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, April 3, 2017

Accustom Yourself to Seek God in Your Heart

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

God was pleased to send one more messenger. 

"Oh, my Father!” says Madame Guyon, in connection with the incidents we are about to relate, "it seems to me sometimes, as if Thou didst forget every other being, in order to think only of my faithless and ungrateful heart." 

There was a devout man who belonged to the Religious Order of St. Francis. His name is not given, nor will it now probably ever be known on earth. This man, deeply impressed with religious sentiments, spent five years in solitude, for the express purpose of spiritual renovation, and of communion with God. With a heart subdued to the world's attractions, and yet inflamed for the world's good, he went out into the field of labor. He thought that God called him to labor for the conversion of a person of some distinction, who lived in the vicinity of M. De La Mothe. But his labors there proved fruitless, — or rather they resulted only in the trial of his own faith and patience. The humble Franciscan, resolving in his mind where be should next go and announce the divine message, was led by the inward monitor, speaking in connection with the indications of providence, to go to the house of M. De La Mothe, with whom he seems to have had some acquaintance in former times. 

M. De La Mothe, a man in whom the religious tendency was strong, was exceedingly glad to see him, and to receive his instructions, especially as he was then out of health, and had not much expectation of living long. His daughter Madame Guyon, who was desirous of rendering him every assistance in his increasing infirmities, was there at her father's house, although her own health was very infirm. Her father was not ignorant either of her outward or inward trials. She had conversed with him with entire frankness on her religious state. She related to him the exercises of her mind, her dissatisfaction with her present spiritual condition, and her earnest desire to avail herself of every favorable opportunity to receive religious instruction. Her father, influenced by the representations she made, as well as by his high sense of the piety and religious wisdom of the Franciscan who had visited him, not only advised but strongly urged her to consult with him.

Attended by a kinswoman, as seemed to be proper under the existing circumstances, she visited the room of the Franciscan, and stated to him her conviction of her need of religion, and the often-repeated and long-continued efforts she had made without effect. When she had done speaking, the Franciscan remained silent for some time, in inward meditation and prayer. He at length said: 

Your efforts have been unsuccessful, madame, because you have sought without, what you can only find within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and you will not fail to find him.

It is very probable, that she had heard a similar sentiment before; but if it were so, it came to her as religious truth always does come to those in their natural state, who are permitted to hear, before grace has enabled them to understand. But now the hour of God's providence and of special mercy had arrived. Clearly and strongly did the divine Spirit apply a truth which otherwise would have fallen useless to the ground. "Your efforts have been unsuccessful, Madame, because you have sought without what you can only find within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and you will not fail to find him." These few words, somewhat singular in the mode of expression as they are, obviously convey the great principle, that religion does not and cannot consist in outward working, — in a mere round of ceremonial duties, — in anything which comes exclusively under the denomination of an external action. But, on the contrary, it is inward in the sense of having its seat in the heart's affections, and in accordance with the great scriptural doctrine, that the "just shall live by faith." 

From the moment that Madame Guyon heard these words, she was enabled to see the error she had committed, — that of endeavoring to obtain God by a system of outward operations,— by the mercenary purchase of formal services, rather than by the natural and divine attraction of accordant sympathies. Speculatively, there may be a God objective, a God outward, a God recognized by the intellect as a great and majestic being living in the distance. And in certain respects this is a view of God which is not at variance with the truth. But still God can never be known to us as our God, He can never be brought into harmony with our nature, except as a God inward, a God received by faith and made one with us by love, and having his home in the sanctified temple of the heart. "Believe in the Lord your God; so shall ye be established."  “Believe his prophets; so shall ye prosper.”

 — edited from The Life of Madam Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 6.

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