Autobiography of Madam Guyon


A LADY OF RANK whom I sometimes visited, took a particular liking to me, because (as she was pleased to say) my person and manners were agreeable. She said that she observed in me something extraordinary and uncommon. I believe it was the inward attraction of my soul that appeared on my very countenance. One day a gentleman of fashion said to my husband's aunt, "I saw the lady your niece; and it is very evident that she lives in the presence of God." I was surprised at this, as I little thought such an one as he could know what it was to have God thus present. This lady of rank began to be touched with the sense of God. Wanting once to take me to the play, I refused to go; (I never went to plays) making use of the pretext of my husband's continual indispositions. She pressed me exceedingly, and said, "I should not be prevented by his sickness from taking some amusement and I was not of an age to be confined with the sick like a nurse." I told her my reasons. She then perceived that it was more from a principle of piety, than the indispositions of my husband. Insisting to know my sentiment of plays, I told her, I entirely disapproved of them, and especially for a Christian woman. And as she was far more advanced in years than I was, what I then said made such an impression on her mind, she never went again.

Once with her and another lady, who was fond of talking and who had read "the fathers," they spoke much of God. This lady spoke learnedly of Him. I said scarcely anything, being inwardly drawn to silence, and troubled at this conversation about God. My acquaintance came next day to see me. The Lord had so touched her heart, she could hold out no longer. I attributed this to something the other lady had said, but she said to me, "Your silence had something in it which penetrated to the bottom of my soul. I could not relish what the other said." We spoke to one another with open hearts.

It was then that God left indelible impressions of His 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 become wholly His, He deprived her of a most affectionate husband. He visited her with such severe crosses, and at the same time poured His grace so abundantly into her heart, that He soon became the sole master thereof. After the death of her husband, and the loss of most of her fortune, she went to reside four leagues from our house, on a small estate, which was left. She obtained my husband's consent to my going to spend a week with her, to console her. God gave her by my means all she wanted. She had a great share of understanding, but was surprised at my expressing things to her so far above my natural capacity. I should have been surprised at it myself. It was God who gave me the gift for her sake, diffusing a flood of grace into her soul, without regarding the unworthiness of the channel of which He was pleased to make use. Since that time her soul has been the temple of the Holy Ghost, and our hearts have been indissolubly united.

My husband and I took a little journey together, in which both my resignation and humility were exercised, yet without difficulty or constraint, so powerful was the influence of divine grace. We had all liked to have perished in a river. The rest of the company in desperate fright threw themselves out of the coach, which sunk in the moving sand. I continued so much inwardly occupied, that I did not once think of the danger. God delivered me from it without my thought of avoiding it. I was quite content to be drowned, had He permitted it. It may be said, "I was rash." I believe I was so; yet I rather chose to perish, trusting in God, than make my escape in a dependence on myself. What say I? We do not perish, but for want of trusting Him. My pleasure is to be indebted to Him for everything. This renders me content in my miseries, which I would rather endure all my life long, in a state of resignation to Him, than put an end to them, in a dependence on myself. However, I would not advise others to act thus, unless they were in the same disposition which I was in.

As my husband's maladies daily increased, he resolved to go to St. Reine. He appeared very desirous of having none but me with him, and told me one day, "If they never spoke to me against you, I should be more easy, and you more happy." In this journey I committed many faults of self-love and self-seeking. I was become like a poor traveler that had lost his way in the night and could find no way, path, or track. My husband, in his return from St. Reine, passed by St. Edm. Having now no children but my firstborn son, who was often at the gates of death, he wished exceedingly for heirs, and prayed for them earnestly. God granted his desire, and gave me a second son. As I was several weeks without any one daring to speak to me, on account of my great weakness, it was a time of retreat and of silence. I tried to indemnify myself for the loss of time I had sustained in the others, to pray to Thee, O my God, and to continue alone with Thee. I may say that God took a new possession of me, and left me not. It was a time of continual joy without interruption. As I had experienced many inward difficulties and weaknesses it was a new life. It seemed as if I was already in the fruition of beatitude. How dear did this happy time cost me, since it was only a preparative to a total privation of comfort for several years, without any support, or hope of return! It began with the death of Mrs. Granger, who had been my only consolation under God. Before my return from St. Reine I heard she was dead.

When I received this news, I confess it was the most afflicting stroke I had ever felt. I thought that had I been with her at her death I might have spoken to her and received her last instructions. God has so ordered it that I was deprived of her assistance in almost all my losses, in order to render the strokes more painful. Some months indeed before her death, it was shown to me, that though I could not see her but with difficulty, and suffering for it, yet she was still some support to me. The Lord let me know that it would be profitable for me to be deprived of her. But at the time she died I did not think so. It was in that trying season when my paths were all blocked up, she was taken from me. She who might have guided me in my lonesome and difficult road, bounded as it were with precipices, and entangled with briars and thorns.

Adorable conduct of my God! there must be no guide for the person whom Thou art leading into the regions of darkness and death, no conductor for the man whom thou art determined to destroy, (that is, to cause to die totally to himself). After having saved me with much mercy, after having led me by the hand in rugged paths, it seems Thou wast bent on my destruction. May it not be said that Thou dost not save but to destroy, nor go to seek the lost sheep, but to cause it to be yet more lost; that Thou art pleased in building what is demolished, and in demolishing what is built. Thou wouldst overturn the temple built by human endeavors, with so much care and industry, in order as it were miraculously to erect a divine structure, a house not built with hands, eternal in the Heavens. Secrets of the incomprehensible wisdom of God, unknown to any besides Himself! Man, sprung up only of a few days, wants to penetrate, and to set bounds to it. Who is it that hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counselor? Is it a wisdom only to be known through death to everything, and through the entire loss of all self?

My brother now openly showed his hatred for me. He married at Orleans and my husband had the complaisance to go to his marriage. He was in a poor state of health, the roads bad, and so covered over with snow, that we had like to have been overturned twelve or fifteen times. Yet far from appearing obliged by his politeness, my brother quarreled with him more than ever, and without reason. I was the butt of both their resentments. While I was at Orleans, meeting with one whom at that time I thought highly of, I was too forward and free in speaking to him of spiritual things, thinking I was doing well, but had a remorse for it afterwards. How often we mistake nature for grace! One must be dead to self, when such forwardness comes from God only.

My brother treated me with the utmost contempt. Yet, my mind was so fully drawn inward, that although we had much more danger on the road than when going, I had no thought about myself, but all about my husband. Seeing the coach overturning, I said, "Fear not, it is on my side that it falls; it will not hurt you." I believe, had all perished, I should not have been moved. My peace was so profound that nothing could shake it. If these times continued, we should be too strong. They now began to come but seldom and were followed with long and wearisome privations. Since that time my brother has changed for the better, and has turned on the side of God, but he has never turned to me. It has been by particular permission of God, and the conduct of His providence over my soul, that has caused him and other religious persons, who have persecuted me, to think they were rendering glory to God, and doing acts of justice therein. Indeed, it is just that all creatures should be treacherous to me, and declare against me, who have too many times been treacherous to God, and sided with His enemy.

After this there was a very perplexing affair. To me it caused great crosses, and seemed designed for nothing else. A certain person conceived so much malice against my husband, that he was determined to ruin him if possible. He found no other way to attempt it, but by entering into a private engagement with my brother. He obtained a power to demand, in the name of the king's brother, two hundred thousand livres, which he pretended that my brother and I owed him. My brother signed the processes, upon an assurance given him that he should not pay anything. I think his youth engaged him in what he did not understand. This affair so chagrined my husband, that I have reason to believe it shortened his days. He was so angry with me (although I was innocent), that he could not speak to me except in a fury. He would give me no light into the affair, and I did not know in what it consisted. In the height of his rage, he said he would not meddle with it, but give me my portion, and let me live as I could. On the other side, my brother would not move in it, nor suffer anything to be done. The day of the trial, after prayer, I felt myself strongly pressed to go to the judges. I was wonderfully assisted even so as to discover and unravel all the turns and artifices of this affair, without knowing how I could have been able to do it. The first judge was so surprised to see the affair so different from what he had thought it before, that he himself exhorted me to go to the other judges, and especially to the intendant, who was just then going to court. He was quite misinformed about the matter. God enabled me to manifest the truth in so clear a light, and gave such power to my words, that the intendant thanked me for having so seasonably come to undeceive, and set him right. Had I not done this, he assured me the cause had been lost. As they saw the falsehood of every point, they would have condemned the plaintiff to pay the costs, if he had not been so great a prince, who lent his name to the scheme. To save the honor of the prince they ordered us to pay him fifty crowns. Hereby the two hundred thousand livres were reduced to only one hundred and fifty. My husband was exceedingly pleased at what I had done. My brother appeared as outrageous against me, as if I had caused him some great loss. Thus moderately and at once ended an affair, which had at first appeared so very weighty and alarming.