Autobiography of Madam Guyon


MY SENSES (as I have described) were continually mortified, and under perpetual restraint. To conquer them totally, it is necessary to deny them the smallest relaxation, until the victory is completed. We see those who content themselves practicing great outward austerities, yet by indulging their senses in what is called innocent and necessary, they remain forever unsubdued. Austerities, however severe, will not conquer the senses. To destroy their power, the most effectual means is, in general, to deny them firmly what will please, and to persevere in this, until they are reduced to be without desire or repugnance. If we attempt, during the warfare, to grant them any relaxation, we act like those, who, under pretext of strengthening a man, who was condemned to be starved to death, should give him from time to time a little nourishment. It indeed would prolong his torments, and postpone his death.

It is just the same with the death of the senses, the powers, the understanding, and self-will. If we do not eradicate every remains of self subsisting in these, we support them in a dying life to the end. This state and its termination are clearly set forth by Paul. He speaks of bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. (II Cor. 4:10.). But, lest we should rest here, he fully distinguishes this from the state of being dead and having our life hid with Christ in God. It is only by a total death to self we can be lost in God.

He who is thus dead has no further need of mortification. The very end of mortification is accomplished in him, and all is become new. It is an unhappy error in those good souls, who have arrived at a conquest of the bodily senses, through this unremitted and continual mortification, that they should still continue attached to the exercise of it. They should rather drop their attention thereto, and remain in indifference, accepting with equality the good as the bad, the sweet as the bitter, and bend their whole attention to a labor of greater importance; namely, the mortification of the mind and self-will. They should begin by dropping all the activity of self, which can never be done without the most profound prayer; no more than the death of the senses can be perfected without profound recollection joined to mortification. Indeed, recollection is the chief means whereby we attain to a conquest of the senses. It detaches and separates us from them, and sweetly saps the very cause from whence they derive their influence over us.

The more Thou didst augment my love, and my patience, O my Lord, the less respite had I from the most oppressive crosses; but love rendered them easy to bear.

O ye poor souls, who exhaust yourselves with needless vexation, if you would but seek God in your hearts, there would be a speedy end to all your troubles. The increase of crosses would proportionately increase your delight.

Love, at the beginning, athirst for mortification impelled me to seek and invent various kinds. It is surprising, that as soon as the bitterness of any new mode of mortification was exhausted, another kind was pointed to me, and I was inwardly led to pursue it. Divine love so enlightened my heart, and so scrutinized into its secret springs, that the smallest defects became exposed. If I was about to speak, something wrong was instantly pointed to me, and I was compelled to silence. If I kept silence, faults were presently discovered -- in every action there was something defective -- in my mortifications, my penances, my alms-giving, my retirement, I was faulty. When I walked, I observed there was something wrong; if I spoke any way in my own favor, I saw pride. If I said within myself, alas, I will speak no more, here was self. If I was cheerful and open, I was condemned. Pure love always found matter for reproof in me, and was jealous that nothing should escape unnoticed. It was not that I was particularly attentive over myself, for it was even with constraint that I could look at all at myself. My attention toward God, by an attachment of my will to His, was without intermission. I waited continually upon Him, and He watched incessantly over me, and He so led me by His providence, that I forgot all things. I knew not how to communicate what I felt to anyone. I was so lost to myself, that I could scarcely go about self-examination. When I attempted it all ideas of myself immediately disappeared. I found myself occupied with my ONE OBJECT without distinction of ideas. I was absorbed in peace inexpressible; I saw by the eye of faith that it was God that thus wholly possessed me; but I did not reason at all about it. It must not, however, be supposed that divine love suffered my faults to go unpunished.

O Lord! with what rigor, dost Thou punish the most faithful, the most loving and beloved of Thy children. I mean not externally, for this would be inadequate to the smallest fault, in a soul that God is about to purify radically. The punishments it can inflict on itself, are rather gratifications and refreshments than otherwise. Indeed, the manner in which He corrects His chosen, must be felt, or it is impossible to conceive how dreadful it is. In my attempt to explain it, I shall be unintelligible, except to experienced souls. It is an internal burning, a secret fire sent from God to purge away the fault, giving extreme pain, until this purification is complete. It is like a dislocated joint, which is in incessant torment, until the bone is replaced. This pain is so severe, that the soul would do anything to satisfy God for the fault, and would rather be torn in pieces than endure the torment. Sometimes the soul flies to others, and opens her state that she may find consolation. Thereby she frustrates God's designs toward her. It is of the utmost consequence to know what use to make of the distress. The whole of one's spiritual advancement depends on it. We should at these seasons of internal anguish, obscurity and mourning, co-operate with God, endure this consuming torture in its utmost extent (while it continues) without attempting to lessen or increase it. Bear it passively, nor seek to satisfy God by anything we can do of ourselves. To continue passive at such a time is extremely difficult, and requires great firmness and courage. I knew some who never advanced farther in the spiritual process because they grew impatient, and sought means of consolation.