A Brief Recap of Gurnall’s Work
William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armour, is a monumental work. The Banner of Truth’s edition totals six hundred, double-columned pages. It covers Ephesians 6:10-20. That’s right, you read that correctly. Six hundred, double-columned pages for ten verses of Scripture. Such is the depth of Scripture, a bottomless chasm of truth and life. It also illustrates the capacity of God’s saints to provide excellent expositions of Scripture for the sheep.
Objections to the Power of God in the Believer’s Life
After discussing a doctrine, its evidences, and its applications, Gurnall then begins to answer this objection,
O but, saith some disconsolate Christian, I have prayed again and again for strength against such a corruption, and to this day my hands are weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are so strong, that I am ready to say, All the preachers do but flatter me, that do pour their oil of comfort upon my head, and tell me I shall at last get the conquest of these mine enemies, and see that joyful day wherein with David, I shall sing to the Lord, for delivering me out of the hands of all mine enemies. I have prayed for strength for such a duty, and find it come off as weakly and dead-heartedly [sic] as before. If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me? (Gurnall, 37)
Gurnall’s objection is a call for help when there seems to be no help. It is a hopeless cry, one that seems to go unanswered. The hypothetical objection declares the preacher’s declaration that he will go onto victory seems to be a mockery.
Surely, if you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have found yourself in this very position. You have a particular sin that seems to trip you up constantly. You have begged and pleaded with God to provide a way out, but the prayer always seem to go unanswered.
We find ourselves crying out, “If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?
Gurnall’s Third Answer
Gurnall’s third answer is wonderful. To this objection he replies,
If after long waiting for strength from God, it be as thou complainest [i.e., your prayers for deliverance are unanswered], inquire whether the το κατεχοις, that which hinders, be not found in thyself. (Gurnall, 40,emphasis his)
What Gurnall is saying is, that in the midst of unanswered prayers for deliverance, examine whether or not you are not found thankful. He goes on to elaborate ways in which we can display thanklessness with incredible lucidity. However, his second reply is what stood out to me today. He writes,
Art thou weak? Bless God thou hast life. Dost thou through feebleness often fail in duty, and fall into temptation? Mourn in the sense of these; yet bless God that thou dost not live in a total neglect of duty, out of a profane contempt thereof, and that instead of falling through weakness, thou dost not lie in the mire of sin through the wickedness of thy heart. The unthankful soul may thank itself it thrives no better. (Gurnall, 41)
Gurnall is saying that, even in the midst of the trials faced as a result of failures to resist temptation and to employ our efforts in duty, we can be thankful.
Gurnall’s Encouragement to Thankfulness
This is an incredible point. Gurnall is focusing on God’s work even in the midst of our failures. Perhaps you have met with failure after failure. That one sin may have tripped you up for the six-hundredth time. While not ignoring the need for sanctification and growth in holiness over that sin, you can rejoice that God is working in your heart and life. You can rejoice that, though you have fallen again, God is at work in other areas of your life. You can take joy in the fact that you do not “lie in the mire of sin through the wickedness of thy heart.” (Gurnall, 41)
This should encourage us! While we certainly mourn, as Gurnall remarks, over our sins, we do not mourn without hope. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10, ESV)
Rejoice, then, that even in the midst of failure you can be thankful!
Guided by Gurnall
For previous posts, see below: