A Scottish mystic on the nature of true religion

Seventeenth Century Scottish mystic Henry Scougal wrote a book, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, that was much beloved by Susanna Wesley, her sons John and Charles, and George Whitefield, among others. In the book, he writes about the nature of true religion, setting it against the mistaken notions that religion consists in right doctrines or pious outward actions or emotional displays or anger masquerading as zeal for God. (Any of this sound familiar to Wesleyans?)

Scougal offered a counter that should be familiar to the heirs of Wesley.

But certainly religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it will entertain far different thoughts and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it. They know by experience that true religion is an union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or, in the apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within usBriefly, I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed than by calling it a divine life.

I find I cannot read the little book without hearing its words echoed by Wesley time and again.


3 thoughts on “A Scottish mystic on the nature of true religion

  1. “…anger masquerading as zeal for God.”
    There’s a man who occasionally stops by campus. I have no idea which one, but he’s from one of the churches in town. He spends most of the day aggressively condemning passing students in the name of their salvation. I feel that his religion must be in a pitiful state if haranguing others is the best way he can express it.

    What Scougal is saying here resonates with what I’ve been feeling for a little while now. Thanks for sharing.

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