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)


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.


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)


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.


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 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 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)


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!



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

3 Ways to Know You Love God’s Will

How do I know that I love God’s will? Or, to put it in a Puritan way, How do I know I am affected by God’s will? You can look here for a finer look at affections. However, I am sure that most Christians have asked this question at one point in their life.

How do you know that you love God’s will? Certainly, there are some relatively easy ways to see this. Do you love waking up with anticipation of reading God’s Word? Do you long for time away from others to pray and commune with your Heavenly Father? Do you thrive in serving others?

Think about a job you have had. I was blessed to work at Walmart for seven years. I enjoyed certain people at work. I liked certain tasks. But I would never say I enjoyed job, or that I loved my job. Now, when it comes to lifting weights, I love lifting weights. As you read this, you, no doubt, know the difference between the two. This is an excellent example of how we should feel about God’s will and how we often truly feel.

These are ways in which we can see that we love God and His will for our lives. Thomas Manton, however, offers three ways that I think will be beneficial for us.


Manton writes, “Obedience is never right but when it is done upon the mere sight of God’s will.” (Manton, Works, 137) That is, we obey because of Who’s will we are following. When we are children, our parents ask us to do something, and we do it. Likewise, I expect my own children to listen and obey when I instruct them to complete a task. Additionally, the supervisor at work expects her employees to follow through with her instructions. These are God-ordained roles for human beings to follow. (See Ephesians 5:22-6:9 for a biblical treatment of this.)

These roles (husband-wife, parents-child, supervisor-worker, government-citizens) serve to illustrate the ultimate role: God-human beings. God is our Creator, and it is our duty and privilege to obey and execute His will. When we follow God’s commands because it is God who commanded, we are cultivating affections for His will.


This is one evidence that we are becoming more affectionate of God’s will. Do we have an eagerness to know what God’s will is? When the thought of personal finances comes into our heads, do we seek to know what God expects of us in relation to our money? Do parents seek to raise their children in accordance with God’s will?

Manton notes, “When he doth not only practise what he knows, but searcheth that he may know more: Rom. xii. 2, ‘That ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Manton, Works, 137) He further clarifies, “When a man is desirous to know the whole will of God, not for curiosity but for practice, that he might do it.” (Manton, Works, 37)

I find myself guilty of seeking to know about God rather than to know God truly. The same danger lies hidden in the tall grass of God’s will. We are apt to what to know God’s will, not to actually practice it, but to use it as a tool of judgment on others. Or, we use it to make ourselves feel better. “Oh, I am doing _______, and they are violating God’s will by doing that” we remark to ourselves. But when we are truly affectionate towards our Heavenly Father’s will, we will be eager to know God’s will for every area of our lives.


This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. This, in my estimation, is the greatest tool in diagnosing our affections toward the will of God. This is also, in my experience, the most painful tool.

Think about the dentist. His patient comes in to his office. After the exam, the dentist fills in two cavities. A few months pass, and the patient returns. The dentist performs the examinations, finds two more cavities, and fills them. About six months pass, and the same routine occurs. Now, the dentist may simply continue to fill the cavities. Or, the dentist may seek to address the root cause (no pun intended). Through a series of questions, the dentist discovers that his patient has never learned the proper routine for dental health (this illustration is only for visual purposes. You may take great care of your teeth and still routinely get cavities. If so, I am sorry! I am in the same boat). The dentist’s treatment plan now includes the ways to care for the teeth and gums.

Unfortunately, we are often like the patient. We attempt to fill in the cavities of sins in our lives without devoting the necessary time, and often intense pain, to the root cause. Manton paints a marvelous picture,

“There is an iniquity that we may call ours, upon which the will is most passionately addicted; be it worldliness, sensuality,  inordinate desire of reputation and respect with men. Now, when we are plucking out our right eye, and cutting off our right hand, Mat. v. 29–when we are mortifying and subduing our lusts–when we can deny ourselves in those things to which the heart is most wedded, that is a sign of compliance with the will of God.” (Manton, Works, 138)

Upon reading those statements, you may immediately call to mind a specific sin. Perhaps that sin spreads into other areas of your life. And to this point you have addressed the peripheral sins without attacking the heart. You may have never thought about this. With this understanding, ask God to open your eyes to the root cause. Then, at the exhortation of our Lord Jesus Christ, cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye (this is graphic language to describe the seriousness and viciousness with which we must attack sin, not a direct command to physically remove body parts). When we wage war on our sins, we are showing affection for God. We are showing God that we love His will more than the pleasures that come from our sin.


So, how affectionate to God’s will are you? Are you strong in some areas and weaker in others? Has God revealed a certain sin that is stealing away your affections?

Brothers and sisters, we must pray that God change our affections. He has the power and authority. His Word and Spirit are sufficient to help us grow more affectionate to His will!


I highly recommend you purchase Thomas Manton’s works from the Banner of Truth Trust.

Check out Manton’s other works:

Manton’s Five Steps to Help You Do God’s Will

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

Manton’s Five Steps to Help You Do God’s Will


There is always a desire, among Christians, to do God’s will. When God rebirths a sinner, he changes into a “new creation,” and his desire is to do the will of God (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Psalm 40:8, ESV).

Christians want to please God, but sometimes we may not know how. It could be:

  • We have not devoted enough time to seek God’s will
  • We have not been in a discipleship relationship and have not learned how to know God’s will
  • We have unconfessed sin that is preventing us from seeing God’s will

Undoubtedly, the list could be expanded. Our point is not to focus on why we do not know God’s will, but how.


In his work on the Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Manton delves into the goldmine of Scripture to draw out the implications of Christ’s request, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, ESV).

As we pray this prayer, we are acknowledging two things:

  1. That we desire to see God’s will performed on earth (and in our own lives) as it is in heaven.
  2. That God has a will for our lives.

Then Manton offers several “directions” to help us do the will of God.


(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 132)

Manton begins where we all must: resigning our will to our Lord and Master. This does not imply that we will never seek our own will. However, if our lives are not characterized by submission to God’s will. Manton goes on to write, “There will be a time when you will solemnly give up the keys of your own hearts to God, and bid him come and enter.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 132-133) If we are to know God’s will, we must submit to it and trust Him beforehand.

Look through the references cited by Mr. Manton: Romans 12:1; Acts 9:6; Matthew 11:28.


(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 133)

When we want to know God’s will, we cannot withhold certain areas of our lives. We cannot say to God, “Here is my life, but do not take away my comfort in _____________.” This is not submission. We cannot tell God, “I will follow you, but please leave ______________ alone.” Again, this is not submission. As Manton succinctly puts it, “We should so perfectly obey, as if we had no will of our own, not reserving a property in anything.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 133)

Then he makes an excellent point,

“The least sin reserved is a pledge of the devil’s interest and right in us.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 133)

This brings to focus the heart of the issue. Any areas of our lives that we are unwilling to submit to the gracious and sovereign God is sin. If we are to do God’s will, every fiber of our being must be in submission.


There are some truths in Scripture that God has revealed to which Christians should pay special heed. There are a few offered by Manton:

  1. “repentance and turning from sin” (see Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9
  2. “the work of faith, believing in Christ” (see John 6:29; 1 John 3:23)
  3. “repent, believe, and return to him” (Psalm 32:5; Luke 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3)
  4. “obedience to magistrates, parents, masters” (1 Peter 2:15
  5. “observe Providences” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I would encourage you to look up the above Scriptures. Pray through them. Ask that God will open your eyes to opportunities to share the Gospel and preach repentance. Meditate on the glorious truths, that God would desire the repentance of sinners, that God will provide us with marks of His sovereign work in our lives and in the world. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but it is a good foundation upon which to build your view, understanding, and work in the will of God.


(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)

This is hard, is it not? When I read this, and really think about the implications, I am scarred. What if it is God’s will that my little girl be taken at a young age? What if God’s will is that I be a paraplegic? The “what ifs” are endless. But they betray a failure to trust God and His goodness.

One of the greatest aspects of God is that He always does what is best. Consider Romans 8:28. This verse is often quoted to those who are hurting, and honestly rightfully so. It is bursting with God’s gracious love and care. Paul writes,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

All things work for God to those who love God. This truth is lived out by Joseph. His brothers betray him and sell him into slavery (Genesis 37:12-36). He obeys God’s will and ends up punished (from a human perspective) while enslaved (Genesis 39). At this point in his life, Joseph must have wrestled with God’s working in his life. Remember, he did not have Romans 8:28 to flee when hurting and doubting God’s love and grace. When we consider the goodness and graciousness of God, does it make any sense not to obey Him, regardless of the cost?


(Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)

What Manton is saying here is that we should never sin, regardless of the “good” that can happen. He states, “If one lie could save the world, we were not to do it, for the least evil is not to be done contrary to God’s will, though the greatest good come of it.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)

Read that again. That is a powerful, and extremely biblical, statement. We must never sin, regardless of the possible “positive” outcomes. It is such a serious matter, that even if it were possible that one lie could bring about the salvation of every human being currently in existence, we must never do it. “We must never do evil that good may come thereof: Rom. iii. 8.” (Manton, Works, Volume 1, 134)


So, Christian, you want to do God’s will and do not know how? Consider the following steps offered by Thomas Manton:

  • Solemnly commit your life to God’s will
  • Submit to God’s will without reservation
  • Devote time to studying God’s revealed will in the Scriptures
  • Obey God’s will regardless of the cost (personal and otherwise)
  • Never do evil in order to accomplish good

We serve a gloriously good God, sovereign over every particle in the known and unknown universe, visible and invisible, who is working all things for our good and His glory. How could we not unreservedly submit to Him? Brothers and sisters, let us do the will of God.

Guided by Gurnall: Part Six

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:

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

On the Goodness of God’s Will: Manton’s Marvelous Memoir

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus offers what has been deemed as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It is a marvelous prayer, one that every saint of God should work to memorize. Many works have been written on this wonderful prayer, but the one I am currently working through is Thomas Manton’s “An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer” printed by the Banner of Truth.

Jesus says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (ESV)

Commenting on this, Manton describes the goodness of God’s commandments,

Nothing God commandeth but what is agreeable to his own nature, and what is suited to our benefit. It is no burden to live justly, soberly, and holily in communion with God; it is not a burden, but a great advantage.The yoke of Christ is a bountiful yoke. Our service and duty hath its own reward in the very mouth and bosom of it. It is no great wrong to us to govern our affections, to live soberly, chastely and in the exercise of holy services; here is nothing but what raiseth and sublimates the nature of man. (Manton, Volume 1, page 130)

Think about what Manton (and Scripture) is saying. God’s will is bound by God’s character. He is infinitely good. His grace overcomes the greatest of sins. His boundless love covers, through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, all the sins of His people. He works everything for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). This, in turn, extends to His commandments.

Do we view God’s commandments in this way? Or, like children, do we see our Heavenly Father’s commandments as prevention to our fun and delight. Let us renew our minds (Romans 12:2), through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit and the all-sufficient Word of God, to see the commands of God as they are: good.

Consider just a brush through Psalm 119:

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.

Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

This is just four verses from Psalm 119 that describe the goodness of God’s commandments. There are sixty-five other books in the Bible that, directly or indirectly, describe and pontificate on the beauties and benevolences of God’s commandments.

How about you, Christian? Have you fallen into a disdainful view of God’s gloriously good commandments? Have you seen them as burdens, as barriers between you and your enjoyment? Seek God’s help to cultivate a biblical, God-honoring view of His rules for our lives. Let your heart soar to the heights in worship that our Sovereign God would provide the commands to live life that is most fulfilling for us and most glorifying for Him.

Perhaps you are not a Christian. Maybe you view God’s commandments as horrendous. You also may have developed a negative view of God’s Words. Can I implore you to seek His truth? May the Holy Spirit open your eyes and grant you repentance (a forsaking) of your sins and grant you faith (or belief) to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. May His grace allow you to see the wonders of His Word and the goodness of His commandments.

And may it all bring glory to God’s hallowed Name.

Guided By Gurnall: Part Five

Gurnall asks the question, “If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?” (37)

Gurnall, in his second response, delivers the following encouragement:

Christian, candidly interpret God’s dealings with thee….Now take heed of charging God foolishly, as if God were not what he promiseth; this were to give that to Satan which he is all this while gaping for. It is more becoming the dutiful disposition of a child, when he hath not presently what he writes for to his father, to say, My father is wiser than I. His wisdom will prompt him what and when to send to me, and his fatherly affections to me his child will neither suffer him to deny anything that is good, or slip the time that is seasonable. Christian, thy heavenly Father hath gracious ends that hold his hand at present, or else thou hadst ere this heard from him. (39)

What gloriously encouraging words! I am sure that we have all been at a point in our lives in which it seems as if heaven has been emptied of God’s presence. The pain can become so overwhelming that the internal screams seem to drown out any semblance of the comfort of God.

Perhaps we find ourselves in the same predicament as Job. Job says, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3, ESV) He later declares, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him,  he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.” (Job 23:8-9, ESV)

God begins to speak to Job concerning His might, wisdom, and grandeur. (Job 38-41) God never offers the reasons why Job experienced the sufferings he endured. Many times, we are not privy to the reasons why God allows us to suffer. But before we begin to question God or doubt His goodness, let us heed Gurnall’s advice and trust our Heavenly Father.

Catch up on our series below:

Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

Cotton Mather: Directions For A Candidate Of The Ministry

This month I celebrated my 34th birthday. My in-laws gave me four books for my birthday. They have been tremendous blessings already!

The first of the four that I read was Cotton Mather’s Directions For A Candidate of the Ministry, edited by Nate Pickowicz.

The first time I ever heard this book mentioned was in a message by John MacArthur on 1 Timothy. He quotes, at length, part of the introduction to the book written by John Ryland. The quote changed my perspective on the gloriousness of the pastoral ministry and the remarkable privilege God has given pastors all over the world.

Ryland describes the wonders when he writes,

“The office of the Christian Ministry, rightly understood, is he most honorable and important that nay man in the whole world can sustain; and it will be one of the wonders and employments of eternity, to consider the reasons, why the wisdom and goodness of God assigned this office to imperfect and guilty man!” (Mather, 23)

Brother pastors, do you feel the enormous weight that falls upon our shoulders? Have you considered the remarkable wonder that God called us, sinful though we are, to be His spokesmen?

Not only is the calling remarkable, but the work of the pastor is unrivaled. Ryland continues,

“The great design and intention of the office of a Christian preacher are: to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men; to display in the most lively colors, and to proclaim in the clearest language, the wonderful perfections, offices, and grace of the Son of God; and to attract the souls of men into a state of everlasting friendship with Him.” (Mather, 23-24)

When MacArthur read this quote, I was weeping. That God should call me to such a high and lofty office is beyond my ability to comprehend. Were it not for His salvation and sanctification, I would immediately run from the task. Yet, I was compelled to read more of Cotton Mather’s work. If the introduction to the book is this profound and soul-stirring, what would the rest do?

I began searching for the work and came up disappointed. I had failed through numerous searches. I gave up. Through the course of events I began receiving a catalog from Reformation and Heritage Books. In that magazine I saw many books that I would love to digest. One thing led to another, and I eventually found Mather’s book! I could not believe it. So, when my mother-in-law asked for birthday ideas, I immediately passed this along.

The book exceeded all my expectations. It would be an exaggeration to say every page was gold, but it would not be too far off to say that at least every other page is gold.

I do not want to offer a full review, but I do want to highlight a few of the points that stirred my affections for God and excited my heart for the work.

Cotton’s second chapter is titled, “The True End of Life.” The true end of life, as biblically stated, is to glorify God. I have read a dozen books or so on ministry, and few if any begin with the glory of God.[1] Mather’s work builds off the wonderful privilege of human beings to glorify their Creator. He prays,

“May my life be such a continual homage to the Glorious GOD, as He may through His Christ look down with delight upon.” (Mather, 42)

He offers several questions with which the minister may poke and prod his own heart and soul on pages 48-51. I am to glorify God in my reading, my exegetical work, my prayers, my visits, etc. There is nothing more essential to do than to glorify God. It is, as the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “the whole duty of man.”

The rest of the book builds from this theological foundation, offering practical advice on reading, studying, language acquisition and retention, how to read Scripture, how to read works of theology, personal health and well being, and even general rules with which to govern one’s life.

I recommend this book heartily. As of yet, it is one of the most profound works on the office of the minister that I have read. Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor is on the same field in terms of sheer brilliance and digestibility. If you are a minister, purchase this gem and live it out. If you know of a pastor, buy this book for them. It will be a blessing to their soul, and will only provide you richer foods upon which you will eagerly dine.

No matter what you do, may God be glorified!

[1] One exception would be John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. The second chapter addresses God’s glory.

Guided by Gurnall: Part Four

It has been over four months since my last post concerning Gurnall’s exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20. These last few months have been packed, with an increased workload at church and the addition of a little baby, I have had my hands full!

Today I was afforded a little time during my lunch hour to pick up Gurnall’s gargantuan book (it is 600 pages!). William Gurnall is discussing the phrase, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” He is commenting on the saints’ use of this doctrine for practical life. His first use is, “Is the almighty power of God engaged for the saints’ defence [sic]?” (Gurnall, 33) His last comment is worth repeating, and more than that, worth your meditation.

God so loves his saints, that he makes nothing to give whole nations for their ransom. He ripped open the very womb of Egypt, to save the life of Israel his child, Is. xliii. 3. (Gurnall, 34)

What an incredible thought! More than this, however, is the glorious truth that God sent His only Son (see John 3:16 and 1 John 4:9). Having a son of my own, I cannot imagine trading his life for the life of anyone. More than this, God gave His Son for us, while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). That is, we were actively rebelling against God when His grace saved us (see Ephesians 2:1-3, 4-8).

This almighty power, then, is a gift of God to be used for our spiritual warfare. Think about that today!



For more from this series, see:


Guided by Gurnall: Introduction

Guided by Gurnall: Part One

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

Guided by Gurnall: Part Three

I wanted to share a few gems in my reading of Gurnall. In this section, Gurnall is working through the doctrine that we should “strongly believe that this almighty power of God is theirs, that is, [is] engaged for their defence and help, so as to make use of it in all straits and temptations.” (Gurnall, 28) It is based on the verse, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10, KJV)

Enjoy these challenging thoughts:

“This goodly fabric of heaven and earth had not been built, but as a stage whereon he would in time act what he decreed in heaven of old, concerning the saving of thee, and a few more of his elect.” (Gurnall, 29)

I love the phrase “this goodly fabric of heaven and earth” and how Gurnall uses it as a display to the magnificent grace of God in salvation.

Here’s another one:

He that was willing to expend his Son’s blood to gain them, will not deny his power to keep them. (Gurnall, 29)

Perhaps you are struggling with assurance. You may be battling temptation after temptation, wondering how a Christian could struggle so mightily with such wickedness. Yet, if you have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ then you are securely kept by the blood of Jesus Christ. Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.

The final quote is a prayer offered to God. Use it to draw your heart closer to the glorious God:

“How much less will God yield up a soul unto its enemy when it takes sanctuary in his name, saying, ‘Lord, I am hunted with such a temptation, dogged with such a lust, either thou must pardon it, or I am damned; mortify it, or I shall be a slave to it; take me into the bosom of thy love, for Christ’s sake; castle me in the arms of thy everlasting strength, it is in thy power to save me from, or give me up into, the hands of my enemy. I have no confidence in myself or any other: into they hands I commit my cause, my life, and rely on thee.'” (Gurnall, 30)

Guided by Gurnall: Part Two

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.