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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

A Visit to Paris

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

Visit to Paris — The errors committed there — Grief

Man, under the influence of the natural life, is disposed to diffuse himself — to overleap the humbling barriers of God's providence, and to mingle in what is not his own. The principle of curiosity, always strong, but especially so in a mind like hers, was not only not dead, but what is still more important, it ceased to be properly regulated. It was still a matter of interest with her to see and be seen, and to experience the pleasures of worldly intercourse and conversation.

 At one time the contest in this direction was very considerable. Satan knew how and where to aim his arrows. He had sagacity enough to perceive that she was not a woman that could easily be subdued by appeals and temptations applied to her physical nature, but that they must be made to her great powers of intellect, her pride of character, and desire of personal admiration and personal influence. The suggestion came insidiously, but it entered deeply into the heart. For two years she had laboured faithfully in the cause of Christ. We do not mean to say that she had been without sin, but that she had struggled faithfully, though sometimes unsuccessfully against sin, and without ever thinking for a moment of yielding quietly to its solicitations and influences; and it was not till after all this favourable probation that the secret whisper, breathed out gently and with great art, came to her soul. It came from the source of all evil, and was applied with Satanic skill. Is it possible that I must so far give up all to God, that I shall have nothing left for the world? In this age of refinement and pleasure, when everything is awake to intelligence, and when there is apparently but one voice of joy, is it necessary, or even reasonable, that my eye should be shut and my ears closed, and my lips silent? The assault was made with so much adroitness, that her religious resolution, after having been strenuously sustained for some time, began to waver.

In connexion with this state of things, she speaks of a visit of some length in Paris — her usual residence being a short distance out of the city. In expressions which convey an ominous import to the religious mind, she says, "I relaxed in my usual religious exercises, on account of the little time I had." Religious declensions generally begin in this way. When she went to Paris, she seems to have been comparatively in a good religious state. She speaks of God's grace to her — of His continual presence and care. She had experienced some heavy temptations and trials before, but does not appear to have yielded to them in any great degree. But she felt here as she had not felt before, since she professed to walk in a new life—the dangerous power of the heart, even of the Christian heart, whenever left to itself, and unrestrained by Divine grace. Speaking of her internal state, she says, " I seemed to myself to be like one of those young brides, who find a difficulty after their marriage, in laying aside their self-indulgence and self-love, and in faithfully following their husbands into the duties and cares of life." To a mind not fully established in the religious life, or temporarily shaken in its religious principles, Paris was a place full of hazard. She found the temptation great; and it is a sad commentary on human weakness, that she in some degree yielded to it.

She says, "I did many things which I ought not to have done." What these things were, we do not fully know. She mentions, however, as one thing which gave her trouble, that she felt an improper gratification in receiving the attention of others. In other words, her vanity still lived. There were a number of persons in the city, apparently persons without experimental religion, who were extremely fond of her; and it was one of her faults that she allowed them to express their personal regard in too strong terms, without checking it as she ought. It appears also that she regarded herself as having conformed too much to the dress of the Parisian ladies. Among other things which indicate her sense of her danger and actual unfaithfulness to God, she speaks of promenading in the public walks of the city — a practice not necessarily improper or sinful. She did not do it merely out of complaisance to her friends, nor for the physical pleasure and benefit which might be expected from the practice; but partly, at least, from the unsanctified feeling of personal display, the desire of seeing and of being seen. But deeply did she lament these falls.

"As I saw that the purity of my state was likely to be sullied by a too great intercourse with the world, I made haste to finish the business which detained me at Paris, in order to return to the country. It is true, O God, I felt that thou hadst given me strength enough, in connexion with thy promised assistance, to avoid the occasions of evil. But I found myself in a situation of peculiar temptation. And I had so far yielded to the evil influences to which I had been exposed, that I found it difficult to resist the vain ceremonies and complaisances which characterize fashionable life. Invited to join in the pleasures to which the world was so generally and strongly devoted, I was very far from tasting the satisfaction which they seemed to give to others. 'Alas! ' said I, 'this is not my God, and nothing beside Him can give solid pleasure.'"
"I was not only disappointed, but I felt the deep sorrow which always afflicts unfaithful souls. I cannot well describe the anguish of which I was the subject. It was like a consuming fire. Banished from the presence of my Beloved, my bridegroom, how could I be happy! I could not find access to Him, and I certainly could not find rest out of Him. I knew not what to do. I was like the dove out of the Ark; which, finding no rest for the sole of its foot, was constrained to return again; but finding the window shut, could only fly about without being able to enter."

 — edited from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877), Volume 1,  Chapter 9.

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