The Christian Life – Scougal


“I cannot speak of religion, but I must lament, that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means; some placing it in the understanding [i.e., the intellect], in orthodox notions and opinions; and all the account they can give of their religion is, that they are of this or the other persuasion, and have joined themselves to one of those many sects whereinto Christendom is most unhappily divided.

Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances; if they live peaceably with their neighbours, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of worship, frequent the church, or their [prayer] closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves.

Others again put all religion in the affections, in rapturous heats and ecstatic devotion; and all they aim at is, to pray with passion, to think of heave with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves that they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian graces.

Thus are these things which have any resemblance of piety, and at the best are but means of obtaining it, or particular exercises of it, frequently mistaken for the whole of religion. Nay, sometimes wickedness and vice pretend to that name. I speak not now of those gross impieties wherewith the heathens were wont to worship their gods; there are but too many Christians who would consecrate their vices, and hallow their corrupt affections, whose rugged humour, and sullen pride, must pass for Christian severity; whose fierce wrath, and bitter rage against their enemies, must be called holy zeal; whose petulancy towards their superiors, or rebellion against their governors, must have the name of Christian courage and resolution.”

Revd. Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man

Scougal (1650-1678) was a minister in the Scottish Anglican Church, and Professor of Philosophy and Divinity at the University of Aberdeen, an appointment he took at the age of nineteen.

One hundred years later a copy was sent to George Whitefield by his friend, Charles Wesley–it was instrumental in Whitefield’s conversion.

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