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, February 8, 2017

A Missed Visit

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

About this time the Catholic church of France, desirous to spread abroad the Christian religion where it was yet unknown, was enlarging its missions in the East. Among the individuals whose piety led them to engage in this  benevolent  work, was a nephew of M. De La Mothe. His name was De Toissi; the same individual, of whom some account is given in the History of Foreign Missions, Relation des Missions EtrangĂ©res,  under the name of De Chamesson. This young man, in company with one of the French bishops, the titular bishop of Heliopolis, had commenced his journey to the place of his labors in Cochin China; and in passing through Montargis, had called at the residence of his uncle. His visit was short; but characterized as it was by the circumstance, that he was about to leave his native land perhaps forever, and on business too that was infinitely dear to the heart of humanity and religion, it was full of interest. He was one of those, who could say in the sweet language of the subject of this Memoir, when in after life she suffered in prison and its exile,

“My  country, Lord, art Thou alone;
No other can I claim or own;
The point, where all my wishes meet,
My Law, my Love, life's only sweet."

Mademoiselle De La Mothe had gone out at, the time of this short but deeply interesting visit of her pious cousin; a visit incidental to a journey undertaken from religious considerations, and which, therefore, could not well be delayed from purely worldly motives. "I happened," she says, "at that time to be gone a-walking with my companions, which I seldom did. At my return he was gone. They gave me an account of his sanctity, and of the things he had said. I was so touched with it, that I was overcome with sorrow. I cried all the rest of the day and of the night."

This was one of those incidents in the Providence of God, which come home to the heart. How often has the mere sight of a truly pious man brought the hardened sinner under conviction! How often have those who have been unmoved by the most eloquent religious appeals, been deeply affected by the most simple and unpretending words, when uttered under circumstances favorable to such a result. When she heard the statement of the deep and devoted piety of her cousin De Toissi, the thoughts of Mademoiselle De La Mothe, on the principle of contrast rather than of resemblance, naturally reverted to herself. She remembered how often God had called her to himself; and how often she had listened without obeying, or had obeyed without persevering in obedience. "What!" she exclaimed to a pious person, who acted as her Confessor and religious teacher, "am I the only person in our family to be lost! Alas! Help me in my salvation." Her whole soul was roused to a sense of her situation. She recalled with deep compunction her repeated seasons of seriousness and religious inquiry, and of subsequent declension. "Alas!" she exclaimed, "what grief I now sustained for having displeased God! What regrets! What exclamations! What tears of sorrow!" Once more she endeavored to bring her mind to a religious frame.

Once more she applied herself to the task of her soul's salvation, apparently with great sincerity and earnestness; but without being able to find the simple way of acceptance by  faith.  She resisted her passions, which were liable to be strongly moved; and her efforts were attended with a considerable degree of success. She asked the forgiveness of those, whom she was so unhappy as to have displeased. Appreciating, in some degree, the relation between religion and practical benevolence, she visited the poor, gave them food and clothing, and taught them the catechism. She spent much time in private reading and praying. She purchased and read some of the practical and devotional books which were most highly valued among her people, such as the Life of Madame de Chantal and the works of St. Francis de Sales. She inscribed the name of the Savior in large characters upon a piece of paper; and so attached it, to her person as to be continually reminded of him. With an erroneous notion of expiating her sin by her own suffering, she voluntarily subjected herself to various bodily austerities. Determining to leave nothing undone which seemed to furnish any hope of spiritual improvement, it is worthy of notice that she made a vow, in imitation of the devout Madame de Chantal, of ever aiming at the highest perfection, and of doing the will of God in everything. This undoubtedly was an important resolution, which, we may reasonably suppose, would have been followed by the happiest consequences, if it had not been made too much in her own strength, and in ignorance of the great renovating principle, that all true strength is derived from God through Christ by faith.  Among other things which characterized her mental exercises and her efforts at this time, it appears that she came to the resolution, if Providence should permit, to enter into a Convent, and in the apparent hopelessness of aid from any other source, to secure her spiritual interests and her salvation by becoming a Nun. This part of her plan, which showed the depth of her feeling on the subject which now occupied her mind, was frustrated by her father, who was tenderly attached to her, and who, while he was earnestly desirous that his daughter might become truly religious, supposed that she might possess religion without separating from her family, and without an entire seclusion from the world.

The Infinite Mind, no doubt, beheld and sympathized in the anxiety which she felt, and in the efforts she made. God is not, indifferent, he never can be indifferent, to those who strive to enter in. He numbers all their tears; he registers all their resolves. How can it be otherwise? If the state of mind be that of true striving after God, he himself has inspired it. Has he no feeling, no sympathy for his own work? It is true that he sometimes permits those whom he determines eventually to bless, to strive long, and perhaps to wander in erroneous ways. But the result of this painful experience will be, that, they will ultimately understand much better than they otherwise would have done, the direction and the issue of the true path. They have a lesson to learn which cannot well be dispensed with; and God therefore is willing that they should learn it. What that lesson is, it is not always easy to say, in individual cases. Perhaps the remains of self-confidence exist within them, which can be  removed only by the experience of the sorrows which are attendant upon the errors it invariably commits. And accordingly God leaves them to test the value of human wisdom. They try it; they fall into mistakes; they are overwhelmed with confusion; and then, and not till then, they see the necessity and importance of reposing all their confidence in Him, who alone can guide them in safety.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 3.

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