Guided by Gurnall

It has been a while since last we visited Gurnall’s exposition on Ephesians 6:10-20.

You can check out the previous posts here and here.

We pick up in verse ten, where Paul writes, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

We are now on page 25 of Gurnall’s work, and an incredible thought came from his pen. He is working with “An amplification of the direction, ‘and in the power of his might’”. (Gurnall, 24) His goal is to present several doctrinal implications and their respective outflow in the life of the believer. It is wonderful. In his exposition, however, he develops an idea that I shall reproduce in its entirety:

As a father in rugged way gives his child his arm to lay old by, so doth God usually reach forth his almighty power for his saints to exercise their faith on, [as He did for] Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose faith God tried above most of his saints before or since, for not one of those great things which were promised to them did they live to see performed in their days. And how doth God make known himself to them for their support, but by displaying this attribute? ‘I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name of God Almighty,’ Ex. vi. 3.This was all they had to keep house with all their days: with which they lived comfortably, and died triumphantly, bequeathing the promise to their children, not doubting, because God Almighty had promised, of the performance. (Gurnall, 25)

Whoa! I suggest you read and reread that again. Though the language is archaic, its point is nonetheless potent. These men lived incredible lives of faith on the Word of God. How wonderfully limited this Word was! And yet, the faith was not in the amount or clarity of words, but in the One Who is the Word. I was gripped by two thoughts:

  1. If these men were able to accept the revelation given by God, though limited in comparison to today, how can I speak otherwise.By this I mean, how can I question God with the vast amount of revelation we have in the Scriptures? Though by human nature I may seek more knowledge, greater clarification, or understanding to God’s work in the world, this should never leave me frustrated or angry with God. I must rejoice in the vast amount of revelation that I so often take for granted.
  2. Secondly, do I enjoy the blessings of God more than the God of the blessings? I think this happens to everyone. It is easy to enjoy the creaturely blessings with which God blesses us. While working through Gurnall’s work I have also been reading Ephesians almost daily. The opening paragraph speaks of the spiritual blessings believers have in Christ. Paul, however, opens with the focus on God. He writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV) God, let my focus remain on You and You alone!

I close with the words of a prayer titled Longings After God, from Banner of Truth’s Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

My Dear Lord,

I can but tell thee that thou knowest

               I long for nothing by thyself

               Nothing but holiness

               Nothing but union with thy will.

Thou has given me these desires,

               And thou alone canst give me the thing desired.

My soul longs for communion with thee,

               For mortification of indwelling corruption,

                              Especially spiritual pride.

How precious it is

               To have a tender sense and clear apprehension

                              Of the mystery of godliness,

                              Of true holiness!

What a blessedness to be like thee

               As much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator!

Lord, give me more of thy likeness;

Enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness:

Engage me to live more for thee.

Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences,

               And when I feel at ease after sweet communings,

               Teach me it is far too little I know and do.

Blessed Lord,

               Let me climb up near to thee,

               And love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with them

               And pant for deliverance from the body of sin,

               For my heart is wandering and lifeless,

               And my soul mourns to think

                              It should ever lose sight of its beloved.

Wrap my life in divine love,

               And keep me ever desiring thee,

Always humble and resigned to thy will,

               More fixed on thyself,

               That I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.



Guided by Gurnall

We continue our guided tour through Ephesians 6:10-20 with William Gurnall. I have been blessed, encouraged, and convicted by Gurnall’s exposition. I’m only 17 pages in!

William Gurnall wrote this about Jesus, encouraging believers to “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.”

“For prowess, none to compare with him: he never turned his head from danger: no, not when hell’s malice and heaven’s justice appeared in field against him; knowing all that should come upon him, [he] went forth and said, ‘Whom seek ye?’ Jn. xviii. 4. For success insuperable: he never lost battle even when he lost his life: he won the field, carrying the spoils thereof in the triumphant chariot of his ascension, to heaven with him: where he makes an open show of them to the unspeakable joy of saints and angels.” (16-17)

These are so powerful! I especially love, “when hell’s malice and heaven’s justice appeared in field against him; knowing all that should come upon him, [he] went forth and said, ‘Whom seek ye?’ Jn. xviii. 4.” Our Savior, the Captain of our faith (Hebrews 2:10), is truly the Mighty God.

Guided by Gurnall

This initial post will be an ongoing project as I work my way through William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour, published by Banner of Truth.

This series of sermons comes from Ephesians 6:10-20.

In one of his dedications he writes, “The subject of the treatise is solemn; A War between the Saint and Satan, and that so bloody a one, that the cruelest which was ever fought by men will be found but sport and child’s play to this. It is a spiritual war that you shall read of; and that not a history of what was fought many ages past and is now over, but of what is now doing—the tragedy is at present acting—and that not at the furthest end of the world, but what concerns thee and every one that reads it. The stage whereon this war is fought is every man’s own soul. Here is no neuter in this war. The whole world is engaged in the quarrel, either for God against Satan, or for Satan against God.” (emphasis his, Gurnall, v)

With these solemn, weighty words, I was eager to engage! What depths of the Scriptures has Gurnall dove that will draw strength for me in this war? It only took a few pages into the very first verse (Ephesians 6:10) before Gurnall began to tune my heart to the power of God’s Word.

For this first guide, I shall take Gurnall’s first point, namely “The Christian is to proclaim and prosecute an irreconcilable war against his bosom sins; those sins which have lain nearest his heart, must now be trampled under his feet.” (emphasis his, Gurnall, 13)

He goes on to write, “So David, ‘I have kept myself from iniquity.’ Now what courage and resolution does this require?” (Gurnall, 13) He then uses Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac as unable to equal the power our “bosom sins” hold over us, how desperate and difficult the task truly is. He passionately cries, “Yet, what was that to this? Soul, take thy lust, thy only list, which is the child of thy dearest love, thy Isaac, the sin which has caused most joy and laughed, from which thou hast promised thyself the greatest return of pleasure or profit; as ever thou lookest to see my face with comfort, lay hands on it and offer it up: pour out the blood of it before me; run the sacrificing knife of mortification into the very heart of it; and this freely, joyfully, for it is no pleasing sacrifice that is offered with a countenance cast down—and all this now before thou hast one embrace more from it. Truly this is a hard chapter, flesh and blood cannot bear this saying; our lust will not lie so patiently on the altar, as Isaac, or as a ‘Lamb that is brought to the slaughter which was dumb,’ but will roar and shriek; yea, even shake and rend the heart with its hideous outcries.” (Gurnall, 13)

Paul opens this section of the Christian and the war by encouraging, “Finally, be strong in the Lord…” (Ephesians 6:10, ESV) Gurnall’s exhortation is drawn from this one verse. Actually, it is the idea found in “be strong”. He denotes this doctrine as “The Christian of all men needs courage and resolution.”

I sat in my living room floor floored. I have read that verse dozens of times, and never has its power and implications hit me as hard as when exposited by this Puritan preacher.

Have you seen the seriousness of the battle at hand? Do you see the need for courage in God for this fight? Do you see how vicious, destruction, and unrelenting the enemy of sin is to your soul? I have not felt the weight of it until now. And lest you leave this initial post discouraged at how great the battle is and how malevolent our inner-enemy is, remember from Whom our strength comes: it is the God who, when He speaks, things happen (Genesis 1:3), it is the God at whose presence the whole earth trembles (Psalm 33:8; 114:7), it is the God who made an open show of our dastardly enemies (Colossians 2:15). Take courage, be strong in the Lord, and fight!

John Owen famously preached, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” (On the Mortification of Sin) Brothers and sisters, let us be killing sin.

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part Three

How do we sanctify God? We have been looking at this thought, brought from the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9. Thomas Manton, a Puritan preacher, has walked us through very practical ways in which we can sanctify God. We have noticed how God is sanctified upon us in judgment and by us in our lives. We can sanctify God in thoughts, words, and actions. (Manton, 86) We have examined how to sanctify God in thoughts and words, and now we will look at how to sanctify God in our actions.

Manton begins by dividing our actions into two things: worship and ordinary conversation (or lifestyle).

Sanctifying God in Worship

Manton writes, “In our worship, there God especially will be sanctified.” (Manton, 87) He goes on to write, “God is very tender of his worship: sancta sanctis, holy things must be managed by holy men in a holy manner. Therefore, what is it to sanctify God when we draw night to him? To have a more excellent frame of heart in worship than we have about other things.”

When we worship God, we must remember Who we are worshiping. Manton cites Ecclesiastes 5:1. Feel the reverence and seriousness of this verse, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.” We would do well to consider the seriousness of worship. I am slowly (very slowly) working my way through R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell’s The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry. The very first chapter addresses Sunday worship. In the chapter, specifically pages 32-38 provide a walkthrough of Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 in which they address the seriousness of worship.

Manton ends the section with these weighty words, “We must not go about these holy services hand over head, but with great caution and heed.” (Manton, 87)

Sanctifying God in Ordinary Conversation

Our lives can either sanctify God or dilute His good Name. Manton quips that to sanctify God is, “When our life is ordered so that we may give men occasion to say, that surely he is a holy God whom we serve.” (Manton, 87) This, according to Manton, can be accomplished two ways:

  1. “When you walk as remembering you have a holy God.” (Manton, 87) We should build our lives around the truth that God is holy. The Wesminster Confession of Faith describes God as, “…most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands.” (WCF 2.2) In another point Manton observes that God’s holiness “…is that which God counteth to be his chief excellency, and the glory which he will manifest among the sons of men.” (Manton, 88) God is, according to the angels, holy, holy, holy (see Isaiah 6:3). When we remember that God is holy, our lives will be different. We will seek to be like our holy God in our speech (Ephesians 4:29) and in our interactions with each other (Ephesians 5:1-6:9). Manton, bridging off this idea, comments, “Therefore you must be watchful and strict.” (Manton, 87)
  2. “When you walk as discovering to others you have a holy God.” (Manton, 87) This is a wordy way of saying practice what you preach. One of the greatest hindrances to the Christian faith is hypocrisy. If you want some proof of this, check our Barna’s research on this. Manton notes the issues surrounding this, “A carnal worshipper profaneth the memory of God in the world.” (Manton, 88) One of the dangers of living a life rightly structured is human moralism. Not unaware of this, Manton warns, “We should discover (or make known) more than a human excellency, that so those which look upon us may say, These are the servants of the holy God.” (Manton, 88) When Christians sanctify God in action they “discovereth what a God he hath.” (Manton, 88)

So, Christian, are you sanctifying God? We have noted three ways in which we can sanctify God: in thought, speech, and action. Let every aspect of our being sanctify God!

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part Two

In a previous post we examined Manton’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, namely, how to sanctify God’s name. We noted that God is sanctified upon us and by us. We say that we can sanctify God in our thoughts, looking at maintaining a biblical view of God in our minds and staying close to God during times of difficulties.

Today we are going to walk with Manton as he teaches us how to sanctify God with our tongues (or speech).

Manton gives three ways we can do this:

  • “God is sanctified with our tongues, when we use God’s name, titles, ordinances, and word, as holy things.” (Manton, 87)
  • “When we speak of the Lord with reverence, and with great seriousness of heart, not taking his name in vain” (Manton, 87)
  • “When we are deeply affected with his praise.” (Manton, 87)

Let us look at each individually and discover practical ways that we can apply them.

Using God’s name, titles, ordinances, and word as holy things.

One aspect of Judaism that I admire is their reverence for God. The Scriptures portray God as holy (see Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:3; and Revelation 4:8). This is his “beauty” (see Stephen Charnock’s quote in A. W. Pink’s The Attributes of God, 41). The most common name for God in Rabbinic Judaism is “The Holy One, Blessed Be He” (see Abraham Cohen’s Everyman’s Talmud, 22). This refers to God’s name. What about His titles? What about His ordinances (or works)? Or His Word? Do we reverence these?

Take our Bibles, for example. Do you place God’s Word on the ground? Do you sling it into the pew, on your book shelf, or leave it all week in the back of your car? One way that we can sanctify God is to treat His name, titles, ordinances, and word with great reverence.

Speaking about God with reverence and seriousness, avoiding taking His name in vain.

The command in Exodus 20:7 is, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This, indeed, is a serious matter. One way in which we can sanctify God in our speech is to speak reverently of the Holy One of Israel. To take something in vain is to treat it as common.

How do we do this? One example is in our prayers. If, when we pray, we say “God,” “Father God,” and “Lord,” sixty times in a short prayer, we may be taking His name in vain. I said may, because I cannot see an individual’s heart. However, if we say God’s name repeatedly, it can become common.

Another way in which can sanctify God’s name is by speaking with it lovingly and reverently. Too often I find myself using God’s name in a nonchalant way. When we speak about God, we must treat His name in a holy way. We should take great care in not rushing through it, or speaking of it in a light manner. Let us speak about God with reverence, thus sanctifying Him in our speech.

Being deeply affected with God’s praise.

This method seems off when compared with the other two. Perhaps that is because we are more familiar with the first two, and we are not as well versed in the biblical foundation for worship. Our hearts should be affected. The older usage of the word deals more with the emotions, or affections (Jonathan Edwards uses this definition in his work, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, in Three Parts.) Manton states, “It is no slight thing to praise God.” (Manton, 87)

It is not slight thing to praise God. -Manton

I think of my wife. She is, other than God, my greatest treasure. She is always so kind, loving, and sweet. She adores our three children, always finding new ways to express her charity toward them. She is my life. I cannot imagine going through a day without expression some form of praise to her. This is the idea of our praise to God. On an infinitely higher plane, God deserves our praise. Manton references Psalm 51:15 and 45:1 as texts that support this thought. One can always return to 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul encourages, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Imagine if we walked through our day constantly praising our incredibly holy, loving, and sovereign God! This would change our lives! So, sanctify God through praises.

Meditate on these practical exhortations of Thomas Manton. Live in the Lord’s Prayer, and daily sanctify God in your life!

How to Sanctify God: Practical Progress from the Puritans, Part One

Photo by Andreas P. on Unsplash

The Puritans were extremely practical people. They loved the Scripture, but they loved the application of Scripture as well. This is one of the reasons I am drawn to the Puritans.

Enter my wife: one Christmas she purchased me a set of Thomas Manton and Thomas Brooks. I am alternating between the two, working my way through one at a time. I was delighted with Thomas Brooks’ first volume, and I eagerly began Mr. Manton’s.

Currently, I am working my way through his Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. The doctrine he presents from Matthew 6:9 is, “That God will be so glorified in the world as that his name may be hallowed or sanctified.” (Manton, 85)

He asks the question, “How many ways is God’s name sanctified?” (Manton, 86) and then answers:

  1. “Upon us, by the righteous executions and judgments of his providence.” (Manton, 86) This thought struck me, for it both profound and yet simple. God gets glory from the righteous as well as the unrighteous.I always found it difficult to grasp how the unrighteous could glorify God. Paul’s description of the unrighteous is anything but flattering (see Romans 1:18-32). God is sanctified when He, through His righteousness, judges the wicked. This, God’s name can be sanctified upon us.
  2. “By us. And so he is sanctified in our thoughts, words, and actions; in our heart, tongue, or life.” (Manton, 86)This is where Thomas Manton gets practical. How can one sanctify God in one’s thoughts?
    1. Sanctifying God in our thoughts:
      1. “When we have awful thoughts of his majesty (Psalm 111:9). (Manton, 86) This is so important, because we often bring God down to our own level. We refer to Him as “daddy”. Of course, we must balance a high view of God with the truth of His immanence and fatherhood (see, for example, Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6). Yet, when individuals get a glimpse of the Sovereign God, they are not running up to Him and calling Him daddy; they are bowing before His infinite majesty (see Isaiah 6 and Revelation 1). When we envision God in His unlimited glory we sanctify Him in our thoughts.
      2. “More especially God is sanctified when, in straits, difficulties, and dangers, we can bear ourselves upon the power and sufficiency of God, and go on resolutely and cheerfully with our duty, notwithstanding discouragements.” (Manton, 86) Manton is referring to a resolute trust in the Sovereign God. Rather than focusing on the problems at hand, we choose to focus on the Perfect God. Manton writes, “To sanctify God is to set apart, as the alone object of fear and trust, that he alone is to be feared and trusted, so that we can see no match for God among the creatures; therefore we are to embolden ourselves in the Lord, and go on cheerfully, when we can counterbalance all fears and dangers with his surpassing excellency.” (Manton, 86) What help! O, how much our souls be blessed and encouraged were we to constantly dwell on our Mighty Maker!

We shall take up the remainder of how to sanctify God in our hearts. Brothers and sisters, sanctify God in your thoughts. May you ever dwell on the Divine Lord, our Heavenly Father. Be lost in the fields of His infinite strength. Fly through the endless space of His unrivaled rule. Sleep soundly in the bed of His ever-watching care.

With Manton we agree, “It is a practical acknowledgement of God’s matchless excellency. Thus we sanctify God in our hearts.” (Manton, 87)


*You can purchase Thomas Brooks’ and Thomas Manton’s works from the Banner of Truth. I cannot recommend them highly enough.