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.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Madame Guyon Seeks Spiritual Advice

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

Reference to her early views of her Christian state. Her surprise at the discovery of the remains of sin in herself. Seeks assistance and advice from others. Remarks on the religious character of that age. Consults with Genevieve Granger, the Prioress of the Benedictines.

In this season of temptation and penitence, of trial and of comparative despondency, she looked around for advice and assistance. Not fully informed, as she herself expressly states, in respect to the nature of the inward life, she felt perplexed and confounded at the knowledge of her own situation. In the first joy of her spiritual espousals, she seems to have looked upon herself, as is frequently the case at that period of religious experience, not only as a sinner forgiven for the sins which are past; but what is a very different thing, as a sinner saved from the commission of sin for the present, and in all future time. Looking at the subject in the excited state of her young love, when the turbulent emotions perplex the calm exercises of the judgment, she appears to have regarded the victory which God had given her, as one which would stand against all possible assaults; the greatness of her triumph for to-day, scarcely exceeding the strength of her confidence for to-moirow. She felt no sting in her conscience; she bore no cloud on her brow.  

How surprisedly then, was she to find, after a short period, and after a more close and thorough examination, that her best acts were mingled with some degree of imperfection and sin; and that every day, as she was increasingly enlightened by the Holy Ghost, she seemed to discover more and more of motives to action, which might be described as sinful. After all her straggles and all her hopes, she found herself in the situation of being condemned to bear about a secret but terrible enemy in her own bosom. Under these circumstances it was natural for her to look around for some religious person, who might render her some assistance. Were others in the same situation? Was it our destiny to be always sinning and always repenting? Was there really no hope of deliverance from transgression till we might find it in the grave? Such were some of the questions which arose in her mind. Who could tell her what to do, or how to do it? 

This was not an age, so far as I can perceive, which was distinguished for piety, I speak particularly of France, pious individuals undoubtedly there were but piety was not its characteristic. The Spirit of God, operating in some hearts, carried on the great work of mental renovation. We cannot well forget, that it was in this age, that the Port Royalists acquired a name, which will long be celebrated. From time to time, some gay young people of Paris or of the provinces, sick of the vanities of the world, went into religious retirement, and were known no more, except by pious works and prayers. Others, like the celebrated M. Bouthnliier de Rance, possessed of talents that would have signalized almost any name, found their career of aspiring worldliness coming in conflict with the arrangements of Providence, and were ultimately led in the way, which at the time seemed full of sorrow and perplexity, to adore tbe hand which secretly smote them. We cannot well forget, that the daughters of the great Colbert, the Sully of the age of Louis Fourteenth, ladies alike distinguished by character and by position in society, set an illustrious example, in a corrupt period of the world, of sincere, decided, and unaffected piety. This was the age, and this the country of Nicole and Amauld, of Pascal and Racince. In the retirement of La Trappe, as well as in the cells of Port Royal, at St Cyr, and, strange to say, within the terrible walls of the Bastille, prayers ascended from devout hearts. [I refer in this remark, among other instances which might be mentioned, to the case of Father Seguenot, a priest of the Congregation of the Oratory and to that of M. de St Clande, a distinguished Port Royalist and a man of great piety, both of whom were confined in the dungeons of the Bastille.] And may we not say, with good reason, that, in every age and every country, God has a people; that, in periods of religious declension as well as at other times, he has his followers, few though they may be, who are known, appreciated and beloved, by Him whose favor alone is life.

But however this may be, it is still true that Madame Guyon did not find, in the situation in which she was placed, those helps from personal intercourse, which would have been desirable. Christian friends of deep piety and of sound judgment, were few in number. But there were some such, to whom she had access. One of whom, in particular, Genevieve Granger, the devout and judicious Prioress of a community of Benedictines established a short distance from the place of her residence, she often mentions. To the acquaintance of this individual she had been introduced some years before by the Franciscan, whom Providence had employed as the special means of her conversion. The acquaintance thus formed was rendered the more natural and easy by the circumstance, that her husband's sisters were at this time, and had been for some time previous, under the care of the Prioress. It was to her, more freely and more fully than to any other, that she made known the temptations she had experienced, and the falls of which she had been guilty. 

This pious woman, who, from a personal observation of her course, as well as from private conversation, understood Madame Guyon's religious position encouraged her much in her hopes and purposes of a new and amended life. She probably had some foresight of the position which Providence might call her to occupy, and of the influence she might exert. Certain it is, that she felt it her duty to explain to her the great difficulty of uniting a conformity with the world, even to that limited extent in which she had found herself involved in it, with an entire fulfillment of Christian obligations. Her own personal experience was calculated to add weight to her suggestions. Adopting the principle, that it is possible for us, even amid the temptations of the present life, to live wholly to God, she was unwilling to see any one, especially such a person as Madame Guyon, adopting a standard of feeling and action, which should fall anywhere below the mark of entire consecration and of perfect faith and love. 

— from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877), Volume 1,  Chapter 10.

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