather the property of which he had the control at this time, stated in the French currency, was about forty thousand livres annually. A very large income at that period, when money had relatively a higher value than it now has. Of this amount, a certain portion was placed in her hands by her husband, to be expended by her as she might think proper. And accordingly as God gave her opportunity, and in imitation of that Savior whom she now followed, she did what she could for the poor and the sick, discharging, without any hesitation, duties which would be exceedingly unpleasant and irksome to a mind not supported by Christian principle. She remarks in her Life,

I was very assiduous, in performing deeds of charity. I had feelings of strong compassion for the poor, and it would have been pleasing to me to have supplied all their wants. God, in his providence, had given me an abundance; and in the employment of what he had thus bestowed upon me, I wished to do all that I could to help them. I can truly say, that there were but few of the poor in the vicinity where I lived, who did not partake of my alms. I did not hesitate to distribute among then the very best which could be furnished from my own table. It seemed as if God had made me the only almoner in this neighborhood. Being refused by others, the poor and suffering came to me in great numbers. My benefactions were not all public. I employed a person, whose business it was to dispense alms privately, without letting it be known from whom they came. There were some families, who needed and received assistance, without being willing to accept of it as a gratuity. And I reconciled their feelings with their wants, by permitting them, in the reception of what was needful for them to incur the formality of a debt. I speak of giving; but looking at the subject in the religious light, I had nothing to give. My language to God was,  “Oh my Divine Love, it is thy substance:  I am only the steward of it; I ought to distribute it according to thy will.”

Her efforts for the good of others were not limited to gifts of food and clothing. Those who are acquainted with the state of things in France during the reign of Louis Fourteenth, know that ruinous vices prevailed at that period. The profligacy of the Court, though less intense than that which was exhibited subsequently in the time of the Regency of the Duke of Orleans and in the reign of Louis Fifteenth could hardly fail to find imitators among the people. This will help to explain some further statements which she makes in connection with her efforts to do good. In a number of instances, with a forethought creditable to her sound judgment as well as her piety, she informs us that she caused poor young girls, especially such as were particularly characterized by beauty of person, to be taught in some art or trade; to the end; that, having employment and means of subsistence they might not be under a temptation to adopt vicious courses, and thus throw themselves away. And this was not all. Inspired with the sentiments which animate the hearts of some pious females of later times, she did not consider it inconsistent with religion to endeavor to reclaim those of her sex who had fallen into the grossest sins. She says, that God made use of her to reclaim several females from their disorderly lives, one of whom was distinguished by her family connections as well as her beauty, who became not only reformed, but truly penitent and Christian in her dispositions, and died a happy death.

I went, to visit the sick, to comfort them, to make their beds. I made ointments, aided in dressing wounds, and paid the funeral expenses incurred in the interment of those who died.

And as one of her methods of doing good, she adds,

I sometimes privately furnished tradesmen and mechanics, who stood in need of assistance, with the means that were requisite to enable them to prosecute their business. 

It is very obvious, I think, if we may rely on her own statements, as undoubtedly we may, that in acts of outward charity she did much; perhaps all that could reasonably be expected.

— edited from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

She Now Sees God in All Things

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

Reflections of her conversion.

Sustaining the relations of a wife, a mother, and a daughter, and seeing now more clearly into the ways and requisitions of Providence, she endeavored, from higher motives and in a better manner than ever before, to discharge the duties which she owed to her father, her husband, and her children. I speak of her duties to her children, because, previously to the time of which we are now speaking, God had been pleased to give her another son. The birth of her first son, — whom she frequently names as being made, through the perverting influence of her step-mother, a son of trial and sorrow, — has already been mentioned. The second son, who gave better promise both for himself and others, was born in 1667. We shall have occasion to recur to him again, although we have scarcely anything recorded of him, except the few painful incidents of his early death. These new and expanding relations furnished opportunities of duty and occasions of trial, which ceased from this time, at least in a great degree, to be met in the strength of worldly motives or in the arts of worldly wisdom. God, in whom alone she felt she could trust, became her wisdom and strength, as well as her consolation.

We may well and truly say, whatever allowance it may be necessary to make for human infirmity, that God was her portion. She could say with the Psalmist, "The Lord is my fortress and deliverer,— my strength in whom I will trust." The views, which she took of religious truth and duty, were of an elevated character, without being mixed and perverted, so far as we can perceive, with elements that are false and fanatical. It is true, that, even at this early period of her experience, the religious impulse, as if it had an instinctive conviction of the end to which it was tending, took a higher position than is ordinary, but without failing to be guided by the spirit of sound wisdom. If she was a woman, who both by nature and grace felt deeply, she was also a woman who thought dearly and strongly.

Among other things it is worthy of notice, that she distinctly recognized, not only intellectually, but, what is far more important, she recognized practically, that God orders and pervades our allotment in life; that God is in life, not in the mitigated and merely speculative sense of the term, but really and fully; not merely as a passive spectator, but as the inspiring impulse and soul of all that is not sin; in life, in all life, in all the situations and modifications of life, for joy or for sorrow, for good or for evil. The practical as well as speculative recognition of this principle, may be regarded as a sort of first  step towards a thorough walking with God. A heart, unsubdued, a heart in which worldly principles predominate, does not like to see God in all things, and tries unceasingly to shake off the yoke of divine providence. To the subdued heart, on the contrary,— to the heart, in which christian principles predominate, — that yoke always is, and of necessity always must be, just in proportion as such principles predominate, "the yoke which is easy and the burden which is light." Early did this Heaven-taught woman learn this. And she was willing to apply to her own situation, and to her own responsible relations, what she had thus learned.

It is one thing to have the charge of a family, and another to know and to feel, that this responsible position is the arrangement and the gift of Providence. Providence, whose eye is unerring, had placed her in that relation; and whatever cares or sorrows might attend her position, she felt that, as a woman and emphatically as a Christian woman, she must recognize it as the place which God had appointed, and as involving the sphere of duty which God had imposed.

— edited from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Effects of Her Conversion

Reflections on
the Life of
Madame Jeanne de la Mothe Guyon.

Reflections on Madame Guyon's conversion.

Madame Guyon dates this great change as taking place on Magdalen's day, as it is termed in the Catholic church, the 22d of July; 1668.1 She was then a little more than twenty years of age.

It  is hardly necessary to say, that the change which persons experience in their transition from the life of nature to the life of God in the soul, are very different, in their commencement, in different persons, being much more marked in some cases than in others.  In the case of Madame Guyon, although slowly progressive in its preparatory steps, it seems to have been very decisive and marked at the time of its actually taking place. It was obviously a great crisis in her moral and religious being, — one in which the pride and obstinacy of the natural heart were broken down, and in which, for the first time, she became truly willing to receive Christ alone as her hope of salvation.

A gospel change implies the existence of a new nature. A nature which has life in it; and which, having the principle of life in itself, puts forth the acts of life. And it is thus that the fact, both of its existence and of its character, is verified. The true life always shows itself outwardly, in its appropriate time and way. “By their fruits,” says the Savior, “ye shall know them.” No other evidence will compensate, or ought to compensate for the absence of this. This evidence Madame Guyon gave. From the moment that she gave herself to the Lord to be his, in the inner spirit as well as the outward action, and in the action corresponding to the spirit, the language of her heart, like that of the Apostle Paul was, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? ”

“I bade farewell forever" she says “to assemblies which I had visited, to plays and diversions, to dancing, to unprofitable walks, and to parties of pleasure. The amusements and pleasures which are so much prized and esteemed by the world, now appeared to me dull and insipid,— so much so, that I wondered how I ever could have enjoyed them." She adds the remark, that for two years previously she had left off the curling of her hair,— a very general and favorite practice at that time, and which, — if we may believe the Maquis De Dangeau, although his statements strictly apply to a somewhat later period,— was sometimes carried to an injurious and unseemly extent. And in connection with doing this she expresses an opinion,— which others, who wish to honor the Savior in a Christian life, might do well to remember, — that she abandoned a practice, which, in the judgment of a correct taste, does not in reality contribute to the attractions of personal appearance; and the abandonment of which, therefore, if rightly considered, cannot be supposed to involve any great personal sacrifice.

Without going into particulars, it may perhaps be sufficient to say, that from this time it became her object, in her dress, in her modes of living, and in her personal habits generally, as well as in her interior dispositions, to conform to the requisitions of the Inward Monitor, the Comforter and Guide of holy souls, who now began to speak in her heart.

— edited from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877) Volume 1,  Chapter 8.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Consecration and Grace

Consecration therefore, as it seems to us, consecration without reserve either as to time or object, is the indispensable condition of inward religious advancement.

But it will be inquired perhaps with some solicitude, whether this doctrine, which denies advancement in religion without consecration, and which thus implies an act of the creature, does not exclude grace? In replying to this question, we feel obliged to say, that we cannot perceive any reasonable grounds of distrust and anxiety here. It is certainly difficult to see, how an act of correspondence on the part of the creature to God’s intentions and acts of mercy, is inconsistent with what we variously denominate grace, free-ness, or gratuity on God’s part. Man, considered as a moral and responsible being, could not do less than what is implied in such correspondence, without rejecting God. There is, and can be no alternative. He must either correspond with God by a reception of what God proposes to give and by a full and harmonious cooperation, or he must reject. And it is virtually impossible, as it seems to us, for God, while the creature rejects what he offers, to give more, or to continue for any length of time that which he has already given. But the act of correspondence, which is thus rendered indispensable on man’s part, if he would experience the continuance and the increase of the divine favor, being obviously nothing more than an act accepting what God offers, or perhaps more definitely and truly an act of consent to enter into harmony with the divine operation, it does not, and cannot detract from the free and gratuitous nature of the divine gifts. It is self-evident, that the mere reception of a gift, by an intelligent approval and cooperation on the part of the recipient, can never alter its nature as a gift.

What a motive is presented by these views, to a full correspondence with God; in other words, to a consecration, immediate, unreserved, and perpetual. An act so obviously necessary, and yet which so few are ready and willing to perform; the omission of which so fully accounts for the prevalence of inward darkness and the want of inward growth. Give yourself to God in all things, if you would have God give himself to you. True, the act of consecration, in its relation to the world, and the things of the world, may be like the cutting off of the right hand or the plucking out of the right eye; it may be attended, as it undoubtedly will be, with the painful sundering of earthly ties, but it is the only condition, so far as we can perceive, on which we are able to advance from the lower to the higher degrees of faith and love, and ultimately to possess the fullness of God, as our present and everlasting portion.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Consecration is the Condition of Advancement in Faith

The human ability must correspond without reserve, and to its utmost extent, to the divine light, whether it be more or less. Knowledge to the extent, in which we are able to conform to what we know, furnishes the basis of obligation. It is a principle of moral philosophy, which is well understood and is considered as very obvious, that our obligations can never be less than our ability and our knowledge. “He, who knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” In other words, the person, who does not correspond to God in accordance with the obligation which God imposes, will not be likely to have the disposition, and certainly will not have the right, to plead the divine promises, and is clearly the subject of God’s marked disapprobation. But to correspond, in the utmost extent of our ability, to all that we actually know and to all that we are now able to know of our duty, is essentially the same thing, perhaps we may say, is precisely the same thing, as to consecrate ourselves entirely to God.

Consecration therefore, as it seems to us, consecration without reserve either as to time or object, is the indispensable condition of inward religious advancement.

Whether, therefore, you have much religion, or little religion, or none at all, follow the divine light; whether it be the light of nature, which only shows us our state of condemnation; or the light of restoring and redeeming grace, which leads us to the Cross, that we may be pardoned there; or the light of that grace, which sanctifies the heart, by exploring its secret recesses and by bringing all into subjection; be it each or all, be it more or less, correspond with all your powers to all that is given, and God will give more. This, if we rightly understand it, is the law of increase in spiritual things, the law of light added to light, of grace, added to grace, of glory brightening in the front of glory.

We find here an answer to the question, often proposed with intense interest, why is it that there are so few cases of assured faith and hope? why is it that there are so few persons, who, under the influences of sanctifying grace, have reached the state of assured or perfected love, and of constant communion with God? The answer is, it is because by not corresponding to the light and grace which they had, they lost that, which they might have had. They would not take the cup of consecration, which they knew to be bitter to the natural taste, and therefore they did not, and could not receive the inward healing, which, in connection with God’s plan of operation, it might have imparted. It is impossible in the nature of things, that a person can have strong faith in God as a father and friend, or that he can love him with unmixed love, when he is conscious that by not consecrating himself he is violating a religious duty. Belief will always sink, and consequently love, which has its foundation in belief, will always sink in proportion to the weakness or defect of the consecrating act.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

With What You Have, Obtain More

If we are so constituted, that we naturally and necessarily know something of God, it is still true, that we may know him more. If it is a conceded fact, that we know him in a small degree, it is equally true that we may also know him much. If we may know him as the God of nature, we may also know him as the God of the Bible, as the God of providence, as the God of the New Covenant, as the God of the promises. We may know him as our own God and Father, as ours in prosperity and adversity, as ours in life and death, as ours to-day, to-morrow, and forever.

But let us notice this in particular. The belief in God, which we have from nature, valuable as it undoubtedly is, has the effect merely to bring men under condemnation, unless it is followed by something further. And this is essentially true also of the incipient steps, the beginnings of a really gracious experience. On what principle, therefore, or in what way is it, that having but little light, whether it be the light of nature or the light of grace, we may reasonably expect to get more? I know of no principle and of no way or method, but that of spiritual correspondence with God according to what we now have; in other words, the way of humbly and unreservedly giving ourselves to God to be his, according to our present light; trusting in him for wisdom and strength, and for all that we need. Every thing, which has relation to our progress in the divine life, seems to depend upon the position which we here take, viz. upon our conformity to this rule on the one hand, or our rejection of it on the other. If we do not give ourselves to God in correspondence with what he has imparted to us, but on the contrary, rejoice in the light which we have as our own light, which is the same thing as to rejoice in ourselves, and thus turn away from God, we can make no advancement. But if, entirely renouncing our own strength and wisdom, and giving ourselves wholly to God, we receive and rejoice in the light which we have as God’s light, and in the deep feeling of our dependence look to God for more, we are in the way of increased light and of true salvation.

This, therefore, seems to be the law of inward progress, viz. WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, OBTAIN MORE. Be faithful to what is given, and the giver will add to his gifts. A law, enforced by the penalty already alluded to, viz. that the gifts of nature without the additions of grace, and the incipient gifts of grace without grace super-added, so far from essentially benefiting us, will only add to our condemnation. Or, as the Scriptures express it, “whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”

We will suppose, that the reader of these pages is a Christian. God has given you, in addition to the unavailing light of nature, (unavailing if it remain merely what it is,) the light of grace; so that you can say that you have some faith in God and some communion with him. It is an interesting inquiry, how you shall increase it? The Savior has given the answer on various occasions and in various forms of expression; but all to the same import, viz., improve what you have, and you shall have more. Just in proportion as ye seek not honor, one from another, but the honor which cometh from God only, ye shall have faith, and shall find that faith increasing. “If any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth,” John 9:31. “Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” Matthew 25:23. Be all to me according to the light, which I have condescended to give you; and I will be all to you in return.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Consecration and Our Initial Faith

I think we may regard it as one of the established principles, having relation to the origin and the operations of faith, and which may properly be included under the denomination of the doctrines of faith, that our faith in God will be in proportion, or nearly in proportion, to our consecration to God. In other words, just in proportion as we give ourselves to God to do and to suffer his will without reserve, just in that proportion or degree we shall be likely to have confidence in him; a confidence, which will receive him not only in his more general character as God, but as the God of providence and the God of the promises. It is especially obvious, I think, and beyond all question, that the highest results of faith, Assurance of Faith for instance, cannot be experienced, without a personal and specific consecration; a consecration which is entire and without reserve. The Savior himself may be regarded as fully implying all that has now been said in the instructive and interesting passage, where he says, addressing himself to the Jews, “How can ye believe, who receive honor one from another, and seek not that honor, which cometh from God only?” John 5:44.

It will perhaps be objected here, that consecration to God necessarily implies the antecedent existence of faith in God to some extent; in other words that we cannot give ourselves to God in the act of consecration, without previously believing that God is. This difficulty seems to be fully met by the important fact, that we are obviously created with a belief, or perhaps we should rather say with tendencies to belief, in the God of nature; or in other words are created with such elements and tendencies of mind as necessarily result in the belief of God as the God of nature. There is much reason for thinking with bishop Butler, that natural religion and revealed religion are not in their nature different, but are parts of one and the same great system of truth; although it is true that revealed religion embraces things, which natural religion of itself could never have reached. And one of the most obvious and certain truths of natural religion is, that there is a God. He, who carefully notices the wonderful works of God either within him or without him, and who by his very mental constitution judges and cannot help judging between right and wrong, and who feels either the pangs of remorse in doing evil or the joys of doing and sustaining the right, has an amount of knowledge and experience, which lays the foundation for the additional and deep conviction, that there is a God, that there must be a God.

God, therefore, himself, in the exercise of that kindness which marks all his dealings with men, has given the preliminary, which the doctrine of faith demands. The divinity stands unveiled before the human mind; revealed both within and without; both in what it knows, and in what it feels. The Bible itself recognizes this view. It does not profess to reveal God, as a being absolutely unknown before. It takes for granted the existence of God, just as it takes for granted the existence of the human soul, and the fact of a conscience in man. And those, who say that they do not believe in God, be they Christian or heathen, if they will only analyze their own thoughts and heart, and will speak truly and candidly, can hardly fail to alter their mode of expression. They will be much more likely to say, that they believe in God’s existence, and at the same time knowingly and deliberately reject him. They believe, and they reject. It would not be possible for men to reject God, a crime which is alleged against all natural men, without first believing that God is. The Apostle has expressed it precisely when he says, in connection with his general doctrine, that the heathen have a knowledge of God independently of Revelation, “they knew God, but glorified him not as God.” They had faith enough to bring them under condemnation; but not faith enough to renew their hearts in love.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 15.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Vanity of Life

"As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more." — Ps. 103. 15, 16.

And they are gone, the friends that once I knew;
I look in vain to find them; low and still
They coldly lie, shut out from human view,
And from the joys which erst their breasts could fill.
No more for them the rosy morn shall gleam,
Nor wild bird charm their ear at day's sweet close;
No more shall friendship soothe life's fevered dream,
And love's sweet voice allure them to repose.
But, oh, 'tis vain to murmur or bewail,
Dwells ought on earth, that long on earth shall be?
The columns of the world itself shall fail,
Its gorgeousness shall fade, its pomp shall flee.
'Tis a small thing to die, if we shall rise
In renovated bliss, unchanging in the skies.

The Religious Offering (1835) Scripture Sonnets XXIII.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Establish Your Faith in the Higher Truths

The sooner we establish ourselves by a strong unwavering faith in those general religious truths, which, occupying a higher position, sweep over and control particular and subordinate cases, the better it will be for us. Being thus established, the mind is at once placed in a position of hope and strength, and is relieved from a multitude of perplexities. When human reasonings have become consolidated in firm faith, the soul is not only relieved from assaults and perplexities from below, but seems to have power, such as it could not otherwise have, with that which is above. On such a soul the love of God, in particular, seems to be gently but richly shed abroad and infused from on high, instead of being laboriously wrought out and forced upward from beneath. No longer continually wearied with efforts originating in itself; but reposing in childlike quietness, of which faith is the true parent, it is purified and refreshed with the dews of divine grace unceasingly descending.

“The ship’s navigation ceases,” says a certain writer, “when it enters the port. Thus the soul, after the fatigue of MEDITATION, [a word which he uses as synonymous with perceptive and reasoning acts,] finding itself in the calm of CONTEMPLATION, a state of mind resulting from the highest faith, ought to quit all its own reasonings, and remain peaceful and silent with its eye fixed simply and affectionately upon God.” [Molinos, Introduction to the Spiritual Guide.] A state, which, in being closely united to God, is separated from all entangling alliances with that, which is not God; and which is followed by a sweet and peaceful rest, such as a condition of doubts and fears can never be acquainted with.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 14.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

But, Faith Does Not Abandon Reason

It is not uncommon for Christians to eulogize faith in distinction from reason; and not unfrequently they speak of faith as a higher authority than reason. We are aware, that expressions of this kind, which are often on the lips of eminently pious and devoted people, suggest trials and doubts in the minds of some, as if they implied an abandonment of reason. And it is not surprising that they should, when the expressions are taken in their literal and obvious import. But a little reflection on the subject will help to remove this difficulty.

As Christians we do not, and we cannot abandon reason. The abandonment of reason would involve the abandonment of Christianity itself. We abandon reason, only when it is perversely applied; and when we ought to abandon it. We abandon it in its support of particular facts and particular propositions; and then only when such particular facts and propositions come in conflict with some more general facts and propositions, in which our faith is fully established. Abraham did not doubt, he could not doubt, that God is good and holy. His mind, in connection with the antecedent evidence, of which he had the experience both inwardly and outwardly, rested firmly by faith in this general proposition. He did not doubt in the least. Accordingly being established in this general truth by faith, he had nothing left but to reject at once all suggestions adverse to it, which human reason might bring in the shape of particular facts and particular propositions. In other words, believing in God as a God of all knowledge as well as of holiness, he thought it better to distrust human reason, which is limited, than to distrust God’s reason, which is universal. He felt, that he himself in his blindness might be wrong; but that God, in whom “is no darkness at all,” could not be otherwise than right.

These considerations obviously analyze and adjust the conflict, or rather the supposed conflict, between faith and reason. Faith and reason, when the matter is rightly understood, are by no means the opposites of each other. True faith and right reason always have harmonized, always will harmonize. The conflict, which from time to time takes place, is in appearance and not in reality; is relative and not absolute. It is true, that faith, resting upon reflection and reason, sometimes places itself in the attitude of opposition, and will not permit reason hastily and erroneously to undo its own work. And this is a state of things altogether true and right. It is entirely consistent and right, that religious faith, resting for adequate reasons, in general religious propositions of a high and controlling nature, should sustain this sublime position, a position which may be regarded as the result of a higher and more universal reason; and should reject at once and forever all the adverse suggestions of that other and subsequent reasoning, which moves in a lower sphere and with a narrower vision. It is a state of things, which may be regarded as represented in the simple statement, that faith, considering the grounds and circumstances of its origin, is God’s reason against man’s reason, is strong reason against weak reason, true and right reason against false reason.

The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 14.