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A GUIDE TO TRUE PEACE or THE EXCELLENCY OF INWARD AND SPIRITUAL PRAYER
Francois Fenelon (1651 – 1715)
Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648 – 1717)
Miguel de Molinos (1627 – 1697)
1. THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS IN THE HEART OF MAN
2. ON FAITH
3. ON PRAYER
4. ALL ARE CAPABLE OF ATTAINING TO INWARD AND SPIRITUAL PRAYER
5. ON ATTAINING TRUE PRAYER
6. ON SPIRITUAL DRYNESS
7. ON DEFECTS AND INFIRMITIES
8. ON TEMPTATIONS AND TRIBULATIONS
9. ON SELF-DENIAL
10. ON MORTIFICATION
11. ON RESIGNATION
12. ON VIRTUE
13. ON CONVERSION
14. ON SELF-ANNIHILATION
15. MAN ACTS MORE NOBLY UNDER THE DIVINE INFLUENCE, THAN HE CAN POSSIBLY DO BY FOLLOWING HIS OWN WILL
16. ON THE POSSESSION OF PEACE AND REST BEFORE GOD
17. ON PERFECTION, OR THE UNION OF THE SOUL WITH GOD
This little book was written to nourish the spiritual life. Evidently it succeeded in its purpose, for it passed through at least twelve editions and reprintings from 1813 to 1877. Compiled anonymously by two Quakers, William Backhouse and James Janson, from the writings of three great mystics of a century earlier, Fenelon, Guyon, and Molinos, it was widely used as a devotional book by members of the Society of Friends. Always printed in pocket size, it was constantly ready at hand to plead for “a species of prayer which may be exercised at all times” , “a lamp continually lighted before the throne of God”.
In this new edition A Guide to True Peace makes a timely reappearance. It was first issued at the dawn of the industrial age when man was learning how to control nature through scientific knowledge. And now, just when the effort seems close to complete success, we stand bewildered in the midst of the ruin we ourselves have created. Many are beginning to doubt whether the meaning and goal of life can be found through power over the world around us, but they know not where else to turn.
A Guide to True Peace diagnoses our trouble and points out the remedy. It tells us that we are in trouble because, in learning how to control nature, we have neglected to learn how to control ourselves. We must look within, not without, for the meaning and goal of life. In the depths of our being we shall find an inner sanctuary where there is true peace where all desire for selfish exercise of power is overcome by unselfish love, where the Divine Presence is known by a direct immediate glance of the soul.
This solution will seem too simple to intellectuals and too inadequate to activists, the two groups that dominate our age. The intellectual seeks an answer in some system of philosophy or theology or some scheme of social or political reform. But our Guide does not encourage us to seek ultimate Truth solely by thinking. “Man may indeed open the window, but it is the Sun Himself that must give the light”. This Sun is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”: whose light shines into our soul if we but open the window of prayer. All progress in prayer is not a mental act nor an upsurge of feeling but the direct perception of the Divine Presence.
But how, the activist will ask, can we heal a sick world when we are advised to “retire from all outward objects and silence all desires in the profound silence of the whole soul”? The answer is that there is no peace without until there is peace within. A man who is inwardly disordered will infect all about him with his inner disorder. John Woolman, a New Jersey tailor of the eighteenth century, followed without reservation the type of religion portrayed in The Guide to True Peace, yet he was one of the world’s greatest social reformers. When he went about persuading the Quakers, a hundred years before the Civil War, to give up their slaves, he did not say much about suffering and injustice. He simply pointed out to the slaveholders that they felt no inner peace. The history of the Society of Friends shows that almost always this search for inner peace is the dynamic of Quaker pioneering in social reform. True peace comes, not by inaction but in letting God act through us.
The Guide to True Peace is compiled principally from the Short Method of Prayer of Madame Guyon, the Maxims of the Saints of Fenelon, and the Spiritual Guide of Molinos. The writers of these three mystical classics were the outstanding figures in that seventeenth century movement in France and Italy nicknamed Quietism because of its teaching that God is known only through the prayer of inward silence when all human thought and feeling is quieted. This movement had a strong influence on the Society of Friends whose teachings were closely akin. Jeanne de la Motte Guyon’s dramatic and tragic life (1648-1717) is vividly described in her autobiography. Fenelon (1651-1715), Archbishop of Cambrai and preceptor to the grandson of Louis XIV, was her friend and convert. Miguel de Molinos (1640-1697) was a Spanish priest who came to Rome where he secured the support of the Pope and a large following. All three, after a period of favor, were condemned and persecuted by the Roman Church.
The present printing of The Guide to True Peace is taken from the 1839 edition published in Philadelphia.
“They who worship the Father, must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.” —Now the object of this work is to explain, in a simple and familiar manner, how this only true worship can be acceptably performed, and inward, spiritual Prayer rightly attained. Few authors have written with greater clearness thereon, than those from whose works this little volume has been chiefly compiled; they, therefore, have been referred: at the same time, it has been thought necessary to simplify, and render more intelligible, some of their terms, in order that they may be more generally understood.
Whilst some, into whose hands this little treatise may fall, may receive it as a messenger of glad tidings, there will, doubtless, be others, who may not feel disposed to place much dependence on the simple manner here pointed out, of drawing near to their Creator; let such, however, not judge according to the appearance; but, laying aside all reasoning thereon in humility and simplicity make trial of it, and feel for themselves, whether what is herein stated will not prove to be something more than an empty dream of imagination, or a cunningly devised fable. And, if they do this in sincerity of heart, they will soon have to acknowledge, to their great consolation, that these are indeed substantial, efficacious, and incontrovertible truths; and that this is the true way to become purified from our many defilements, to be instructed in heavenly mysteries, to taste of the wine of the kingdom, and to partake of that bread which nourishes up unto everlasting life.
1: THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS IN THE HEART OF MAN
It is certain from Scripture, that the Spirit of God dwells within us, that a “manifestation of this Spirit is given to us to profit withal,”(1) and that this is “the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.”(2) This is the grace of God, which brings salvation, and which has appeared to all men; teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts; we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”(3) But we make too little account of this internal Teacher, which is the soul of our soul, and by which only we are able to form good thoughts and desires. God ceases not to reprove us for evil, and to influence us to that which is good; but the noises of the world without, and of our own, passions within, deafen us and hinder us from hearing Him.
We must retire from all outward objects, and silence all the desires and wandering imaginations of the mind; that in this profound silence of the whole soul, we may hearken to the ineffable voice of the Divine Teacher. We must listen with an attentive ear; for it is a still, small voice. It is not indeed a voice uttered in words as when a man speaks to his friend; but it is a perception infused by the secret operations and influences of the Divine Spirit, insinuating to us obedience, patience, meekness, humility, and all the other Christian virtues, in a language perfectly intelligible to the attentive soul. But how seldom is it that the soul keeps itself silent enough for God to speak! The murmurs of our vain desires, and our self-love, disturb all the teachings of the Divine Spirit. Ought we then to be surprised, if so many persons, apparently devout, but too full of their own wisdom, and confidence in their own virtues, are not able to hear it; and that they look upon this internal Word as the chimera of fanatics? Alas! What is it they aim at with their vain reasoning? The external word, even of the Gospel, would be but an empty sound without this living and fruitful Word in the interior, to interpret and open it to the understanding.
Christ said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock – if any man hears my voice, and open the door, I will come in unto him, and sup with him and he with Me.”(4) His knocks are the monitions of his Spirit; which touch us, and operate in us. And to attend to these monitions and follow them, is to open unto Him.
He speaks in impenitent sinners; but these, engrossed in the eager pursuit of worldly pleasures, and the gratification of their evil passions, are not able to hear Him. His word with them passes for a fable. But woe to those who receive their consolation in this life. The time will come when their vain joys shall be confounded.
He speaks in sinners who are in the way of conversion: these feel the remorses of their conscience, and these remorses are the voice of the Spirit, which upbraids them inwardly with their vices. When they are truly touched, they have no difficulty to comprehend the secret voice, for it is this that so pierces them to the quick. It is that two-edged sword within them, of which Paul speaks, which goes even to the dividing of soul from itself: “The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”(5)
He speaks in persons enlightened, learned, and whose life, outwardly regular, seems adorned with many virtues; but often these persons, full of themselves, and of their knowledge, give too much ear to themselves to listen to His teachings. God who seeks only to communicate Himself, finds no place (so to speak) where to introduce Himself into these souls that are so full of themselves, and so over-fed with their own wisdom and virtues. He hides His secrets from the wise and prudent, and reveals them to the low and simple; Jesus said, “I thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth! because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”(6) It is with the humble and childlike that He delights to dwell, and to disclose to them His ineffable secrets. It is these who are more peculiarly qualified for receiving in a greater measure the gift of faith; for, being willing that the pride of Reason should be laid in the dust, they obstruct not the entrance of this gift of their vain arguments; but believe with simplicity and confidence.
1) I Corinthians 12:7
2) John 1:9
3) Titus 2:11-12
4) Revelation 3:20
5) Hebrews 4:12
6) Matthew 11:25
2: ON FAITH
There are two sorts or degrees of faith:—the first is that by which the mind gives its assent to the truth of a thing on the testimony of another; the second is of a more exalted nature, being of Divine origin, and is a gift of the Holy Spirit.—By the first, we believe in the existence of God, and in the truths which He has revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. It is an essential principle in the beginning of the spiritual path; for “he that comes to God, must believe that He is God, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”(7) And if we put our whole trust in Him, and endeavor in all things to obey Him, we shall be in a state of preparation for the reception of that true and living faith which is “the gift of God.”(8)
It is only by this faith that we shall be enabled to overcome all our spiritual enemies, and clearly to understand those mysteries which are incomprehensible to human reason; for reason, being born of man is weak and uncertain, and easily errs; but faith, being born of God, cannot reason err, therefore, must follow and submit to faith, not go before and control it.
It is by faith that; “being justified, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”(9) And when this precious gift has been granted to us, it produces in us hope,(10) love,(11) confidence,(12) joy(13) and holiness of heart.(14) We shall then be enabled to feel an entire dependence on the goodness, power, justice, and mercy of God, and a confidence in his promises; as well as more fully to experience and comprehend the operations of his spirit on the mind.
Faith is an essential requisite for the proper performance of all our duties to the Supreme Being; indeed, without it we cannot possibly please Him;(15) neither should we ever be induced to seek Him, or believe on the influence of His Holy Spirit on our souls. It is by faith that we are supported on our path to peace, and are enabled to persevere through the difficulties and besetments, which we may have to encounter on our way: it is through this holy principle that we suffer the pains of dryness, and want of consolation, without fainting; being thereby strengthened to endure, as seeing Him who is invisible.(16) And it is only by faith that we can attain to the practice of true, inward, and spiritual prayer.
7) Hebrews 11:6
8) Ephesians 2:8
9) Romans 5:1
10) Romans 5:1
11) 1 Peter 1:8
12) Ephesians 3:12
13) Romans 5:2
14) Acts 15:9
15) Hebrews 11:6
16) Hebrews 11:27