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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

God Had Marked Her for God's Own

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

It  is easy to see, in the light of these various dispensations, that God, who builds his bow of promise in the cloud, had marked her for his own. He had followed her long, and warned her often; but He did not give up the pursuit. He stopped her pathway to the world; but He left it open to heaven. He drew around her the cords of His providence closely, that she might be separated, in heart and in life, from those unsatisfying objects, which, in her early days, presented to her so many attractions. She herself, as we have already had occasion to notice, was subsequently led to view everything in this manner. It was God who was present in all these events; it was God who, through an instrumentality of his own selection, was laying his hand painfully but effectually upon the idols which she had inwardly cherished, sometimes trying her by mercies, where mercy might be supposed to affect her heart, but still more frequently and effectually by the sterner discipline of outward disappointment and of inward anguish.

It was not in vain, that He who understands the nature of the human heart, and the difficulty of subjecting it, thus adjusted every thing in great wisdom, as well as in real kindness. The trials which He had sent, were among those which work out "the peaceable fruits of righteousness." It was the result of these various providences, afflicting as they generally were, that she was led to the determination, (a determination which from this time never was abandoned,) once more to seek God. She had sought him before, but she had not found him. But, in giving up the search and in turning from God to the world, she had found that which gave no satisfaction. Bitterly had she learned, that, if there is not rest in God, there is rest nowhere. Again, therefore, she formed the religious resolve, — a resolve which God enabled her not only to form, but to keep. Her feelings at this time seem to be well expressed in a well known religious hymn, which is designed to describe the state of a sinner, who has seen the fallacy and the unsatisfying nature of all situations and of all hopes out of Christ.

"Perhaps he will admit my plea;
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish, I will pray,
And perish only there.

"I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know
I must forever die."

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Loss and Sickness and Death

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

God, in his dispensations, mingled judgments and mercies together.

Another circumstance, worthy of notice as occurring about this time, was the loss of a part of the property of the family. The revenues, accruing to the family from the Canal of Briare, which has already been mentioned, as having been completed by her husband's father, were very great. Louis Fourteenth, whose wars and domestic expenditures required large sums of money, took from them a part of the income arising from that source. The family, besides their usual place of residence in the country; had a valuable house in the city of Paris, in connection with which also a considerable sum of money was lost at this time; but in what way, or for what reason, is not stated. If the birth of a son tended to conciliate and to make things easy, the loss of property had a contrary effect. Her step-mother, who seems to have been an avaricious woman, was inconsolable at these losses; which, in the perversity of her mind, she made the occasion of new injuries and insults to her daughter-in-law, saying with great bitterness, that the family had been free from afflictions till she came among them, and that all their troubles and losses came with her.

Another circumstance worthy of notice, a little later in time, and having some bearing upon her religious tendencies, was a severe sickness which she had. This was in the second year of her marriage. The business of her husband kept him much in Paris; and at the time to which we now refer, the situation of his affairs was such as to require his presence there constantly. After much opposition on the part of her mother-in-law, she obtained her consent to leave their residence, which was a short distance out of the city, and to go for a time and reside there with him. But it is worthy of remark, that she did not obtain this consent, which could not well be withholden without an obvious violation of her rights, until she had called in the aid of her father, who insisted upon it.

She went to the Hotel de Longueville, where her husband staid. She was received with every demonstration of kindness from Madame de Longueville, and from the inmates of the house; and there were many things, notwithstanding the generally unpleasant position of her domestic relations, which tended to render her residence in the city agreeable.

While at the Hotel de Longueville she fell sick, and was reduced to great extremity. The prospect was, that she would soon die; and so far as the world was concerned, she felt that it had lost, in a great degree, its attractions, and she was willing to go. The priest who attended her, mistaking a spirit of deadness to the world, originating in part from her inability to enjoy it, for a true spirit of acquiescence in God's dispensations, thought well of her state. She seemed to him to be truly religious. But this was not her own opinion. She had merely begun to turn her eye, as it were, in the right direction.

"My sins were too present to my mind," she says, "and too painful to my heart, to permit me to indulge in a favorable opinion as to my acceptance with God. This sickness was of great benefit to me. Besides teaching me patience under violent pains, it served to give me newer and more correct views of the emptiness of worldly things. It had the tendency to detach me in some degree from self, and gave me new courage to suffer with more resignation than I had ever done."

But this was not all. Death had begun to make inroads in her family circle. Her paternal half-sister, who resided at the Ursuline Convent in Montargis, died, she informs us, two months before her marriage. To this sister, to whom she was exceedingly attached, she makes repeated references. Perhaps we know too little of her to speak with entire confidence. But she seems to have been a woman gentle in spirit and strong in faith, who lived in the world as those who are not of the world; and who, we may naturally suppose, died in the beauty and simplicity of Christian peace.

The loss of a sister, so deservedly esteemed and loved by Madame Guyon, could not possibly be experienced without making the earth less dear, and heaven more precious. And at the time of which we are now speaking, the second year of her marriage and the eighteenth year of her age, she experienced the separation of another strong tie to earth, by the loss of her mother.

“My mother departed this life," she remarks, "in great tranquillity of spirit, having, besides other virtues, been in particular very charitable to the poor. God, who seems to have regarded with favor her benevolent disposition, was pleased to reward her, even in this life, with such a spirit of resignation, that, though she was but twenty-four hours sick, she was made perfectly easy about everything that was near and dear to her in this world."

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Birth of Her First Child

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

She had now been married about a year. A number of things occurred about this time, which are worthy of notice. They tend to illustrate what I have remarked, in the preceding chapter, on the operations of grace in connection
with the position in which we are placed in Providence. If it is not strictly true, that God saves us by his providences, a remark which is sometimes made,— I think we may regard it as essentially true, that he saves us by his grace, dispensed and operating in connection with his providences. Providences test the disposition of the mind; they not only test it, but alter it and control it to some extent; and may be the means of placing it in a position the most favorable for the reception of inward divine teaching.

One circumstance, which was calculated to have a favorable effect upon the mind of Madame Guyon, at the time of which we are now speaking, was the birth of her first child. God was pleased to give her a son, to whom she gave the name of Armand Jaques Guyon. This event, appealing so strongly to family sympathies, was naturally calculated to interest and soften the feelings of those who had afflicted her. And we learn from what she has said on the subject, that this was the case. But this was not all. It brought with it such new relations; it opened such new views of employment and happiness, and imposed such increased responsibilities, that it could hardly fail to strengthen the renewed religious tendency, which had already begun to develop itself. Under the responsibility of a new life added to her own, she began to realize that, if it were possible for her not to need God for herself, she might need him for her child.

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Turning to God Anew

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

Her statement of some of her early trials:

"It was then I began to eat the bread of sorrow, and mingle my drink with tears."

Such are the expressions which convey to us her sense of her trials. It was in this extremity that it occurred to her, (alas, that we learn this lesson so often from sorrows alone,) that, in the deficiency of all hope in creatures, there might be hope and help in God. It is true, that she had turned away from him; and having sought for solace where she had not found it, and where she ought not to have sought it, she felt ashamed to go back.

But borne down by the burdens of a hidden providence, (a providence which she did not then love because she did not then understand it,) she yielded to the pressure that was upon her, and began to look to him, in whom alone there is true assistance.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Fruits of Suffering

Oh LET ME SUFFER, till I know
The good that cometh from the pain,
Like seeds beneath the wintry snow.
That wake in flowers and golden grain.

Oh LET ME SUFFER, till I find
What plants of sorrow can impart,
Some gift, some triumph of the mind,
Some flower, some fruitage of the heart.

The hour of anguish passes by;
But in the spirit there remains
The outgrowth of its agony.
The compensation of its pains;

In meekness, which suspects no wrong,
In patience, which endures control.
In faith, which makes the spirit strong,
In peace and purity of soul.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXXIX.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Going Home

How pleasant 'tis, when life is run,
And never more our steps shall roam,
To say with joy, our work is done,
And we are going home.

How pleasant 'tis, our sorrows past,
With better, brighter worlds in view,
To give one parting look, the last.
And say with joy, Adieu!

The sting of death hath lost its power
To him who lives and never dies;
And death is the transition hour
Which leads him to the skies.

Oh live, oh reign, departing one!
Though gone from earth, to thee 'tis given,
With trials past, and victory won.
To gain the life of heaven.

Christ in the Soul (1872) LXXVIII.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

On Religious Emotions

Religious emotions, whenever they make their appearance, should be so kept under control, as never to disturb the calmness of the perceptive and rational action of the mind. And the reason of the remark is this. True religion always has relation to the will of God. It implies conformity to the will of God; and conformity implies a knowledge of such will. But it is very obvious, that, considered as rational and accountable beings, we cannot be supposed to know, and that we cannot by any possibility know the divine will by means of mere instinct, by means of mere impulse, or of some strong and unregulated feeling. By such means merely it would be impossible for us to learn even the letters and the simple narratives of a child’s spelling book; much less the moral and religious facts and relations, upon which hang the results of an eternal existence. The will of God can be known by the human soul only in connection with the exercise of the judgment; in other words, by means of those perceptive and rational powers, which are a part of our nature. Powers, which cannot act clearly, efficiently, and satisfactorily, in connection with a violent and agitated state of the emotions. Hence, when God dwells in the soul by the proper possession and regulation of its powers, it will be peaceful.

The emotional part of religion, in distinction from that part of it, which consists in entire consecration and unwavering faith, often occasions a degree of perplexity even to very devout minds. Brainerd, the celebrated missionary among the North American Indians, was out of health at a certain time; so much so as to be very weak, and “unable to do his work.” Remarking in his Diary upon his feelings at this time, he says, “As I was able to do little or nothing, so I enjoyed not much spirituality, or lively religious affection.”

What shall we say of such an instance as this. It seems to me we should say, and we cannot very safely say either more or less, that he was afflicted, but not cast off; in sorrow, but not forgotten. In other words, that being wearied and sick in body, and overwhelmed in mind with the responsibilities of his situation, he had less of joyful emotions than at other times, emotions which vary very much with our physical and mental trials, but not that he really had less spirituality, less religion, or that he was less the subject of God’s love.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 11.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Faith — Not Emotion

There is another class of persons, whose experience is something more than intellectual; but which, just so far as it exists independently of faith as its basis, cannot safely or justly be regarded, as a true religious experience. We refer to those, whose religious life is characterized chiefly or exclusively by strong emotions. These cases are in some respects more difficult to be rightly estimated than those which have just been mentioned. It is well known, that many persons find it difficult to form an idea of religion separate from feeling; and they are very apt to consider great feeling and great religion as very much the same thing. In many minds religion and feeling are almost identical. But it will be noticed in the proposition, which we have laid down, that we do not condemn feeling, that we do not exclude feeling as a part of religious experience, but only that we condemn and exclude from religious experience all that feeling, which exists independently of faith as its basis. 

I have somewhere seen the remark, and it seems to me that there is a foundation for it, although it is obviously liable to be misunderstood, that we are not saved by feeling, but by faith. A proposition, which implies, that the primary element, the foundation of salvation, so far as the human mind is concerned, is faith, without excluding feeling in its appropriate place, viz. as sometimes antecedent and preparatory, and more frequently as a subsequent and accessory state of mind. As a general rule, the order of sequence is, faith first, and feeling afterwards. Religious faith will not only give religious feeling on its appropriate occasions; but it will give the right form or modification of feeling; in other words, precisely that modification of feeling, which the occasion requires.

We should be sorry to have it understood, as implied in these remarks, that we object absolutely and in all respects to what may be denominated emotional religion, or rather to emotions as involved in and considered as a part of religion. Emotions, excited states of feeling, even of mere natural or animal feeling, may precede faith, and may be valuable in preparing the way for it; or they may be subsequent to it, and may oftentimes result from it. The emotions in their various kinds, both joyous and sorrowful, arise on many occasions very different from each other; and oftentimes have nothing to do with religion; and at their best estate may be regarded merely as the attendants and accessories of religion.

The true view, therefore, is, that emotional states, or mere temporary feelings of joy and sorrow in distinction from the permanent state of love, may or may not involve the fact of religion. The man, who has them, may possess religion, or he may be destitute of it. In forming a judgment, therefore, of a man’s religious character from his joys or his sorrows, however excited and raised they may be, (for it is to joys and sorrows that we have special reference when we speak of emotional states,) it is necessary to be very careful. But no man need be solicitous in respect to the reality and truth of his religion, whether his joys or his sorrows be more or less, who, having entirely renounced himself, has that faith in God, which works by love and purifies the heart.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 11.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

False Prophets

The statements of ecclesiastical history furnish evidence, conclusive as it is melancholy, that, in almost every age since the time of the Apostles, there have been individuals, who have professed to be the subjects of revelations; persons, to whom God, according to their own ideas of things, has made special communications, and who, accordingly, have assumed, in a greater or less degree, the prophetic character. The age, in which we live, distinguished as it is, by philosophic advancement and by enlightened views on the subject of religion, has been, as it seems to us, distinguished also by the multiplication of instances of this kind. On every side, and in almost all Christian denominations, persons have made their appearance, who have regarded themselves as the subjects of special divine communications. Not the mere subjects of things religiously experienced in the heart; that is not what we mean; but of things supernaturally communicated to the intellect; not the mere subjects of holiness in exercise, but of revelations exteriorly imparted. We do not mean to imply, that these persons were not Christians; we have no doubt that in some cases they were; but we do mean to imply and to say, that their Christianity, their religion, existed, and must have existed independently of their gift or supposed gift of revelations.

It is a matter of notoriety, that the persons, to whom we now refer, have been in the habit not only of uttering predictions of future events; but have also undertaken to pronounce authoritatively upon some things in present existence, which are ordinarily withdrawn from notice; such as the present state of the inward moral and religious character of individuals, and their acceptance with God or their rejection. In many instances the results of their confident anticipations and predictions have shown, that the remarkable visitations and revelations, which they professed to have, and which it is possible that they very sincerely professed to have, were not from God. But if it had been otherwise, in other words if their statements and predictions had been fulfilled, it would not alter the general truth of our proposition. God if he chooses may select those, who are his enemies, to be the depository of his revelations; but their designation to this office, although it is perhaps out of the ordinary course of his proceedings, does not necessarily make them his friends. Saul was at one time numbered among the prophets. And Balaam, the son of Beor, “fell into a trance, having his eyes open;” and the declarations, which he then heard, he seems to have been authorized to utter as the predictions of the Most High.

We might enter into the question of the origin of these rather remarkable states of mind, and institute the inquiry, whether we are to regard them, in the present age of the world, as having their origin in the inspirations of God, or in the suggestions of Satan, or in the movements of a strongly disordered physical system operating upon, or in connection with, a highly excited state of the intellect and the feelings. But without entering into this inquiry, which, interesting and important as it undoubtedly is, would occupy too much time, what we have to remark here is, that the decisive circumstance, unfavorable to this form of Christian experience, if by courtesy we may call it such, is this: that, in itself considered, it is wholly intellectual. Visions, trances, revelations, and all other things, which are exteriorly imparted without being inwardly and operatively experienced, communicating new and perhaps remarkable views without changing the dispositions of the heart, are just what they are and just what their names indicate; but they are not religion. They may be regarded, if any one chooses so to regard them, as constituting an intellectual experience, or still more definitely as constituting an “apparitional” experience  but we repeat, that, in themselves considered, they do not and cannot constitute religion. If a man has a trance, a vision, and especially if he has a revelation, and can sustain it by such miracles as sustained the divine messages of Christ and the Apostles, we readily admit, that he is entitled to a hearing. But, in the first place, we know of no such cases. And in the second place, if we did, it would furnish no decisive grounds of inference in favor of the piety of such persons. It leaves the case just where it found it. And simply for the reason already indicated, viz. that these things are “apparitional” and intellectual, are addressed to the senses and the external perceptions, and do not penetrate the region of the heart.

Isaiah, and Ezekiel, and Daniel, and Peter, and John, and Paul, experienced God’s favor and were his beloved and adopted children, not exclusively or chiefly because they had visions and proclaimed God’s revealed messages and wrought God’s miracles; (missions and attributes, which, so far as we can perceive, might have been assigned to other less holy persons or even to unholy persons,) but because, they had given themselves to God in consecration and in faith, because their hearts were sanctified and their wills were subdued.

— edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 11.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Faith — Not Visions

If the life of faith is the true life, if in its results it develops and explains every thing that is true, good, and lovely in the characters and actions of holy men, it would seem to be a matter of course, that every thing else, which claims to be religion independently of faith as its basis, must be regarded as setting up claims or pretensions, that are false or unfounded.

Those things, whether experienced in a greater or less degree, which are of the nature of visions, trances, revelations of the heavenly world or of the world of woe, revelations of future things, and the like, do not, and cannot, in themselves considered, constitute religion.

About the year 1688, a religious sect appeared in Dauphiny and Vivarais in France, and afterwards, about the year 1700, the same sect made its appearance in England, whose religious experience, in addition to, or perhaps we should rather say, in distinction from the common traits of religious experience, was characterized by trances, as they were called, in which they alleged that they saw the heavens open, and saw the angels of heaven, and saw paradise, and hell, and other things equally wonderful. Nor was this all. Their experience, in the case of a considerable number of persons, was distinguished also by prophetic views or foresights of future things. The state of trance, which can easily be explained, to a considerable degree at least, on purely natural principles, and also other states which were characterized by great physical agitation, were frequently followed by prophetic paroxysms, which when they came to the utterance, resulted either in strong and terrible denunciations, or in predictions of future events. Some interesting specimens of these prophecies are found in the Work, entitled the Prophecies of Sir John Lacy, a worthy man of some education and of irreproachable character, who was subject, in a remarkable degree, to all these forms of experience.

A similar sect sprang up in certain parts of Germany about the year 1730, called the Church or Congregation of the Inspired. It is related of Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the Church of the United Brethren or the Moravian Church, as it is more usually called, that he made a visit to the Church of the Inspired in the principality of Isenberg, and obviously for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of their doctrines and exercises.

The Count, speaking of what he himself witnessed in one of their leading men, whose character and exercises he had an opportunity of studying, both at Isenberg and elsewhere, says, that “he fell into one of his inspired fits in Budingen, which I thought dreadful. The manner was this. He suddenly became violently convulsed, and at the same time he moved his head backwards and forwards with incredible rapidity. In this state he spoke certain words in a prophetic style, which were termed inspirations. They were written down, and sent to the people to whom they referred.” The Count, after having examined the doctrine in connection with the commentary of its practical exhibitions and results, says, “I had no occasion to hesitate any longer, in entirely rejecting the inspiration.”

 — edited from The Life of Faith (1852) Part 1, Chapter 11.