It has been a while since I picked up William Gurnall’s mammoth book, The Christian in Complete Armour. However, I began reading it again, and as usual, my soul is blessed. I want to share a few quotes from the small section I read for your benefit. Let me encourage you, purchase this book! It will be a blessing to your soul as well.
In this section, Gurnall is describing the reason why Christians must be armed against the enemies of our souls. He divides this section up in various ways, but the section I read today addressed the stratagems of Satan. He offers five stratagems. We will not reiterate them here, but I do want to highlight a few.
First, he speaks of the stratagem of deceit. Gurnall writes, “He hands out false colours, and comes up to the Christian in the disguise of a friend, so that the gates are opened to him, and his motions received with applause, before either is discovered.” (75) He then goes on to discuss the different ways Satan deceives us (with several examples from Scripture). But his final statement bears repeating. “O what need have we to study the Scriptures, our hearts, and Satan’s wiles, that we may not bid this enemy welcome, and all the while think it is Christ that is our guest!” (75)
The devil is deceitful, far more deceitful than we can conceive. What is Gurnall’s advice? Study the Scriptures! Devote yourself to the Word of God. Study your own heart. Learn what tempts you. Study your propensities to deception. Finally, study the devil’s wiles. Learn how he operates. Look to the Word of God for example after example. You will be ready to withstand Satan’s wiles.
The second stratagem is Satan’s ability to gain what Gurnall calls “intelligence.” (75) Gurnall draws a graphic picture in our minds, “Satan is the greatest intelligencer in the world’ he makes it his business to inquire into the inclinations, thoughts, affections, purposes of the creature, that finding which humour abounds, he may apply himself accordingly,–[finding] which way the stream goes, that he may open the passage of temptation, and cut the channel to the fall of the creature’s affections, and not force it against the torrent of nature.” (76) How I need to study the Scriptures with this same intensity! Our enemy is tireless, always giving himself to studying his prey and their habits. What a humbling reality this is!
In another section describing the subtleties of the devil, Gurnall makes a comment that is profound, and one that for me helps me understand how some individuals who become popular leaders leave the faith. It also describes those popular teachers who are discovered to be wicked men and women. Gurnall states, “Yes, such is the policy of Stan, and the frailty of the best, that the most holy men have been his instruments to seduce others.” (82) I immediately thought of Ravi Zacharias, who happens to be the most recent example of this subtlety. While we should still be shocked, we should also remember that Satan uses well-known teachers and preachers to bring dishonor to the name of God.
These are a few thoughts that we would do well to heed. After so many years, we are still guided by Gurnall.
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For more guidance from Gurnall, check out the previous posts: