Guided by Gurnall: Part Thirteen

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.

Purchase the book here!

For more guidance from Gurnall, check out the previous posts:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Twelve

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Manton’s Clarification for Trials

Thomas Manton, the puritan pastor, and remarkable mind wrote An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer (published by Banner of Truth Trust). It is a wonderful study, not only because he provides an explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, but primarily because he does so as a pastor.

Like someone juicing an orange, Thomas Manton squeezes out each drop of goodness and help from this brief Prayer. He incorporates Scripture examples, earthly analogies, and witty phrases to help us get as much out of this wonderful prayer as possible.

In Matthew 6:13, Jesus prays, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (KJV) As Manton begins to develop the thoughts, he provides a helpful discussion on trials. These thoughts would be beneficial for all believers to read and embrace.

First, Manton informs us that “God’s tempting is not to inform himself, but to discover his creatures to themselves and others.”[1] That is to say, God tests us for us to know ourselves better. God already knows everything there is to know, including about his creatures. We are like men standing on the banks of the river, as Manton describes God’s knowledge,

“As a man that is up in the air may see a river in its rise, and fountain, and course, and fall of it—seeth it all at once; whereas another which stands by the banks can only see the water as it passeth by. God seeth all things in their fountain and cause, as well as in their issue and event—he seeth all things together; therefore it is not for his own information.”[2]

We need to have our eyes open. At times, we have sin that has crept into our hearts. Trials produce a magnifying glass to that infection. At other times, we need to have our faith strengthened. When astronauts return from space, they are often weaker because gravity has not tried their muscles. Trials are to the faith of the Christian what gravity is to the muscles of the astronaut.

Second, Manton writes, “God’s tempting is always good, and for good; his tempting is either in mercy or in judgment.”[3] Christians love the first phrase, but often we find ourselves saddened by the latter. The testing of God is an extension of His goodness. Petrus Van Mastricht defines God’s goodness as, “nothing but that perfection of his through which he can communicate himself and deserves to be desired, and must be.”[4] That is, God communicates through goodness, and therefore by extension, through testing. This in no way implies that testing is enjoyable, for as Manton notes God’s testing often comes in the form of judgment. But even this, notes the pastor, is for good. Referencing Hebrews 12:10, Manton uses the punishments of parents as an example of the goodness of God’s trials for the believer. God’s tests are always good.

Third, Manton mentions that “God tempts no man, as temptation is taken properly for a solicitation to sin.”[5] Citing James 1:13, he reminds us that we are never tempted by God to sin. At times, we can be guilty of imagining God’s temptations as temptations to sin, but this is not so. Again, he offers wise pastoral advice, “In temptation, we must distinguish between the mere trial, and the solicitation to sin; the mere trial, that is from God; but the solicitation to sin, that is from Satan and ourselves.”[6] This aligns perfectly with Scripture.

Fourth, and perhaps to remove a potentially harmful understanding, Manton pens this, “When we say, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ we do not beg a total exemption from God’s trials, but only a removal of the judgment of them.”[7] While we do not go about seeking pain and difficulties, we should in no wise attempt to avoid them. We can, as we grow in our understanding of both trials and God’s sovereignty, learn to embrace them.[8] Manton provides excellent pastoral insight at this point, “Prosperity tries us, to see if we be then mindful of God when all things succeed well; and adversity tries us, to see if we can patiently depend upon God.”[9] We should take advantage of each possibility that the sovereign Lord brings into our path.

Fifth, Manton writes, “In passive evils, which are the usual trials of God’s people, we are not to seek them, but to submit to them when they come upon us.”[10] This may cause us to cringe. It goes against our natures. When we are in pain we seek alleviation. For example, when we have a headache, we take Tylenol. If have acid reflux we take an antiacid. But passive evils, that is the difficulty caused by others or simply the byproducts of living in a fallen world, are to be utilized. Manton notes, “Afflictions are not to be sought and desired, but improved.”[11]

Jerry Bridges discusses this important and painful experience of the believer, writing,

Fortunately God does not ask us how or when we want to grow. He is the Master Teacher, training His pupils when and how He deems best. He is, in the words of Jesus, the Gardener who prunes the branches of His vineyard….God does not delight in our sufferings. He brings only that which is necessary, but He does not shrink from that which will help us grow.[12]

Therefore, when God brings passive evils into our lives, let us not seek deliverance but understanding and growth.

Sixth, Manton describes the mercy and grace God provides His children during trials and temptations. “When God tempts us, or trieth his people in mercy, he hath a great deal of care of them under their trials,” he writes.[13] It seems that, at times of trials, we forget the supreme love of God for His children. Christian, He loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins (see 1 John 3:1; 4:8-10). Yet, for some reason, believers forget this. Manton, in his pastoral way, reminds us that “The Lord will observe his people when they are under trial, how to moderate affliction, how to refresh them with seasonable comfort, that all this might better them, and bring them to good.”[14] Like a master goldsmith, Manton reminds us, He knows how much heat to apply, how long to leave the metal in the flames, and when to pull to the metal out of the flame.[15]

Seventh, the purpose of trials is to develop Christlike growth (see Rom. 8:29). Manton connects the purpose to the trial by declaring, “Though in our trials we manifest weakness as well as grace, yet that weakness is to be done away.”[16] As fallen human beings, we are being restored into the image of Christ. This is a process of restoration, though, and many are our weaknesses. The Shepherd of our souls can help bring our attention to these weaknesses in trials. Our attention to them, however, is only part of the process. We are to weed the gardens of our hearts. We are, Manton reminds us, “You must remember that weakness is manifested that it may be removed…”[17] Bridges refers to this as pruning, and he helpfully adds,

In the spiritual realm, God must prune us. Because even as believers we still have a sinful nature, we tend to pour our spiritual energies into that which is not true fruit [i.e., weaknesses]. We tend to seek position, success, and reputation even in the body of Christ. We tend to depend upon natural talents and human wisdom. And then we are easily distracted and pulled by the things of the world—its pleasures and possessions.[18]

Seek to determine your weaknesses in the trial, and then seek to destroy them.

Eighth, we would do well to remember the point of our existence, even amid trials. Manton remarks, “God permits us to be tempted of Satan and his instruments for his glory and our good.”[19] One of the wonders of the Christian life is that one can glorify God while simultaneously experience good growth. We far too often neglect the glory of God to our detriment. Paul, as Manton mentions, experienced trials at the hand of a “messenger of Satan.”[20] To keep Paull humble, God allowed a severe trial in his life. Even after praying three times, God refused Paul’s request, replying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”[21] Our existence is meant to bring glory to God, and Manton states, “We should be glad that God be gloried, though with our great inconvenience. And it is for our good; to correct our pride and vainglory.”[22] Amid trials, even painful trials, we should seek to glorify God, and this will result in our good.

Ninth, and finally, Manton writes, “When God permitteth Satan to exercise us, though he suspends the victory, yet if he give us grace to fight and to maintain the combat, it is a great mercy.”[23] This one is a little difficult but is true and helpful nonetheless. In our trials, those times where Satan and his minions attack us, we often pray for deliverance. Yet, even in a no from God, we can see that His no is accompanied by grace to stand firm. We noticed Paul’s prayer in the previous point. What was God’s reply? “My grace is sufficient for you.” Paul was reminded that God’s grace was present in His struggle. “So if God give strength to the soul, it is an answer, though he do not take off the trial,” writes Manton.

Manton offers us a treasure trove of pastoral and practical wisdom concerning this request. The Lord’s Prayer is a bottomless, remarkable passage of Scripture. The next time you find yourself praying the Lord’s Prayer, remember these words from the puritan preacher Thomas Manton.


[1] Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton Volume I (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 1993), 202.

[2] Manton, Works, 202.

[3] Ibid., 203.

[4] Petrus Van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology Volume 2: Faith in the Triune God, trans. By Todd M. Rester, ed. By Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 331.

[5] Manton, Works, 203.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] To help you grow in your understanding of God’s sovereignty, I highly recommend you read chapter 5 of the London Baptist Confession of Faith and the accompanying proof texts.

[9] Manton, Works, 204.

[10] Ibid., 204.

[11] Ibid., 205.

[12] Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 187-189.

[13] Manton, Works, 205.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Bridges, Trusting God, 193.

[19] Manton, Works, 205.

[20] 2 Corinthians 12:7, ESV.

[21] 2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV.

[22] Manton, Works, 205.

[23] Ibid.


For more by Manton, please visit this link.

Check out some of my other posts:

FULL PARDON, WONDERFUL GRACE

Have you ever sinned against God, had your conscience rear up and bite you, and then confess your sins (1 John 1:9)? What is the next thing that happens?

I have often found myself beset by guilt. Guilt is an odd concept, and an even odder feeling. The Cambridge Dictionary defines guilt as “feeling of worry or unhappiness that you have because you have done something wrong, such as causing harm to another person.” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/guilt, accessed 27 August 2020).

It is this feeling of worry or unhappiness that often accompanies our confession. True, we have communicated to God what we have done. And true, we believe the Scriptures when they say “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV) But there seems to be a disconnect between the facts of forgiveness and the feelings of guilt. What is the Christian to do?

Thomas Manton, in his masterful exposition of the Lord’s Prayer printed by the Banner of Truth Trust, discusses this. He writes, “It is full pardon.” (Manton, 196)

It is true, for a while after they may trouble the conscience, as when the storm ceaseth, the waves roll for a while afterwards; so may sin in the consciences of God’s children work trouble, after the fiducial application of the blood of Christ. But the storm ceaseth by degrees; and it is possible that the commitment of new sins may revive old guilt, as a new strain may make us sensible of an old bruise.”

Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton Volume I (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 196.

What Manton does is calm the guilt, like the storm-tossed sea, it takes time. While God fully and unequivocally forgives, the conscience rages from the left over storms of sin. It takes time, in other words, for our feelings to catch up with the biblical fact of forgiveness.

The implications, then, should be evident. When you sin, you must confess that sin. When you confess that sin, God forgives that sin. When God forgives that sin, regardless of how you feel, you are forgiven. There is nothing more to confess. Therefore, we must let unbiblical guilt to rule our lives. We must move forward, to pick up again the armor of the Lord (Eph. 6:10-20), we must reignite the light that must be displayed to the world for the glory of God (Matt. 5:14).

When God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, saves you, you experience full pardon. Is this not wonderful grace? Why? Because, “Justice hath no more to seek of Christ.” (Manton, 197)

Guided by Gurnall: Part Twelve

William Gurnall, following the consistent practice of Puritan preachers, offers a doctrine first and then provides several reasons for the doctrine.

As we have journeyed through The Christian In Complete Armour, we have learned much about the armor of God. In this section, Gurnall offers the following doctrine:

It is not enough to have grace, but this grace must be kept in exercise. (Gurnall, 63-64)

In this “fourth branch,” Gurnall is discussing the “put on” aspect of the armor of God. In Ephesians 6:11, Paul commands the believer, “Put on the armor of God…” (ESV) As Gurnall notes, “It is one thing to have armour in the house, and another thing to have it buckled on; to have grace in the principle, and grace in the act.” (Gurnall, 63)

 

This armor is to be used, as Gurnall mentions. Noting the lifelong excursion of spiritual war, Gurnall informs the believer that “Our armour and our garment of flesh go off together; then, indeed, will be no need of watch and ward, shield or helmet.” (Gurnall, 64)

 

“FIRST. CHRIST COMMANDS US TO HAVE OUR ARMOUR ON, OUR GRACE IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 63)

 

What Gurnall is telling us is that we must be busy about the work God has given us to do. We must endeavor to follow Peter’s pattern in 2 Peter 1:3-11. Peter remarks on this need for growth by describing our state, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8, ESV)

 

The spiritual disciplines are a must for the believer. In my brief ministerial experience, many Christians complain of defeat in the face of temptation, struggles with sinful thoughts, and joyless living. When I ask them how their time with God has been, I come to find out that it is almost non-existent.

 

How can you increase your growth? There are two helpful resources I would recommend. First, Dr. Jim Berg’s book Changed Into His Image: God’s Plan for Transforming Your Life is an excellent work with an accompanying study guide. This book provides a treatment of the Christian life with practical applications. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Second, Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life. As with Dr. Berg’s book, Spiritual Disciplines has a study guide. Whitney offers a treatment of the various spiritual disciplines (such as Scripture intake, prayer, fasting, etc.).

 

Put on your armor, Christian, and exercise the grace that has been given to you!

 

“SECOND. SATAN’S ADVANTAGE IS GREAT WHEN GRACE IS NOT IN EXERCISE.” (Gurnall, 64)

It is easier, says Gurnall, for Satan to trip you up when you are not growing in grace (i.e., wearing the armor of God). Consider an athlete. The individual trains and enhances their skill in the sport in which they compete. However, when the individual fails to train with consistent intensity, they fail at the sport. Likewise, when Christians fail to grow in grace, Satan is granted easy access to further harm you and help you sin.

 

The devil and forces of evil are given the upper hand when the Christian fails to practice his or her grace. How many dear brothers and sisters pack the pews on Sundays as defeated by the great adversary of our souls because of inactivity!

 

“THIRD. BECAUSE IT IS SO AWKY A BUSINESS, AND HARD A WORK, TO RECOVER THE ACTIVITY OF GRACE ONCE LOST, AND TO REVIVE A DUTY IN DISUSE.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

Remember, Gurnall is discussing the need to use the armor, not to simply own it. It is easy, reasons Gurnall, to maintain and grow in grace then it is to restart it. Now, we must take caution here and not that Gurnall is not discussing a Christian’s loss of his or her salvation. It is eternal redemption. However, he is not wrong in this sentiment.

 

Consider his elaboration, “The longer a soul hath neglected duty, the more ado there is to get it take up; partly, through shame, the soul having played truant, now know not how to look God in the face; and partly, from the difficulty of the work, being double to what another finds that walks in the exercise of his grace.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

It is easier to maintain a car through consistent oil changes, tune-ups, and gas refills than it is to leave it idle for years. Most of the car’s operating systems would need to be replaced and fixed before operable. Christian, maintain your vehicle! Daily intake the Word of God and pray, attend church services with your fellow brothers and sisters, nourish your should through the spiritual disciplines. Neglect not your armor!

 

“FOURTH. WE MUST KEEP GRACE IN EXERCISE IN RESPECT OF OTHERS OUR FELLOW-SOLDIERS.” (Gurnall, 65)

 

Here Gurnall discusses one of the most important aspects, though often neglected, of the Christian life. Christianity involves a community, or fellowship, to use the biblical word (see 1 John 1:3, for example). We were meant to live together.

 

Though we are currently in social distancing due to the coronavirus, Christians were never meant to live the Christian life alone. We need each other. And one of the many responsibilities that you have to your brothers and sisters (and indeed all of us) is for the benefit of them.

 

We don our armor for them. Gurnall notes, “Thus, Christian, thou art to be helpful to thy fellow-brethren , who have not that settlement of peace in their spirit as thyself, not that measure of grace or comfort.” (Gurnall, 66)

 

In other words, Christians need you to live the Christian life to encourage them to continue pressing on! One of the most encouraging ministers I know is John MacArthur. He has pastored his church for fifty years. He is committed to the expository preaching of God’s Word. And for fifty years he has opened the Scriptures and expounded upon them, living in and among his people. They have observed his doctrine and his way of life, and he is still their pastor. His faithfulness is a challenge to me!

 

You never know what encouragement you offer to your fellow brothers and sisters. Thus, we must for their sake and ours, don the armor of God.

 

CONCLUSION

 

God has given us armor to wear, not to collect dust. Likewise, He has provided the sacred Scriptures to help our knowledge of Him increase, to provide guidance for our lives as we grow in godliness. Are we putting it to good use? Are we donning our armor daily? Or, are we neglecting the state of our souls?

 

Brothers and sisters let us consider the words of Gurnall solemnly. Let us, therefore, put on the whole armor of God.

 

____________________

For more guidance from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided By Gurnall: Part Eleven

In expositing Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall seeks to distill every ounce of truth from the mines of spiritual warfare. It is a tremendous work, both in its length and in its content.

In the present section, Gurnall is describing the need for the whole armor of God (see Eph. 6:11). Up to this point, he has made mention of the need for the armor, what the armor consists of, and why the Christian must bear it.

Now Gurnall focuses on the extent of the armor or the completeness of it. He discusses it in a “threefold respect.” (Gurnall, 58) These are:

  • “FIRST. He must be armed in every part cap-a-pie, soul and body, the powers of the one, and senses of the other, not any part left naked.” (Gurnall, 58)
  • “SECOND. The Christian must be in complete armour, in regard of the several pieces and weapons, that make up the whole armour of God.” (Gurnall, 58)
  • “THIRD. The entireness of the saint’s armour may be taken not only for every part and piece of the saint’s furniture, but for the completeness and perfection of every piece.” (Gurnall, 83)

These are excellent points that well deserve our attention. We will examine these briefly.

“FIRST. He must be armed in every part cap-a-pie, soul and body, the powers of the one, and senses of the other, not any part left naked.” (Gurnall, 58)

In other words, the whole armor involves the whole body. Every inch must be protected in order to wage war against the enemy of our souls. Gurnall remarks, “Our enemies are on every side, and so must our armour be.” (Gurnall, 58)

He notes several examples of individuals in the Scripture who had one area unprotected. Ahab was killed with a small dart. “Eve looked but on the tree, and a poisonous dart struck her to the heart,” write Gurnall. (Gurnall, 58)

Are we not as prone to sin as they? Must we not bear the whole armor of God, and ensure every part of our bodies are covered and protected from the attacks of the devil? How foolish we are to think that we are more than capable of handling an enemy who has practiced wickedness almost as long as time has existed! How arrogant and haughty are we that we believe we can do what the powerful angel Michael could not! (Jude 9)

Brothers and sisters, let us put on the whole armor of God.

“SECOND. The Christian must be in complete armour, in regard of the several pieces and weapons, that make up the whole armour of God.” (Gurnall, 58)

Continuing on, Gurunall comments on the need to build upon the armor of God. That is, the need to develop the graces with which God has lavished upon the believer. He spends the majority of this section in 2 Peter 1:5-7, which reads:

5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Gurnall notes how the Scriptures describe the increasing effect of growing in grace. In putting on the whole armor, the Christian must not leave one piece off. He provides a brief exposition of that passage (a marvelous one) and then applies it to the understanding of the Christian’s armor. Each piece, each grace, if you will, must be donned. The enemies of our soul are many, multi-talented and intrinsically evil. As we put on this armor, we must put all of it on. We must don the graces of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to stand against the attacks of the slithering serpent.

“THIRD. The entireness of the saint’s armour may be taken not only for every part and piece of the saint’s furniture, but for the completeness and perfection of every piece.” (Gurnall, 83)

The final item Gurnall discusses concerns the sharpening of the tools, the increasing of their effectiveness. The blade of the knight must be continually sharpened in order to maintain its effectiveness in battle. Likewise, the Christian’s armor must be maintained.

Gurnall describes the situation,

“The Christian had need have an armourer’s shop at hand to make up his loss, and that speedily, for Satan is most like to fall on when the Christian is least prepared to receive his charge.” (Gurnall, 61)

The Christian’s armor must be at the ready at all times, for the devil is a tireless enemy. Therefore the Christian must be about the protection and development of his armor. This is due to the nature of grace, “Because grace is subject to decays,” remarks Gurnall. (Gurnall, 61)

We are in the work of sanctification, daily becoming more like Jesus Christ, which necessarily involves the armor of God.

Concluding Thoughts

How is your armor, Christian? Are you wearing all the armor of God? Are you and I constantly building upon the faith, as described by our brother Peter? Are we watching our armor, ensuring it is equipped and maintained?

As I read this section, I was reminded of the fierceness of the battle. Christians, we need to remember that our adversary is walking around looking for people to devour. Therefore, let us put on the whole armor of God.

___________________

For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part Ten

In my reading of William Gurnall’s The Christian In Complete Armour, I came across a wonderful, soul-nourishing section. It reminded me of my children and the constant question they ask, “Why?” They ask this question for almost everything I tell them. “That ant is a fire ant.” “Why?” “God clean your room.” “Why?” “I love you!” “Why?”

Any parent, or any individual who has ever worked with children, particularly young children, know this experience. Yet, in Gurnall’s discussion on the need for the armor of God, he anticipates that why question. Why does the armor have to be God’s armor? 

There are several important reasons why the armor must be God’s armor. Gurnall offers some helpful insights as they relate to the main issue, false armors.

False armors

The helpful insight Gurnall gives is in relation to what he calls “false ware.” (Gurnall, 54) He writes,

“It is Satan’s after-game he plays, if he cannot please the sinner with his naked state of profaneness, to put him off with something like grace, some flighty stuff, that shall neither do him good, nor Satan hurt.” (Gurnall, 54)

When asked why we need God’s armor, we must remember that the enemy of our soul, Satan, would love to see us take comfort from false armors. It may provide a sense of security, but offers no protection. Think of many individuals who work for their salvation. The good deeds they engage in provide a sense of comfort, but ultimately they will leave the individual under the just wrath of God if there is no repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Gurnall makes this clear,

“Pray they must, but little care how it be performed. Believe in God? yes, they hope they are not infidels. But what [the armour] is, how they came by it, or whether it will hold in an evil day, this never was put to the question in their hearts.” (Gurnall, 55)

False Security

That false armor, whatever it may be, leads to false security. This is a dangerous place to be. Imagine being on the highest mountain, on the very top you can see only great distances between yourself and the ground. Your head becomes light with the enormous height. This is the predicament of false armors. You may feel secure because of your expert training, monumental experience, and superb equipment, but this is a false security. One misstep and you will plummet to your death. Gurnall notes the direness of the situation,

“O how hard is it to persaude such a one to light, and hold Christ stirrup, while he and his duties are made Christ’s footstool.” (Gurnall, 55)

There is another aspect of this security, and that involves the condemnation of the one trusting in armor other than that of God’s. Gurnall remarks on the sad situation of those who reject the armor of God,

“None sink so far into hell as those that come nearest heaven, because they fall from the greatest height.” (Gurnall, 55)

So many individuals seem to be Christian. They “made a decision at camp” or “they trusted Christ when a young child,” and yet their lives bear proof that they do not have the armor of God. The false armor produces a false security, over which the sure judgment of God stands. Gurnall states, “None will have such a sad parting from Christ as those who went half-way with him and then left him.” (Gurnall, 55) Jesus puts it like this, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23, ESV)

A Call for Reformation

What is Gurnall’s advice for those who believe they have the armor of God when in fact they do not? Take up the armor, of course! Repent of the sinful negligence you have shown in refusing to take up the armor of God and put it on! His advice stands true today,

“O Christians, either vindicate the name of Christ, whose ensign you seem to march after, or throw away your seeming armour, bu which you have drawn the eyes of the world upon you.” (Gurnall, 56)

In other words, either be true to Christ or leave Christ. The damage you are creating by claiming to have the armor of God, while not truly possessing it, will only bring further condemnation to your soul.

The message for us today, then, is not much different than that in Gurnall’s day. Let us take up the armor of God. Let us be sure that it is indeed His armor. And let us fight the flesh and the devil with God’s weapons, in God’s power, and with God’s armor. And if we are not truly His, let us cast off the hypocrisy, for we bring greater condemnation upon ourselves when we play the Christian life.

 

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided By Gurnall: Part Nine

William Gurnall notes the importance of our armor being the armor of God. He writes, “The Christian’s armour [sic] must be amour [sic] of God in regard to its make and constitution.” (Gurnall, 54)

To apply it to a different thought: make sure your godliness has God in it. It is easy to focus on armor in a generic sense, but Christians must remember that, in the midst of war, our armor is to be the armor of God.

It is easy to seek for substitutes. Think of vitamins. We need fruits and vegetables to have a balanced diet. However, many of us assume that if we take a multivitamin, or some green powder, we can forgo that serving of cabbage or broccoli. In other words, we search for substitutes in place of the main focus. Gurnall describes our present day situation, “There is abundance of false ware put off now-a-days; little good armour [sic] worn by the multitude of professors.” (Gurnall, 54) It is always amazing to me when I consider William Gurnall lived from 1616-1679 and how apt his words are for us today.

So, how does this look today? We look to books (Christian, secular, or otherwise). We listen to podcasts. We go to conferences. We enjoy friendships. While many of these things are good and helpful (I do all!), they are not replacements for our most important relationship: our relationship with God. That same principle applies to our battle with spiritual matters. Gurnall wonderfully reminds us that we must put on the armor of God. Our focus must be, in an ever-growing way, on God. 

 

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For more gleanings from Gurnall, check these out:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part Eight

It has been a while since I have picked up Gurnall’s massive volume, The Christian In Complete Armour. However, in today’s reading, Gurnall is discussing the importance of taking the armor of God into battle. As he is working his way through this thought, he offers several reproofs for those who use the armor of God, but not in the way God intended.

 

One way that we can do this is trusting in the armor of God rather than the God of the armor. Gurnall pens these powerful words, “We must not confide in the amour of God, but in the God of this armour, because all our weapons are only ‘mighty through God’ 2 Cor. X. 4.”[1]

 

How tempting is it to put our truth in the means of grace rather than the Giver of grace? I immediately think of my own devotional time. I spend most mornings, before everyone arises, in Scripture reading and prayer. It is a constant danger that I take the simple act of reading as the means of grace rather than trusting and depending upon the God of Scripture to speak to me. The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith speaks on this as the doctrine of sanctification. Christians, they write, “are also furthered sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts of it are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”[2]

 

As believers engaged in spiritual war, we can, that is to say, we have the potential, of relying on the armor of God in a sinful way. When we replace the means of grace as he main giver of grace, we face unavoidable doom. We must constantly, or “more and more,” as the signers of the 2LBC say, rely on the God of the armor rather than the armor of God.

 

How are we doing with this? Do we engage in the means of grace in a way that focuses on the God of that grace? Or, like the Pharisees, are we mechanical in our approach to the armor (or any other means of grace) of God?

 

Let us heed the warnings of Gurnall. “Many souls, we may safely say, do not only perish praying, repenting, and believer after a sort, but they perish by their praying and repenting, &c., while they carnally trust in these.”[3]

[1] William Gurnall, The Christian In Complete Armour: A Treatise of the Saints’ War Against the Devil (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 53.

[2] 2LBC, 13:1.

[3] Gurnall, The Christian In Complete Armour, 53.

You can purchase Gurnall’s marvelous work through the Banner of Truth here.

Check out previous posts in this series below:

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part Seven

In his exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall notes the need for the Christian to wear armor. He plainly writes, “The Christian must be armed for the War.” (Gurnall, 45)

In his opening discussion of Ephesians 6:11, he provides the importance of regeneration. Without God’s saving grace, the individual is in “a Christless graceless state.” (Gurnall, 45) He goes on to describe this terrible situation, “A soul out of Christ is naked and destitute of all armour to defend him against sin and Satan.” (Gurnall, 45)

CONSIDER THE ENEMY

This thought should immediately strike fear into our hearts. Satan is no thin, red devil running around with a pitchfork. He is the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12, cf. Col. 1:13), and the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). He has vast power, so much so that even Michael would not bring an accusation against him (Jude 9). He walks around like a lion “seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8, ESV). While Christians should fear God, we must be careful not to approach the great enemy of our souls in a haphazard manner.

CONSIDER THE STATE OF THE UNREGENERATE

As Christians, our greatest privilege is to share the Gospel with people. We seek to evangelize the lost, to see Satan’s kingdom of darkness overcome with the light and love of Jesus. But in our efforts to preach the Gospel, we must remember the state of those to whom we preach.

Gurnall offers four “notions” of those in this Christless state. (Gurnall, 46)

“IT IS A STATE OF ALIENATION FROM GOD” (Gurnall, 46)

Paul encourages believers to remember their hopeless state before Christ (see Eph. 2:12). All people, regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, political view, economic status, or any other class, who have not been born again at in a state of alienation from God. Gurnall states their sad case, “He is without God in the world; he can claim no more protection from God, than an out-lawed subject from his prince.” (Gurnall, 46) The people to whom we communicate the Gospel have no protection from the God of heaven.

“THE CHRISTLESS STATE IS A STATE OF IGNORANCE, AND SUCH MUST NEEDS BE NAKED AND UNARMED” (Gurnall, 46)

This spiritual war, unobserved to the natural eye, wages all over. The sad state is one of complete ignorance. Gurnall remarks, “He that cannot see his enemy, how can he ward off the blow he sends?” (Gurnall, 46) As we share the Gospel, the Christless people of earth have no idea of the enemy’s attacks. They are open, exposed, like a nerve without a tooth. They experience great pain, but are unaware of the enemy’s affliction. Let us pray that God will deliver them out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light!

“THE CHRISTLESS STATE IS A STATE OF IMPOTENCY” (Gurnall, 47)

The souls to whom we preach are impotent. They cannot fight their own flesh, let alone the devil. What hope have they? They have no armor, nor a Protector. They have no weapons, nor a Defender. Gurnall describes their plight, “What the Spirit of God doth in a saint, that in a manner doth Satan in a sinner. The Spirit fills the heart with love, joy, holy desires, fears; so Satan fills the sinner’s heart with pride, lust, lying.” (Gurnall, 47) Imagine the desperate plight of these bearers of the image of God!

“THE STATE OF UNREGENERACY IS A STATE FRIENDSHIP WITH SIN AND SATAN” (Gurnall, 47)

The state of Christless souls is one of friendship with sin and Satan. Remember  James’ words, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4, NASB). No Christless soul can be a friend of God, nor can it be an enemy of Satan. Gurnall even discusses the possibility of when an individual seems to be fighting against sin and Satan. He writes, “Sometimes indeed there appears a scuffle between Stan and a carnal heart, but it is a mere cheat, like the fighting of two fencers on a stage. You would think at first they were in earnest, but observing how wary they are, [and] where they hit one another, you may soon know they do not mean to kill; and that which puts all out of doubt, when the prize is done you shall see them making merry together with what they have got of their spectators, which was all they fought for.” (Gurnall, 47-48)

CONSIDER OUR DUTY

As Christians, we are to don this armor in order to fight our own wars. We still have indwelling sin, and we are told to fight against it in the power of God’s might. We must remember, consider, meditate upon the destructive nature and devilish desires of our enemies.

As Christians, we are to fight against the powers of darkness through the grace of God. Gurnall discusses the weapons of our warfare later, but for now we need to remember the plight of the Christless soul. What are we doing to tell people the Gospel? How are we evangelizing the lost?

May we be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

 

MORE IN THE SERIES

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

God’s Mercy and Our Daily Bread

Thomas Manton’s An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer has been a remarkable work. My soul has been filled, my heart has been challenged, and my joy has been stirred. The depth to which the Lord’s Prayer can be plumbed is, in my estimation, unimaginable.

Yet Thomas Manton has performed a wonderful work by presenting one more beautiful facet of the Lord’s Prayer. It comes on the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11, NASB)

Though his treatment of this verse spans seventeen pages, I found one point particular spectacular. Manton writes,

Ps. cxxxvi. 25, you have there the story of the notable effects of God’s mercy, and he concludes it thus: ‘Who giveth food to all flesh; for his mercy endureth forever.’ Mark, the psalmist doth not only ascribe those mighty victories, those glorious instances of his love and power, to his unchangeable mercy, but our daily bread. In eminent deliverances of the church we will acknowledge mercy; yea, but we should do it in every bit of meat we eat, for the same reason is rendered all along.

….It is not only mercy which gives us Christ, and slavation by Christ, and all those glorious deliverances and triumphs over the enemies of the church; but it is mercy which furnisheth our tables, it is mercy that we taste with our mouths and wear at our backs.

(Thomas Manton, Works, Volume 1, 154-155)

I just read that Psalm this morning in my private reading. What powerful thoughts! Every time we pray for God’s provision for our daily sustenance, it is because His mercy endures forever.

What a glorious thought! Have you contemplated this truth today? Do you realize that everything you have been gifted is all because of God’s mercy and provision? Imagine how different our lives would be if we, like Jesus instructed us to, prayed “Give us this day our daily bread.”