Autobiography of Madam Guyon


ONE DAY during my husband's lifetime, laden with sorrow, not knowing what to do, I wished to speak to a person of distinction, and merit, who came often into the country. I wrote to request an opportunity with him, for that I wanted his instruction and advice. But soon after I felt remorse for it; this voice spoke in my heart, "What, -- dost thou seek for ease, and to shake off my yoke?" Hereupon I instantly sent a note again to desire him to excuse me, adding that what I had written was only from self-love, not necessity; that as he knew what it was to be faithful to God, I hoped he would not disapprove my acting with this Christian simplicity. Yet he resented it, which surprised me much, as I had conceived a high idea of his virtue. Virtues he had, but such as are full of the life and activities of nature, and unacquainted with the paths of mortification and death.

Thou, O my God, hast been my conductor even in these paths, as with admiration I have discovered since they are past. Blessed be Thy name forever. I am obliged to bear this testimony to Thy goodness.

Before I continue my narration, I must add one remark, which the Lord gave me to make upon the way by which He, in His goodness, was pleased to conduct me; which is, that this obscure path is the surest to mortify the soul, as it leaves it not any prop to lean upon for support. Though it has no application to any particular state of Jesus Christ; yet, at its coming out, it finds itself clothed with all His dispositions. The impure and selfish soul, is hereby purified, as gold in the furnace. Full of its own judgment and its own will before, but now obeys like a child and finds no other will in itself. Before, it would have contested for a trifle; now it yields at once, not with reluctance and pain by way of practicing virtue, but as it were naturally. Its own vices are vanished. This creature so vain before now loves nothing but poverty, littleness and humiliation. Before, it preferred itself above everybody; now everybody above itself, having a boundless charity for its neighbor, to bear with his faults and weaknesses, in order to win him by love, which before it could not do but with very great constraint. The rage of the wolf is changed to the meekness of the lamb.

During all the time of my experiencing my miseries and my deep trials, I went after no fine sights or recreations. I wanted to see and know nothing but Jesus Christ. My closet was my only diversion. Even when the queen was near me, whom I had never seen, and whom I had desire enough to see; I had only to open my eyes, and look out to see her; yet did not do it. I had been fond of hearing others sing; yet I was once four days with one who passed for the finest voice in the world, without ever desiring her to sing; which surprised her, because she was not ignorant that, knowing her name, I must know the charming excellence of her voice. However, I committed some infidelities, in inquiring what others said of me by way of blame. I met with one who told me everything. Though I showed nothing of it, it served only to mortify me. I saw I was yet too much alive to self.

I shall never be able to express the number of my miseries. They are so vastly surmounted by the favors of God, and so swallowed up in these that I can see them no more. One of the things which gave me most pain in the seven years I have spoken of, especially the last five, was so strange a folly of my imagination that it gave me no rest. My senses bore it company. I could no more shut my eyes at church. Thus having all the gates and avenues open, I was like a vineyard exposed, because the hedges which the father of the family had planted were torn away. I saw every one that came and went, and everything that passed in the church. For the same force, which had drawn me inward to recollection, seemed to push me outward to dissipation.

Laden with miseries, weighed down with oppressions, and crushed under continual crosses, I thought of nothing but ending my days thus. There remained in me not the least hope of ever emerging. Notwithstanding, I thought I had lost grace forever, and the salvation which it merits for us, I longed at least to do what I could for God, though I feared I should never love Him. Seeing the happy state from whence I had fallen, I wished in gratitude to serve Him, though I looked on myself as a victim doomed to destruction. Sometimes the view of that happy period caused secret desires to spring up in my heart, of recovering it again. I was instantly rejected and thrown back into the depth of the abyss; I judged myself to be in a state which was due to unfaithful souls. I seemed, my God, as if I was forever cast off from Thy regard, and from that of all creatures. By degrees my state ceased to be painful. I became even insensible to it, and my insensibility seemed like the final hardening of my reprobation. My coldness appeared to me a mortal coldness. It was truly so, O my God, since I thus died to self, in order to live wholly in Thee, and in thy precious love.

To resume my history, a servant of mine wanted to become a Barnabite. I wrote about it to Father de la Mothe. He answered me, that I must address Father La Combe, who was then the superior of the Barnabites of Tonon. That obliged me to write to him. I had always preserved secret respect and esteem for him, as one under grace. I was glad of this opportunity of recommending myself to his prayers. I wrote to him about my fall from the grace of God, that I had requited His favors with the blackest ingratitude; that I was miserable, and a subject worthy of compassion; and far from having advanced toward God, I was become entirely alienated from Him. He answered in such a manner, as if he had known, by a supernatural light, the frightful description I had given of myself.

In the midst of my miseries, Geneva came into my mind, a singular manner, which caused me many fears. "What," said I, "to complete my reprobation, shall I go to such an excess of impiety, as to quit the faith through apostasy? (The inhabitants of Geneva being generally Protestant Calvinists.) Am I then about quitting that church, for which I would give a thousand lives? Or, shall I ever depart from that faith which I would even wish to seal with my blood?" I had such a distrust of myself, that I dared hope for nothing, but had a thousand reasons for fear. Nevertheless the letter which I had received from Father La Combe, in which he wrote me an account of his present disposition, somewhat similar to mine, had such an effect, as to restore peace and calmness to my mind. I felt myself inwardly united to him, as to a person of great fidelity to the grace of God. Afterward a woman appeared to me in a dream to be come down from Heaven, to tell me that God demanded me at Geneva.

About eight or ten days before Magdalene's day, 1680, it came into my mind to write to Father La Combe, and to request him, if he received my letter before that day, to pray particularly for me. It was so ordered, contrary even to my expectations, that he received my letter on St. Magdalene's eve, and when praying for me the next day, it was said to him, thrice over, with much power, "Ye shall both dwell in one and the same place." He was very much surprised, as he never had received interior words before. I believe, O my God, that that has been much more verified, both in our inward sense and experience, and in the same crucifying events which have befallen us, pretty much alike; and in Thyself, who art our dwelling, than in any temporal abode.