William Gurnall – Departing from the Living God

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you, an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12

Unbelief is the prince of sins. As faith is the radical grace, so is unbelief a radical sin, — a sinning sin. As, of all sinners, those are most infamous, who are ring-leaders and make others sin, which is the brand which God has set upon Jeroboam’s name, “Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who, sinned, and made Israel to, sin” (1 Kings 14:16), so among sins they are most horrid that are most productive of others, such is unbelief above any other: it is a ring-leading sin, a sin-making sin. The first poisonous breath which Eve sucked in from the tempter, was sent in these words, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen 3:1). As if he had said, Consider well on the matter; do you believe God meant so? Can you think so ill of God, as to believe he would keep the best fruit of the whole garden from you? This was the traitor’s gate at which all other sins entered into her heart; and it continues to this day of the same use to Satan, for the hurrying souls into other sins, called therefore “an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” The devil sets up this sin of unbelief, as a blind between the sinner and God; that the shot which come from the threatening, leveled at the sinner’s breast, may not be dreaded by him; and then the wretch can be as bold with his lust as the pioneer is at his work, when he has got his basket of earth between him and the enemies’ bullets: nay, this unbelief does not only choke the bullets of wrath which are sent out of the law’s fiery mouth, but it damps the motions of grace which come from the gospel; all the offers of love which God makes to an unbelieving heart, they fall like seed into dead earth, or like sparks into a river, they pare out as soon as they fall in.

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William Gurnall – Pride and Worldliness

“A man’s pride shall bring him low.” Proverbs 29:23

Religious Pride. Some are as blind as Laodicea, and know it not (Rev. 3:17). As ignorance blinds the mind, so pride is a blind before their ignorance, that they know it not. These have such a high opinion of themselves, that they take it ill that any should suspect them as such. These of all men, are most out of the way to knowledge; they are too good to learn from others, as they think, and too bad to be taught of God. The gate into Christ’s school is low, and these cannot stoop. The Master Himself is so humble and lowly that He will not teach a proud scholar.

Ah, poor creatures, what a sad change have they made, to leave the word, which can no more deceive them than God Himself to trust the guidance of themselves to themselves. “He who is his own teacher,” says Bernard, “is sure to have a fool for a master.”

Never are you less holy, than when puffed up with the conceit of it. “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright” (Hab. 2:4). A sign is set up at the proud man’s door, that all passengers may know that a wicked man dwells there.

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William Gurnall – Prayer and Thanksgiving

“Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6

Prayer the sign of life. What is prayer — but the breathing forth of that grace which is breathed into the soul by the Holy Spirit? When God breathed into man the breath of life, he became a living soul. Just so, when God breathes into the creature the breath of spiritual life — he becomes a praying soul: “Behold, he prays,” says God of Paul to Ananias (Acts 9:11). Praying is the same to the new creature, as crying to the natural babe. The child is not learned by art to cry — but by nature — it comes into the world crying. Praying is not a lesson got by forms and rules — but flowing from principles of new life.

Prayer and reality. Prayer is an act in which we have immediately to do with the great God, to whom we approach in prayer. It is too sacred a duty to be performed between sleeping and waking, with a heavy eye or a drowsy heart — this God complained of: “There is none that calls upon Your name, that stirs up himself to take hold of You” (Isaiah 64:7). He counts it no prayer, where the heart is not stirred up and awake. Our behavior in prayer has an universal influence upon all the passages of our whole life. As a man is in prayer — so he is likely to be in all the rest; if he is careless in praying — then he is negligent in hearing, and loose in his walking. Prayer is the channel, in which the stream of divine grace, blessing, and comfort — runs from God into the heart; dam up the channel — and the stream is stopped.

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William Gurnall – The Christian in Complete Armour

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
— Ephesians 6:10-20.

The Introduction

Paul was now in bonds, yet not so close kept as to be denied pen and paper; God, it seems, gave him some favour in the sight of his enemies: Paul was Nero’s prisoner, but Nero was much more God’s. And while God had work for Paul, he found him friends both in court and prison. Let persecutors send saints to prison, God can provide a keeper for their turn.

But how does this great apostle spend his time in prison? Not in publishing invectives against those, though the worst of men, who had laid him in; a piece of zeal which the holy sufferers of those times were little acquainted with: nor in politic counsels, how he might wind himself out of his trouble, by sordid flattery of, or sinful compliance with, the great ones of the times. Some would have used any picklock to have opened a passage to their liberty and not scrupled, so escape they might, whether they got out at the door or window. But this holy man was not so fond of liberty or life, as to purchase them at the least hazard to the gospel. He knew too much of another world, to bid so high for the enjoying of this; and therefore he is regardless what his enemies can do with him, well knowing he should go to heaven whether they would or no. No, the great care which lay upon him, was for the churches of Christ; as a faithful steward he labors to set the house of God in order before his departure. We read of no despatches sent to court to procure his liberty; but many to the churches, to help them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. There is no such way to be even with the devil and his instruments, for all their spite against us, as by doing what good we can wherever we be come.

The devil had as good have let Paul alone, for he no sooner comes into prison but he falls a preaching, at which the gates of Satan’s prison fly open, and poor sinners come forth. Happy for Onesimus that Paul was sent to jail; God had an errand for Paul to do to him and others, which the devil never dreamed of. Nay he doth not only preach in prison, but that he may do the devil all the mischief he can, he sends his epistles to the churches, that tasting his spirit in his afflictions, and reading his faith, now ready to be offered up, they might much more be confirmed; amongst which Ephesus was not least in his thoughts, as you may perceive by his abode with them two years together, Acts 19:10; as also by his sending for the elders of this church as far as Miletus, in his last journey to Jerusalem, Acts 20:17, to take his farewell of them as never to see their faces in this world more. And surely the sad impression which that heart-breaking departure left on the spirits of these elders, yea, the whole church, by them acquainted with this mournful news, might stir up Paul, now in prison, to write unto this church, that having so much of his spirit, yea, of the spirit of the gospel, left in their hands to converse with, they might more patiently take the news of his death.

In the former part of this epistle, he soars high in the mysteries of faith. In the latter, according to his usual method, he descends to application; where we find him contracting all those truths, as beams together, in a powerful exhortation, the more to enkindle their hearts, and powerfully persuade them to ‘walk worthy of their vocation,’ Eph. 4:1, which then is done, when the Christian’s life is so transparent that the grace of the gospel shines forth in the power of holiness on every side, and from all his relations, as a candle in a crystal glass, not in a dark lantern, lightsome one way and dark another: and therefore he runs over the several relations of husband, wife, parents, children, masters, and servants, and presseth the same in all these.

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William Gurnall – Sincerity & Hypocrisy

We come now to the second kind of truth—commended to the Christian under the notion of the soldier’s girdle—and that is, truth of heart. Where it would be known, First. What I mean by truth of heart. Second. Why truth of heart is compared to a girdle.

First. What I mean by truth of heart. By truth of heart, I understand sincerity, so taken in Scripture, ‘Let us draw near with a true heart,’ that is, with a sincere heart, Heb. 10.22. We have them oft con­joined, the one explaining the other: ‘Fear the Lord, and serve him with sincerity and truth,’ Joshua 24:14. We read of ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,’ I Cor. 5:8. Hypocrisy is a lie with a fair cover over it. An insincere heart is a half heart. The in­ward frame and motion of the heart comports not with the profession and behaviour of the outward man, like a clock, whose wheels within go not as the hand points without.

Second. Why truth of heart is compared to a girdle. Sincerity, or truth of heart, may fitly be com­pared to a girdle, in regard of the twofold use and end for which a girdle, especially a soldier’s belt, is worn.

First. The girdle is used as an ornament put on uppermost, to cover the joints of the armour, which would, if seen, cause some uncomeliness. Here—at the loins I mean—those pieces of armour for the defence of the lower parts of the body are fastened to the upper. Now because they cannot be so closely knit and clasped, but there will be some little gaping betwixt piece and piece, therefore they used to put over those parts a broad girdle, that covered all that uncomeliness. Now, sincerity doth the same for the Christian, that the girdle doth for the soldier. The saint’s graces are not so close, nor his life so exact, but in the best there are found infirmities and defects, which are as so many gapings and clefts in his ar­mour, but sincerity covers all, that he is neither put to shame for them, nor exposed to danger by them.

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