In the history of the world few persons have attained that high degree of spirituality reached by Madame Guyon.
Born in a corrupt age, in a nation marked for its degeneracy; nursed and reared in a church, as profligate as the world in which it was embedded; persecuted at every step of her career; groping as she did in spiritual desolation and ignorance, nevertheless, she arose to the highest pinnacle of pre-eminence in spirituality and Christian devotion.
She lived and died in the Catholic Church; yet was tormented and afflicted; was maltreated and abused; and was imprisoned for years by the highest authorities of that church.
Her sole crime was that of loving God. The ground of her offense was found in her supreme devotion and unmeasured attachment to Christ. When they demanded her money and estate, she gladly surrendered them, even to her impoverishment, but it availed nothing. The crime of loving Him in whom her whole being was absorbed, never could be mitigated, or forgiven.
She loved only to do good to her fellow-creatures, and to such an extent was she filled with the Holy Ghost, and with the power of God, that she wrought wonders in her day, and has not ceased to influence the ages that have followed.
Viewed from a human standpoint, it is a sublime spectacle, to see a solitary woman subvert all the machinations of kings and courtiers; laugh to scorn all the malignant enginery of the papal inquisition, and silence, and confound the pretensions of the most learned divines. She not only saw more clearly the sublimest truths of our most holy Christianity, but she basked in the clearest and most beautiful sunlight while they groped in darkness. She grasped with ease the deepest and sublimest truths of holy Writ, while they were lost in the mazes of their own profound ignorance.
One distinguished divine was delighted to sit at her feet. At first he heard her with distrust; then with admiration. Finally he opened his heart to the truth, and stretched forth his hand to be led by this saint of God into the Holy of Holies where she dwelt. We allude to the distinguished Archbishop Fenelon, whose sweet spirit and charming writings have been a blessing to every generation following him.
We offer no word of apology for publishing in the Autobiography of Madame Guyon, those expressions of devotion to her church, that found vent in her writings. She was a true Catholic when protestantism was in its infancy.
There can be no doubt that God, by a special interposition of His Providence, caused her to commit her life so minutely to writing. The duty was enjoined upon her by her spiritual director, whom the rules of her church made it obligatory upon her to obey. It was written while she was incarcerated in the cell of a lonely prison. The same all-wise Providence preserved it from destruction. We have not a shadow of doubt that it is destined to accomplish tenfold more in the future than it has accomplished in the past. Indeed, the Christian world is only beginning to understand and appreciate it, and the hope and prayer of the publisher is, that thousands may, through its instrumentality, be brought into the same intimate communion and fellowship with God, that was so richly enjoyed by Madame Guyon.
There were omissions of importance in the former narration of my life. I willingly comply with your desire, in giving you a more circumstantial relation; though the labor seems rather painful, as I cannot use much study or reflection. My earnest wish is to paint in true colors the goodness of God to me, and the depth of my own ingratitude — but it is impossible, as numberless little circumstances have escaped my memory. You are also unwilling I should give you a minute account of my sins. I shall, however, try to leave out as few faults as possible. I depend on you to destroy it, when your soul hath drawn those spiritual advantages which God intended, and for which purpose I am willing to sacrifice all things. I am fully persuaded of His designs toward you, as well for the sanctification of others, as for your own sanctification.
Let me assure you, this is not attained, save through pain, weariness and labor; and it will be reached by a path that will wonderfully disappoint your expectations. Nevertheless, if you are fully convinced that it is on the nothing in man that God establishes his greatest works, — you will be in part guarded against disappointment or surprise. He destroys that he might build; for when He is about to rear His sacred temple in us, He first totally razes that vain and pompous edifice, which human art and power had erected, and from its horrible ruins a new structure is formed, by His power only.