Autobiography of Madam Guyon


AFTER FATHER LA COMBE WAS GONE the persecution raised against me became more violent. But the Bishop of Geneva still showed me some civilities, as well to try whether he could prevail on me to do what he desired, as to sound out how matters passed in France, and to prejudice the minds of the people there against me, preventing me from receiving the letters sent me. The ecclesiastic and his family had twenty two intercepted letters, opened, on their table. There was one wherein was sent me a power of attorney to sign, of immediate consequence. They were obliged to put it under another cover, and send it to me. The bishop wrote to Father La Mothe, and had no difficulty to draw him into his party. He was displeased with me on two accounts. First, that I had not settled on him a pension, as he expected, and as he told me very roughly several times. Second, I did not take his advice in everything. He at once declared against me. The bishop made him his confidant. It was he who uttered and spread abroad the news about me. They imagined, as was supposed, that I would annul the donation I had made, if I returned; that, having the support of friends in France, I would find the means of breaking it; but in that they were much mistaken. I had no thought of loving anything but the poverty of Jesus Christ. For some time yet, the Father acted with caution toward me. He wrote me some letters, which he addressed to the Bishop of Geneva, and they agreed so together, that he was the only person from whom I received any letters, to which I returned very moving answers. He, instead of being touched with them, became only more irritated against me.

The bishop continued to treat me with a show of respect; yet at the same time he wrote to many persons in Paris, as did also the sisters of the house, to all those persons of piety who had written letters to me, to bias them as much as possible against me. To avoid the blame which ought naturally to fall upon them for having so unworthily treated a person who have given up everything to devote herself to the service of that diocese. After I had done this, and was not in a condition to return to France, they treated me extremely ill in every respect. There was scarcely any kind of false or fabulous story, likely to gain any credit, which they did not invent to cry me down. Beside my having no way to make the truth known in France, our Lord inspired me with a willingness to suffer everything, without justifying myself; so that in my case nothing was heard but condemnation, without any vindication.

I was in this convent, and had seen Father La Combe no further than I have mentioned; yet they did not cease to publish, both of him and me, the most scandalous stories; as utterly false as anything could be, for he was then a hundred and fifty leagues from me.

For some time I was ignorant of this. As I knew that all my letters were kept from me, I ceased to wonder at receiving none. I lived in this house with my little daughter in a sweet repose, which was a very great favor of Providence. My daughter had forgotten her French, and among the little girls from the mountains had contracted a wild look and disagreeable manners. Her wit, sense and judgment, were indeed surprising, and her disposition exceedingly good. There were only some little fits of peevishness, which they had caused to arise in her, through certain contrarieties out of season, caresses ill applied, and for want of knowing the proper manner of education. But the Lord provided in regard to her. During this time my mind was preserved calm and resigned to God. Afterward that good sister almost continually interrupted me; I answered everything she desired of me, both out of condescension, and from a principle which I had to obey like a child.

When I was in my apartment, without any other director than our Lord by His Spirit, as soon as one of my little children came to knock at my door, he required me to admit the interruption. He showed me that it is not the actions in themselves which please Him, but the constant ready obedience to every discovery of His will, even in the minutest things, with such a suppleness, as not to stick to anything, but still to turn with Him at every call. My soul was then, I thought, like a leaf, or a feather, which the wind moves what way soever it pleases and the Lord never suffers a soul so dependent upon, and dedicated to Him, to be deceived.

Most men appear to me very unjust, when they readily resign themselves to another man, and look upon that as prudence. They confide in men who are nothing, and boldly say, "Such a person cannot be deceived." But if one speaks of a soul wholly resigned to God, which follows him faithfully, they cry aloud, "That person is deceived with his resignation." Oh, divine Love! Dost thou want either strength, fidelity, love, or wisdom, to conduct those who trust in thee and who are thy dearest children? I have seen men bold enough to say, "Follow me, and you shall not be misled." How sadly are those men misled themselves by their presumption! How much sooner should I go to him who would be afraid of misleading me; who trusting neither to his learning nor experience, would rely upon God only!

Our Lord showed me, in a dream, two ways by which souls steer their course, under the figure of two drops of water. The one appeared to me of an unparalleled beauty, brightness and purity; the other to have also a brightness, yet full of little streaks; both good to quench thirst; the former altogether pleasant, but the latter not so perfectly agreeable. By the former is represented the way of pure and naked faith, which pleases the Spouse much, it is so pure, so clear from all self-love. The way of emotions or gifts is not so; yet it is that in which many enlightened souls walk, and into which they had drawn Father La Combe. But God showed me, that He had given him to me, to draw him into one more pure and perfect. I spoke before the sisters, he being present, of the way of faith, how much more glorious it was to God, and advantageous for the soul, than all those gifts, emotions and assurances, which ever cause us to live to self. This discouraged them at first and him also. I saw they were pained, as they have confessed to me since. I said no more of it at that time. But, as he is a person of great humility, he bid me unfold what I had wanted to say to him. I told him a part of my dream of the two drops of water; yet, he did not then enter into what I said, the time for it being not yet come. When he came to Gex, it was to make the retreats. I told him the circumstances of a certain time past; he recollected that it was the time of so extraordinary a touch with which the Lord favored him, that he was quite overwhelmed with contrition. This gave him such an interior renovation, that, having retired to pray, in a very ardent frame of mind, he was filled with joy, and seized with a powerful emotion, which made him enter into what I had told him of the way of faith. I give these things, as they happen to come to my remembrance, without carrying them on in order.

After Easter, in 1682, the bishop came to Tonon. I had occasion to speak to him, which when I had done, our Lord so pointed my words that he appeared thoroughly convinced. But the persons who had influenced him before returned. He then pressed me very much to return to Gex and to take the place of Prioress. I gave him the reasons against it. I then appealed to him, as a bishop, desiring him to take care to regard nothing but God in what he should say to me. He was struck into a kind of confusion; and then said to me, "Since you speak to me in such a manner, I cannot advise you to it. It is not for us to go contrary to our vocations; but do good, I pray you, to this house." I promised him to do it. Having received my pension, I sent them a hundred pistoles, with a design of doing the same as long as I should be in the diocese. The bishop said to me, "I love Father La Combe. He is a true servant of God and he has told me many things to which I was forced to assent for I felt them in myself. But," added he, "when I say so, they tell me I am mistaken, and that before the end of six months he will run mad." He told me, "he approved of the nuns, which had been under the care and instruction of Father La Combe, finding them to come up fully to what he had heard of them." From thence I took occasion to tell him "that in everything he ought to refer himself to his own breast, or to the instructions there immediately received, and not to others." He agreed to what I said, and acknowledged it to be right; yet no sooner was he returned, than, so great was his weakness that he re-entered into his former dispositions. He sent the same ecclesiastic to tell me that I must engage myself at Gex; that it was his sentiment. I answered, that I was determined to follow the counsel he had given me, when he had spoken to me as from God, since now they made him speak only as man.