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, October 19, 2017

To Teach All the World the Love of God

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

Reflections on her conversion.

But it is to be noticed further, that under the influences of her new life, which required her to go about doing good, she labored for the spiritual, as well as the temporal benefit of others, — for the good of their souls, as well as for that of their bodies. Before the day dawned, prayers ascended from her new heart of love; "So strong, almost insatiable, was my desire for communion with God, that I arose at four o’clock to pray.” Her greatest pleasure, and, comparatively speaking, her only pleasure, was to be alone with God, to pray to him; and to commune with him. She prayed for others as well as herself. She says, "I could have wished to teach all the world to love God." Her feelings were not inoperative. Her efforts corresponded, if not absolutely, which would perhaps have been impossible, yet in a very high degree, with her desires. She says that God made use of her as an instrument in gaining many souls to himself. Her labors however, were more successful in some cases than in others, as would naturally be expected. Speaking of one of the female relatives of her husband, who was very thoughtless on religious subjects, she remarks,

I wanted her to seek the religious state, and to practice prayer. Instead of complying with my request, she expressed the opinion that I was entirely destitute of all sense and wisdom, in thus depriving myself, when I had the means of enjoying them, of all the amusements of the age; but the Lord has since opened her eyes to make her despise them.

She relates among some other incidents,

There was a lady of rank, whom I sometimes visited. She took a particular liking to me, because, as she was pleased to say, my person and manners were agreeable to her. She said, that she observed in me something extraordinary and uncommon. My impression is, that my spiritual taste reacted upon my physical nature, and that the inward attraction of my soul appeared on my very countenance. And one reason of this opinion is, that a gentleman of fashion one day said to my husband's aunt, 'I saw the lady your niece, and it is very visible that she lives in the presence of God!' I was surprised at hearing this, as I did not suppose that a person so much addicted to the world, could have any very distinct idea of God's presence, even in the hearts of his own people, This lady, I say, began to be touched with the sense of God.

The circumstances were these. At a certain time she proposed to me to go with her to the theater. I refused to go, as, independently of my religious principles and feelings, I had never been in the habit of going to such places. The reason, which I first gave to her for not acceding to her proposition, was of a domestic nature, namely, that my husband's continual indisposition rendered it inconvenient and improper for me. Not satisfied with this, she continued to press me very earnestly to go with her. She said, that I ought not to be prevented by my husband's indispositions from taking some amusement; that the business of nursing the sick was more appropriate to older persons, and that I was too young to be thus confined to them. This led to more particular conversation. I gave her my reasons for being particularly attentive to my husband in his seasons of ill health. But this was not all. I told her that I entirely disapproved of theatrical amusements; and that I regarded them as especially inconsistent with the duties of a Christian woman. The lady was far more advanced in years than I was; but whether it was owing in part to this circumstance or not, my remarks made such an impression on her, that she never visited such places afterwards."

But our intercourse with each other did not end here. I was once in company with her and another lady, who was fond of talking, and had read the writings of the Christian Fathers. They had much conversation with each other in relation to God. The learned lady, as might be expected, talked very learnedly of him. I must confess that this sort of merely intellectual and speculative conversation, in relation to the Supreme Being, was not much to my taste. I scarcely said anything; my mind being drawn inwardly to silent and inward communion with the great and good Being, about whom my friends were speculating. They at length left me. The next day the lady, with whom I had previously had some conversation, came to see me. The Lord had touched her heart; she came as a penitent, as a seeker after religion; she could hold out in her opposition no longer. But I at once attributed this remarkable and sudden change, as I did not converse with her the day previous, to the conversation of our learned and speculative acquaintance. But she assured me it was otherwise. She said, it was not the other's conversation which affected her, but my silence; adding the remark, that my silence had something in it which penetrated to the bottom of her soul, and that she could not relish the other’s discourse. After that time we spoke to each other with open hearts on the great subject.

It was then that God left indelible impressions of grace on her soul; and she continued so athirst for him, that she could scarcely endure to converse on any other subject. That she might be wholly his, God deprived her of a most affectionate husband. He also visited her with other severe crosses. At the same time he poured his grace so abundantly into her heart that he soon conquered it, and became its sole master. After the death of her husband and the loss of most of her fortune, she went to reside on a small estate which yet remained to her, situated at the distance of about twelve miles from our house. She obtained my husband's consent to my going to pass a week with her, for the purpose of consoling her under her afflictions. The visit was attended with beneficial results. God was pleased to make me an instrument of spiritual good to her. I conversed much with her on religious subjects. She possessed knowledge, and was a woman of uncommon intellectual power; but being introduced into a world of new thought as well as new feeling, she was surprised at my expressing things to her so much above what is considered the ordinary range of woman's capacity. I should have been surprised at it myself, had I reflected on it. But it was God, who gave me the gift of perception and utterance, for her sake; he made me the instrument, diffusing a flood of grace into her soul, without regarding the unworthiness of the channel he was pleased to make use of. Since that time her soul has been the temple of the Holy Ghost, and our hearts have been indissolubly united.

— edited from The Life of Madam Guyon (1877) Volume 1, Chapter 8.

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