Friday, August 30, 2013

Henry Scougal and The Life of God in the Soul of Man

My mom has often said that church cookbooks contain the best recipes because you can be sure that they've stood the test of time and use. They are tried and shown themselves true. I think the same principle applies to what we've been talking about here in this space over the course of the last month. We're highlighting dead guys, theologians and pastors whose words are tried and true. They've stood the test of time and examination.

In my earlier post in this series I told you I emailed a pastor blogger years ago to ask his recommendations on this very topic of reading works by dead theologians. Reading any sorts of theological works, by guys dead or alive, was something of a novel endeavor for me so I had no idea where to even begin. In true pastoral fashion, my friend sent me a list of six or seven titles, some small and seemingly innocuous, some large and rather intimidating. Two weeks ago I wrote about one of his recommendations to me, The Autobiography of George Mueller.

Included on his list was The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal. Scougal lived in the seventeenth century (1650-1678). He was a pastor and a professor who died at the young age of 28. Scougal wrote this particular work to a friend to explain true Christianity--the life of God in the soul of man as it were. Directed to a friend from a friend, it is a short and personal book.

The first part of the book examines the nature of genuine religion. From there Scougal discusses the "excellency and advantage of religion" meaning religion in its truest sense. The greatest advantage? knowing divine love. The last part of the book explores the difficulty and struggle which can accompany Christian discipleship and the importance of meditating on the truths of the gospel and the future grace that awaits.

Here are a few quotes to pique your interest. On the love of God...
The love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the divine perfections, which makes the soul resign and sacrifice itself wholly unto him, desiring above all things to please him, and delighting in nothing so much as in fellowship and communion with him, and being ready to do or suffer anything for his sake, or at his pleasure. Though this affection may have its first rise from the favors and mercies of God toward ourselves, yet doth it, in its growth and progress, transcend such particular considerations and ground itself on his infinite goodness, manifested in all the works fo creation and providence. 
On the satisfaction that is ours in Christ...
Behold on what sure foundation his happiness is built whose soul is possessed with divine love, whose will is transformed into the will of God, and whose greatest desire is, that his Maker should be pleased! Oh! the peace, the rest, the satisfaction that attendeth such a temper of mind!
And the secret to genuine humility...
[T]he deepest and most purest humility doth not so much arise from the consideration of our own faults and defects as from a clam and quiet contemplation of the Divine purity and goodness. Our spots never appear so clearly as when we place them before this Infinite Light...
I find Scougal's prayers to be particularly encouraging.
Fill our souls with such a deep sense, and full persuasion of those great truths which thou hast revealed in the Gospel, as may influence and regular our whole conversation, and that the life which we henceforth live in the flesh, we may live through faith in the Son of God. Oh! that the infinite perfections of thy blessed nature, and the astonishing expressions of thy goodness and love, may conquer and overpower our hearts, that they may be constantly rising toward thee in flames of devoutest affection, and enlarging themselves in sincere and cordial love toward all the world for thy sake, and that we may cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in thy fear, without which we can never hope to behold and enjoy thee. Finally, O God, grant that the consideration of what thou art, and what we ourselves are, may both humble and lay us low before thee, and also stir up in us the strongest and most ardent aspirations toward thee. 
George Whitefield (another dead theologian) reportedly claimed that he never knew what true religion was until he read Scougal's treatise. I wonder if you would agree? The Life of God in the Soul of Man is available in several places across the internet as a free download. I encourage you to read it, particularly if you are new to the whole reading-dead-guys deal. I think you'll be glad you did. And, please, be sure to let us know what you think!

This is last post in our dead guys series. I know we on the writing end enjoyed it and we hope you, our readers, did as well. We'd love to know what dead guys you would recommend. Did we highlight a book or author that was new to you? Have you read any of our recommendations? Comments and conversation are always welcome; we'd love to hear your thoughts!

1 comment:

  1. I'd not heard of this before, Lisa! Thanks for highlighting him!