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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The De La Mothe Family Moves to Paris

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

Sometime in the year 1663, M. De La Mothe removed his family from Montargis to the city of Paris, — a step which obviously was not calculated to benefit his daughter, in the religious sense of the term.  Paris  was at that time, as  it is now, the center of scientific culture and of the arts, of refinement of manners and of fashionable Gaye. Louis the Fourteenth was then the reigning sovereign of France, — a man of considerable powers of intellect, and of great energy of will,— in whom two leading desires predominated — the one to make France great, the other to make himself the source and center of her greatness. The greatness of France, sustained and illustrated in the wisdom and splendor of her great monarch — this, it is very obvious, was the central and powerful element of his system of action. Hence the expense and labor which he bestowed upon the royal palaces, and upon all the great public works which could be considered as having a national character; hence his vast efforts to enrich and beautify the city of Versailles, which he had selected as the principal seat of his residence; hence his desire to attach to his person, and to rank among the attendants of his Court, the most distinguished of his nobles. His munificence to men of literature, his patronage of the arts, the pomp and ceremony which characterized all great public occasions, all sprung from the same source.

All France, and particularly the city of Paris, felt an influence so well adapted to harmonize with the tendencies of the human heart. If it was an age that was characterized by many noble efforts in literature and the arts, it was an age also that was equally characterized by its unfounded pretensions, its vanity, and its voluptuousness. Almost everything, especially in the capital of France, was calculated to dispossess the sentiment of humility, and to impart an exaggerated turn of mind. The sights and sounds which were presented to notice; the displays of wealth, which were made in every street; the crowded populace, intoxicated with the celebrity of their sovereign and of their nation; the vulgar and the fashionable amusements, which were without end; all were calculated to divert the mind from serious reflection — to lead it to sympathize with the senses, and to dissociate it from its own inward center; a state of things which would have been a severe trial even to established piety.

It is not surprising that this unpropitious state of things, which developed itself to its full extent in the proud city to which her parents had removed, should have had an unfavorable effect upon the mind of Mademoiselle De La Mothe; and accordingly she intimates, in the record of her feelings, as she remembered them to have been in this part of her life, that she began to entertain exaggerated ideas of herself, and that her vanity increased.  This was the natural result of her new position. Her parents, as well as herself, led astray by the new state of society in which they found themselves, spared no cost in obtaining whatever might make her appear to advantage. The world, illuminated with false lights to her young vision, seemed to be in reality what it, was chiefly in appearance, and consequently presented itself as an object worth conquering and possessing. It was at this period that she gave to it, more warmly and unreservedly than at any other, that kindling heart and expanded intellect, which she afterwards gave to religion. She was tall and well made in her person; refined and prepossessing in her manners, and possessed of remarkable powers of conversation. Her countenance, formed upon the Grecian model, and characterized by a brilliant eye and expansive forehead, had in it a natural majesty, which impressed the beholder with a sentiment of deep respect, while it attracted by its sweetness. Her great powers of mind, (a mind which in the language of one of the writers of the French Encyclopedic was formed for the world, "fait pour le monde,")  added to the impression which she made on her entrance into Parisian society.

— from The Life of Madam Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 4.

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