IN TWO PARTS
MOODY PRESS CHICAGO
Printed in the United States of America
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.
Chapter 1 13 Chapter 2 19 Chapter 3 25 Chapter 4 30 Chapter 5 38 Chapter 6 49 Chapter 7 60 Chapter 8 68 Chapter 9 76 Chapter 10 79 Chapter 11 84 Chapter 12 89 Chapter 13 100 Chapter 14 108 Chapter 15 113 Chapter 16 121 Chapter 17 128 Chapter 18 134 Chapter 19 140 Chapter 20 148 Chapter 21 156 Chapter 22 160 Chapter 23 167 Chapter 24 173 Chapter 25 178 Chapter 26 185 Chapter 27 191 Chapter 28 197 Chapter 29 205
Chapter 1 219 Chapter 2 225 Chapter 3 231 Chapter 4 236 Chapter 5 242 Chapter 6 248 Chapter 7 255 Chapter 8 261 Chapter 9 266 Chapter 10 272 Chapter 11 277 Chapter 12 282 Chapter 13 293 Chapter 14 302 Chapter 15 309 Chapter 16 316 Chapter 17 326 Chapter 18 343 Chapter 19 353 Chapter 20 364 Chapter 21 374
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.
Oh, that you could comprehend the depth of this mystery, and learn the secrets of the conduct of God, revealed to babes, but hid from the wise and great of this world, who think themselves the Lord's counselor's, and capable of investigating His procedures, and suppose they have attained that divine wisdom hidden from the eyes of all who live in self, and are enveloped in their own works. Who by a lively genius and elevated faculties mount up to Heaven, and think to comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth of God.
This divine wisdom is unknown, even to those who pass in the world for persons of extraordinary illumination and knowledge. To whom then is she known, and who can tell us any tidings concerning her? Destruction and death assure us, that they have heard with their ears of her fame and renown. It is, then, in dying to all things, and in being truly lost to them, passing forward into God, and existing only in Him, that we attain to some knowledge of the true wisdom. Oh, how little are her ways known, and her dealings with her most chosen servants. Scarce do we discover anything thereof, but surprised at the dissimilitude betwixt the truth we thus discover and our former ideas of it, we cry out with St. Paul, "Oh, the depth of the knowledge and wisdom of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." The Lord judgeth not of things as men do, who call good evil and evil good, and account that as righteousness which is abominable in His sight, and which according to the prophet He regards as filthy rags. He will enter into strict judgment with these self-righteous, and they shall, like the Pharisees, be rather subjects of His wrath, than objects of His love, or inheritors of His rewards. Doth not Christ Himself assure us, that "except our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and pharisees we shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." And which of us even approaches them in righteousness; or, if we live in the practice of virtues, though much inferior to theirs, are we not tenfold more ostentatious? Who is not pleased to behold himself righteous in his own eyes, and in the eyes of others? or, who is it doubts that such righteousness is sufficient to please God? Yet, we see the indignation of our Lord manifested against such. He who was the perfect pattern of tenderness and meekness, such as flowed from the depth of the heart, and not that affected meekness, which under the form of a dove, hides the hawk's heart. He appears severe only to these self-righteous people, and He publicly dishonored them. In what strange colors does He represent them, while He beholds the poor sinner with mercy, compassion and love, and declares that for them only He was come, that it was the sick who needed the physician; and that He came only to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
O thou Source of Love! Thou dost indeed seem so jealous of the salvation Thou hast purchased, that Thou dost prefer the sinner to the righteous! The poor sinner beholds himself vile and wretched, is in a manner constrained to detest himself; and finding his state so horrible, casts himself in his desperation into the arms of his Saviour, and plunges into the healing fountain, and comes forth "white as wool." Then confounded at the review of his disordered state, and overflowing with love for Him, who having alone the power, had also the compassion to save him—the excess of his love is proportioned to the enormity of his crimes, and the fullness of his gratitude to the extent of the debt remitted. The self-righteous, relying on the many good works he imagines he has performed, seems to hold salvation in his own hand, and considers Heaven as a just reward of his merits. In the bitterness of his zeal he exclaims against all sinners, and represents the gates of mercy as barred against them, and Heaven as a place to which they have no claim. What need have such self-righteous persons of a Saviour? they are already burdened with the load of their own merits. Oh, how long they bear the flattering load, while sinners divested of everything, fly rapidly on the wings of faith and love into their Saviour's arms, who freely bestows on them that which he has so freely promised!
How full of self-love are the self-righteous, and how void of the love of God! They esteem and admire themselves in their works of righteousness, which they suppose to be a fountain of happiness. These works are no sooner exposed to the Sun of Righteousness, than they discover all to be so full of impurity and baseness, that it frets them to the heart. Meanwhile the poor sinner, Magdalene, is pardoned because she loves much, and her faith and love are accepted as righteousness. The inspired Paul, who so well understood these great truths and so fully investigated them, assures us that "the faith of Abraham was imputed to him for righteousness." This is truly beautiful for it is certain that all of that holy patriarch's actions were strictly righteous; yet, not seeing them as such, and being devoid of the love of them, and divested of selfishness, his faith was founded on the coming Christ. He hoped in Him even against hope itself, and this was imputed to him for righteousness, (Rom. 41: 18, 22,) a pure, simple and genuine righteousness, wrought by Christ, and not a righteousness wrought by himself, and regarded as of himself.
You may imagine this a digression wide of the subject, but it leads insensibly to it. It shows that God accomplishes His work either in converted sinners, whose past iniquities serve as a counterpoise to their elevation, or in persons whose self-righteousness He destroys, by totally overthrowing the proud building they had reared on a sandy foundation, instead of the Rock—CHRIST.
The establishment of all these ends, which He proposed in coming into the world, is effected by the apparent overthrow of that very structure which in reality He would erect. By means which seem to destroy His Church, He establishes it. How strangely does He found the new dispensation and give it His sanction! The legislator Himself is condemned by the learned and great, as a malefactor, and dies an ignominious death. Oh, that we fully understood how very opposite our self-righteousness is to the designs of God—it would be a subject for endless humiliation, and we should have an utter distrust in that which at present constitutes the whole of our dependence.
From a just love of His supreme power, and a righteous jealousy of mankind, who attribute to each other the gifts He Himself bestows upon them, it pleased Him to take one of the most unworthy of the creation, to make known the fact that His graces are the effects of His will, not the fruits of our merits. It is the property of His wisdom to destroy what is proudly built, and to build what is destroyed; to make use of weak things to confound the mighty and to employ in His service such as appear vile and contemptible.
This He does in a manner so astonishing, as to render them the objects of the scorn and contempt of the world. It is not to draw public approbation upon them, that He makes them instrumental in the salvation of others; but to render them the objects of their dislike and the subjects of their insults; as you will see in this life you have enjoined upon me to write.
I was born on April 18, 1648. My parents, particularly my father, was extremely pious; but to him it was a manner hereditary. Many of his forefathers were saints.
My mother, in the eighth month, was accidentally frightened, which caused an abortion. It is generally imagined that a child born in that month cannot survive. Indeed, I was so excessively ill, immediately after my birth, that all about me despaired of my life, and were apprehensive I should die without baptism. Perceiving some signs of vitality, they ran to acquaint my father, who immediately brought a priest; but on entering the chamber they were told those symptoms which had raised their hopes were only expiring struggles, and all was over.
I had no sooner shown signs of life again, than I again relapsed, and remained so long in an uncertain state, that it was some time before they could find a proper opportunity to baptize me. I continued very unhealthy until I was two and a half years old, when they sent me to the convent of the Ursulines, where I remained a few months.
On my return, my mother neglected to pay due attention to my education. She was not fond of daughters and abandoned me wholly to the care of servants. Indeed, I should have suffered severely from their inattention to me had not an all-watchful Providence been my protector: for through my liveliness, I met with various accidents. I frequently fell into a deep vault that held our firewood; however, I always escaped unhurt.
The Dutchess of Montbason came to the convent of the Benedictines, when I was about four years old. She had a great friendship for my father, and obtained his permission that I should go to the same convent. She took peculiar delight in my sportiveness and certain sweetness in my external deportment. I became her constant companion.
I was guilty of frequent and dangerous irregularities in this house, and committed serious faults. I had good examples before me, and being naturally well inclined, I followed them, when there were none to turn me aside. I loved to hear God spoken of, to be at church, and to be dressed in a religious garb. I was told of terrors of Hell which I imagined was intended to intimidate me as I was exceedingly lively, and full of a little petulant vivacity which they called wit. The succeeding night I dreamed of Hell, and though I was so young, time has never been able to efface the frightful ideas impressed upon my imagination. All appeared horrible darkness, where souls were punished, and my place among them was pointed out. At this I wept bitterly, and cried, "Oh, my God, if Thou wilt have mercy upon me, and spare me yet a little longer, I will never more offend Thee." And thou didst, O Lord, in mercy hearken unto my cry, and pour upon me strength and courage to serve thee, in an uncommon manner for one of my age. I wanted to go privately to confession, but being little, the mistress of the boarders carried me to the priest, and stayed with me while I was heard. She was much astonished when I mentioned that I had suggestions against the faith, and the confessor began to laugh, and inquire what they were. I told him that till then I had doubted there was such a place as Hell, and supposed my mistress had spoken of it merely to make me good, but now my doubts were all removed. After confession my heart glowed with a kind of fervor, and at one time I felt a desire to suffer martyrdom. The good girls of the house, to amuse themselves, and to see how far this growing fervor would carry me, desired me to prepare for martyrdom. I found great fervency and delight in prayer, and was persuaded that this ardor, which was as new as it was pleasing, was a proof of God's love. This inspired me with such courage and resolution, that I earnestly besought them to proceed, that I might thereby enter into His sacred presence, but was there not latent hypocrisy here? Did I not imagine that it was possible they would not kill me, and that I would have the merit of martyrdom without suffering it? Indeed, it appeared there was something of this nature in it. Being placed kneeling on a cloth spread for the purpose, and seeing behind me a large sword lifted up which they had prepared to try how far my ardor would carry me I cried, "Hold! it is not right I should die without first obtaining my father's permission." I was quickly upbraided with having said this that I might escape, and that I was no longer a martyr. I continued long disconsolate, and would receive no comfort; something inwardly reproved me, for not having embraced that opportunity of going to Heaven, when it rested altogether on my own choice.
At my solicitation, and on account of my falling so frequently sick, I was at length taken home. On my return, my mother having a maid in whom she placed confidence, left me again to the care of servants. It is a great fault, of which mothers are guilty, when under pretext of external devotions, or other engagements, they suffer their daughters to be absent from them. I forbear not condemning that unjust partiality with which parents treat some of their children. It is frequently productive of divisions in families, and even the ruin of some. Impartiality, by uniting children's hearts together, lays the foundation of lasting harmony and unanimity.
I would I were able to convince parents, and all who have the care of youth, of the great attention they require, and how dangerous it is to let them be for any length of time from under their eye, or to suffer them to be without some kind of employment. This negligence is the ruin of multitudes of girls.
How greatly it is to be lamented, that mothers who are inclined to piety, should pervert even the means of salvation to their destruction—commit the greatest irregularities while apparently pursuing that which should produce the most regular and circumspect conduct.
Thus, because they experience certain gains in prayer, they would be all day long at church; meanwhile their children are running to destruction. We glorify God most when we prevent what may offend Him. What must be the nature of that sacrifice which is the occasion of sin! God should be served in His own way. Let the devotion of mothers be regulated so as to prevent their daughters from straying. Treat them as sisters, not as slaves. Appear pleased with their little amusements. The children will delight then in the presence of their mothers, instead of avoiding it. If they find so much happiness with them, they will not dream of seeking it elsewhere. Mothers frequently deny their children any liberties. Like birds constantly confined to a cage, they no sooner find means of escape than off they go, never to return. In order to render them tame and docile when young, they should be permitted sometimes to take wing, but as their flight is weak, and closely watched, it is easy to retake them when they escape. Little flight gives them the habit of naturally returning to their cage which becomes an agreeable confinement. I believe young girls should be treated in a manner something similar to this. Mothers should indulge them in an innocent liberty, but should never lose sight of them.
To guard the tender minds of children from what is wrong, much care should be taken to employ them in agreeable and useful matters. They should not be loaded with food they cannot relish. Milk suited to babies should be administered to them not strong meat which may so disgust them, that when they arrive at an age when it would be proper nourishment, they will not so much as taste it. Every day they should be obliged to read a little in some good book, spend some time in prayer, which must be suited rather to stir the affections, than for meditation. Oh, were this method of education pursued, how speedily would many irregularities cease! These daughters becoming mothers, would educate their children as they themselves had been educated.
Parents should also avoid showing the smallest partiality in the treatment of their children. It begets a secret jealousy and hatred among them, which frequently augments with time, and even continues until death. How often do we see some children the idols of the house, behaving like absolute tyrants, treating their brothers and sisters as so many slaves according to the example of father and mother. And it happens many times, that the favorite proves a scourge to the parents while the poor despised and hated one becomes their consolation and support.
My mother was very defective in the education of her children. She suffered me whole days from her presence in company with the servants, whose conversation and example were particularly hurtful to one of my disposition. My mother's heart seemed wholly centered in my brother. I was scarcely ever favored with the smallest instance of her tenderness or affection. I therefore voluntarily absented myself from her. It is true, my brother was more amiable than I but the excess of her fondness for him, made her blind even to my outward good qualities. It served only to discover my faults, which would have been trifling had proper care been taken of me.
My father who loved me tenderly and seeing how little my education was attended to sent me to a convent of the Ursulines. I was near seven years old. In this house were two half sisters of mine, the one by my father, the other by my mother. My father placed me under his daughter's care, a person of the great capacity and most exalted piety, excellently qualified for the instruction of youth. This was a singular dispensation of God's providence and love toward me, and proved the first means of my salvation. She loved me tenderly, and her affection made her discover in me many amiable qualities, which the Lord had implanted in me. She endeavored to improve these good qualities, and I believe that had I continued in such careful hands, I should have acquired as many virtuous habits as I afterward contracted evil ones.
This good sister employed her time in instructing me in piety and in such branches of learning as were suitable to my age and capacity. She had good talents and improved them well. She was frequent in prayer and her faith was as great as that of most persons. She denied herself every other pleasure to be with me and to instruct me. Such was her affection for me that it made her find more pleasure with me than anywhere else.
If I made her agreeable answers, though more from chance than from judgment, she thought herself well paid for all her labor. Under her care I soon became mistress of most studies suitable for me. Many grown persons of rank could not have answered the questions.
As my father often sent for me, desiring to see me at home, I found at one time the Queen of England there. I was near eight years of age. My father told the Queen's confessor that if he wanted a little amusement he might entertain himself with me. He tried me with several very difficult questions, to which I returned such pertinent answers that he carried me to the Queen, and said, "Your majesty must have some diversion with this child." She also tried me and was so well pleased with my lively answers, and my manners, that she demanded me of my father with no small importunity. She assured him that she would take particular care of me, designing me for maid of honor to the princess. My father resisted. Doubtless it was God who caused this refusal, and thereby turned off the stroke which might have probably intercepted my salvation. Being so weak, how could I have withstood the temptations and distractions of a court?
I went back to the Ursulines where my good sister continued her affection. But as she was not the mistress of the boarders, and I was obliged sometimes to go along with them, I contracted bad habits. I became addicted to lying, peevishness and indevotion, passing whole days without thinking on God; though He watched continually over me, as the sequel will manifest. I did not remain long under the power of such habits because my sister's care recovered me. I loved much to hear of God, was not weary of church, loved to pray, had tenderness for the poor, and a natural dislike for persons whose doctrine was judged unsound. God has always continued to me this grace, in my greatest infidelities.
There was at the end of the garden connected with this convent, a little chapel dedicated to the child Jesus. To this I betook myself for devotion and, for some time, carrying my breakfast thither every morning, I hid it all behind this image. I was so much a child, that I thought I made a considerable sacrifice in depriving myself of it. Delicate in my choice of food, I wished to mortify myself, but found self-love still too prevalent, to submit to such mortification. When they were cleaning out this chapel, they found behind the image what I had left there and presently guessed that it was I. They had seen me every day going thither. I believe that God, who lets nothing pass without a recompense, soon rewarded me with interest for this little infantine devotion.
I continued some time with my sister, where I retained the love and fear of God. My life was easy; I was educated agreeably with her. I improved much while I had my health, but very often I was sick, and seized with maladies as sudden as they were uncommon. In the evening well; in the morning swelled and full of bluish marks, symptoms of a fever which soon followed. At nine years, I was taken with so violent a hemorrhage that they thought I was going to die. I was rendered exceedingly weak.
A little before this severe attack, my other sister became jealous, wanting to have me in turn. Though she led a good life, yet she had not a talent for the education of children. At first she caressed me, but all her caresses made no impression upon my heart. My other sister did more with a look, than she with either caresses or threatenings. As she saw that I loved her not so well, she changed to rigorous treatment. She would not allow me to speak to my other sister. When she knew I had spoken to her, she had me whipped, or beat me herself. I could no longer hold out against severe usage, and therefore requited with apparent ingratitude all the favors of my paternal sister, going no more to see her. But this did not hinder her from giving me marks of her usual goodness, in the severe malady just mentioned. She kindly construed my ingratitude to be rather owing to my fear of chastisement, than to a bad heart. Indeed, I believe this was the only instance in which fear of chastisement operated so powerfully upon me. From that time I suffered more in occasioning pain to One I loved, than in suffering myself at their hand.
Thou knowest, O my Beloved, that it was not the dread of Thy chastisements that sunk so deep, either into my understanding or my heart; it was the sorrow for offending Thee which ever constituted the whole of my distress; which was so great. I imagine if there were neither Heaven nor Hell, I should always have retained the same fear of displeasing Thee. Thou knowest that after my faults, when, in forgiving mercy, Thou wert pleased to visit my soul, Thy caresses were a thousand-fold more insupportable than Thy rod.
My father being informed of all that passed, took me home again. I was nearly ten years of age. I stayed only a little while at home. A nun of the order of St. Dominie, of a great family, one of my father's intimate friends, solicited him to place me in her convent. She was the prioress and promised she would take care of me and make me lodge in her room. This lady had conceived a great affection for me. She was so taken up with her community, in its many troublesome events that she was not at liberty to take much care of me. I had the chickenpox, which made me keep to my bed three weeks, in which I had very bad care, though my father and mother thought I was under excellent care. The ladies of the house had such a dread of the smallpox, as they imagined mine to be, that they would not come near me. I passed almost all the time without seeing anybody. A lay-sister who only brought me my allowance of diet at the set hours immediately went off again. I providentially found a Bible and having both a fondness for reading and a happy memory, I spent whole days in reading it from morning to night. I learned entirely the historical part. Yet I was really very unhappy in this house. The other boarders, being large girls, distressed me with grievous persecutions. I was so much neglected, as to food, that I became quite emaciated.
After about eight months, my father took me home. My mother kept me more with her, beginning to have a higher regard for me than before. She still preferred my brother; every one spoke of it. Even when I was sick and there was anything I liked, he demanded it. It was taken from me, and given to him, and he was in perfectly good health. One day he made me mount the top of the coach; then threw me down. By the fall I was very much bruised. At other times he beat me. But whatever he did, however wrong, it was winked at, or the most favorable construction was put upon it. This soured my temper. I had little disposition to do good, saying, "I was never the better for it."
It was not then for Thee alone, O God, that I did good; since I ceased to do it, when it met not with such a reception from others as I wanted. Had I known how to make a right use of this thy crucifying conduct, I should have made a good progress. Far from turning me out of the way, it would have made me turn more wholly to Thee.
I looked with jealous eyes on my brother, seeing the difference between him and me. Whatever he did was considered well; but if there were blame, it fell on me. My stepsisters by the mother, gained her goodwill by caressing him and persecuting me. True, I was bad. I relapsed into my former faults of lying and peevishness. With all these faults I was very tender and charitable to the poor. I prayed to God assiduously, loved to hear any one speak of Him and to read good books.
I doubt not that you will be amazed at such a series of inconsistencies; but what succeeds will surprise you yet more, when you see this manner of acting gain ground with my years. As my reason ripened, it was so far from correcting this irrational conduct. Sin grew more powerful in me.
O my God, thy grace seemed to be redoubled in proportion to the increase of my ingratitude! It was with me as with a city besieged, Thou didst surround my heart, and I only studied how to defend myself against thy attacks. I raised fortifications about the wretched place, adding every day to the number of my iniquities to prevent Thee taking it. When there was an appearance of Thy becoming victorious over this ungrateful heart, I raised a counter-battery, and threw up ramparts to keep off thy goodness, and to hinder the course of thy grace. None other could have conquered than Thyself.
I cannot bear to hear it said, "We are not free to resist grace." I have had too long and fatal an experience of my liberty. I closed up the avenues of my heart, that I might not so much as hear that secret voice of God, which was calling me to Himself. I have indeed, from tenderest youth, passed through a series of grievances, either by maladies or by persecutions. The girl to whose care my mother left me, in arranging my hair used to beat me, and did not make me turn it except with rage and blows.
Everything seemed to punish me, but this instead of making me turn unto Thee, O my God, only served to afflict and embitter my mind.
My father knew nothing of all this; his love to me was such that he would not have suffered it. I loved him very much, but at the same time I feared him, so that I told him nothing of it. My mother was often teasing him with complaints of me, to which he made no other reply than, "There are twelve hours in the day; she'll grow wiser." This rigorous proceeding was not the worst for my soul, though it soured my temper, which was otherwise mild and easy. But what caused my greatest hurt was, that I chose to be among those who caressed me, in order to corrupt and spoil me.
My father, seeing I was now grown tall, placed me in Lent among the Ursulines, to receive my first communion at Easter, at which time I was to complete my eleventh year. And here my most dear sister, under whose inspection my father placed me, redoubled her cares, to cause me to make the best preparation possible for this act of devotion. I thought now of giving myself to God in good earnest. I often felt a combat between my good inclinations and my bad habits. I even did some penances. As I was almost always with my sister, and as the boarders in her class, which was the first, were very reasonable and civil. I became such also, while among them. It had been cruel to educate me badly; for my very nature was strongly disposed to goodness. Easily won with mildness, I did with pleasure whatever my good sister desired. At length Easter arrived; I received the communion with much joy and devotion. In this house I staid until Whitsuntide. But as my other sister was mistress of the second class, she demanded that in her week I should be with her in that class. Her manners, so opposite to the other's, made me relax my former piety. I felt no more that new and delightful ardor which had seized my heart at my first communion. Alas! it held but a short time. My faults and failings were soon reiterated and drew me from the care and duties of religion.
As I now grew very tall for my age, and more to my mother's liking than before, she took care to deck and dress me, to make me see company, and to take me abroad. She took an inordinate pride in that beauty with which God had formed me, to bless and praise Him. However it was perverted by me into a source of pride and vanity. Several suitors came to me; but as I was not yet twelve years my father would not listen to any proposals. I loved reading and shut myself up alone every day to read without interruption.
What proved effectual to gain me entirely to God, at least for a time, was that a nephew of my father's passed by our home on a mission to Cochin China. I happened at that time to be taking a walk with my companions, which I seldom did. At my return he was gone. They gave me an account of his sanctity, and the things he had said, I was so touched that I was overcome with sorrow. I cried all the rest of the day and night. Early in the morning I went in great distress to seek my confessor. I said to him, "What! my father, am I the only person in our family to be lost? Alas; help me in my salvation." He was greatly surprised to see me so much afflicted, and comforted me in the best manner he could, not thinking me so bad as I was. In my backslidings I was docile, punctual in obedience, careful to confess often. Since I went to him my life was more regular.
Oh, thou God of love, how often hast Thou knocked at the door of my heart! How often terrified me with appearances of sudden death! All these only made a transient impression. I presently returned again to my infidelities. This time thou didst take and quite carried off my heart. Alas, what grief I now sustained for having displeased Thee! what regrets, what exclamations, what sobbings! Who would have thought, to see me, but that my conversion would have lasted as long as my life? Why didst thou not, O my God, utterly take this heart to thyself, when I gave it to Thee so fully. Or, if Thou didst take it then, oh, why didst Thou let it revolt again? Thou wast surely strong enough to hold it, but Thou wouldst perhaps, in leaving me to myself, display thy mercy that the depth of my iniquity might serve as a trophy to thy goodness.
I immediately applied myself to every part of my duty. I made a general confession with great compunction of heart. I frankly confessed all that I knew with many tears. I became so changed that I was scarcely known. I would not for ever so much made the least voluntary slip. They found not any matter for absolution when I confessed. I discovered the very smallest faults and God did me the favor to enable me to conquer myself in many things. There were left only some remains of passion, which gave me some trouble to conquer. But as soon as I had by means thereof, given any displeasure, even to the domestics, I begged their pardon, in order to subdue my wrath and pride; for wrath is the daughter of pride. A person truly humbled permits not anything to put him in a rage. As it is pride which dies the last in the soul, so it is passion which is last destroyed in the outward conduct. A soul thoroughly dead to itself, finds nothing of rage left.
There are persons who, being very much filled with grace and with peace, at their entrance of the resigned path of light and love, think they are come thus far. But they are greatly mistaken, in this view of their state. This they will readily discover, if they are heartily willing to examine two things. First, if their nature is lively, warm and violent, (I speak not of stupid tempers) they will find, from time to time, that they make slips, in which trouble and emotion have some share. Even then they are useful to humble and annihilate them. (But when annihilation is perfected all passion is gone—it is incompatible with this state.) They will find that there often arises in them certain motions of anger, but the sweetness of grace holds them back. They would easily transgress, if in any wise they gave way to these motions. There are persons who think themselves very mild because nothing thwarts them. It is not of such that I am speaking. Mildness which has never been put to the proof, is often only counterfeit. Those persons who, when unmolested, appear to be saints are no sooner exercised by vexing occurrences than there starts up in them a strange number of faults. They had thought them dead which only lay dormant because nothing awakened them.
I followed my religious exercises. I shut myself up all day to read and pray. I gave all I had to the poor taking even linen to their houses. I taught them the catechism and when my parents dined out I made them eat with me and served them with great respect. I read the works of St. Francis de Sales and the life of Madam de Chantal. There I first learned what mental prayer was, and I besought my confessor to teach me that kind of prayer. As he did not, I used my own endeavors to practice it, though without success, as I then thought, because I could not exercise the imagination, I persuaded myself, that that prayer could not be made without forming to one's self certain ideas and reasoning much. This difficulty gave me no small trouble, for a long time. I was very assiduous and prayed earnestly to God to give me the gift of prayer. All that I saw in the life of M. de Chantal charmed me. I was so much a child, that I thought I ought to do everything I saw in it. All the vows she had made I made also. One day as I was reading that she had put the name of Jesus on her heart, to follow the counsel, "Set me as a seal upon thy heart." For this purpose she had taken a hot iron, whereupon the holy name was engraven. I was very much afflicted that I could not do the same. I decided to write that sacred and adorable name, in large characters, on paper, then with ribbons and a needle I fastened it to my skin in four places. In that position it continued a long time.
After this, I turned all my thoughts to become a nun. Because the love which I had for St. Francis de Sales did not permit me to think of any other community than the one of which he was the founder, I frequently went to beg the nuns there to receive me into their convent. Often I stole out of my father's house to go and repeatedly solicit my admission there. Though it was what they eagerly desired, even as a temporal advantage, yet they never dared let me enter, as they very much feared my father, to whose fondness for me they were no strangers.
There was at that house a niece of my father's, to whom I am under great obligations. Fortune had not been very favorable to her father. It had reduced her in some measure to depend on mine, to whom she made known my desire. Although he would not for anything in the world have hindered a right vocation, yet he could not hear of my design without shedding tears. As he happened at this time to be abroad, my cousin went to my confessor, to desire him to forbid my going to the visitation. He dared not, however, do it plainly, for fear of drawing on himself the resentment of that community. I still wanted to be a nun, and importuned my mother excessively to take me to that house. She would not do it, for fear of grieving my father, who was absent.
No sooner was my father returned home, than he became violently ill. My mother was at the same time indisposed in another part of the house. I was all alone with him, ready to render him every kind of service I was capable of, and to give him all the dutiful marks of a most sincere affection. I do not doubt but my assiduity was very agreeable to him. I performed the most menial offices unperceived by him taking the time for it when the servants were not at hand; as well to mortify myself as to pay due honor to what Jesus Christ said, that He came not to be ministered to, but to minister. When father made me read to him, I read with such heartfelt devotion that he was surprised. I remembered the instruction my sister had given me, and the ejaculatory prayers and praises I had learned.
She had taught me to praise Thee, O my God, in all Thy works. All that I saw called upon me to render Thee homage. If it rained, I wished every drop to be changed into love and praises. My heart was nourished insensibly with Thy love; and my spirit was incessantly engrossed with the remembrance of Thee. I seemed to join and partake in all the good that was done in the world, and could have wished to have the united hearts of all men to love Thee. This habit rooted itself so strongly in me, that I retained it throughout my greatest wanderings.
My cousin helped not a little, to support me in these good sentiments; I was often with her, and loved her, as she took great care of me, and treated me with much gentleness. Her fortune being equal neither to her birth nor her virtue, she did with charity and affection what her condition obliged her to do. My mother grew jealous, fearing I should love my cousin too well and herself too little. She who had left me in my young years to the care of her maids, and since that to my own, only requiring if I was in the house. Troubling herself no further, now required me always to stay with her, and never suffered me to be with my cousin but with great reluctance. My cousin fell ill. My mother took that occasion to send her home, which was a very severe stroke to my heart, as well as to that grace which began to dawn in me.
My mother was a very virtuous woman. She was one of the most charitable women of her age. She not only gave the surplus, but even the necessities of the house. Never were the needy neglected. Never any wretched one came to her without succor. She furnished poor mechanics wherewith to carry on their work, and needy tradesmen wherewith to supply their shops. From her, I think, I inherited my charity and love for the poor. God favored me with the blessing of being her successor in that holy exercise. There was not one in the town, or its environs, who did not praise her for this virtue. She sometimes gave to the last penny in the house, though she had a large family to maintain, and yet she did not fail in her faith.
My mother's only care about me had been all along to have me in the house, which indeed is one material point for a girl. This habit of being so constantly kept within, proved of great service after my marriage. It would have been better had she kept me more in her own apartment, with an agreeable freedom and inquired oftener what part of the house I was in.
After my cousin left me, God granted me the grace to forgive injuries with such readiness, that my confessor was surprised. He knew that some young ladies had, out of envy, traduced me and that I spoke well of them as occasion offered. I was seized with an ague, which lasted four months, in which I suffered much. During that time, I was enabled to suffer with much resignation and patience. In this frame of mind and manner of life I persevered, so long as I continued the practice of mental prayer.
Later we went to pass some days in the country. My father took along with us one of his relations, a very accomplished young gentleman. He had a great desire to marry me; but my father, resolved not to give me to any near kinsman on account of the difficulty obtaining dispensations, put him off, without alleging any false or frivolous reasons for it. As this young gentleman was very devout, and every day said the office of the Virgin, I said it with him. To have time for it, I left off prayer which was to me the first inlet of evils. Yet, I kept up for a long time some share of the spirit of piety; for I went to seek out the little shepherdesses, to instruct them in their religious duties. This spirit gradually decayed, not being nourished by prayer. I became cold toward God. All my old faults revived to which I added an excessive vanity. The love I began to have for myself extinguished what remained in me of the love of God.
I did not wholly leave off mental prayer, without asking my confessor's leave. I told him I thought it better to say the office of the Virgin every day than to practice prayer; I had not time for both. I saw not that this was a stratagem of the enemy to draw me from God, to entangle me in the snares he had laid for me. I had time sufficient for both, as I had no other occupation than what I prescribed to myself. My confessor was easy in the matter. Not being a man of prayer he gave his consent to my great hurt.
Oh, my God, if the value of prayer were but known, the great advantage which accrues to the soul from conversing with Thee, and what consequence it is of to salvation, everyone would be assiduous in it. It is a stronghold into which the enemy cannot enter. He may attack it, besiege it, make a noise about its walls; but while we are faithful and hold our station, he cannot hurt us. It is alike requisite to dictate to children the necessity of prayer as of their salvation. Alas! unhappily, it is thought sufficient to tell them that there is a Heaven and a Hell; that they must endeavor to avoid the latter and attain the former; yet they are not taught the shortest and easiest way of arriving at it. The only way to Heaven is prayer; a prayer of the heart, which every one is capable of, and not of reasonings which are the fruits of study, or exercise of the imagination, which, in filling the mind with wandering objects, rarely settle it; instead of warming the heart with love to God, they leave it cold and languishing. Let the poor come, let the ignorant and carnal come; let the children without reason or knowledge come, let the dull or hard hearts which can retain nothing come to the practice of prayer and they shall become wise.
O ye great, wise and rich, have ye not a heart capable of loving what is proper for you and of hating what is destructive? Love the sovereign good, hate all evil, and ye will be truly wise. When ye love anyone, is it because ye know the reasons of love and its definitions? No, certainly. Ye love because your heart is formed to love what it finds amiable. Surely you cannot but know that there is nought lovely in the universe but God. Know ye not that He has created you, that He has died for you? But if these reasons are not sufficient, which of you has not some necessity, some trouble, or some misfortune? Which of you does not know how to tell his malady, and beg relief? Come, then, to this Fountain of all good, without complaining to weak and impotent creatures, who cannot help you; come to prayer; lay before God your troubles, beg His grace—and above all, that you may love Him. None can exempt himself from loving; for none can live without a heart, nor the heart without love.
Why should any amuse themselves, in seeking reasons for loving Love itself? Let us love without reasoning about it, and we shall find ourselves filled with love, before the others have learned the reasons which induced to it. Make trial of this love, and you will be wiser in it than the most skillful philosophers. In love, as in everything else, experience instructs better than reasoning. Come then, drink at this fountain of living waters, instead of the broken cisterns of the creature, which far from allaying your thirst, only tend continually to augment it. Did ye once drink at this fountain, ye would not seek elsewhere for anything to quench your thirst; for while ye still continue to draw from this source, ye would thirst no longer after the world. But if ye quit it, alas! the enemy has the ascendant. He will give you of his poisoned draughts, which may have an apparent sweetness, but will assuredly rob you of life.
I forsook the fountain of living water when I left off prayer. I became as a vineyard exposed to pillage, hedges torn down with liberty to all the passengers to ravage it. I began to seek in the creature what I had found in God. He left me to myself, because I first left him. It was His will by permitting me to sink into the horrible pit, to make me feel the necessity I was in of approaching Him in prayer.
Thou hast said, that Thou wilt destroy those adulterous souls who depart from Thee. Alas! it is their departure alone which causes their destruction, since, in departing from Thee, O Sun of Righteousness, they enter into the regions of darkness and the coldness of death, from which they would never rise, if Thou didst not revisit them. If Thou didst not by thy divine light, illuminate their darkness, and by thy enlivening warmth, melt their icy hearts, and restore them to life, they would never rise.
I fell then into the greatest of all misfortunes. I wandered yet farther and farther from Thee, O my God, and thou didst gradually retire from a heart which had quitted Thee. Yet such is thy goodness, that it seemed as if Thou hadst left me with regret; and when this heart was desirous to return again unto Thee, with what speed didst Thou come to meet it. This proof of Thy love and mercy, shall be to me an everlasting testimony of thy goodness and of my own ingratitude.
I became still more passionate than I had ever been, as age gave more force to nature. I was frequently guilty of lying. I felt my heart corrupt and vain. The spark of divine grace was almost extinguished in me, and I fell into a state of indifference and indevotion, though I still carefully kept up outside appearances. The habit I had acquired of behaving at church made me appear better than I was. Vanity, which had been excluded to my heart now resumed its seat. I began to pass a great part of my time before a looking glass. I found so much pleasure in viewing myself, that I thought others were in the right who practiced the same. Instead of making use of this exterior, which God had given me, that I might love Him the more, it became to me only the means of a vain complacency. All seemed to me to look beautiful in my person, but I saw not that it covered a polluted soul. This rendered me so inwardly vain, that I doubt whether any ever exceeded me therein. There was an affected modesty in my outward deportment that would have deceived the world.
The high esteem I had for myself made me find faults in everyone else of my own sex. I had no eyes but to see my own good qualities, and to discover the defects of others. I hid my own faults from myself, or if I remarked any, yet to me they appeared little in comparison of others. I excused, and even figured them to myself as perfections. Every idea I had of others and of myself was false. I loved reading to such excess, particularly romances, that I spent whole days and nights at them. Sometimes the day broke while I continued to read, insomuch, that for a length of time I almost lost the habit of sleeping. I was ever eager to get to the end of the book, in hopes of finding something to satisfy a certain craving which I found within me. My thirst for reading was only increased the more I read. Books are strange inventions to destroy youth. If they caused no other hurt than the loss of precious time, is not that too much? I was not restrained, but rather encouraged to read them under this fallacious pretext, that they taught one to speak well.
Meanwhile, through thy abundant mercy, O my God, Thou camest to seek me from time to time, Thou didst indeed knock at the door of my heart. I was often penetrated with the most lively sorrow and shed abundance of tears. I was afflicted to find my state so different from what it was when I enjoyed Thy sacred presence; but my tears were fruitless and my grief in vain. I could not of myself get out of this wretched state. I wished some hand as charitable as powerful would extricate me; as for myself I had no power. If I had had any friend, who would have examined the cause of this evil, and made me have recourse again to prayer, which was the only means of relief, all would have been well. I was (like the prophet) in a deep abyss of mire, which I could not get out off. I met with reprimands for being in it, but none were kind enough to reach out to free me. And when I tried vain efforts to get out, I only sunk the deeper, and each fruitless attempt only made me see my own impotence, and rendered me more afflicted.
Oh, how much compassion has this sad experience given me for sinners. It has taught me why so few of them emerge from the miserable state into which they have fallen. Such as see it only cry out against their disorders, and frighten them with threats of future punishment! These cries and threats at first make some impression, and they use some weak efforts after liberty, but, after having experienced their insufficiency, they gradually abate in their design, and lose their courage for trying any more. All that man can say to them afterward is but lost labor, though one preach to them incessantly. When any for relief run to confess, the only true remedy for them is prayer; to present themselves before God as criminals, beg strength of Him to rise out of this state. Then would they soon be changed, and brought out of the mire and clay. But the devil has falsely persuaded the doctors and the wise men of the age, that, in order to pray, it is necessary first to be perfectly converted. Hence people are dissuaded from it, and hence there is rarely any conversion that is durable. The devil is outrageous only against prayer, and those that exercise it; because he knows it is the true means of taking his prey from him. He lets us undergo all the austerities we will. He neither persecutes those that enjoy them nor those that practice them. But no sooner does one enter into a spiritual life, a life of prayer, but they must prepare for strange crosses. All manner of persecutions and contempts in this world are reserved for that life.
Miserable as the condition was to which I was reduced by my infidelities, and the little help I had from my confessor, I did not fail to say my vocal prayers every day, to confess pretty often, and to partake of the communion almost every fortnight. Sometimes I went to church to weep, and to pray to the Blessed Virgin to obtain my conversion. I loved to hear anyone speak of God, and would never tire of the conversation. When my father spoke of Him, I was transported with joy; and when he and my mother went on any pilgrimage, and were to set off early in the morning, I either did not go to bed the night before, or hired the girls to awake me early. My father's conversation at such times was always of divine matters, which afforded me the highest delight, and I preferred that subject to any other. I also loved the poor, and was charitable, even while I was so very faulty. How strange may this seem to some, and how hard to reconcile things so very opposite.
Afterward we came to Paris where my vanity increased. No course was spared to make me appear to advantage. I was forward enough to show myself and expose my pride, in making a parade of this vain beauty. I wanted to be loved of everyone and to love none. Several apparently advantageous offers of marriage were made for me; but God unwilling to have me lost did not permit matters to succeed. My father still found difficulties, which my all-wise Creator raised for my salvation. Had I married any of these persons, I should have been much exposed, and my vanity would have had means to extend itself.
There was one person who had asked for me in marriage for several years. My father, for family reasons, had always refused him. His manners were opposite to my vanity. A fear lest I should leave my country, together with the affluent circumstances of this gentleman, induced my father, in spite of both his own and my mother's reluctance, to promise me to him. This was done without consulting me. They made me sign the marriage articles without letting me know what they were. I was well pleased with the thoughts of marriage, flattering myself with a hope of being thereby set at full liberty, and delivered from the ill-treatment of my mother which I drew upon myself. God ordered it far otherwise. The condition which I found myself in afterward, frustrated my hopes.
Pleasing as marriage was to my thoughts, I was all the time, after my being promised, and even long after my marriage, in extreme confusion, which arose from two causes. First, my natural modesty, which I did not lose. I had much reserve toward men. The other, my vanity. Though the husband provided was a more advantageous match than I merited, yet I did not think him such. The figure which the others made, who had offered to me before, was vastly more engaging. Their rank would have placed me in view. Whatever did not flatter my vanity, was to me insupportable. Yet this very vanity was, I think, of some advantage; it hindered me from falling into such things as cause the ruin of families. I would not do anything which in the eye of the world, might render me culpable. As I was modest at church and had not been used to go abroad without my mother, as the reputation of our house was great, I passed for virtuous.
I did not see my spouse elect (at Paris) till two or three days before our marriage. I caused masses to be said all the time after my being contracted, to know the will of God. I wished to do it in this affair at least.
Oh, my God, how great was thy goodness, to bear with me at this time, and to allow me to pray to Thee with as much boldness, as if I had been one of thy friends, I who had rebelled against Thee as thy greatest enemy.
The joy of our nuptials was universal through our village. Amid this general rejoicing, there appeared none sad but myself. I could neither laugh as others did, nor even eat; so much was I depressed. I knew not the cause. It was a foretaste which God gave me of what was to befall me. The remembrance of the desire I had of being a nun, came pouring in. All who came to compliment me, the day after, could not forbear rallying me. I wept bitterly. I answered, "Alas! I had desired so much to be a nun; why then am I now married? By what fatality has such a revolution befallen me?" No sooner was I at the house of my new spouse, than I perceived that it would be for me a house of mourning.
I was obliged to change my conduct. Their manner of living was very different from that in my father's house. My mother-in-law, who had long been a widow, regarded nothing else but economy. At my father's house they lived in a noble manner and great elegance. What my husband and mother-in-law called pride, and I called politeness, was observed there. I was very much surprised at this change, and so much the more, as my vanity wished to increase, rather than to be diminished.
At the time of my marriage I was a little past fifteen years of age. My surprise increased greatly, when I saw I must lose what I had acquired with so much application. At my father's house we were obliged to behave in a genteel way, and to speak with propriety. All that I said was applauded. Here they never hearkened to me, but to contradict and find fault. If I spoke well, they said it was to give them a lesson. If any questions were started at my father's, he encouraged me to speak freely. Here, if I spoke my sentiments, they said it was to enter into a dispute. They put me to silence in an abrupt and shameful manner, and scolded me from morning till night.
I should have some difficulty to give you an account, which cannot be done without wounding charity, if you had not forbidden me to omit any one. I request you not to look at things on the side of the creature, which would make these persons appear worse than they were. My mother-in-law had virtue, my husband had religion, and not any vice. It is requisite to look at everything on the side of God. He permitted these things only for my salvation, and because He would not have me lost. I had beside so much pride, that had I received any other treatment, I should have continued therein, and should not, perhaps, have turned to God as I was induced to do, by the oppression of a multitude of crosses.
My mother-in-law conceived such a desire to oppose me in everything, that, in order to vex me, she made me perform the most humiliating offices. Her disposition was so extraordinary, having never surmounted it in her youth, that she could hardly live with anybody. Saying none than vocal prayers, she did not see this fault; or seeing it, and not drawing from the forces of prayer, she could not get the better of it. It was a pity, for she had both sense and merit. I was made the victim of her humors. All her occupation was to thwart me and she inspired the like sentiments in her son. They would make persons my inferiors take place above me. My mother, who had a high sense of honor, could not endure that. When she heard it from others (for I told her nothing) she chided me thinking I did it because I did not know how to keep my rank and had no spirit. I dared not tell her how it was; but I was almost ready to die with the agonies of grief and continual vexation. What aggravated all was the remembrance of the persons who had proposed for me, the difference of their dispositions and manners, the love they had for me, with their agreeableness and politeness. All this made my burden intolerable. My mother-in-law upbraided me in regard to my family, and spoke to me incessantly to the disadvantage of my father and mother. I never went to see them, but I had some bitter speeches to bear on my return.
My mother complained that I did not come often enough to see her. She said I did not love her, that I was alienated from my family by being too much attached to my husband.
What augmented my crosses was that my mother related to my mother-in-law the pains I had cost her from infancy. They then reproached me, saying, I was a changeling, and an evil spirit. My husband obliged me to stay all day long in my mother-in-law's room, without any liberty of retiring into my own apartment. She spoke disadvantageously of me, to lessen the affection and esteem which some had entertained for me. She galled me with the grossest affronts before the finest company. This did not have the effect she wanted; the more patiently they saw me bear it, the higher esteem they had for me.
She found the secret of extinguishing my vivacity, and rendering me stupid. Some of my former acquaintances hardly knew me. Those who had not seen me before said, "Is this the person famed for such abundance of wit? She can't say two words. She is a fine picture." I was not yet sixteen years old. I was so much intimidated, that I dared not go out without my mother-in-law, and in her presence I could not speak. I knew not what I said; so much fear had I.
To complete my affliction, they presented me with a waiting-maid who was everything with them. She kept me in sight like a governess. For the most part I bore with patience these evils which I had no way to avoid. But sometimes I let some hasty answer escape me, a source of grievous crosses to me. When I went out, the footmen had orders to give an account of everything I did. It was then I began to eat the bread of sorrows, and to mingle tears with my drink. At the table they always did something which covered me with confusion. I could not forbear tears. I had no one to confide in who might share my affliction, and assist me to bear it. When I would impart some hint of it to my mother, I drew upon myself new crosses. I resolved to have no confidant. It was not from any natural cruelty that my husband treated me thus; he loved me passionately, but he was warm and hasty, and my mother-in-law continually irritated him about me.
It was in a condition so deplorable, O my God, that I began to perceive the need I had of Thy assistance. For this situation was perilous for me. I met with none but admirers abroad, those that flattered me to my hurt. It were to be feared lest at such a tender age, amid all the strange domestic crosses I had to bear, I might be drawn away. But Thou, by Thy goodness and love, gave it quite another turn. By these redoubled strokes Thou didst draw me to Thyself, and by Thy crosses effected what Thy caresses could not effect. Nay, Thou madest use of my natural pride, to keep me within the limits of my duty. I knew that a woman of honor ought never to give suspicion to her husband. I was so very circumspect that I often carried it to excess, so far as to refuse my hand to such as in politeness offered me theirs. There happened to me an adventure which, by carrying my prudence too far, might have ruined me, for things were taken contrary to their intent. My husband was sensible both of my innocence and of the falsehood of the insinuations of my mother-in-law.
Such weighty crosses made me return to God. I began to deplore the sins of my youth. Since my marriage I had not committed any voluntarily. Yet I still had some sentiments of vanity remaining, which I did not wish. However, my troubles now counter-balanced them. Moreover, many of them appeared my just dessert according to the little light I then had. I was not illuminated to penetrate the essence of my vanity; I fixed my thoughts only on its appearance. I tried to amend my life by penance, and by a general confession, the most exact that I ever yet had made. I laid aside the reading of romances, for which I lately had such a fondness. Though some time before my marriage that had been dampened by reading the Gospel, I was so much affected therewith, and discovered truth therein, that put me out of patience with all the other books. Novels appeared then to me only full of lies and deceit. I now put away even indifferent books, to have none but such as were profitable. I resumed the practice of prayer, and endeavored to offend God no more. I felt His love gradually recovering the ascendant in my heart, and banishing every other. Yet I had still an intolerable vanity and self-complacency, which has been my most grievous and obstinate sin.
My crosses redoubled. What rendered them more painful was, that my mother-in-law, not content with the bitterest speeches which she uttered against me, both in public and private, would break out in anger about the smallest trifles, and scarcely be pacified for a fortnight. I used a part of my time in bewailing myself when I could be alone; and my grief became every day more bitter. Sometimes I could not contain myself, when the girls, my domestics, who owed me submission, treated me ill. I did what I could to subdue my temper which has cost me not a little.
Such stunning blows so impaired the vivacity of my nature, that I became like a lamb that is shorn. I prayed to our Lord to assist me, and He was my refuge. As my age differed from theirs (for my husband was twenty-two years older than I) I saw well that there was no probability of changing their dispositions, which were fortified with years. I found that whatever I said was offensive, not excepting those things which others would have been pleased with.
One day, weighed down with grief and in despair, about six months after I was married, being alone, I was tempted even to cut out my tongue so I might no longer irritate those who seized every word I uttered with rage and resentment.
But Thou, O God, didst stop me short and showed me my folly. I prayed continually, and wished even to become dumb, so simple and ignorant was I. Though I have had my share of crosses, I never found any so difficult to support as that of perpetual contrariety without relaxation of doing all one can to please, without succeeding, but still offending by the very means designed to oblige. Being kept with such persons, in a most severe confinement, from morning till night, without ever daring to quit them is most difficult. I have found that great crosses overwhelm, and stifle all anger. Such a continual contrariety irritates and stirs up sourness in the heart. It has such strange effect, that it requires the utmost efforts of self-restraint, not to break out into vexation and rage.
My condition in marriage was rather that of a slave than of a free person. I perceived, four months after my marriage, that my husband was gouty. This malady caused many crosses within and without. He had the gout twice the first year, six weeks each time. He was so much plagued with it, that he came no more out of his room, nor out of his bed. He was in bed usually for several months. I carefully attended him although so very young. I did not fail to exert myself to the utmost in the performance of my duty. Alas! all this did not gain me friendship. I had not the consolation to know whether what I did was agreeable. I denied myself all the most innocent diversions to continue with my husband. I did whatever I thought would please him. Sometimes he quietly suffered me, and then I esteemed myself very happy. At other times I seemed insupportable to him. My particular friends said, "I was of a fine age indeed to be a nurse to an invalid, and that it was a shameful thing that I did not set more value on my talents." I answered, "Since I have a husband, I ought to share his painful as well as his pleasing circumstances." Besides this, my mother, instead of pitying me, reprimanded me sharply for my assiduity to my husband.
But, O my God, how different were Thy thoughts from theirs,—how different that which was without, from what passed within! My husband had that foible, that when anyone said anything to him against me, he flew into a rage at once. It was the conduct of providence over me; for he was a man of reason and loved me much. When I was sick, he was inconsolable. I believe, had it not been for my mother-in-law, and the girl I have spoken of, I should have been very happy with him. Most men have their moods and emotions, and it is the duty of a reasonable woman to bear them peaceably, without irritating them more by cross replies.
These things Thou hast ordered, O my God, in such a manner, by Thy goodness, that I have since seen it was necessary, to make me die to my vain and haughty nature. I should not have had power to destroy it myself, if thou hadst not accomplished it by an all-wise economy of thy providence. I prayed for patience with great earnestness; nevertheless, some sallies of my natural liveliness escaped me, and vanquished the resolutions I had taken of being silent. This was doubtless permitted, that my self-love might not be nourished by my patience. Even a moment's slip caused me months of humiliation, reproach and sorrow, and proved the occasion of new crosses.
During the first year I was still vain. I sometimes lied to excuse myself to my husband and mother-in-law. I stood strangely in awe of them. Sometimes I fell into a temper, their conduct appeared so very unreasonable, and especially their countenancing the most provoking treatment of the girl who served me. As to my mother-in-law, her age and rank rendered her conduct more tolerable.
But Thou, O my God, opened my eyes to see things in a very different light. I found in Thee reasons for suffering, which I had never found in the creature. I afterward saw clearly and reflected with joy, that this conduct, as unreasonable as it seemed, and as mortifying as it was, was quite necessary for me. Had I been applauded here as I was at my father's, I should have grown intolerably proud. I had a fault common to most of our sex—I could not hear a beautiful woman praised, without finding fault, to lessen the good which was said of her. This fault continued long, and was the fruit of gross and malignant pride. Extravagantly extolling anyone proceeds from a like source.
Just before the birth of my first child, they were induced to take great care of me. My crosses were somewhat mitigated. Indeed, I was so ill that it was enough to excite the compassion of the most indifferent. They had so great a desire of having children to inherit their fortunes, that they were continually afraid lest I should any way hurt myself. Yet, when the time of my delivery drew near, this care and tenderness of me abated. Once, as my mother-in-law had treated me in a very grating manner, I had the malice to feign a cholic, to give them some alarm; but as I saw this little artifice gave them too much pain, I told them I was better. No creature could be more heavily laden with sickness than I was. Beside continual heavings, I had so strange a distaste, except for some fruit, that I could not bear the sight of food. I had continual swoonings and violent pains. After my delivery I continued weak a long time. There was indeed sufficient to exercise patience, and I was enabled to offer up my sufferings to our Lord. I took a fever, which rendered me so weak, that after several weeks I could scarcely bear to be moved or to have my bed made. When I began to recover, an abscess fell upon my breast, which was forced to be laid open in two places, which gave me great pain. Yet all the maladies seemed to me only a shadow of troubles, in comparison with those I suffered in the family which daily increased. Indeed, life was so wearisome to me, that those maladies which were thought mortal did not frighten me.
The event improved my appearance, and consequently served to increase my vanity. I was glad to call forth expressions of regard. I went to the public promenades (though but seldom) and when in the streets, I pulled off my mask out of vanity. I drew off my gloves to show my hands. Could there be greater folly? After falling into these weaknesses, I used to weep bitterly at home. Yet, when occasion offered, I fell into them again.
My husband lost considerably. This cost me strange crosses, not that I cared for the losses, but I seemed to be the butt of all the ill-humors of the family. With what pleasure did I sacrifice temporal blessings. How often I felt willing to have begged my bread, if God had so ordered it. But my mother-in-law was inconsolable. She bid me pray to God for these things. To me that was wholly impossible.
O my dearest Lord, never could I pray to Thee about the world, or the things thereof; nor sully my sacred addresses to Thy majesty with the dirt of the earth. No; I rather wish to renounce it all, and everything beside whatsoever, for the sake of Thy love, and the enjoyment of Thy presence in that kingdom which is not of this world. I wholly sacrificed myself to Thee, even earnestly begging Thee rather to reduce our family to beggary, than suffer it to offend thee.
In my own mind I excused my mother-in-law, saying to myself, "If I had taken the pains to scrape and save, I would not be so indifferent at seeing so much lost. I enjoy what cost me nothing, and reap what I have not sowed." Yet all these thoughts could not make me sensible to our losses. I even formed agreeable ideas of our going to the hospital. No state appeared to me so poor and miserable, which I should not have thought easy, in comparison with the continual domestic persecutions I underwent. My father, who loved me tenderly, and whom I honored beyond expression, knew nothing of it. God so permitted it, that I should have him also displeased with me for some time. My mother was continually telling him that I was an ungrateful creature, showing no regard for them, but all for my husband's family. Appearances were against me. I did not go to see them as often as I should. They knew not the captivity I was in; what I was obliged to bear in defending them. These complaints of my mother, and a trivial affair that fell out, lessened a little my father's fond regard for me; but it did not last long. My mother-in-law reproached me, saying, "No afflictions befell them till I came into the house. All misfortunes came with me." On the other hand my mother wanted me to exclaim against my husband which I could never submit to do.
We continued to meet with loss after loss, the king retrenching a considerable share of our revenues, besides great sums of money, which we lost by L'Hotel de Ville. I could have no rest or peace, in such great afflictions. I had no mortal to console me, or to advise me. My sister, who had educated me, had departed this life. She died two months before my marriage. I had no other for a confidant.
I declare, that I find much repugnance in saying so many things of my mother-in-law. I have no doubt that my own indiscretion, my caprice, and the occasional sallies of a warm temper, drew many of the crosses upon me. Although I had what the world calls patience, yet I had neither a relish nor love for the cross. Their conduct toward me, which appeared so unreasonable, should not be looked upon with worldly eyes. We should look higher and then we shall see that it was directed by Providence for my eternal advantage.
I now dressed my hair in the most modest manner, never painted, and to subdue the vanity which still had possession of me, I rarely looked in the glass. My reading was confined to books of devotion, such as Thomas a'Kempis, and the works of St. Francis de Sales. I read these aloud for the improvement of the servants, while the maid was dressing my hair. I suffered myself to be dressed just as she pleased, which freed me from a great deal of trouble. It took away the occasions wherein my vanity used to be exercised. I knew not how things were; but they always liked me, and thought all well in point of dress. If on some particular days I wanted to appear better, it proved worse. The more indifferent I was about dress the better I appeared. How often have I gone to church, not so much to worship God as to be seen. Other women, jealous of me, affirmed that I painted; they told my confessor, who chided me for it, though I assured him I was innocent. I often spoke in my own praise, and sought to raise myself by depreciating others. Yet these faults gradually deceased; for I was very sorry afterward for having committed them. I often examined myself very strictly, writing down my faults from week to week, and from month to month, to see how much I was improved or reformed. Alas! this labor, though fatiguing, was of but little service, because I trusted in my own efforts. I wished indeed to be reformed, but my good desires were weak and languid.
At one time my husband's absence was so long, and in the meantime my crosses and vexations at home so great, that I determined to go to him. My mother-in-law strongly opposed it. This once my father interfering, and insisting on it, she let me go. On my arrival I found he had almost died. Through vexation and fretting he was very much changed. He could not finish his affairs, having no liberty in attending to them, keeping himself concealed at the Hotel de Longueville, where Madame de Longueville was extremely kind to me. I came publicly, and he was in great fear lest I should make him known. In a rage he bid me return home. Love and my long absence from him surmounting every other reason, he soon relented and suffered me to stay with him. He kept me eight days without letting me stir out of his sight. Fearing the effects of such a close confinement on my constitution, he desired me to go and take a walk in the garden. There I met Madame de Longueville, who testified great joy on seeing me.
I cannot express all the kindness I met with in this house. All the domestics served me with emulation, and applauded me on account of my appearance, and exterior deportment. Yet I was much on my guard against too much attention. I never entered into discourse with any man when alone. I admitted none into my coach, not even my relations, unless my husband were in it. There was not any rule of discretion which I did not duly observe, to avoid giving suspicion to my husband, or subject of calumny to others. Everyone studied there how to contribute to divert or oblige me. Outwardly everything appeared agreeable. Chagrin had so overcome and ruffled my husband that I had continually something to bear. Sometimes he threatened to throw the supper out of the windows. I said, he would then do me an injury, as I had a keen appetite. I made him laugh and I laughed with him. Before that, melancholy prevailed over all my endeavors, and over the love he had for me. God both armed me with patience and gave me the grace to return him no answer. The devil, who attempted to draw me into some offence, was forced to retire in confusion, through the signal assistance of that grace.
I loved my God and was unwilling to displease Him, and I was inwardly grieved on account of that vanity, which still I found myself unable to eradicate. Inward distresses, together with oppressive crosses, which I had daily to encounter, at length threw me into sickness. As I was unwilling to incommode the Hotel de Longueville I had myself moved to another house. The disease proved violent and tedious, insomuch that the physicians despaired of my life. The priest, a pious man, seemed fully satisfied with the state of my mind. He said, "I should die like a saint." But my sins were too present and too painful to my heart to have such presumption. At midnight they administered the sacrament to me as they hourly expected my departure. It was a scene of general distress in the family and among all who knew me. There were none indifferent to my death but myself. I beheld it without fear, and was insensible to its approach. It was far otherwise with my husband. He was inconsolable when he saw there was no hope. I no sooner began to recover, than notwithstanding all his love, his usual fretfulness returned. I recovered almost miraculously and to me this disorder proved a great blessing. Beside a very great patience under violent pains, it served to instruct me much in my view of the emptiness of all worldly things. It detached me from myself and gave me new courage to suffer better than I had done. The love of God gathered strength in my heart, with a desire to please and be faithful to Him in my condition. I reaped several other advantages from it which I need not relate, I had yet six months to drag along with a slow fever. It was thought that it would terminate in death.
Thy time, O my God, had not yet arrived for taking me to Thyself. Thy designs over me were widely different from the expectations of those about me; it being Thy determination to make me both the object of Thy mercy and the victim of Thy justice.
After long languishing, at length I regained my former health. About this time my dear mother departed this life in great tranquility of mind. Beside her other good qualities, she had been particularly charitable to the poor. This virtue, so acceptable to God, He was graciously pleased to commence rewarding even in this life. Though she was but twenty-four hours sick, she was made perfectly easy about everything that was near and dear to her in this world.
I now applied myself to my duties, never failing to practice that of prayer twice a day. I watched over myself, to subdue my spirit continually. I went to visit the poor in their houses, assisting them in their distresses. I did (according to my understanding) all the good I knew.
Thou, O my God, increased both my love and my patience, in proportion to my sufferings. I regretted not the temporal advantages with which my mother distinguished my brother above me. Yet they fell on me about that, as about everything else. I also had for some time a severe ague. I did not indeed serve Thee yet with that fervor which Thou didst give me soon after. For I would still have been glad to reconcile Thy love with the love of myself and of the creature. Unhappily I always found some who loved me, and whom I could not forbear wishing to please. It was not that I loved them, but it was for the love that I bore to myself.
A lady, an exile, came to my father's house. He offered her an apartment which she accepted, and she stayed a long time. She was one of true piety and inward devotion. She had a great esteem for me, because I desired to love God. She remarked that I had the virtues of an active and bustling life; but I had not yet attained the simplicity of prayer which she experienced. Sometimes she dropped a word to me on that subject. As my time had not yet come, I did not understand her. Her example instructed me more than her words. I observed on her countenance something which marked a great enjoyment of the presence of God. By the exertion of studied reflection and thoughts I tried to attain it but to little purpose. I wanted to have, by my own efforts, what I could not acquire except by ceasing from all efforts.