Autobiography of Madam Guyon


AS SOON AS IT WAS KNOWN in France that I was gone there was a general outcry. Father de la Mothe wrote to me, that all persons of learning and of piety united in censuring me. To alarm me still more, he informed me that my mother-in-law, with whom I had entrusted my younger son and my children's substance, was fallen into a state of childhood. This, however, was false.

I answered all these fearful letters as the Spirit dictated. My answers were thought very just, and those violent exclamations were soon changed into applauses. Father La Mothe appeared to change his censures into esteem; but it did not last. Self interest threw him back again; being disappointed in his hopes of a pension, which he expected I would have settled on him. Sister Garnier, whatever was her reason, changed and declared against me.

I both ate and slept little. The food which was given us was putrid and full of worms, by reason of the great heat of the weather, also being kept too long. What I should have formerly beheld with the greatest abhorrence, now became my only nourishment. Yet everything was rendered easy to me. In God I found, without increase, everything which I had lost for Him. That spirit, which I once thought I had lost in a strange stupidity, was restored to me with inconceivable advantages. I was astonished at myself. I found there was nothing which I was not fit for or in which I did not succeed. Those who observed said that I had a prodigious capacity. I well knew that I had but meager capabilities, but that in God my spirit had received a quality which it had never had before. I thought I experienced something of the state which the apostles were in, after they had received the Holy Ghost. I knew, I comprehended, I understood, I was enabled to do everything necessary. I had every sort of good thing and no want of anything. When Jesus Christ, the eternal wisdom, is formed in the soul, after the death of the first Adam, it finds in Him all good things communicated to it.

Sometime after my arrival at Gex, the Bishop of Geneva came to see us. He was so clearly convinced, and so much affected, that he could not forbear expressing it. He opened his heart to me on what God had required of him. He confessed to me his own deviations and infidelities. Every time when I spoke to him he entered into what I said, and acknowledged it to be the truth. Indeed it was the Spirit of truth which inspired me to speak to him, without which I should be only a mere simpleton. Yet as soon as those persons spoke to him, who sought for preeminence, and who could not suffer any good but what came from themselves, he was so weak as to be imposed on with impressions against the truth. This weakness has hindered him from doing all the good which otherwise he might have done.

After I had spoken to him, he said that he had it in his mind to give me Father La Combe for director; he was a man illuminated of God, who well understood the inward path, and had a singular gift of pacifying souls. Greatly was I rejoiced when the Bishop appointed him, seeing thereby his authority united with the grace which already seemed to have given him to me, by a union and effusion of supernatural life and love. The fatigues I had, and watchings with my daughter, threw me into a violent sickness attended with exquisite pain. The physicians judged me in danger, yet the sisters of the house quite neglected me; especially the stewardess. She was so penurious, that she did not give me what was necessary to sustain life. I had not a penny to help myself with, as I had reserved nothing to myself. Besides, they received all the money which was remitted to me from France, which was very considerable. I practiced poverty and was in necessity even among those to whom I had given all. They wrote to Father La Combe, desiring him to come to me, as I was so extremely ill. Hearing of my condition he was so touched with compassion as to walk on foot all night. He traveled not otherwise, endeavoring in that, as in everything else, to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ.

As soon as he entered the house my pains abated; when he had prayed and blessed me, laying his hand on my head, I was perfectly cured, to the great astonishment of my physicians; who were not willing to acknowledge the miracle.

These sisters advised me to return to my daughter. Father La Combe returned with me. A violent storm arose on the Lake, which made me very sick, and seemed likely to upset the boat. But the hand of Providence remarkably appeared in our favor; so much so, that it was taken notice of by the mariners and passengers. They looked upon Father La Combe as a saint. We arrived at Tonon, where I found myself so perfectly recovered, that, instead of making and using the remedies I had proposed, I went into a retreat, and stayed twelve days. Here I made vows of perpetual chastity, poverty and obedience, covenanting to obey whatever I should believe to be the will of God also to obey the church, and to honor Jesus Christ in such a manner as He pleased.

At this time I found that I had the perfect chastity of love to the Lord, it being without any reserve, division, or view of interest. Perfect poverty, by the total privation of everything that was mine, both inwardly and outwardly. Perfect obedience to the will of the Lord, submission to the church, and honor to Jesus Christ in loving Himself only; the effect of which soon appeared. When by the loss of ourselves we are passed into the Lord, our will is made one and the same with that of the Lord, according to the prayer of Christ, "As thou Father art in me, and I in thee, grant that they also may be one of us." John 17:21. Oh, but it is then that the will is rendered marvelous, both because it is made the will of the Lord, which is the greatest of miracles; also because it works wonders in Him. For as it is the Lord who wills in the soul, that will has its effect. Scarcely has it willed but the thing is done.

But some may say, Why then so many oppressions endured? Why do not these souls, if they have such a power, set themselves free from them? We answer that if they had any will to do anything of that sort against divine providence, that would be the will of flesh, or the will of man, and not the will of God, John 1:13.

I rose generally at midnight, waking at the proper time; but if I wound up my alarm-watch, then I used not to awake in time. I saw that the Lord had the care of a father and a spouse over me. When I had any indisposition, and my body wanted rest, He did not awake me; but at such times I felt even in my sleep a singular possession of Him. Some years have passed wherein I have had only a kind of half-sleep; but my soul waked the more for the Lord, as sleep seemed to steal from it every other attention. The Lord made it known also to many persons, that He designed me for a mother of great people, but a people simple and childlike. They took these intelligences in a literal sense and thought it related to some institution or congregation. But it appeared to me that the persons whom it would please the Lord that I should win over to Him, and to whom I should be as a mother, through His goodness, should have the same union of affection for me as children have for a parent, but a union much deeper and stronger; giving me all that was necessary for them, to bring them to walk in the way by which He would lead them, as I shall show.