Henry Scougal On The True Nature Of Religion

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, 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 neighbors, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of worship, frequent the church, or their 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 heaven 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 religion…
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 a 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 us’. Briefly, I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling it a Divine life…
Henry Scougal, The Life Of God In The Soul Of Man, [Scotland: Christian Focus Publications], pp. 42-44.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Henry Scougal On The True Nature Of Religion

  1. bluecollar

    Jeremy,

    As I see the aim of the apostle Paul in Galatians 4:19-“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” and The Father’s aim in Romans 8:29…”He also predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son” it would seem that the church, and pastors in particular, have lost sight of the goal of God’s Salvation in Christ. Perhaps we had better re-examine the Great commission where we are told to make disciples of all nations and teach them all to observe all that He has commanded–which would lead people down the road to conformity to Christ. Discipleship begins in the pulpit with the pastor endeavering to see the congregation
    take on the image of Christ, and is passed onto the world as Christians go out and express Jesus to the world

  2. Joe

    The only people Jesus lashed out at were the religious ones. Makes you wonder who to trust, doesn’t it?

    Well, of course, you and I know the answer to that one.

  3. Shawn L

    Jeremy,

    I agree with his conclusions at the end, but had a question.

    I don’t fully understand his disagreements with the first 2 sorts of people. Aren’t these evidences of grace in a person’s life who has been “hidden with God in Christ”. As these are evidences of grace and the nature of true religion?

  4. marc

    A great little book. I think it was a quote in Piper’s “Desiring God” that turned me on to it a few years ago.

  5. Rose~

    Jeremy,
    Thanks for sharing this guys thoughts with us. Good thoughts!

  6. Jeremy Weaver

    Shawn,
    Scougal was not saying that these things are not to be identified with true religion, but that these things are not to identified as true religion.
    As he says;
    “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 religion…”
    So his argument is that at its core religion is, “true religion is a 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 us’.”

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