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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Marriage Places Her in a Wrong Position

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

The truth is, that she was placed by her marriage in a wrong position; a position untrue to the structure of her mind and unfavorable to her happiness. Nothing else could reasonably have been expected from an arrangement, in which so little regard had been paid to the mutual relations of the parties, in respect to years, early habits, and mental qualities. When considerable unhappiness is experienced in married life, it naturally implies a very considerable diversity in the relative situation and in the character of the parties. But this is not always the case. Sometimes a little diversity in views and a little want of correspondence and sympathy in feelings, furnishing occasion for an irritation which is not great but constant, may be the means of very seriously embittering life. It is very obvious that the mind of Madame Guyon was not in harmony with her situation; and whether we consider the actual discordance as greater or less, the results could not well be otherwise than unfavorable. Other persons, it is true, with less experience of past domestic happiness, and with less talent and refinement, might, perhaps, have reconciled themselves to the situation in which she was placed, and have regarded it as in many respects a desirable one. Her husband was not without some good qualities. What his personal appearance was, we have no record. But whether it was owing to his traits as a man, or to the consideration naturally resulting from his great wealth, it is obvious, that he secured a degree of respect in the circle in which he moved. I think it is evident also, that he had a degree of affection for his wife, which, under favorable circumstances, might have increased, and have rendered their union happy. But his good feelings, which from time to time showed themselves, were perverted by the physical infirmities and sufferings to which he was subject, and by the influence of his mother, — a woman without education, and apparently possessed of but little liberality of natural feeling, — who retained in old age, and in the season of her wealth, those habits of labor and of penurious prudence, which were formed in her youth. Among other things which have a relation to the real position of Madame Guyon at this time, it is proper to notice, that the ill health of her husband, to which we have just alluded, rendered it necessary for him to keep in his employ a woman who attended upon him as a nurse, and who by her assiduity and skill, in seasons of sickness and suffering, gained a considerable control over his mind. This woman sympathized with the views and feelings of the mother-in-law, and contributed all in her power, to render the situation of the young wife, now in the bloom of youth and in the fullness of her fresh and warm affections, as unpleasant as possible.

We cannot but repeat, therefore, that Madame Guyon, as it seems to us, was both mentally and morally out of her true position. The individuals into whose immediate society she was introduced, and with whom she was constantly in contact, were characterized by a want of intellect and of scientific and literary culture, which was not compensated either by moral and religious excellences, or by the natural virtues of the heart. They not only did not appreciate her, but practically, if not always intentionally, they set themselves against her. They were not only blind to her merits, but rude to her sympathies and hopes, and negligent of her happiness. Certainly this was not the situation for a woman of great intellect and great sensibility; a woman who was subsequently admitted into the most distinguished circles in France; a woman who honorably sustained a controversy with the learning and genius of Bossuet, and who gave a strong and controlling impulse to the mind of Fenelon; a woman, whose moral and religious influence was such, that Louis the Fourteenth, in his solicitude for the extirpation of what he deemed heresy, thought it necessary to imprison her for years in the Bastile and the prison of Vincennes; who wrote poems in her imprisonment, which Cowper thought it no dishonor to translate; and who has exerted an influence which has never ceased to be felt, either in Europe or in America.

— from The Life of Madame Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment