Book Reviews > Church History > The Works of Henry Scougal
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Henry Scougal (1650-78), although he died at the age of 28 and is not well known today, has had a significant impact on the church. During his life he served as professor at Kings College, Aberdeen, Scotland (twice), pastored a church and wrote. His best known work is The Life of God in the Soul of Man which had a significant impact on many in days past including George Whitefield (apparently leading to his conversion). More recently John Piper basically suggests that his book The Pleasures of God was inspired by the reading of Scougal's book. These are stimulants enough to read Scougal.
There are various editions of The Life of God in the Soul of Man available but this book also contains nine other sermons, nine private meditations, five essays and a sermon preached at Scougal's funeral. These items provide further insight into the life and ministry of this particularly blessed servant of God. The sermon, "The Importance and Difficulty of the Ministerial Function" from 2 Cor. 2:16 is particularly good. Charles Bridges references this sermon in his classic book, The Christian Ministry. Scougal grapples profoundly with the gravity of pastoral ministry, a topic sorely missing in our technique oriented discussions. One quote may help to demonstrate the tone of the sermon:
“But if the negligence and miscarriage of a minister hazards the souls of others, it certainly ruins his own; which made St. Chrysostom say (words so terrible that I tremble to put them into English), ‘If a man should speak fire, blood, and smoke; if flames could come out of his mouth instead of words; if he had a voice like thunder and an eye like lightning, he could not sufficiently represent the dreadful account that an unfaithful pastor shall make. What horror and confusion shall it cast them into at the last day to hear the blood of the Son of God plead against them, to hear our great Master say, ‘It was the purchase of My blood which ye did neglect! God died for these souls, of whom ye took so little pains!’ Think not, therefore, to be saved by that blood which ye have despised, or to escape the torments whereunto many others are plunged through your faults!’ By this time I hope it appears that the work of the ministry is of great weight and importance; that much depends on the right discharging of it, and that miscarrying in it is the most dangerous thing in the world.” (p. 235)
This book will be very profitable reading for anyone, particularly pastors, and I recommend it warmly.
Ray Van Neste
This review previously appeared in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 8.3 Fall 2004.