The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal is at once a beautifully encouraging and incredibly convicting book.
It was originally written in 1677 as a letter to a friend struggling in his faith. I’ve written a good number of letters and emails in my life and none of them came close to looking anything like this. Scougal seeks to encourage his friend that true religion is primarily an inward, God-given divine life rather than an outward pattern of behavior or way of thought. The book is separated into three sections:
1. On Religion; the Nature and Divine Life; & the exemplification of Divine Love in our blessed Savior
2. On the Excellency of Religion & Divine Love
3. On the Difficulties and Duties of the Christian Life
It is a short book (but long letter!) and is packed full of beautifully written, thought provoking, God exalting truths. Because it was written a few hundred years ago, the language takes a little effort to get used to but this actually lends itself to the reader as it forces one to read slowly and carefully, not plowing quickly through but slowly digesting and meditating with many stops for prayer. I read this book because of the opening of John Piper’s book The Pleasures of God where he quotes from the beginning of the second section, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” Just that one statement alone was enough for me to put the book down, sit back and spend time pondering this truth and its implications for me personally, which then, led to a time of confession and thanksgiving to my Lord. Then I got on my computer and ordered the book and found that the entire text is full of statements such as these.
Here is a small taste of what you will read:
“He who hath given himself entirely unto God, will never think he doth too much for Him.”
“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 any thing for His sake, or at His pleasure.”
“I had rather see the real impressions of a God-like nature upon my own soul, than have a vision from heaven, or an angel sent to tell me that my name was enrolled in the book of life.”
“Love must needs be miserable, and full of trouble and disquietude, when there is not worth and excellency enough in the object to answer the vastness of its capacity…When once the soul is fixed on that supreme and all-sufficient good, it finds so much perfection and goodness, as doth not only answer and satisfy its affection, but master and overpower it too. It finds all its love to be too faint and languid for such a noble object, and is only sorry that it can command no more.”
“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 great desire is, that his Maker should be pleased! O the peace, the rest, the satisfaction that attendeth such a temper of mind!”
“Repentance itself is a delightful exercise, when it floweth from the principle of love. There is a secret sweetness which accompanieth those tears of remorse, those meltings and relentings of a soul returning unto God, and lamenting its former unkindness.”
I would recommend this book to any believer though, as it was written, specifically, to encourage one wavering in the faith not to fall away; It is especially relevant to one who is similarly struggling. I was moved to tears of joy and conviction on almost every page and was in an almost constant state of experiencing an overwhelming thankfulness for my salvation throughout. It is rare to find a page that is not marked in my copy and not uncommon to find one that is entirely underlined with stars and exclamation points abounding. Go buy it, read it, and be reminded of the gloriousness of our God, the infinite worth of our salvation, and the perfect joy we can have in the eternal Joy-Giver.