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Spiritual Warfare

(49 posts)

The Saints’ Dependence on God

The saints’ dependence on God, and expectation from God in all their straits, oblige his power for their succour. Whither doth a gracious soul fly in any want or danger from sin, Satan,or his instruments, but to his God? As naturally as the cony to her burrow. ‘What time I am afraid,’ saith David, ‘I will trust in thee,’ Ps lvi. 3. He tells God he will make bold of his house to step into when taken in any storm, and doth not question his welcome. Thus when Saul hunted him, he left a city of gates and bars to trust God in open field. Indeed all the saints are taught the same lesson, to renounce their own strength, and rely on the power of God; their own policy, and cast themselves on the wisdom of God; their own righteousness, and expect all from the pure mercy of God in Christ, which act of faith is so pleasing to God, that such a soul shall never be ashamed, ‘The expectation of the poor shall not perish,’ Ps. ix. 18. A heathen could say, when a bird scared by a hawk flew into his bosom, I will not betray thee unto thy enemy, seeing thou comest for sanctuary unto me. 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 thy hands I commit my cause, my life, and rely on thee.’ This dependence of a soul undoubtedly will awaken the almighty power of God for such a one’s defence. He hath sworn greatest oath that can come out of his blessed lips, even by himself, that such as thus fly for refuge to hope in him, shall have strong consolation, He. vi. 17. This indeed may give the saints the greater boldness of faith to expect kindly entertainment when he repairs to God for refuge, because he cannot come before he is looked for. God having set up his name and promises as a strong tower, both calls his people into these chambers, and expects they should betake themselves thither. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002).

Divinely Appointed Means

In this day of pragmatism, it is good to be reminded that God has not ordained ends alone, but means as well. William Gurnall writes, The Christian’s armour which he wears must be of divine institution and appointment. The soldier comes into the field with no arms but what his general commands. It is not left to every one’s fancy to bring what weapons he please; this will breed confusion. The Christian soldier in bound up to God’s order; though the army be on earth, yet the council of war sits in heaven; this duty ye shall do; these means ye shall use. And [those who] do more, or use other, than God commands, though with some seeming success against sin, shall surely be called to account for this boldness. The discipline of war among men is strict in this case. Some have suffered death by a council of war even when they have beaten the enemy, because out of their place, or beside their order. God is very precise in this point; he will say to such as invent ways to worship him of their own, coin means to mortify corruption, obtain comfort in their own mint: ‘Who hath required this at your hands?’ This is truly to be ‘righteous over-much,’ as Solomon speaks, when we will pretend to correct God’s law, and add supplements of our own to his rule. Who will pay that man his wages that is not set on work by God? God tells Israel the false prophets shall do them no good, because they come not of his errand, Je. xxiii. 32; so neither will those ways and means help, which are not of God’s appointing. God’s thoughts are not as man’s, nor his ways as ours, which he useth to attain his ends by. If man had set forth the Israelitish army, now to march out of Egypt, surely this wisdom would have directed rather to have plundered the Egyptians of their horses and arms, as more necessary for such an expedition, than to borrow their jewels and ear-rings. But God will have them come out naked and on foot, and Moses keeps close to his order; yea, when any horses were taken in battle, because God commanded they should be houghed, they obeyed, though to their seeming disadvantage. It was God’s war they waged, and therefore but reasonable they mill be under his command. They encamped and marched by his order, as the ark moved or rested. They fight by his command. The number is appointed by him—the means and weapons they should use—all are prescribed by God, as in the assault of Jericho. And what gospel of all this—for surely God hath an eye in that to our marching to heaven, and our fighting with these cursed spirits and lusts that stand in way—but that we should fight lawfully, using those means which we have from his mouth in his Word? —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth, 2002). I will post another quotation from Gurnall from the same section of the book and on the same subject tomorrow.

Divinely Appointed Means, continued

Continuing yesterday’s theme with another quotation from The Christian in Complete Armour: They do not use the armour of God as such, who in the performing of divine duties, eye not God through them, and this makes them all weak and ineffectual. Then the Word is mighty, when read as the Word of God; then the gospel preached, powerful to convince the conscience, and revive the drooping spirit, when heard as the appointment of the great God, and not the exercise of a mean creature. Now it will appear in three things, whether we eye divine appointment in the means. (1.) When we engage in a duty, and look not up to God for his blessing. Didst thou eye God’s appointment in the means, thou wouldst say, Soul, if there come any good of thy present service it must drop from heaven, for it is God’s appointment, not man’s. And can I profit whether God will or no, or think to find, and bring away, any soul-enriching treasure from his ordinance, without his leave? Had I not best look up to him, by whose blessing I live more than by my bread? (2.) It appears we look not at God’s appointment, when we have low thoughts of the means. What is Jordan that I should wash in it? What is this preaching that I should attend on it, where I hear nothing but I knew before? what these beggarly elements of water, and bread, and wine! Are not these the reasonings of a soul that forgets who appoints them? Didst thou remember who commands, thou wouldst not question what the command is. What though it be clay, let Christ use it and it shall open the eyes, though in itself more like to put them out. Hadst thou thy eye on God, thou wouldst silence thy carnal reason with this, It is God sends me to such a duty; whatsoever he saith unto me I will do it, though he should send me, as Christ them, to draw wine out of pots filled with water. (3.) When a soul leaves off a duty, because he hath not in it what he expected from it. Oh, saith the soul, I see it is in vain to follow the means as have done; still Satan foils me, I will even give over. Dost thou remember, soul, it is God’s appointment? Surely then thou wouldst persevere in the midst of discouragements. He that bids thee pray, bids thee pray without ceasing; he that bids thee hear, bids thee wait at the posts of wisdom. Thou wouldst reason thus, God hath set me on duty, and here I will stand, till God takes me off and bids me leave praying. —William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth, 2002).

the love of Christ must quench the love of sin

It has been two years since I last picked up William Gurnalls The Christian in Complete Armour. I dont know why I set it aside, but Ive been intending to get back to it for some time now. Having finished Volume One of The Existence and Attributes of God (whew!), now seems like a good time. For those who arent familiar with this work, it is English Puritan William Gurnalls exposition of Ephesians 6:1020, first published in 1662. I take up where I left off, at verse 12: The nature of the War, and character of the Assailants. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Gurnall brings a Reproof to Such as Are Not True Wrestlers. Among these are they who wrestle with sin, but they do not hate it. He writes: Others wrestle with sin, but they do not hate it, and therefore they are favourable to it, and seek not the life of sin their deadly enemy. These wrestle in jest, and not in earnest; the wounds they give sin one day, are healed the next. Let men resolve never so strongly against sin, yet it will creep again into their favour, till the love of sin be quenched in the heart; and this fire will never be die of itself, the love of Christ must quench the love of sin, as Jerome [saith] excellently [one love extinguishes another.] This heavenly fire will indeed put out the flame of hell; . . . Then and not till then will the souls decree stand against sin, when the soul hath taken Christ into his bosom. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:119120.

Let this humble thee

A dose of humility from William Gurnall: Is man but frail flesh? Let this humble thee, O man, in all thy excellency; flesh is but one remove from filth and corruption. Thy soul is the salt that keeps thee sweet, or else thou wouldst stink above ground. Is thy beauty thou pridest in? Flesh is grass, but beauty is the vanity of this vanity. This goodliness is like the flower, which lasts not so long as the grass, appears in its month and it is gone; yea, like the beauty of the flower, which fades while the flower stands. How soon will times plough make furrows in thy face, yea, one fit of an ague so change thy countenance , as shall make thy doting lovers afraid to look on thee? Is it strength? Alas, it is an arm of flesh, which withers oft in the stretching forth. Ere long thy blood, which is now warm, will freeze in thy veins; thy spring crowned with May-buds will tread on Decembers heel; thy marrow dry in thy bones, thy sinews shrink, thy legs bow under the weight of thy body; thy eye-strings crack; thy tongue [be] not able to call for help; yea, thy heart with thy flesh shall fail. And now thou who art such a giant, take a turn if thou canst in thy chamber, yea, raise but thy head from thy pillow if thou art able, or call back thy breath, which is making hast to be gone out of thy nostrils, never to return more; and darest thou glory in that which so soon may be prostrate? Is it wisdom? The same grave that covers thy body, shall bury all thatthe wisdom of thy flesh I meanall thy thoughts shall perish, and [thy] goodly plots come to nothing. Indeed, if a Christian, thy thoughts as such shall ascend with thee, not one holy breathing of thy soul be lost. Is it thy blood and birth? Whoever thou art, thou art baseborn till born again; the same blood runs in thy veins with the beggar on the street, Ac. xvii. 26. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 125126.

Who Reigns in You?

Tuesday··2009·10·20 · 1 Comments
We are all either slaves of sin, or slaves of righteousness. Either we are under the rule of Christ, or the prince of this world. William Gurnall asks us to consider which we are, and if we claim to be Christs, upon what basis?    Now if thou sayest that Christ is thy prince, answer to these interrogatories. 1. How came he [Christ] into the throne? Satan had once the quiet possession of thy heart; thou wast by birth, as the rest of thy neighbours, Satans vassal, yea, hast oft vouched him in the course of thy life to be thy liege lord; how then comes this great change? Satan, surely, would not of his own accord resign his crown and sceptre to Christ; and as for thyself, thou wert neither willing to renounce, nor able to resist, his power. This then must only be the fruit of Christs victorious arms, whom God hath exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, Ac. v. 31. Speak therefore, Hath Christ come to thee, as once Abraham to Lot, when prisoner to Chederlaomer, rescuing thee out of Satans hands, as he was leading thee in chains of lust to hell? Didst thou ever hear a voice from heaven in the ministry of the word calling out to thee, as once to Saul, so as to lay thee at Gods foot, and make thee face about for heaven; to strike thee blind in thine own apprehension, who before hadst a good opinion of thy state; to tame and meeken thee; so as now thou art willing to be led by the hand of a child after Christ? Did ever Christ come to thee, as the angel to Peter in prison, rousing thee up, and not only causing the chains of darkness and stupidity to fall off thy mind and conscience, but make thee obedient alsothat the iron gate of thy will hath opened to Christ before he left thee? Then thou hast something to say for thy freedom. But if in all this I be a barbarian, and the language I speak be strange, thou knowest no such work to have passed upon thy spirit, then thou art yet in thy old prison. Can there be a change of government in a nation by a conqueror that invades it, and his subjects not hear of this? One king unthroned, and another crowned in thy soul, and thou hear no scuffle all this while? . . . 2. Whose law dost thou freely subject thyself unto? The laws of these princes are as contrary as their natures; the one a law of sin, Ro. viii. 2, the other a law of holiness, Ro. vii. 12; and therefore if sin hath not so far bereaved thee of thy wits, as not to know sin from holiness, thou mayst, except [thou] resolve to cheat thy own soul, soon be resolved; confess therefore and give glory the God; to which of these laws doth thy soul set its seal? When Satan sends out his proclamation, and bids the sinner go, set thy foot upon such a command of God. Observe what is thy behaviour; dost thou yield thyself, as Paul phraseth it, Ro. vi. 18; yield yourselves, a metaphor from princes servants to others, who are said to present themselves before their lord, as ready and at hand to do their pleasure; by which the apostle elegantly describes the forwardness of the sinners heart to come to Satans foot, when knocked or called. Now doth thy soul go out thus to meet thy lust . . . , glad to see its face in an occasion? Thou art not brought over to sin with much ado, but thou likest the command. . . . Alas, for thee, thou art under the power of Satan, tied by a chain stronger than brass or iron; thou lovest thy lust. A saint may be for a time under a force; sold under sin, as the apostle bemoans; and therefore glad when deliverance comes; but thou sellest thyself to work iniquity. If Christ should come to take thee from thy lusts, thou wouldst whine after them, as Micah after his gods. 3. To whom goest thou for protection? As it belongs to the prince to protect his subjects, so princes expect their subjects should trust them with their safety; the very bramble bids, If in truth you anoint me king over you, then come put your trust under my shadow, Ju. ix. 15. Now who hath thy confidence? Darest thou trust God with thy soul, and the affairs of it in well-doing? Good subjects follow their calling, commit state matters to the wisdom of their prince and his counsel; when wronged, they appeal to their prince in his laws for right; and when they do offend their prince, they submit to the penalty of the laws, and bear his displeasure patiently, till humbling themselves they recover his favour, and do not, in a discontent, fall to open rebellion. Thus a gracious soul follows his Christian calling, committing himself to God as a faithful creator, to be ordered by his wise providence. . . . If himself offends, and so comes under the lash of Gods correcting hand, he doth not then take up rebellious arms against God, and refuse to receive correction; but saith, Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? . . . Whereas a gracious heart is most encouraged to wait from this very consideration that drives the other way: Because it is the Lord afflicts. 4. Whom dost thou sympathize with? He is thy prince, whose victories and losses thou layest to heart, whether in thy own bosom or abroad in the world. What saith thy soul, when God hedgeth up thy way, and keeps thee from that sin which Satan hath been soliciting for? If on Christs side thou wilt rejoice when thou art delivered out of a temptation, though it be by falling into an affliction. . . . Again, what music do the achievements of Christ in the world make in thy ear? When thou hearest [that] the gospel thrives, the blind see, the lame walk, the poor gospellized, doth thy spirit rejoice in that hour? If a saint, thou wilt, as God is thy father, rejoice [that] thou hast more brethren born; as he is thy prince, that the multitude of his subjects increase. So when thou seest the plots of Christs enemies discovered, powers defeated, canst thou go forth with the saints to meet King Jesus, and ring him out of the field with praises? or do thy bells ring backward, and such news make thee haste, like Haman, mourning to thine house, there to empty thy spirit, swollen with rancour against his saints and truth? Or if thy policy can master thy passion, so far as to make fair weather in thy countenance, and suffer thee to join with the people of God in their acclamations of joy, yet then art thou a closer mourner within, and likest the work no better than Haman his office, in holding Mordecais stirrup, who had rather have held the ladder. This speaks thee a certain enemy to Christ, how handsomely soever thou mayst carry it before men. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:134136.

Be Not Dismayed

A word of encouragement from William Gurnall: To the saints; be not ye dismayed at this report which the Scripture makes of Satans power. Let them fear him who fear not God. What are these mountains of power and pride, before thee, O Christian, who servest a God that can make a worm thrash a mountain? The greatest hurt he can do thee, is by nourishing this false fear of him in thy bosom. It is observed, Bernard saith, of some beasts in the forest, [that] though they are too hard for the lion in fight, yet [they] tremble when he roars. Thus the Christian, when he comes to the pinch indeed, is able through Christ to trample Satan under his feet, yet, before the conflict, stands trembling at the thought of him. Labor therefore to get a right understanding of Satans power, and then this lion will not appear so fierce, as you paint him in your melancholy fancy. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:145.

Satans Instruments

A word from William Gurnall on the things that would keep us from Christ: Satan hath his instruments to oppose the messengers and overtures which God sends by them to bring the sinner out of Satans rule. When Moses comes to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage, up start Jannes and Jambres to resist him. When Paul preacheth to the deputy, the devil hath his chaplain at court to hinder himElymas, one that was full of all subtlety and mischief. Some or other, to be sure, he will find, when God is parleying with a sinner, and persuading him to come over to Christ, that shall labour to clog the work. Either carnal friendsthese he sends to plead his cause; or old companions in wickednessthese bestir them; one while [by] labouring to jeer him out of his new way, or, if that take not, by turning their old love into bitter wrath against him for playing the apostate and leaving him so. Or if yet he will not be stopped in his way, then he hath his daubing preachers, still like Jobs messengers the last the worst, who with their soul-flattering, or rather murdering doctrine, shall go about to heal his wound slightly. Now as ever you desire to get out of Satans bondage, have a care of all these; harden thyself against the entreaties of carnal friends and relations. Resolve, that if thy children should hang about thy knees to keep thee from Christ, thou wilt throw them away; [resolve], if thy father and mother should lie prostrate at thy foot, rather than not go to Christ, to go over their very backs to him. Never can we part with their love upon such advantageous terms as these. And for thy brethren in iniquity, I hope thou dost not mean to stay while [i.e. until] thou hast their good-will; then even ask the devils also. Heaven is but little worth if thou hast not a heart to despise a little shame, and bear a few frumps [i.e. taunts or mockings] from profane Ishmaels for thy hopes of it. Let them spit on thy face, Christ will wipe it off; let them laugh, so thou winnest. If they follow not thy example before they die, the shame will be their own; God himself shall spit it on their face before men and angels, and then kick them into hell. And lastly, escape but the snare of those flatterers, who use their tongues only to lick sinners consciences whole with their soothing doctrine, and thou art fair for a Christ; ask not counsel of them; they may go about to give you ease, but all those stitches with which they sow up thy wounds, must be ripped open, or thou diest for it. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:158159.

Ignorance above other sins

Tuesday··2009·11·10 · 1 Comments
William Gurnall on ignorance as the enemy of the soul: Ignorance above other sins enslaves a soul to Satan. A knowing man may be his slave, but an ignorant one can be no other. Knowledge doth not make the heart good, but it is impossible that without knowledge it should be good. There are some sins which an ignorant person cannot commit, there are more which he cannot but commit; knowledge is the key, Lu. xi. 52; Christ the door, Jn. xv. Christ opens heaven. Knowledge opens Christ. In three particulars the point will appear more fully. First. Ignorance opens a door for sin to enter. Second. As ignorance lets sin in, so it locks it up in the soul, and the soul in it. Third. As it locks it up, so it shuts all means of help out. First. Ignorance opens the door for Satan to enter in with his troops of lusts. Where the watch is blind, the city is soon taken. An ignorant man sins, and like drunken Lot, he knows not when the tempter comes, nor when he goes; he is like a man that walks in his sleep, knows not where he is, nor what he does. Father, forgive them, saith Christ, they know not what they do. The apostle, 1 Co. xv., having reproved the sensuality of some, ver. 32, who made the consideration of death, by which others are awed from sin, a provocative to sin, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die; he gives an account of this absurd reasoning: All have not the knowledge of God. An ignorant person is a man in shape, and a beast in heart. There is no knowledge in the land, saith the prophet, Ho. iv. 1. and see what a regiment follows this blind captain, swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and what not. We read, 2 Ti. iii. 6, of some laden with sins; silly women, and such who never come to the knowledge of the truth. Here are trees full of bitter fruit, and what dung shall we find at the root, that makes them so fruitful, but ignorance? Second. Ignorance, as it lets sin in, so it locks it up in the soul, and the soul in it. Such a one lies in Satan’s inner dungeon, where no light of conviction comes. Darkness inclines to sleep; a blind man and a drowsy conscience go together. When the storm arose, the mariners who were awake fell a praying to their god, but the sleeper fears nothing. Ignorance lays the soul asleep under the hatches of stupidity. God hath planted in the beast a natural fear of that which threatens to hurt it. Go to thrust a beast into a pit, and it hangs back; nature shows its abhorrency. Man being of a nobler nature, and subject to more dangers, God hath set a double guard on him; as [he has] a natural fear of danger, so also a natural shame that covers the face at the doing of any unworthy action. Now an ignorant man hath slipped from both these his keepers; he sins and blusheth not, because he knows not his guilt; he wants that magistrate within which should put him to shame. Neither is he afraid, because he knows not his danger; and therefore he plays with his sin, as the child with the waves, that, by and by, will swallow him up. Conscience is Gods alarm to call the sinner up. It doth not always ring in his ear that hath knowledge, being usually set by God to go off at some special hour, when God is speaking in an ordinance, or striking in a providence; but in an ignorant soul this is silent. The clock cannot go when the weights are taken off; conscience is only a witness to what it knows. Third. Ignorance shuts out the means of recovery. Friends and ministers, yea, Christ himself stands without, and cannot help the creature. As such, threatenings and promises are of no use; he fears not the one, he desires not the other, because he knows neither. Heavens way cannot be found in the dark, and therefore the first thing God doth, is to spring in with a light, and let the creature know where he is, and what the way is to get out of his prisonhouse, without which all attempts to escape are in vain. There is some shimmering light in all. Non dantur pur? tenebr? [absolute darkness is not given], I think, is good divinity as well as philosophy. And this nightlight may discover many sins, produce inward prickings of conscience [for] them, yea, stir up the creature to step aside, rather than to drown in such broad waters. There are some sins so cruel and costly, that the most prostrate soul may in time be weary of their service for low ends; but what will all this come to, if the creature be not acquainted with Christ, the true way to God, faith and repentance, the only way to Christ? Such a one, after all this bustle, instead of making an escape from Satan, will run full into his mouth another way. There are some ways which at first seem right to the traveller, yet wind about so insensibly, that when a man hath gone far, and thinks himself near home, he is carried back to the place from whence he set forth. This will befall every soul ignorant of Christ, and the way of life through him. After many years travel, as they think, towards heaven by their good meanings, blind devotions, and reformation, when they shall expect to be within sight of heaven, they shall find themselves even where they were at first, as very slaves to Satan as ever. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:161162.

A Retentive Hearer

Following his discussion of the folly of ignorance, William Gurnall posed the question, But how may an ignorant soul attain to knowledge? and offered a five-fold answer: Be deeply affected with thy ignorance. That is, be humble and teachable. Be faithful with that little knowledge thou hast. Be diligent and obedient according to whatever knowledge you do possess. Ply the throne of grace. See James 1:5. Thou must bestow some time for thy diligent search after truth. Dig! . . . this treasure of knowledge calls for spade and mattock. If thou wouldst attain to divine knowledge, wait on the ministry of the word. Attend to the teaching of the Word. Be a wakeful hearer, an attentive hearer, and a retentive hearer. Concerning the last, Gurnall wrote, Thou must be a retentive hearer. Without this the work will ever be to begin again. Truths to a forgetful hearer are as a seal set on water, the impression lasts no longer than the seal is on; the sermon once done, and all is undone. Be therefore very careful to fasten what thou hearest on thy memory, which that thou mayest do, (1.) Receive the truth in the love of it. An affectionate hearer will not be a forgetful hearer. Love helps the memory. Can a woman forget a child, or a maid her ornaments, or a bride her attire? No, they love them too well. Were the truths of God thus precious to thee, thou wouldst with David think of them day and night. Even when the Christian, through weakness of memory, cannot remember the very words he hears, to repeat them, yet then he keeps the power and savour of them in his spirit. As when sugar is dissolved in wine, you cannot see it, but you may taste it; when meat is eaten and digested it is not to be found as it was received, but the man is cheered and strengthened by it, more able to walk and work than before, by which you may know it is not lost; so you may taste the truths the Christian heard in his spirit [and] see them in his life. Perhaps if you ask him what the particulars were the minister had about faith, mortification, repentance, and the like, he cannot tell you; yet this you may find, his heart is more broken for sin, more enabled to rely on the promises, and now weaned from the world. As that good woman answered one, that coming from sermon, asked her what she remembered of the sermon; [she] said she could not recall much, but she heard that which should make her reform some things as soon as she came home. (2.) Meditate on what thou hearest. By this David got more wisdom than his teachers. Observe what truth, what Scripture is cleared to thee in the sermon more than before, take some time in secret to converse with it, and make it thereby familiar to thy understanding. Meditation to the sermon in what the harrow is to the seed, it covers those truths, which else might have been picked or washed away. I am afraid there are many proofs turned down at a sermon, that are hardly turned up, and looked on any more, when the sermon is done; and if so, you make others believe you are greater traders for your souls, than you are indeed. It is as if one should come to a shop and lay by a great deal of rich ware, and when he hath done goes away, and never calls for it. O take heed of such doings. The hypocrite cheats himself worst at last. (3.) Discharge thy memory of what is sinful. We wipe our tablebook and deface what is there scribbled, before they can write anew. There is such a contrariety betwixt the truths of God, and all that is frothy and sinful, that one puts out the other. If you would retain the one, you must let the other go. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:176177.

A Right Notion of Sin

William Gurnall on the object and purpose of sin: O sirs, take the right notion of sin, and you will hate it. The reason why we are so easily persuaded to sin is, because we understand not the bottom of [Satans] design in drawing a creature to sin. It is with men in sinning as it is with armies in fighting. Captains beat their drums for volunteers, and promise all that list, pay and plunder; and this makes them come trowling in. But few consider what the ground of the war is, against whom, or for what. Satan enticeth to sin, and gives golden promises [of] what they shall have in his service, with which silly souls are won. But how few ask their souls, Whom do I sin against? What is the devils design in drawing me to sin? Shall I tell thee? Dost thou think it is thy pleasure or profit he desires in thy sinning? Alas, he means nothing less, he hath greater plots in his head than so. He hath, by his apostasy, proclaimed war against God, and he brings thee, by sinning, to espouse his quarrel, and to jeopard the life of thy soul in defence of his pride and lust; which that he may do, he cares no more for the damnation of thy soul, than the great Turk doth to see a company of his slaves cut off for the carrying on of his design in a siege. And darest thou venture to go into the field upon his quarrel against God? O earth, tremble thou at the presence of the Lord. This bloody Joab sets thee where never came any off alive. O stand not where Gods bullets fly. Throw down thy arms, or thou art a dead man. Whatever others do, O ye saints, abhor the thoughts of sinning willingly; which when you do, you help the devil against God. And what more unnatural than for a child to be seen in arms against his father? William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:182.

Sins of the Heart

William Gurnall reminds us that without a pure heart, clean hands are meaningless. There may be more wickedness in a sin of the heart than of the hand and outward man; for the aggravation of these is taken from the behaviour of the heart in the act. The more of the heart and spirit [that] is let out, the more malignity is let in to any sinful act. To backslide in heart, is more than to backslide. It is the comfort of a poor soul, when tempted and troubled for his relapses, that though his foot slides back, yet his heart turns not back, but faceth heaven and Christ at the same time; so to err in the heart is worse than to have an error in the head. Therefore God aggravates Israels sin with this, They do alway err in their heart, He. iii. 10. Their hearts run them upon the error; they liked idolatry, and so were soon made to believe what pleased them best. As, on the contrary, the more of the heart and spirit is in any holy service, the more real goodness there is in it, though it fall short of others in the outward expression. The widows two mites surpassed all the rest, Christ himself being judge; so in sin, though the internal acts of sin, in thoughts and affections, seem light upon mans balance, if compared with outward acts, yet these may be so circumstantiated that they may exceed the other in Gods account. Peter lays the accent of Magus sin on the wicked thought, which his words betrayed to be in his heart, Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee, Acts viii. 22. Sauls sin in sparing Agag, and saving the best of the sheep and oxen, which he was commanded to destroy, was materially a far less sin than Davids adultery and murder, yet it is made equal with a greater than both, even witchcraft itself, 1 Sa. xv. 23; and whence received his sin such a dye, but from the wickedness of his heart, that was worse than Davids when deepest in the temptation. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:184185.

Unusual Doctrine

William Gurnall gives a warning to those of us who may be prone to accepting novel ideas too quickly: When thou hearest any unusual doctrine, though never so pleasing, make not up the match hastily with it. Have some better testimony of it, before you open your heart to it. The apostle indeed bids us entertain strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares He. xiii.2; but he would not have us carried about with strange doctrine, ver. 9, [though] by this I am sure some have entertained devils. I confess, it is not enough to reject a doctrine, because strange to us, but ground we have, to wait and inquire. Paul marvelled that the Galatians were so soon removed from him, who had called them unto the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. They might sure have stayed till they had acquainted Paul with it, and asked his judgement. What, no sooner an impostor come into the country, and open his pack, but buy all his ware at first sight! O friends, were it not more wisdom to pray such new notions over and over again, to search the Word, and our hearts by it, yea, not to trust our own hearts, but [to] call in counsel from others? If your minister have not such credit with you, get the most holy, humble, and established Christians you can find. Error is like fish, which must be eaten new or it will stink. When those dangerous errors sprung up first in New England, O how unsettled were the churches! what an outcry was made, as if some mine of gold had been discovered! But in a while, when those error came to their complexion, and it was perceived whither they were boundto destroy churches, ordinances, and power of godlinessthen such as feared God, who had stepped aside, returned back with shame and sorrow. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:191.

Pride of Gifts

Our flesh is naturally self-centered. There is no good thing that Satan cannot use to tempt us, or that our flesh itself will not pervert for carnal use. We can, in our pride, take the best gifts of God, given to us for his glory and the edification of others, and make them our own servants. We do so to our own harm. William Gurnall wrote: Pride of gifts robs us of Gods blessing in the use of them. The humble man may have Satan at his right hand to oppose him; but be sure the proud man shall find God himself there to resist him, whenever he goes about any duty. God proclaims so much, and would have the proud man know wherever he meets him [that] he will oppose him. He resisteth the proud. Great gifts are beautiful as Rachel, but pride makes them also barren like her. Either we must lay self aside, or God will lay us aside. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:193.
A friend and I were discussing the difficulty of teaching Christian disciplines, i.e. discipleship, without creating a to-do list that becomes an end in itself. My friend was struggling with this, and I was attempting to offer something resembling a biblical approach. Im afraid my input was rather muddled, because this really is a dilemma; and I dont think Ive solved it yet. Our problem is that we are all legalists at heart, and are most happy when we feel like we are doing good. It is, therefore, quite natural for us to compile lists of rules and disciplines, and then to judge our spiritual condition according to our degree of success in adhering to those disciplines. The discipline becomes the goal. Or perhaps we view discipline as a means to an end. If certain practices are diligently observed, the result, we believe, will be spiritual growth, greater holiness, etc. This is where things get sticky, because unlike the philosophy presented in the previous paragraph, this view contains truth. There are certain activities without which we cannot hope to grow, or even live: reading and meditating on Scripture, for example. Without them we will die spiritually. So in a sense, we do these things to live. If asked you why you read the Bible and pray, you might give an answer pertaining to your need to do so, as well as the benefits you expect for doing so. But what if I asked you why you breathe? How would you answer? I know that if I dont breathe, I will die; so I have chosen to breathe, and discipline myself to inhale 1220 times per minute, or more, if Im exerting myself. Of course, you would give no such answer. While it is true that you would die if you stopped breathing, you have made no decision to breathe. Living things breathe. You dont breathe to live, you breathe because you are alive. Now . . . you make the application.

The Chief Prize

Our weekly installment from Gurnall reminds us where our treasure lies. The chief prize for which we wrestle against Satan is heavenly. Or thus, Satans main design is to spoil and plunder the Christian of all that is heavenly. Indeed, all the Christian hath, or desires as a Christian, is heavenly. The world is extrinsical, both to his being and happiness, it is a stranger to the Christian, and intermeddles not with his joy or grief. Heap all the riches and honours of the world upon a man, they will not make him a Christian; heap them on a Christian, they will not make him a better Christian. Again, take them all away . . . when stripped and naked, he will still be a Christian, and may be a better Christian. . . . Satan should do the saint little hurt, if he did bend his forces only or chiefly against his outward enjoyments. Alas, the Christian doth not value them, or himself by them; this were as if one should think to hurt a man by beating of his clothes when he hath put them off. So far as the Spirit of grace prevails in the heart of a saint, he hath put off the world in the desire of it and joy in it, so that these blows are not much felt; and therefore they are his heavenly treasures, which are the booty Satan waits for. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:214.

The Christians Hopes

William Gurnall reminds us that now is not the time to expect our best life. The Christians hopes are all heavenly; he lots not upon anything the world hath to give him. Indeed he would think himself the most miserable man of all others, if here were all he could make of his religion. No, it is heaven and eternal life that he expects; and though he be so poor as not to be able to make a will of a groat, yet he counts himself a greater heir, than if he were child to the greatest prince on earth. This inheritance he sees by faith, and can rejoice in the hope of the glory which it will bring him. The maskery and cheating glory of the great ones of this world moves him not to envy their fanciful pomp; but when on the dunghill himself, he can forget his own present sorrows, to pity them in all their bravery, knowing that within a few days the cross will be off his back, and the crowns off their heads togethertheir portion will be spent, when he shall be to receive all his. These things entertain him with such joy that they will not suffer him to acknowledge himself miserable, when others think him, and the devil tells him, he is such. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:216217.

a heavenly deportment of heart

If our treasure is in heaven, it will be reflected in our lives on earth. William Gurnall presents three particulars by which we can judge our hearts in this regard. If, indeed, heaven and heavenly things be the prize thou wrestlest for, thou wilt discover a heavenly deportment of heart, even in earthly things. Wherever you meet a Christian, he is going to heaven. Heaven is at the bottom of his lowest actions. Now observe thy heart in three particulars, in getting, in using, and in keeping earthly things, whether it be after a heavenly manner. (1.) Particular. [Observe thy heart] in getting earthly things. If heaven be thy chief prize, then thou wilt be ruled by a heavenly law in the gathering of these. Take a carnal wretch, and what his heart is set on he will have, though it be by hook or crook. A lie fits Gehazis mouth well enough, so he may fill his pockets by it. . . . Abraham scorned to be made rich by the king of Sodom, Ge. xiv. 23, that he might avoid the suspicion of covetousness and self-seeking; it shall not be said another day that he came to enrich himself with the spoil, more than to rescue his kinsmen. Nehemiah would not take the tax and tribute to maintain his state, when he knew they were a poor peeled people, because of the fear of the Lord. Dost thou walk by this rule? wouldst thou gather no more estate or honour than thou mayest have with Gods leave, and will stand with thy hopes of heaven? (2.) Particular. [Observe thy heart] in using earthly things. Dost thou discover a heavenly spirit in using these things? (a) The saint improves his earthly things for an heavenly end. Where layest up thy treasure? dost thou bestow it on thy voluptuous paunch, . . . or lockest thou it up in the bosom of Christs poor members? what use makest thou of thy honour and greatness, to strengthen the hands of the godly or the wicked? And so of all thy other temporal enjoymentsa gracious heart improves them for God. When a saint prays for these things, he hath an eye to some heavenly end. If David prays for life, it is not that he may live, but live and praise God, Ps. cxix. 175. When he was driven from his regal throne by the rebellious arms of Absalom, see what his desire was and hope, The king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation, 2 Sa. xv. 25. Mark, not show me my crown, my palace, but the ark, the house of God. (b) A gracious heart pursues earthly things with a holy indifferency, saving the violence and zeal of his spirit for the things of heaven. He useth the former as if he used them notwith a kind of non-attendancy; his head and his heart is taken up with higher matters, how he may please God, thrive in his grace, enjoy more intimate communion with Christ in his ordinances; in all these he spreads all his sails, plies all his oars, strains every part and power. Thus we find David upon his full speed, My soul presseth hard after thee, Ps. lxiii. And, before the ark, we find him dancing with all his might. Now a carnal heart is clean contrary, his zeal is for the world, and his indifferency in the things of God . . . When he is about any worldly business, he is as earnest at it as the idolatrous smith in hammering of his image, who, the prophet saith, worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh not, and is faint, Is. xliv. 12. So zealous is the muck-worm in his worldly employments, that he will pinch his carcase, and deny himself his repast in due season, to pursue that. The kitchen there will wait on the shop; but in the worship of God, it is enough to make him sick of the sermon, and angry with the preacher, if he be kept beyond his hour. Here the sermon must give place to the kitchen. So the man for his pleasures and carnal pastime; he tells no clock at his sports, and knows not how the day goes . . . But at any heavenly work, O how is the man punished! time now hath leaden heels he thinks. All he does at a sermon is to tell the clock, and see how the glass runs. . . . (c) The Christian useth these things with a holy fear, lest earth should rob heaven, and his outward enjoyments prejudice his heavenly interest. He eats in fear, works in fear, rejoiceth in his abundance with fear. As Job sanctified his children by offering a sacrifice, out of a fear lest they had sinned; so the Christian is continually sanctifying his earthly enjoyments by prayer, that so he may be delivered from the snare of them. (3.) Particular. [Observe thy heart] in keeping of earthly things. The same heavenly law, which the Christian went by in getting, he observes in holding, them. As he dares not say he will be rich and honourable in the world, but if God will; so neither that he will hold what he hath. He only keeps them, until his heavenly Father calls for them, that at first gave them. If God will continue them to him, and entail them on his posterity too, he blesseth God; and so he desires to do also when he takes them away. . . . The Christian will expose all he hath in this world to preserve his hopes for another. Jacob, in his march towards Esau, sent his servants with his flocks before, and came himself with his wives behind; if he can save anything from his brother’s rage, it shall be what he loves best: if the Christian can save anything, it shall be his soul, his interest in Christ and heaven, and then no matter if the rest go . . . William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:220222.

Polish Your Armor

Ephesians 6:13 exhorts us to take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. But suppose that armor, through negligence, begins to rust? William Gurnall directs us, then, to apply thyself to the use of those means which God hath appointed for the strengthening [of] grace.    1. I shall sent thee to the Word of God; be more frequently conversant with it. David tells us where he renewed his spiritual life, and got his soul so oft into a heavenly heat, when grace in him began to chill. The Word, he tells us, quickened him. . . . Now the Word brings the Christian graces and their object together. Here love may delight herself with the beholding Christ, who is set out to life there in all his love and loveliness. Here the Christian may see his sins in a glass that will not flatter him; and can there any godly sorrow be in the heart, any hatred of sin, and not come forth, while the man is reading what they cost Christ for him? 2. From the word go to meditation. This is as bellows to the fires. That grace which lies choked and eaten up for want of exercise, will by this be cleared and break forth. While thou art musing this fire will burn, and thy heart grow hot within thee, according to the nature of the subject thy thoughts dwell upon. Resolve, therefore, Christian, to inclose time from all worldly suitors, wherein thou mayest every day, if possible, at least take a view of the most remarkable occurrences that have passed between God and thee. (1.) Ask thy soul what takings it hath had that day, what mercies heaven hath sent into thee? and . . . stay till thy soul has made report of Gods gracious dealings with thee. . . . There is a great treasure of mercy always in the Christian’s hands, and conscience is oft calling the Christian to take the account, and see what God has done for him; but seldom it is he can find time to tell his mercies over. And is it any wonder that such should go behind-hand in their spiritual estate, who take no more notice of what the gracious dealings of God are with them? How can he be thankful that seldom thinks what he receives? or patient when God afflicts, that wants one of the most powerful arguments to pacify a mutinous spirit in trouble, and that is taken from the abundant good we receive at the hands of the Lord as well as a little evil? how can such a souls love flame to God, that is kept at such a distance from the mercies of God, which are fuel to it? And the like might be said of all the other graces. (2.) Reflect upon thyself, and bestow a few serious thoughts upon thy own behaviourwhat it hath been towards God and man all along the day. . . . 3. From meditation go to prayer. Indeed, a soul in meditation is on his way to prayer; that duty leads the Christian to this, and this brings help to that. When the Christian has done his utmost by meditation to excite his graces, and chase his spirit into some divine heat, he knows all this is but to lay the wood in order. The fire must come from above to kindle, and this must be fetched by prayer. . . . 4. To all the former, join fellowship and communion with the saints thou livest amongst. No wonder to hear a house is robbed that stands far from neighbours. He that walks in communion of saints travels in company, he dwells in a city where one house keeps up another . . . The devil knows what he does in hindering this great ordinance of communion of saintsin doing this he hinders the progress of grace, yea, brings that which Christians have into a declining, wasting state. The apostle couples those two duties close together, to hold fast our profession, and to consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works, He. x. 23, 24. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:239241.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13 The day we live inwhatever that day may bebrings with it its measure of evil. We may take comfort and be encouraged, however, in the fact that it is, for the Christian, only for a day. Some take this evil day to comprehend the whole life of a Christian here below in this vale of tears, and then the argument runs thus:Take to yourselves the whole armour of God, that you may be able to persevere to the end of your life, which you will find, as it were, one continued day of trouble and trial. . . . Such is the saints state in this bottom, that their very life here, and all the pompous entertainments of it, are their cross, because they detain them from their crown. We need nothing to make our life an evil day, more than our absence from our chief good, which cannot be recompensed by the world, nor enjoyed with it. Only this goodness there is in this evil, that it is short. Our life is but an evil day, it will not last long. And sure it was mercy that God hath abridged so much of the term of mans life in these last daysdays wherein so much of Christ and heaven are discovered, that it would have put the saints patience hard to it, to have known so much of the upper world’s glory, and then be kept so long from it, as the fathers in the first age were. O comfort one another, Christians, with this: Though your life be evil with troubles, yet it is shorta few steps, and we are out of the rain. There is a great difference between a saint in regard of the evils he meets with, and the wicked, just as between two travellers riding contrary waysboth taken in the rain and wetbut of whom one rides from the rain, and so is soon out of the shower, but the other rides into the rainy cornerthe farther he goes, the worse he is. The saint meets with troubles as well as the wicked, but he is soon out of the showerwhen death comes he has fair weather; but the wicked, the farther he goes the worsewhat he meets with here is but a few drops, the great storm is the last. The pouring out of God’s wrath shall be in hell, where all the deeps of horror are opened, both from above of Gods righteous fury, and from beneath of their own accusing and tormenting consciences. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:242243.

An Unsavoury Doctrine

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13 The phrase having done everything can be understood to mean having persevered. William Gurnall writes of the certainty of perseverance for those clad in the armor of God, and the implications of denying that certainty. Away then with that doctrine that saith, One may be a saint to-day and none to-morrow; now a Peter, anon a Judas. O what unsavoury stuff is this! A principle it is that at once crosseth the main design of God in the gospel-covenant, reflects sadly on the honour of Christ, and wounds the saints comfort to the heart. 1. It is derogatory to God’s design in the gospel-covenant, which we find plainly to be this, that his children might be put into a state sure and safe from miscarrying at last, which by the first covenant man was not. See Ro. iv. 16, Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed. God on purpose, because of the weakness of the first covenant, through the mutable nature of man, makes a new covenant of a far different constitution and frame, not of works, as that was but of faith; and why? the apostle tells us that it, might be sure to all the seed, that not one soul, who by faith should be adopted into Abrahams family, and so become a child of the promise, should fail of inheriting the blessing of the promise, which is eternal life; called so, Tit. i. 2, and all this because the promise is founded upon grace, that is, Gods immutable good pleasure in Christ, and not upon the variable and inconsistent obedience of man, as the first covenant was. But if a saint may finally fall, then is the promise no more sure in this covenant than it was in that, and so God should not have the end he propounds. 2. It reflects sadly on Christs honour, both as he is intrusted with the saints’ salvation, and also as he is interested in it. First. As he is intrusted with the saints salvation. He tells us they are given him of his Father for this very end, that he should give them eternal life; yea, that power which he hath over all flesh, was given him to render him every way able to effect this one business, Jo. xvii. 2. He accepts the charge, owns them as his sheep, knows them every one, and promiseth he will give them eternal life, they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand, Jo. x. 27, 28. Now, how well do they consult with Christ’s honour that say his sheep may die in a ditch of final apostasy notwithstanding all this? Secondly. As he is interested in the salvation of every saint. The life of his own glory is bound up in the eternal life of his saints. It is true, when Adam fell God did save his stake, but how can Christ, who is so nearly united to every believing soul? There was a league of friendship betwixt God and Adam; but no such union as here, where Christ and his saints make but one Christ, for which his church is called Christ. As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ, 1 Co. xii. 12. Christ and his members make one Christ. Now is it possible that a piece of Christ can be found at last burning in hell? can Christ be a cripple Christ? can this member drop off and that? It is as possible that all as any should. And how can Christ part with his mystical members and not with his glory? doth not every member add an ornament to the body, yea, an honour? The church is called the fulness of him, Ep. i. 23. O how dishonourable is it to Christ, that we should think he shall want any of his fulness! and how can the man be full and complete that wants a member? 3. It wounds the saints comfort to the heart, and lays their joy a bleeding. Paul saith he did not dash the generous wine of Gods word with the water of mans conceits, 2 Co. ii. 17. No, he gave them pure gospel. Truly, this principle of saints falling from grace gives a sad dash to the sweet wine of the promises. The soul-reviving comfort that sparkles in them, ariseth from the sure conveyance with which they are in Christ made over to believers, to have and to hold for ever. Hence [they are] called the sure mercies of David, Ac. xiii. 34mercies that shall never fail. This, this is indeed wine that makes glad the heart of a saint. Though he may be whipped in the house when he sins, yet he shall not be turned out of doors; as God promised in the type to Davids seed. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail, Ps. lxxxix. 33; and ver. 36, his seed shall endure for ever. Could anything separate the believer from the love of God in Christ, this would be as a hole at the bottom of his cup to leak out all his joy; he might then fear every temptation or affliction he meets would slay him, and so the wickeds curse would be the saints portion. His life would ever hang in doubt before him, and the fearful expectation of his final miscarriage, which he sees may befall him, would eat up the joy of his present hope. Now, how contrary such a frame of heart is to the spirit of adoption, and [to the] full assurance of hope which the grace of the new covenant gives he that runs may read in the word. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:266267.

An Encroaching Enemy

William Gurnall calls Satan an encroaching enemy who takes territory by bits and pieces. Ground given up is not easily retaken. We must stand, therefore (Ephesians 6:14), wearing the full armor of God.    He is an encroaching enemy, and therefore to be resisted. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath, saith the apostle, neither give place to the devil, Ep. iv. 26, 27. As soldiers, by cowardly leaving some outwork they are set to defend, give place to their enemy, who enters the same, and from thence doth more easily shoot into the city than he could before. Thus [by] yielding in one temptation we let the devil into our trench, and give him a fair advantage to do us the more mischief. The angry man while he is raging and raving, thinks, may be, no more, but to ease his passion by disgorging it in some bitter keen words, but alas while his fury and wrath is sallying out at the portal of his lips, the devil finding the door open, enters and hurries him farther than he dreamt of. We have not to do with a Hannibalwho, though a great swordsman, yet wanted the art of following and improving the advantages his victories gave himbut with a cunning devil that will easily lose no ground he gets. Our best way, therefore, is to give him no hand-hold, not so much as to come near the door where sin dwells, lest we be hooked in. If we mean not to be burned, let us not walk upon the coals of temptation;if not to be tanned, let us not stand where the sun lies. They surely forget what an insinuating wriggling nature this serpent hath, that dare yield to him in something, and make us believe they will not in anotherwho will sit in the company of drunkards, frequent the places where the sin is committed, and yet pretend they mean not to be such?that will prostitute their eyes to unchaste objects, and yet be chaste?that will lend their ears to any corrupt doctrine of the times, and yet be sound in the faith? This is a strong delusion that such are under. If a man hath not power enough to resist Satan in the less, what reason hath he to think he shall in the greater. Thou hast not grace, it seems, to keep thee from throwing thyself into the whirl of temptation, and dost thou think that, when in it, thou shalt bear up against the stream of it? One would think it is easier when in the ship, to keep from falling overboard, than when in the sea, to get safely into the ship again. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:278279.

Standing Gods Way

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. William Gurnall reminds us that our standing is to be done in our proper place, and according to Gods design. Consider what thou doest out of thy place is not acceptable to God, because thou canst not do it in faith, without which it is impossible to please God; and it cannot be in faith, because thou hast no call. God will not thank thee for doing that which he did not set thee about. Possibly thou hast good intentions. So had Uzzah in staying the ark, yet how well God liked his zeal, see 2 Sa. vi. 7. Saul himself could make a fair story of his sacrificing, but that served not his turn. It concerns us not only to ask ourselves what the thing is we do, but also who requireth this at our hands? To be sure, God will at last put us upon that question, and it will go ill with us if we cannot show our commission. So long must we needs neglect what is our duty, as we are busy about that which is not. The spouse confesseth this, They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept, Ca. i. 6. She could not mind their [vineyards] and her own tooour own iron will cool while we are beating anothers. And this must needs be displeasing to Godto leave the work God sets us about, to do to do what he never commanded. When a master calls a truantly scholar to account, that hath been missing some days from school, would this be a good plea for him to tell his master, that he was all the while in such a mans shop at work with his tools? No, sure his business lay at school, not in that shop. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:281.

Virtual Armour

Sorry, folks, Im very busy this week and may not post exactly according to the usual schedule. Since today is normally reserved for Gurnall, let me point you to The Christian in Complete Armour online.

Know Your Place

It is often tempting to take matters that are not ours into our own hands. From the vigilante who takes it upon himself to administer justiceas he sees itwhen the law fails, to the wife who usurps her husbands place when he doesnt meet her expectations, we are all tempted at times to get the job done by any means. William Gurnall reminds us that as Gods design includes the means to the end, he also has ordained particular ministers for each task. We shall never be charged for not doing anothers work. Give an account of thy stewardship, Lu. xvi. 2; that is, what by thy place thou wert intrusted with. We may indeed be accessory to anothers sin and miscarriage in his place. Be not partakers with them, saith the apostle, Eph. v. 7. There is a partnership, if not very watchful, that we have with others sins, and therefore we may all say Amen to that holy mans prayer, Lord, forgive me my other sins. Merchants can trade in bottoms [vessels of burden] that are not their own, and we may sin with other mans hands many ways; and one especially is, when we do not lend our brother that assistance in his work and duty, which our place and relation obligeth to. But it is not our sin that we do not supply anothers negligence, by doing that which belongs not to our place. We are to pray for magistrates that they may rule in the fear of God, but if they do not, we may not step upon the bench and do his work for him. God requires no more than faithfulness in our place. We do not find fault with an apple-tree if it be laden with appleswhich is the fruit of its own kindthough we can find no figs or grapes growing on it. We expect these only from their proper root and stock. He is a fruitful tree in Gods orchard that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, Ps. i. 3. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:282283.

Girded with Truth

Having your loins girt about with truth (Eph. vi. 14). Gurnall introduces this section of the text with a brief explanation of the meaning of truth. What is truth here? Some by truth understand Christ, who indeed elsewhere is called the truth. Yet in this place I conceive it is not properly so understood, because the apostle instanceth in here several pieces and parts of armour, one distinct from another, and Christ cannot so well be said to be a single piece to defend this or that part, as the whole in whom we are complete, compared therefore, Ro. xiii. 14, to the whole suit of armour, Put ye on the Lord Jesus; that is, be clothed and harnessed with Christ as a soldier with his armour cap-?-pie. Some by truth mean truth of doctrine; others will have it truth of heart, sincerity. Those I think right that comprise both; and so I shall handle it. Both indeed are required to make the girdle complete. One will not do without the other. It is possible to find good meanings and a kind of sincerity without, yea against the truth. Many follow an error as they [followed]* Absalom in the simplicity of their hearts. Such do ill while they mean well. Good intentions do not more make a good action, than a fair mark makes a good shot by an unskilful archer. God did not like Sauls zeal when he persecuted the Christian church, though he thought, no question, he did him good service therein. Neither is it enough to have the truth on our side, if we have not truth in our hearts. Jehu was a great stickler against idolatry, but kicked down all again by his hypocrisy. Both then are necessary; sincerity to propound a right end, and knowledge of the word of truth to direct us in the right way to that end. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:291. * I have inserted this word because it seems as if its omission is a typo. In any case, its the only way I can make sense of it. See 2 Samuel 15:11 (KJV).

An Established Judgment

Having your loins girt about with truth (Eph. vi. 14). Gurnall presents us with a double design Satan hath to rob Christians of truth, and a corresponding twofold girding about with this truth. First Girding About. [It is the Christians duty to labour for an established judgment in the truth.] Since Satan comes as a serpent in the persons of false teachers, and by them labours to put a cheat on us and cozen [cheat, deceive] us with error for truth; to defend us against this design, it is necessary that we be girt with truth in our understandingthat we have an established judgment in the truths of Christ. It should be the care of every Christian to get an established judgment in the truth. The Bereans are highly commended for the inquiry they made into the Scripture, to satisfy their judgements concerning the doctrine Paul preached. They did not believe hand over head, but their faith was the result of a judgement, upon diligent search, convinced by the scripture evidence, Ac. xvii. 11. It is said there that they searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so. They carried the preachers doctrine to the written word, and compared it with that; and mark, therefore many of them believed, ver. 12. As they did not believe before, so they durst not but believe now. I remember Tertullian, speaking of some heretics as to their manner of preaching, saith persuadendo docent, non docendo persuadentthey teach by persuading, and do not by teaching persuade, that is, they woo and entice the affections of their hearers, without convincing their judgement about what they preach. Indeed, it were a hard work for the adulterer to convince her he would prostitute, that the fact is lawful; no, he goes another way to work. First by some amorous insinuations he inveigles her affections, and they, once bewitched, the other is not much questionedit being easy for the affections to make the judgment of their party. Well, though error, like a thief, comes thus in at the window; yet truth, like the true owner of the house, delights to enter at the right door of the understanding, from thence into the conscience, and so passeth into the will and affections. Indeed, he that hits upon truth, and takes up the profession of it, before he is brought into the acquaintance of its excellency and heavenly beauty by his understanding, cannot entertain it becoming to its heavenly birth and descent. It is as a prince that travels in a disguise, not known, therefore not honoured. Truth is loved and prized only of those that know it. And not to desire to know it, is to despise it, as much as knowing it, to reject it. It were not hard, sure, to cheat that man of truth, who knows not what he hath. Truth and error are all one to the ignorant man, so it hath but the name of truth. Leah and Rachel were both alike to Jacob in the dark. Indeed it is said, In the morning behold it was Leah, Ge. xxix. 25. So in the morning, when it is day in the understanding, then the deceived person will see he hath had a false bride in his bosom; will cry out, Behold, it is an error which I took for a truth. You have, may be, heard of the covetous man, that hugged himself in the many bags of gold he had, but never opened them or used them. When the thief took away his gold, and left him his bags full of pebbles in the room, he was as happy as when he had his gold, for he looked not on the one or other. And verily an ignorant person is in a manner no better with truth than error on his side. Both are alike to him, day and night all one to a blind man. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:293294.

A Free and Bold Profession

Having your loins girt about with truth (Eph. vi. 14). Gurnall presents us with a double design Satan hath to rob Christians of truth, and a corresponding twofold girding about with this truth. The first was an understanding of the truth. The second is a determined conviction to profess the truth. Second Girding About. [It is the Christians duty to make a free and bold profession of the truth.] Since Satan comes sometimes as a lion in the persons of bloody persecutors, and labours to scare Christians from the truth with fire and faggot; to defend us against this design, we need to have truth girt about us, so that with a holy resolution we may maintain our profession in the face of death and danger. The second way that truth is assaulted is by force and violence, the devil pierceth the foxs skin of seducers with the lions skin of persecutors. The bloodiest tragedies in the world have been acted on the stage of the church; and the most inhuman massacres and butcheries committed on the harmless sheep of Christ. The first man that was slain in the world was a saint, and he for religion. And as Luther said, Cain will kill Abel unto the end of the world. The fire of persecution can never go out quite, so long as there remains a spark of hatred in the wickeds bosom on earth, or the devil in hell to blow it up. Therefore there is a second way of having truth girt about the Christians loins, as necessary as the other, and that is in the profession of it. Many that could never be beaten from the truth by dint of argument, have been forced from it by the fire of persecution. It is not an orthodox judgment will enable a man to suffer for the truth at the stake. . . . Truth in the head, without holy courage, makes a man like the sword-fish, which Plutarch saith hath a sword in the head, but no heart to use it. Then a person becomes unconquerable, when from heaven he is endued with a holy boldness to draw forth the sword of the Spirit, and own the naked truth, by a free profession of it in the face of death and danger. This, this is to have our loins girt about with truth. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:304305.

Acquiring a Bold Profession

Having your loins girt about with truth (Eph. vi. 14). In our past few visits with Gurnall, we have been presented us with a double design Satan hath to rob Christians of truth, and a corresponding twofold girding about with this truth. First, It is the Christians duty to labour for an established judgment in the truth. Gurnall held up the Bereans as examples of those who are highly commended for the inquiry they made into the Scripture, to satisfy their judgements concerning the doctrine Paul preached. Second, It is the Christians duty to make a free and bold profession of the truth. head-knowledge, i.e. an established judgement, is not, by itself, adequate. It is not an orthodox judgment will enable a man to suffer for the truth at the stake. . . . Truth in the head, without holy courage, makes a man like the sword-fish, which Plutarch saith hath a sword in the head, but no heart to use it. But how are we to acquire this free and bold profession? Gurnall writes: Labour to get an heart inflamed with a sincere love to the truth. This only is able to match the enemies of truth. The worst they can do is bonds or death; and love is stronger than death. It kills the very heart of death itself. It makes all easy. Commandments are grievous to love, nor doth it complain of sufferings. With what a light heart did Jacob, for the love of Rachel, endure the heat of the day and cold of the night! It is venturous. Jonathan threw a kingdom at his heels, and conflicted with the anger of an enraged father, for David’s sake. Love never thinks itself a loser so long as it keeps its beloved; yea, it is ambitious of any hazardous enterprise, whereby it may sacrifice itself in the service of its beloved, as we see in David, who put his life in his hands for Michal. How much more so when our love is pitched upon so transcendent an object as Christ and his truth! Alas, they are but faint spirits which are breathed from a creature! weak beams that are shot from such sorry beauties! If these lay their loves under such a law that they cannot but obey, though with the greatest peril and hazard; what constraint then must a soul ravished with the love of Christ be under! This has made the saints leap out of their estates, relations, yea out of their bodies with joy, counting it not their loss to part with them, but to keep them with the least prejudice to the truth, Re. xii. 11. It is said there, they loved not their lives unto the death. Mark, not to the loss of some of the comforts of their lives, but unto the death. Life itself they counted an enemy when it would part them and truth. As a man doth not love his arm, or leg, when it hazards the rest, but bids cut it off; cannot we live, say these noble spirits, but to the clouding of truth, and calling our love to it and Christ into question?welcome then the worst of deaths. This kept up Davids courage when his life was laid for: The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies, Ps. cxix. 95. A carnal heart would have considered his estate, wife, and children, or at least his life, now in danger. But David’s heart was on a better subject; he considered the testimonies of God, and so much sweetness pours in upon his soul while he is rowling them in his meditation, that he cannot hold. O how I love thy law! ver. 97. This made him set light by all the troubles he met with for his cleaving to the truth. It is a great mystery to the world, that men for an opinion, as they call it, should run such desperate hazard. Therefore Paul was thought by his judge to be out of his wits. And that question which Pilate asked Christ, seems rather to be slightingly, rather than seriously spoken, John xviii. Our Saviour had told him, ver. 37, that the end why he was born, and came into the world, was, that he should bear witness to the truth. Then Pilate, ver. 38, asks Christ, What is truth? and presently flings away, as if he had said, Is this now a time to think of truth, when thy life is in danger? What is truth, that thou shouldst venture so much for it? But a gracious should may better ask in a holy scorn, What are riches and honours, what the fading pleasures of this cheating world, yea, what is life itself, that any or all these should be set in opposition to truth? O sirs, look what has your love that will command purse, credit, life and all. Amor meus pondus meumevery man goes where his love carries him. If the world has your love, on it you will spend your lives; if truth has your hearts, you will catch the blow that is made at it in your own breasts, rather than let it fall on it. Only be careful that your love to truth be sincere, or else it will leave you at the prison door, and make you part with truth when you should most appear for it. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:309310.

���hypocrisy lies close in the heart���

As fallen beings, we humans are, regardless of relative intelligence, ignorant and stupid. Nowhere (in my opinion) is this stupidity displayed more plainly than in our opinions of ourselves and our fellow humans. Those opinions are consistently higher than they ought to be. How often have you heard it said that ���there is some good in everyone���? Yet Scripture describes us in somewhat less glowing terms (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10���18). If we are overly generous in our opinions of mankind in general, we are especially kind to ourselves. Even when confessing a fault we will usually impute to ourselves sincere, good intentions. As William Gurnall writes, we ought not to make that assumption. Rather, we should hold our hearts suspiciously at all times. It behoves thee thus to try thy ways when you consider how hypocrisy lies close in the heart. If thou beest not very careful, thou mayest easily pass a false judgement on thyself. They who were sent to search the cellar under the parliament, at first saw nothing but coals and winter provision; but, upon a review, when they came to throw away that stuff they found all [to be] but provision for the devil���s kitchen; then the mystery of iniquity was uncased, and the barrels of powder appeared.* How many are there, that from some duties of piety they perform, some seeming zeal they express in profession, presently cry omnia ben?����all things are well, and are so kind to themselves as to vote themselves good Christians, who, did they but take the pains to throw these aside, might find a foul hypocrite at the bottom of them all. Hypocrisy often takes up her lodging next door to sincerity, and so she passes unfound���the soul not suspecting hell can be so near heaven. And as hypocrisy, so sincerity, is hard to be discovered. This grace often lies low in the heart, hid with infirmities, like the sweet violet in some valley, or near some brook, hid with thorns and nettles, so that there requires both care and wisdom, that we neither let the weed of hypocrisy stand nor pluck up the herb of grace in its stead. ���William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:346���347. * Gurnall refers here to The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland). The Gunpowder Plot was still recent history, having taken place a scant twelve years before Gurnall���s birth in 1617.

A Plain Heart

William Gurnall wrote, a sincere heart is a plain heart. The sincere heart deals plainlyhonestly and straightforwardlywith God, with man, and with himself. Concerning the latter, Gurnall writes: A sincere heart deals plainly with itself, and that in two things chiefly. (a) In searching and ransacking its own self. This it doth to its utmost skill and power. . . . When David found his thoughts of God, which used to recreate him, and be his most pleasing company, occasion some trouble in his spiritI remembered God, and was troubled, Ps. lxxvii. 3this holy man, wondering what the matter should be, do but see what a privy search he makes. He hunts backwards and forwards, what Gods former dealings had been, and communes with his heart, and makes diligent search there, ver. 6; never gives over till he brings it to an issue; and finding the disturber of his peace to be in himself, he is not so tender of his reputation as to think of smothering the business or smoothing it over, but attacks the thief, indicts his sin, and confesseth the fact, to the justifying of God, whom before he had hard thoughts of. And I said, This is my infirmity, ver. 10; as if he had said, Lord, now I see the Jonas that caused the storm in my bosom, and made me uncomfortable in my affliction all this while; it is this unbelief of mine that bowed me down to attend so to the sorrow and sense of my present affliction, that it would not suffer me to look up to former experiences, and so, while I forgat them, I thought unworthily of thee. Here was an honest plain-dealing soul indeed. What akin art thou, O man, to holy David? is this thy way in of searching thy soul? dost thou do it in earnest, as if thou wert searching for a murderer hid in thy house; as willing to find out thy sin . . . ? Tertullian said of the heathen persecutors, noluerunt audire, quod auditum damnare non possintthey would not let the Christians be heard, because they could not then easily have had the face to condemn them, their cause would have appeared so just. The contrary here is true. The hypocrite dares not put his state upon a fair trial, because then he could not handsomely escape condemning himself. But the sincere soul is so zealous to know its true state, that when he hath done his utmost himself to find it out, and his conscience upon this privy search clears him, yet he contents not himself here; but jealous lest self-love might blind his eyes, and occasion too favourable a report from his conscience, he calls in help from heaven, and puts himself upon Gods review. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? Ps. cxxxix. 21. His own conscience answers to it: I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies, ver. 22. Yet David, not wholly satisfied with his own single testimony, calls out to God, Search me, O God, and know my heart; . . . see if there be any wicked way in me, ver. 23, 24. And wise physicians will not trust their own judgments about the state of their own health; nor sincere Christians themselves about their souls welfare. It is God that they attend to. His judgment alone concludes and determines them. When they have prayed and opened their case to him, with David, they listen what he will say. Therefore you shall find them putting themselves under the most searching ministry, from which they never come more pleased than when their consciences are stripped naked, and their hearts exposed to their view; as the woman of Samaria, who commended the sermon, and Christ that preached it, for this unto her neighbours, that he had told her all that ever she had done, John iv. 29. . . . (b) The true heart shows its plain-dealing with itself, as in searching, so in judging itself, when once testimony comes in clear against it, and conscience tells it, Soul, in this duty thou betrayedst pride, in that affection, frowardness and impatience. Such a one is not long before it proceeds to judgment, and this it doth with so much vehemency and severity, that it plainly appears zeal for Godwhom he hath dishonouredmakes him forget all self-pity. He lays about him in humbling and abasing himself, as the sons of Levi in executing justice on their brethren who knew neither brother nor sister in that act. Truly such an heroic act is this of the sincere soul judging itself. He is so transported and clothed with a holy fury against his sin, that he is deaf to the cry of flesh and blood, which would move him to think of a more favourable sentence. I have sinned, saith David, against the Lord, 2 Sa. xii. 13; in another place, I have sinned greatly, and done very foolishly, 2 Sa. xxiiii; in a third, he, as unworthy of a mans name, takes beast to himselfso foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee, Ps. lxxiii. 22. But with a false heartif conscience checks him for this or that . . .the court is sure to be broken up, . . . so conscience ceaseth to give evidence where it cannot be heard, can have no judgment against the offender. William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 1:359361.

Difficult Love

Tuesday··2010·06·22 · 1 Comments
As Ive been arranging books on my new shelves, Ive been unable to resist looking through several of them on the way. Picking up a previously-read book is like visiting an old friend. Old memories are shared, and past conversations are repeated. The memories are not always good, but the sharing usually is. Such was the case when I spied a couple of bookmarks left behind in The Pursuit of holiness by Jerry Bridges, a book I read last year, but never blogged. At the first bookmark, this old friend brought me a Proverbs 27:6 moment. How do we view those who do not show love for us? Do we see them as persons for whom Christ died or as persons who make our lives difficult? I recall an unpleasant business encounter once with a person who later became a Christian through anothers witness. When I learned of this, I was deeply chagrined to reflect on the fact that I had never once thought of him as a person for whom Christ died, but only as someone with whom I had an unpleasant experience. We need to learn to follow the example of Christ, who was moved with compassion for sinners and who could pray for them even as they nailed him to the cross on Calvary. Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 2003), 6263. Im guessing that few among us wont be convicted by those words. God grant us the grace to love as he loved.

Victory vs. Obedience

Wednesday··2010·06·23 · 3 Comments
Would you believe that the failure of Christians to achieve victory over sin is caused by their desire and efforts to achieve victory over sin? I know, the suggestion smacks of quietism, the let go and let God mindset that should be quickly discarded as the pseudo-spiritual rubbish it is. But stay with me; the point is not to dismiss the desire for victory as wrong, but to examine our motivation. Our motives for defeating sin can actually be sinful. Jerry Bridges explains this paradox: If holiness, then, is so basic to the Christian life, why do we not experience it more in daily living? Why do so many Christians feel constantly defeated in their struggle with sin? Why does the Church of Jesus Christ so often seem to be more conformed to the world around it than to God? At the risk of oversimplification, the answers to these questions can be grouped into three basic problem areas. Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God centered. We are more concerned about our victory over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God. W. S. Plumer said, We never see sin aright until we see it as against God. . . . All is sin against God in this sense: that it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government that is set at naught. . . . Pharaoh and Balaam, Saul and Judas each said, I have sinned; but the returning prodigal son said, I have sinned against heaven and before thee; and David said, Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned. God wants us to act in obediencenot victory. Obedience it oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self. This may seem to be merely splitting hairs over semantics, but there is a subtle, self centered attitude at the root of many of our difficulties with sin. Until we face this attitude and deal with it we will not consistently walk in holiness. This is not to say that God does not want us to experience victory, but rather to emphasize that victory is a byproduct of obedience. As we concentrate on living an obedient, holy life, we will certainly experience the joy of victory over sin. Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 2003), 2123.

More on Victory vs. Obedience

Thursday··2010·06·24 · 4 Comments
Still just following the bookmarks left behind from my reading of The Pursuit of Holiness last year.    It is time for us Christians to face up our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are defeated by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient! It might be good if we stopped using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms obedience and disobedience. When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey. We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or the harbor resentment, or to shade the truth a little. We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sins reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate Gods provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness. Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 2003), 112113.

Guarding Our Emotions

Jerry Bridges on why our feelings are not a good guide, and what we should do about it:    Not only must we guard our minds, we must also guard our emotions. To do this, it is helpful to realize that while God most often appeals to our wills through our reason, sin and Satan usually appeal to us through our desires. This is the strategy he employed with Eve (Genesis 3:1-6). He attacked her reason by questioning Gods integrity, but his primary temptation was to her desire. We read that Eve saw the tree was good for food, it was a delight to the eyes, and desirable for making one wise (Genesis 3:6). Knowing that Satan attacks primarily through our desires, we should watch over them diligently and bring the Word of God to bear on them constantly. This is not asceticism; it is spiritual prudence. Each of us should be aware of how sin attacks us through our desires and take preventive actions. This is what Paul instructed Timothy to do when he instructed him to flee from the evil desires of youth (2 Timothy 2:22). But the guarding of our desires is more than fighting a rear-guard defensive action against temptations from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We must take the offensive. Paul directs us to set our hearts on things above, that is, spiritual values (Colossians 3:1). The psalmist encourages us to delight ourselves in the law of God (Psalm 1:2), and it was said prophetically of Jesus, I delight to do thy will, O my God (Psalm 40:8, NASB). So we see that we are to set our minds on spiritual things and delight ourselves in the law and will of God. Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 2003), 174175.

Contemplating Death

Jonathan Edwards (via Steve Lawson) on death as a sanctifying agent: To help himself value his time, Edwards determined to keep an eye on the final hour of his lifethe hour in which he would stand on the threshold of his entrance into the presence of God. In resolution 7, Edwards vowed: 7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.    This resolution was primarily intended to help Edwards in the mortification of his sin. He anticipated that asking himself whether he would engage in a particular activity if he had only one hour to live would help him steer clear of temptation. He was persuaded he would not want to pass into Gods presence after committing any sin. If he could say that he ought to avoid it at any point in his Christian walk. This perspective would restrain his sinful thoughts, activities, and words. Edwards often found much sanctifying value in focusing on the certainty of his death. When combating worldly thoughts, he wrote in his diary: Sabbath morning, Sept. 1. When I am violently beset with worldly thought, for a relief, to think of death, and the doleful circumstances of it. Thoughts of death turned his mind to eternal realities, making worldly temptations of the moment seem empty and unattractive. Living as if he was in his last hour helped him keep sinful things at a distance. Thoughts of death also helped Edwards keep a proper perspective on possessions. In his diary, he asked himself a probing question: Monday, Feb.3. Let every thing have the value now which it will have upon a sick bed; and frequently, in my pursuits of whatever kind, let this question come into my mind. How much shall I value this upon my death-bed? Edwards believed that contemplating his deathbed scene forced him to value what was most important in the present.    Contemplating his death even helped Edwards prepare himself for death. Edwards recorded: Friday morning, July 5. Last night, when thinking what I should wish I had done, that I had not done, if I was then to die; I thought I should wish, That I had been more importunate with God to fit me for death, and lead me into all truth, and that I might not be deceived about the state of my soul. Though Edwards wrote these words as a teenager, in the full bloom of life, he wanted to be prepared to meet his Lord with His approval. Focusing upon the end of life had the effect of helping Edwards prioritize what was most important in his life. This perspective restrained his sinful thoughts, activities, and words. Further, it helped him choose the highest ends in life. Not all choices in the use of his time were between good and evil. Some of the most difficult choices were between good, better and best. Always living as if he were at the end of his life caused him to live for what is best, the glory of God. Steve Lawson, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Reformation Trust, 2008), 9698.

A Trustworthy Judge

We humans tend to think rather highly of ourselves. Treated well, we generally think we have earned it. Treated badly, we may complain that we deserve better. And if we suspect that we might not be thinking highly enough of ourselves, we complain of low self-esteem. Christians, who ought to know better, are no exception. We often judge ourselves based on our own subjective feelings, as if having peace or a clear conscience indicates that we are right. Mark Dever writes: Paul says . . . I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me (1 Cor. 4:34). Paul is unaware of anything against himself, but knows that he is not acquitted by his self-assessment. It is the Lord who judges him. Of course, Paul is not saying that self-examination is wrong; in fact, he calls for it later in his letter (9:427; cf. 2 Cor. 13:5), but our self-assessmenta clear consciencesimply isnt the ultimate issue. The nature of our fallenness is such that we can have a clear conscience and still be wrong, which is why our conscience must be educated by the Word of God. Self-esteem cant be the final arbiter because we esteem ourselves too highly! We are called to make provisional judgments (so Matt. 7:6)as Paul is about to do forcefully in 2 Corinthians 5!but no mere human is our ultimate judge because, as Paul says in 4:4, we will be judged by the Lord (cf. 2:1016). Mark Dever, (Crossway, 2007), 2223. is a collection of messages from the 2006 Together for the Gospel Conference. You can download the entire message from which todays quotation was taken here.

Watch Your Life

Continuing through the 2006 Together for the Gospel messages (as compiled in ), we come to a message of extreme importance from C. J. Mahaney: Watch Your Life and Doctrine. Citing 1 Timothy 4:16, Mahaney reiterates the importance of sound doctrine. Then he moves into the other half of the message with words of warning. This warning, though aimed at pastors, is surely applicable to us all. [W]e can often forget that a knowledge of Scripture alone is not sufficient. Of course, James wont let us forget that we must Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22). This verse tells us that apart from obedience, knowledge can be deceptive. This puts an interesting twist on some of the favorite activities of good evangelical pastors: attending ministerial conferences, listening to sermons, and reading doctrinally sound books. All such activities afford us the opportunity for serious progress in personal godliness and ministry effectiveness. Yet each one can also be an instrument of progressive self-deception. . . . please understand: according to James, of you consume truth without applying truth, you risk the false and dangerous impression that spiritual growth was achieved without application. But it never isnever. We must be ever wary of the self-deception of which James speaks. Lets recognize limitations of sound doctrine, and make the practice of truth a daily priority. Never stop watching your life. C. J. Mahaney, (Crossway, 2007), 120121. is a collection of messages from the 2006 Together for the Gospel Conference. You can download the entire message from which todays quotation was taken here.

I Hate Too Little

Originally posted August 22, 2006. “For too little doth he love Thee, who loves any thing with Thee, which he loveth not for Thee.” —Augustine of Hippo I had to read that quotation from Augustine’s Confessions two or three times to really get the gist of it. When it had sunk in thoroughly, I was soundly smitten by the profound truth it expresses. If I love anything, even something that God loves, but do not love it primarily because God loves it and receives glory from it, I do not love God enough. This does not mean that we may have no personal reasons for our love. Certainly, I love my wife because she is precious to me, and my children also. I love God for his grace and mercy. These causes of love are legitimate. However, if the only reason for my love is personal, it is not adequate. I ought to see God’s glory reflected in my wife and children, and love them for Christ’s sake. I ought to see God glorified in my redemption and love him for that reason. Ultimately, God himself ought to be the object of my every affection. As I was contemplating my love for God, something else occurred to me: hatred of sin, and my reason for hating it. Why do I hate my sin? I hate my sin because of the harm it does to me and others. It often has immediate negative consequences for me, and it separates me from fellowship with God. Almost as often, it has negative consequences for someone close to me. I hate that. That motivates me to avoid sin and discipline myself to “do better.” But what should catalyze my hatred of sin? It is the same thing that should move me to love: the glory of God. I should hate my sin because it grieves my Father. I should hate my sin because it is an offense to my Savior. I should hate my sin because it quenches the Holy Spirit. I should hate it because it falls short of the glory of God. I should hate it because God hates it. I hate too little anything that I hate not for God’s sake.
Originally posted May 7, 2007. Temptation Temptation calledshe called my name; Twas nothing new, but just the same Enticing call with promise sweet, Come taste my wine, she did entreat. I sought the source of that sweet voice It seemed as though I had no choice. Although I searched, I found her not, But found the pleasure she had brought. I smelled the scent of her perfume That lingered there inside my room. I drank the wine that she had mixed, Though it was sweet, I was perplexed. I sought companionship to share Forbidden pleasure, fine and fair, But promised company had flown And left me guilty, and alone. The wine that I had drunk in haste Soon left a bitter aftertaste; Perfume so sweet, the scent of rose, Began a-burning in my nose. Who was this temptress who beguiled, Who my conscience had defiled? Who had done this thing to me? I would search, and find, and see! I looked around out in the dark Perhaps a devil there did lurk! I searched the streets all through the town; My nemesis could not be found. And then I heard her voice again: Come home, come home, youll find me then. Ive been here waiting. Dont delay! Come to my side, and with me stay. I came back home, there to seek The evil one who made me weak. There! twas the voice! It seemed to call Out from the glass upon the wall. How can this be? I thought with fear, Who can it be? Theres no one here! I stilled my heart, prepared to see, Looked in the glasssaw only me. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. James 1:14

Your Best Life Now, 1563 Edition

Tuesday··2011·02·08 · 1 Comments
Questions 1 & 2 from the Heidelberg Catechism: What is thy only comfort in life and in death? That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou in this comfort mayest live and die happily? Three things: First, the greatness of my sin and misery. Second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery. Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption. The Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff (Baker Books, 2007), 307308.

Fighting the Good Fight (1)

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according tothe prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. —Ephesians 2:1–3 The Christian life is a battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Ryle writes, “with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either ‘fight’ or be lost.” He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. To keep that heart from going astray, the Lord Jesus bids us ‘watch and pray.’ The spirit may be ready, but the flesh is weak. There is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. ‘I keep under my body,’ cries St. Paul, ‘and bring it into subjection.’—‘I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.’—‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’—‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.’—‘Mortify your members which are upon the earth’ (Mark 14:38; 1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 7:23, 24; Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5). He must fight the world. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things—the fear of the world’s laughter or blame—the secret desire to keep in with the world—the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on his way to heaven, and must be conquered. ‘The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.’—‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’—‘The world is crucified to Me, and I unto the world.’—‘Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.’—‘Be not conformed to this world’ (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15; Gal. 6:14; 1 John 5:4; Rom. 12:2). He must fight the devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been ‘going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it,’ and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of man’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always ‘going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour.’ An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A ‘murderer and a liar’ from the beginning, he labours night and day to cast us down to hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. ‘Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.’ This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved. But ‘this kind goeth not out’ but by watching and praying, and fighting, and putting on the whole armour of God. The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle (Job 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:8; John 8:44; Luke 22:31; Eph. 6:11). Some men may think these statements too strong. You fancy that I am going too far, and laying on the colours too thickly. You are secretly saying to yourself, that men and women in England may surely get to heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting. . . . Remember the maxim of the wisest General that ever lived in England—‘In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.’ —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 73—75.

Fighting the Good Fight (2)

Ryle, on the weapons of our warfare: A general faith in the truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves, for one simple reason—he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. ‘He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’ (Heb. 11:5). A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first. It looks very pretty at a distance. But the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion, unless he believes something. . . . As for true Christians, faith is the very backbone of their spiritual existence. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh and the devil, unless he has engraven on his heart certain great principles which he believes. . . . Wherever you see a man, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, wrestling manfully with sin, and trying to overcome it, you may be sure there are certain great principles which that man believes. The poet who wrote the famous lines: ‘For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight, He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right,’ was a clever man, but a poor divine. There is no such thing as right living without faith and believing. A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character. He sees by faith an unseen Saviour, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him, and appears in heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God. He sees Jesus, and clings to Him. Seeing this Saviour and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope, and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul. He sees his own many sins—his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy devil; and if he looked only at them he might well despair. But he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathizing Saviour—His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood— and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus, and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him he cheerfully fights on, with a full confidence that he will prove ‘more than conqueror through Him that loved him’ (Rom. 8:37). Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully. . . . Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ’s love and continual protection. Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling, and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that Christ is on his side and success is sure. It is the ‘shield of faith’ which quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one.—It is the man who can say, ‘I know whom I have believed’—who can say in time of suffering, ‘I am not ashamed.’—He who wrote those glowing words, ‘We faint not,’—‘Our light affliction which endureth but for a moment worketh in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’—was the man who wrote with the same pen, ‘We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’—It is the man who said, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God,’ who said, in the same Epistle, ‘the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’—It is the man who said, ‘To me to live is Christ,’ who said, in the same Epistle, ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.’—‘I can do all things through Christ.’—The more faith the more victory! The more faith the more inward peace! (Eph. 6:16; 2 Tim. 1:12; 2 Cor. 4:17, 18; Gal. 2:20; 6:14; Phil. 1:21; 4:11, 13). —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 79—81

They overcame, and so also may we

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. —1 Timothy 4:7–8 Some words of encouragement for our battle: Let us remember that the eye of our loving Saviour is upon us, morning, noon, and night. He will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, for He suffered Himself being tempted. He knows what battles and conflicts are, for He Himself was assaulted by the Prince of this world. Having such a High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (Heb. 4:14). Let us remember that thousands of soldiers before us have fought the same battle that we are fighting, and come off more than conquerors through Him that loved them. They overcame by the blood of the Lamb; and so also may we. Christ’s arm is quite as strong as ever, and Christ’s heart is just as loving as ever. He that saved men and women before us is one who never changes. He is ‘able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.’ Then let us cast doubts and fears away. Let us ‘follow them who through faith and patience inherit the promises,’ and are waiting for us to join them (Heb. 7:25; 6:12). Finally, let us remember that the time is short, and the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. A few more battles and the last trumpet shall sound, and the Prince of Peace shall come to reign on a renewed earth. A few more struggles and conflicts, and then we shall bid an eternal good-bye to warfare, and to sin, to sorrow, and to death. Then let us fight on to the last, and never surrender. Thus saith the Captain of our salvation—‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son’ (Rev. 21:7). —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 90—91

By the Blood of the Lamb

In each of his messages to the seven churches in Revelation, J. C. Ryle notes, “the Lord Jesus makes a promise to the man that overcomes. But what does it mean to overcome, and more importantly, how is it accomplished? Ryle explains, This is the road that saints of old have trodden in, and left their record on high. (a) When Moses refused the pleasures of sin in Egypt, and chose affliction with the people of God—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of pleasure. (b) When Micaiah refused to prophesy smooth things to king Ahab, though he knew he would be persecuted if he spoke the truth—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of ease. (c) When Daniel refused to give up praying, though he knew the den of lions was prepared for him—this was overcoming: he overcame the fear of death. (d) When Matthew rose from the receipt of custom at our Lord’s bidding, left all and followed Him—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of money. (e) When Peter and John stood up boldly before the council and said, ‘We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard’—this was overcoming: they overcame the fear of man. (f) When Saul the Pharisee gave up all his prospects of preferment among the Jews, and preached that very Jesus whom he had once persecuted—this was overcoming: he overcame the love of man’s praise. The same kind of thing which these men did you must also do if you would be saved. They were men of like passions with yourself, and yet they overcame. They had as many trials as you can possibly have, and yet they overcame. They fought. They wrestled. They struggled. You must do the same. What was the secret of their victory?—their faith. They believed on Jesus, and believing were made strong. They believed on Jesus, and believing were held up. In all their battles, they kept their eyes on Jesus, and He never left them nor forsook them. ‘They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony,’ and so may you (Rev. 12:11). —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 315–316.

Fight and Overcome

A needed warning to those of us who are well-taught in the doctrines of grace: I often fear much for those who hear the Gospel regularly, I fear lest you become so familiar with the sound of its doctrines, that insensibly you become dead to its power. I fear lest your religion should sink down into a little vague talk about your own weakness and corruption, and a few sentimental expressions about Christ, while real, practical fighting on Christ’s side is altogether neglected. Oh! beware of this state of mind. ‘Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.’ No victory—no crown! Fight and overcome! (James 1:22). —J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 316.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: The Battle Is the Lord’s

The Battle Is the Lord’s that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands. 1 Samuel 17:14 The battle is the Lord’s! The harvest fields are white: How few the reaping hands appear, Their strength how slight! Yet victory is sure— We face a vanquished foe; Then forward with the risen Christ To battle go! The battle is the Lord’s! Not ours in strength or skill, But His alone, in sovereign grace, To work His will. Ours, counting not the cost, Unflinching, to obey; And in His time His holy arm Shall win the day. The battle is the Lord’s! The Victor crucified Must with the travail of His soul Be satisfied. The pow’rs of hell shall fail, And all God’s will be done, Till every soul whom He has giv’n To Christ be won. The battle is the Lord’s! Stand still, my soul, and view The great salvation God has wrought Revealed for you. Then, resting in His might, Lift high His triumph song, For pow’r, dominion, kingdom, strength To Christ belong! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music). Different title, same tune (Leoni):

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Lead On, O King Eternal

Lead On, O King Eternal As the cattle which go down into the valley, The Spirit of the Lord gave them rest. So You led Your people, To make for Yourself a glorious name. Isaiah 63:14 Lead on, O King Eternal, The day of march has come; Henceforth in fields of conquest Your tents shall be our home. Through days of preparation Your grace has made us strong, And now, O King Eternal, We lift our battle song. Lead on, O King Eternal, Till sin’s fierce war shall cease, And holiness shall whisper The sweet Amen of peace; For not with swords loud clashing, Nor roll of stirring drums, With deeds of love and mercy The heav’nly kingdom comes. Lead on, O King Eternal, We follow, not with fears; For gladness breaks like morning Where’er Your face appears; Your cross is lifted o’er us; We journey in its light: The crown awaits the conquest; Lead on, O God of might. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Faith Is the Victory

Faith Is the Victory For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:4 Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers, rise, And press the battle ere the night Shall veil the glowing skies. Against the foe in vales below Let all our strength be hurled; Faith is the victory, we know, That overcomes the world. Refrain Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory! O glorious victory, that overcomes the world. His banner over us is love, Our sword the Word of God; We tread the road the saints above With shouts of triumph trod. By faith, they like a whirlwind’s breath, Swept on o’er ev’ry field; The faith by which they conquered death Is still our shining shield. Refrain On every hand the foe we find Drawn up in dread array; Let tents of ease be left behind, And onward to the fray; Salvation’s helmet on each head, With truth all girt about, The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread, And echo with our shout. Refrain To him that overcomes the foe, White raiment shall be giv’n; Before the angels he shall know His name confessed in heav’n. Then onward from the hill of light, Our hearts with love aflame, We’ll vanquish all the hosts of night, In Jesus’ conquering name. Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).


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