This little book has exercised a very great influence in both secular and religious circles. It was published at the suggestion of a friend. Madame Guyon thus speaks of it : |Among my intimate friends was a civilian, a counsellor of the Parliament of Grenoble, who might be described as a model of piety. Seeing on my table my manuscript treatise on Prayer, he desired me to lend it to him. Being much pleased with it, he lent it to some of his friends. Others wanted copies of it. He resolved, therefore, to have it printed. I was requested to write a preface, which I did.|
It immediately won a great notoriety, five or six editions being required in a very short time. It became the storm-centre in France for a number of years, and was directly the cause of Madame Guyon being attacked and defended by some of the most brilliant writers of her day. Bossuet opposed, and Fénelon as vigorously, and ultimately with complete success, supported the gentle authoress. In the meantime the result upon Madame Guyon was imprisonment in the Bastille!
It has, too, had weighty effect upon English History, particularly in its influence upon the school of modern Christian Mysticism.
The reader is advised that the versions of the Bible to which Madame Guyon in 1685 had opportunity of access were not the same as theirs of to-day, and therefore oftentimes discrepancies apparently occur in her quotations from the Bible. Very often, too, she is quoting direct from the Vulgate.
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO
THE ORIGINAL EDITION
This little treatise, conceived in great simplicity, was not originally intended for publication: it was written for a few individuals, who were desirous to love God with their whole heart; some of whom, because of the profit they received in reading the manuscript, wished to obtain copies of it; and on this account alone, it was committed to the press.
It still remains in its original simplicity, without any censure on the various Divine Leadings of others: and we submit the whole to the judgment of those who are skilled and experienced in Divine matters; requesting them, however, not to decide without first entering into the main design of the Author, which is to induce the world to love God and to serve Him with comfort and success, in a simple and easy manner, adapted to those who are unqualified for learned and deep researches, and are, indeed, incapable of anything but a hearty desire to be truly devoted to God.
An unprejudiced reader may find hidden under the most common expressions, a secret unction, which will excite him to seek after that Sovereign Good, whom all should wish to enjoy.
In speaking of the attainment of perfection, the word Facility is used, because God is indeed found with facility when we seek Him within ourselves. But, in contradiction to this, some perhaps may urge that passage in S. John, |Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me| (John vii.34). This apparent difficulty, however, is removed by another passage, where He, who cannot contradict Himself, hath said to all, |Seek and ye shall find| (Matt. vii.7). It is true, indeed, that he who would seek God, and is yet unwilling to forsake his sins, shall not find Him, because he seeks not aright; and therefore it is added, |Ye shall die in your sins.| On the other hand, he who diligently seeks God in his heart, and that he may draw near unto Him sincerely forsakes sin, shall infallibly find Him.
A life of devotion appears so formidable, and the Spirit of Prayer of such difficult attainment, that most persons are discouraged from taking a single step towards it. The difficulties inseparable from all great undertakings are, indeed, either nobly surmounted, or left to subsist in all their terrors, just as success is the object of despair or hope. I have therefore endeavoured to show the facility of the method proposed in this treatise, the great advantages to be derived from it, and the certainty of their attainment by those that faithfully persevere.
O were we once truly sensible of the goodness of God toward His poor creatures, and of His infinite desire to communicate Himself unto them, we should not allow imaginary difficulties to affright us, nor despair of obtaining that good which He is so earnest to bestow: |He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not, with him, also freely give us all things?| (Rom. viii 32). But we want courage and perseverance; we have both to a high degree in our temporal concerns, but want them in |the one thing needful| (Luke x.42).
If any think that God is not easily to be found in this way of Simple Love and Pure Adherence, let them not, on my testimony, alter their opinion, but rather make trial of it, and their own experience will convince them that the reality far exceeds all my representations of it.
Beloved reader, peruse this little treatise with a humble, sincere and candid spirit, and not with an inclination to cavil and criticize, and you will not fail to reap some degree of profit from it. It was written with a hearty desire that you might wholly devote yourself to God; receive it, then, with a like desire for your own perfection: for nothing more is intended by it than to invite the simple and child-like to approach their Father, who delights in the humble confidence of His children, and is grieved at the smallest instance of their diffidence or distrust. With a sincere desire, therefore, to forsake sin, seek nothing from the unpretending method here proposed but the Love of God, and you shall undoubtedly obtain it.
Without setting up our opinions above those of others, we mean only, with truth and candour, to declare, from our own experience and the experience of others, the happy effects produced by thus Simply Following our Lord.
As this treatise was intended only to instruct in Prayer, there are many things which we respect and esteem, totally omitted, as not immediately relative to our main subject: it is, however, certain, that nothing will be found herein to offend, provided it be read in the spirit with which it was written; and it is still more certain, that those who in right earnest make trial of the way, will find we have written the Truth.
It is Thou alone, O Holy Jesus, who lovest simplicity and innocence, |and whose delight is to dwell with the children of men| (Prov. viii.31), with those who are, indeed, willing to become |little children|; it is Thou alone, who canst render this little work of any value by imprinting it on the hearts of all who read it, and leading them to seek Thee within themselves, where Thou reposest as in the manger, waiting to receive proofs of their love, and to give them testimony of Thine. Yet alas! They may still lose these unspeakable advantages by their negligence and insensibility! But it belongeth unto Thee, O thou Uncreated Love! Thou Silent and Eternal Word! it belongeth unto Thee, to awaken, attract, and convert; to make Thyself be heard, tasted, and beloved! I know Thou canst do it, and I trust Thou wilt do it by this humble work which belongeth entirely to Thee, proceedeth wholly from Thee, and tendeth only to Thee! And, O most Gracious and adorable Saviour!
To Thee be all the Glory!