The life of God in the Soul of Man is written in the form of a letter to a friend who lost his religion a long time ago. The author uses a friendly, supportive and a tone of love to the one who is being addressed. Henry Scougal writes his thesis regarding the characteristics of true religion. According to him, only a few people understand what true religion is, while most are pretenders to it.
The literature is divided into three parts. In the first part, the author gives an insight to what entails the actual nature of religion. The first part addresses misconceptions of God, before turning to the conceptions of what genuine religion in the life of man. The second part talks about what benefits a true religion could bring. In this part, the author is concerned about the excellence of divine love, which is the true love worth having. On the third part, the author recognizes the challenges faced when following God, hence encourages dependence on divine assistance. He also encourages contemplation of the scripture in developing a Godly life.
Scougal identifies three places where there is an incorrect location of religion. According to him, in theological correctness, Christendom is unhappily divided. The unhappy division is because people put religion in the understanding of the various sects. Some place faith in the understanding of different notions like those of the orthodox. Some join themselves to different denominations depending on the notions that they feel are most convincing. Secondly, he asserts that religion is wrongly placed regarding moralistic reductionism. Here, men place faith in the outward man and view it as a model of performances where they have to fulfill certain external duties. If they observe the returns of worship, live with their neighbors peacefully, attend church frequently and extend a helping hand to the poor they think they have fulfilled what is required by religion. Thirdly, he asserts that religion is wrongly placed concerning emotions and affection. In this aspect, other people put religion in the affections of rapturous hearts. According to Scougal, such people are concerned about ecstatic devotion whereby they aim to pray with passion, feel affected with melting as they court their savior or think of heaven with pleasure. With such emotions, they convince themselves that they are in love with God and assume high confidence in regards to their esteem in Christianity.
Scougals perspective shows that none of the above factors can be isolated as true religion. Isolation of either concept distorts the virtue of worship and the essence of religion. Those who are acquainted with true religion will embrace the different thoughts and disregard the imitations of true religion. He further argues that divine life is a free and self- moving principle. He further shows how the principle takes four forms in a believer; faith, love, humility and purity.
Having defined the branches and the roots of divine life together with the advantages of Excellency, one would agree with the desirableness but the conclusion is sad because it is almost impossible to achieve divinity. Such achievement requires a new nature and not just the attainable visible physical body. This Classic by Scougal also deserves praise, but there is a problem the exposition. The exposition should be explicitly Christ centered. The author makes an assumption that all readers already know about Christ and that all they need to be taught about is true religion and faithful turning, as opposed to orthodoxies, emotionalism and legalism masquerading as Christianity and denying the truth. If the author could have elaborated the Christian union with Christ as seen in the New Testament; through transformation by the Holy Spirit and incorporation to Christs risen life; his treatise could have been stronger. In the New Testament, imitating Jesus is aimed at serving the Lord, and for humankind being born again is the only way of living, and it is impossible for the unregenerate. In the New Testament, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is like incorporation to Jesus risen life.
In conclusion, in the literature, we see a complete explanation on divine life in human souls, but there is a limitation as to how to get to the divine life or how it gets to mankind. However, the piece of work is like a tour on spiritual wisdom, which can be used to serve spiritual wayfarers.
Scougal, Henry, and George Garden. Life of God in the Soul of Man. Pierce and Williams, 1831.
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