Religion Better Understood by Actions Than by Words

I have been trying for weeks to figure out what to take and what not to take with me to Uganda, and as a friend of mine said yesterday, less is more. It seems no matter how little I take I’m still doing what I perceive a typical American would do, take too much stuff. So books are my big question mark left. I have several (actually more than several) books that I have been trying to read over the last several years and I would love to take them all with me and finish them on the first plane flight but can’t decide if I will actually read them. Three of these books at top on my list, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards with the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World (yes I know, the title is very long) by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards, and The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal. I have picked up and read all three, then put down, then picked up again, and so on… for years now.

I know these aren’t your traditional quick reads, and one is quite a bit beyond my comprehension. I have all of them in Kindle eBook for my iPad, paperback, and audiobook but keep going back to the paper bound books because of the depth of their words. This morning I was going through each of these three books thinking about my time in Uganda, our sponsor child, Joanita, who I hope to meet while I’m there, I came across this chapter in The Life of God in the Soul of Man, titled “Religion Better Understood by Actions than Words”. After re-reading that chapter I wanted to share Scougal’s words here today that help remind me why we go. The text is also available in Google Books here.

Religion Better Understood by Actions than by Words

When we have said all that we can, the secret mysteries of a new nature and divine life can never be sufficiently expressed; language and words cannot reach them: nor can they be truly understood but by those that are enkindled within, and awakened unto the sense and relish of spiritual things. There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding.

The power and life of religion may be better expressed in actions than in words’ because actions are more lively things, and do better represent the inward principle whence they proceed; and therefore we may take the best measure of those gracious endowments from the deportment of those in whom they reside; especially as they are perfectly exemplified in the holy life of our blessed Savior; a main part of whose business in this world, was, to teach by his practice what he did require of others, and to make his own conversation an exact resemblance of those unparalleled rules which he prescribed: so that if ever true goodness was visible to mortal eyes, it was then when his presence did beautify and illustrate this lower world.

I know that is kind of a mouth full for only two sentences, and not in the most current English, but Scougal’s words here are pretty incredible. That’s why this book has taken me so long to read. The words are incredible but I have to read each page several times. Once you do, the value is deep and lasting. Why do we go according to Scougal? Because this is what Jesus did and He is our ultimate example to follow. As Scougal says, our actions are better represented by the inward principle they represent. This is to say our actions proceed from where our heart resides, and to me, that’s very telling, and a little scary.

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