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 2, 2017

Receiving The Sacrament

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

When she entered upon the twelfth year of her age, she proposed to partake of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

She acknowledges that for some time previous she had been remiss in religious duties. Some jealousies and disaffections, as is not unfrequently the case, had sprung up among the younger members of her father's family. A feeling of dissatisfaction and melancholy seems to have entered her mind. And as if weary of God, she gave up what little religious inclination and feeling she had, saying, "she was none the better for it," and wickedly implying in the remark, that the troubles connected with religion exceeded the benefit resulting from it. I think it would not be correct to say, that she had given up religion; but rather had given up many favorable feelings and many outward practices, which have a connection with religion. And this remark will perhaps be the better understood, when we say in explanation, that, although she had been interested in religion, it does not appear that she possessed those traits or qualities which really constitute it. Prompted, partly by example, and partly by serious impressions, she had sought it, but had not found it. Her religious interest, as we have already had occasion to notice, varied at different times. At one time, in particular, it seems to have been very great. She seems to have had convictions of sin; she had some desires to live in God's guidance and favor; she formed good resolutions; she had a degree of inward consolation. But when we examine these experiences closely, I think we shall find reason for saying, that such desires, convictions, and resolutions, which often lay near the surface of the mind without stirring very much its inward depths, were, in her case at least, the incidents and preparatives of religion, rather than religion itself. The great inward Teacher, the Holy Ghost, had not as yet dispossessed the natural life, and given a new life in Christ. She herself intimates that her religion was chiefly in appearance; and that self, and not the love of God, was at the bottom.

The suggestion to partake of the sacrament of the Supper, and thus by an outward act at least, to array herself more distinctly on the Lord's side, seems to have originated with her father. In order to bring about what he had near at heart, and which was in accordance with the principles of the church of which he was a member, he placed her again at the Ursuline Seminary. Her paternal half-sister, who still resided there, and who appears to have had some increased and leading responsibility as an instructress, pleased with the suggestion, but at the same time aware of her unfortunate state of mind, labored assiduously to give rise to better inward dispositions. The labors of this patient and affectionate sister, who knew what it was both to believe and to pray, and for whom religion seems to have had a charm above every thing else, were so effectual, that Jeanne Marie now thought, as she expresses it,  "of giving herself to God in good earnest."  The day at length arrived; she felt that the occasion was too important to be trifled with; she made an outward confession of her sins, with apparent sincerity and devoutness, and partook of the sacramental element for the first time with a considerable degree of satisfaction. But the result showed that the heart was not reached. The day of her redemption had not come. The season and its solemnity passed away, without leaving an effectual impression. The sleeping passions were again awaked. "My faults and failings," she says, "were soon repeated, and drew me off from the care and the duties of religion." She grew tall; her features began to develop themselves into that beauty which afterwards distinguished her. Her mother, pleased with her appearance, indulged her in dress.. The combined power of her personal and mental attractions were felt in the young and unreflecting attachments of persons of the other sex. The world resumed its influence, and Christ was in a great degree forgotten.

Such are the changes which often take place in the early history of religious experience. To-day there are serious thoughts, awakened and quickened feelings, and good resolutions; everything wears a propitious aspect. To-morrow, purposes are abandoned, feelings vanish; and the reality of the world takes the place of the anticipations of religion. Today the hearts of mothers and sisters, and of other friends, who have labored long and prayed earnestly for the salvation of those who are dear to them, are cheered and gladdened. To-morrow they find the solicitations to pleasure prevailing over the exhortations to virtue; and those who had been serious and humble for a time, returning again to the world. But it is often the case, that these alternations of feeling, which it is not easy always to explain, have an important connection, under the administration of a higher and divine providence, with the most favorable results.

They may, in many cases, be regarded as constituting a necessary part of that inward training, which the soul must pass through, before it reaches the position of true submission and of permanent love. They show us the great strength of that attachment which binds us to attractions which perish, the things of time and sense. They leave a deep impression of the forbearance and long-suffering of God. They teach the necessity of the special and powerful operations of divine grace, without which the heart, naturally alienated from all attachment to the true object of its love, would perish in its worldly idolatry.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon Volume 1, Chapter 2.

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