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Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall – SERVANTS AND SERVICE

 SERVANTS AND SERVICE

“He that has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord.” — Jeremiah 23:28.

PREACH the truth. Take heed of giving thy own dreams and fancies in God’s name. All is chaff except the pure word of God. Oh stamp not God’s image on thine own coin! We live in high-flown times: many people are not content with truths that lie plainly in the Scriptures; and some, to please their wanton palates, have sublimated their notions so high, that they have flown out of the sight of the Scripture, and unawares run themselves, with others, into dangerous errors. Make not experiments upon the souls of people, by delivering what is doubtful. Better feed people with sound doctrine though it be a plain meal, than that thou shouldst, with an outlandish dish, light on a wild gourd, that brings death into their pot.

Preach with the fear of God. A little bread, with God’s blessing, may make a meal for a multitude; and great provision may soon shrink to nothing, if God help not in the breaking of it. It is not thy sermon in thy head, or notes in thy book, that will enable thee to preach, except God open thy mouth; acknowledge, therefore, God in all thy ways, and lean not to thy own understanding: the swelling of the heart, as well as of the wall, goes before a fall. How much may it provoke God, when thou goest to the pulpit, and passest by his door in the way, without calling for His assistance? . . . Not only the preparation of the heart, but the answer of the tongue, both are from the Lord (Prov. 16:1). God keeps the key of the mouth as well of the heart; not a word can be uttered, until God opens the door of the lips to give it a free egress. He opened the mouth of the ass, and stopped the mouth of that wicked prophet, its master (Num. 22:28-31): hear him confess as much to Balak: “Lo, I am come to thee: have I now any power at all to say anything? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak” (verse 38).

Preach without fear of man. There is nothing more unworthy than to see a people bold to sin, and the preacher afraid to reprove them. It is said of Tacitus, that he took the same liberty to write the emperors’ lives, that they took in leading them.

Man-pleasing is both endless and needless. If thou wouldst thou couldst not please all; and if thou couldst, there is no need, if thou pleasest Him that can turn all their hearts and bind their hands. They speed best that dare be faithful. Jonah was afraid of his work: O, he durst not go to such a great city with such a sad message: to tell them that they should be destroyed, was to set them at work to destroy him that brought the news; but how near was he to losing his life by running away to save it? Jeremiah seemed the only man likely to lose his life by his bold preaching; yet he had fairer quarter at last than the smooth preachers of his time. If thou art free and bold, thou mayest, indeed, be mocked by some, but thou wilt be reverenced by more: yea, even they that wag their heads at thee, carry that in their conscience which will make them fear thee: they are the flattering preachers who become base among the people (Mal. 2:9). It is not wisdom to provoke the judge, by flattering the prisoner.

Where one says, How shall I do this and sin against God? many in their hearts say, How shall I do this and anger man? Herod feared John, and did many things; had he feared God he would have laboured to have done everything.

Fall to the work God sets thee about, and thou engagest His strength for thee. “The way of the Lord is strength.” Run from thy work and thou engagest God’s strength against thee; He will send some storm or other after thee to bring home His runaway servant. How oft has the coward been killed in a ditch, or under some hedge, when the valiant soldier that stood his ground and kept his place, got off with safety and honours?

Preach with a good conscience. Keep a clear conscience: he cannot be a bold reprover, that is not a conscientious liver; such a one must speak softly, for fear of waking his own guilty conscience. Unholiness in the preacher’s life, either will stop his mouth from reproving, or the people’s ears from receiving. Oh how harsh a sound does such a cracked bell make in the ears of his auditors!

Preach definitely. He is the better workman, who drives one nail home with reiterated blows, than he which covets to enter many, but fastens none. Such preachers are not likely to reach the conscience, who hop from one truth to another, but dwell on none. Were I to buy a garment in a shop, I should like him better that lays one good piece or two before me that are for my turn, which I may fully examine, than him who takes down all his shop, and heaps piece upon piece, merely to show his store, till at last for variety I can look attentively on none, they lie so one upon another.

Preach faithfully. The preacher must read and study people as diligently as any book in his study; and as he finds them, dispense like a faithful steward to them. People complain, we are so oft reproving the same error or sin; and the fault is their own, because they will not leave it. Who will blame the dog for continuing to bark, when the thief is all the while in the yard? Alas, alas, it is not once or twice rousing against sin will do it!

“It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). The preacher’s faithfulness stands in relation to him that intrusts him. It is very unlikely that a steward, in giving out provision, should please all the servants in the house; such officers have least thanks when they do their work best. He that thinks to please men, goes about an endless and needless work. A wise physician seeks to cure, not to please his patient. He that chides when he is sick, for the bitterness of the potions, will give thee thanks for it when he is recovered.

Preach simply. The word of God is too sacred a thing, and preaching too solemn a work, to be toyed and played with, as is the usage of some, who make a sermon but matter of wit and fine oratory. Their sermon is like a child’s doll, from which if you take its dress, the rest is worth nothing. It is well indeed when the people can keep pace with the preacher. To preach truths and notions above the hearers’ capacity, is like a nurse that should go to feed a child with a spoon too big to go into its mouth.

Preach wisely. “Because the preacher was wise, he . . . sought to find out acceptable words” (Eccles. 12:9, 10). Not rude, loose, and indigested stuff, in a slovenly manner brought forth, lest the sluttery of the cook should turn the stomachs of the guests.

Preach gently. “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (2 Tim. 2:24, 25). Oh how careful is God that nothing should be in the preacher to prejudice the sinner’s judgment, or harden his heart against the offer of His grace! If the servant be proud and hasty, how shall they know that the Master is meek and patient? He that will take the bird must not scare it. A forward, peevish messenger is no friend to him that sends him. Sinners are not pelted into Christ with stones of hard provoking language, but wooed into Christ by heart-melting exhortations.

The oil makes the nail drive without splitting the board. The word never enters the heart more kindly, than when it falls most gently: “Ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness” (Ps. 45:4). Be as rough to thy people’s sins as thou canst, so thou be gentle to their souls. Dost thou take the rod of reproof into thine hand? Let them see that love, not wrath, gives the blow. The word preached comes, indeed, best from a warm heart.

“The words of wise men are heard in quiet” (Ecc. 9:17). Let the reproof be as sharp as thou wilt; but the spirit must be meek. Passion raiseth the blood of him that is reproved; but compassion turns his bowels. We must not denounce wrath in wrath.

Preach diligently. All the water is lost that runs beside the mill, and all thy thoughts are waste which help thee not to do God’s work withal in thy general or particular calling. The bee will not sit on a flower where no honey can he sucked, neither should the Christian. Why sittest thou here idle? thou shouldst say to thy soul, when thou hast so much to do for God and thy soul, and so little time to despatch it in?

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Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall – STRIFE AND CONTENTION

STRIFE AND CONTENTION

“Spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.” Habakkuk 1:3.

CONTENTION is uncomfortable, with whomsoever we fall out: neighbours or friends, wife or husband, children or servants; but worst of all with God.

Consider the unhappy contentions and divisions that are found among the people of God. Contentions ever portend ill. Christ sets up the light of His gospel to walk and work by, not to fight and wrangle; and therefore, it were no wonder at all if He should put it out, and so end the dispute. If these storms which have been of late years upon us, and are not yet off, had but made Christians, as that did the disciples (Mark 6:48), ply their oars, and lovingly row all one way, it had been happy; we might then have expected Christ to come walking toward us in mercy, and help us safe to land; but when we throw away the oar, and fall to strife in the ship, while the wind continues loud about us, truly we are more likely to drive Christ from us, than to invite Him to us; we are in a more probable way of sinking than saving of the ship and ourselves in it.

There is nothing (next to Christ and heaven) that the devil grudges believers more than their peace and mutual love. If he cannot rend them from Christ, stop them from getting heaven, yet he takes some pleasure to see them go thither in a storm, like a shattered fleet severed from one another, that they may have no assistance from, nor comfort of each other’s company all the way. One ship is easier taken than a squadron.

If the gospel will not allow us to pay our enemies in their own coin, and give them wrath for wrath, much less will it suffer brethren to spit fire at one another’s face.

When children fight and wrangle, now is the time they may expect their father to come and part them with his rod. “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:6). Strife and contention set a people next door to a curse. God brings a heavy judgment upon a people when Himself leaves them. “Be of one mind,” says the apostle, “live in peace; and the God of love and peace shalt be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11), implying that if they did not live in peace they must not look to have His company long with them.

In our divided times, wherein there is so much difference of judgment, had there been less wrangling among ourselves and more wrestling with God, we had been in a fairer way to find the door of truth, which so many are yet groping for. The way of controversy is dusty, and contentious disputes raiseth this dust, and blows it most into their eyes that gallop fastest in it, so that they miss the truth, which humble souls find upon their knees at the throne of grace. . . . Sinning times have ever been the saint’s praying times: this sent Ezra with a heavy heart to confess the sin of his people (Ezra 9.). And Jeremiah tells the wicked of his degenerate age that his “soul should weep in secret places for their pride” (Jer. 13:17).

“The love of many shall wax cold,” and no wonder when self-love waxeth so hot. It was foretold also by the apostle (2 Tim. 3:1, 2), “In the last days . . . men shall be lovers of their own selves”; and what a black regiment follows this captain, sin! If once a man makes self the whole of his aim, farewell loving of, or praying for others: charity cannot dwell in so narrow a house as the self-lover’s heart; yea, it is opposed to it: “Love seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5).

They were none of the best Christians of whom Paul gives this character, “They sought their own.” As the heart advances in grace, so it grows more public-spirited: the higher a man ascends a hill, the larger will be his prospect: his eye is not confined within the compass of his own wall. The carnal spirit thinks of none but himself; whereas grace elevates the soul, and the more grace a man has, the more it will enable him to look from himself into the condition of his brethren.

I have known one that when he had some envious unkind thoughts stirring in him, against any one (and who so holy as may not find such vermin sometimes creeping about him), he would go to the throne of grace where he would most earnestly pray for the increase of those good things in them which he before had seemed to grudge.

When love has once laid the dust which passion and prejudice have blown in our eyes, we shall then stand at greater advantage for finding out truth. Pity thy weak brother, and take him by the hand for his help, but despise him not; God can make him to stand and suffer thee to fall: Christ doth not quench the smoking flax — why should we?

The persecutor’s sword is not at the church’s throat among us; but are not Christians falling out among themselves? The question has often been asked, why the word preached has been no more effectual to convert the wicked, or to edify the saints? One of the chief causes is the divisions amongst those that have made the greatest profession of the truth. The body of Christ is edified by love (Eph. 4:16). The apostles themselves, when wrangling got little good by Christ’s sermon, or the supper itself, administered by Christ to them. One would have thought that was such a meal, in the strength whereof (as so many Elijahs) they might have gone a long journey; but, alas! we see how weak they arise from it; one denies his Master, and the rest in alarm forsake Him. Christ prays for His people’s unity, “That the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). This should stir up all that wish well to the gospel, to pray for the reunion of divided hearts; hot disputes will not do it; prayer will, or nothing can. The God of peace can only set us at peace: if ever we are wise to agree, we must obtain our wisdom from above; this alone is pure and peaceable.

The unreasonableness of the strife betwixt Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s is aggravated by the near neighbourhood of the heathens to them, “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and Perizzite dwelled then in the land” (Gen. 13:7). . . . O Christians, shall Herod and Pilate put you to shame? They clapped up a peace to strengthen their hands against Christ; and will not you unite against your common enemy? . . . Contentions put a stop to the growth of grace. The body may as well thrive in a fever, as the soul prosper when on a flame with strife and contention. Observe that place (Eph. 4:15): “But speaking the truth in love,” or being sincere in love, “may grow up into Him in all things.” The apostle is upon a cure, showing how souls may come to thrive and flourish; and the receipt he gives is a composition of these two rare drugs, sincerity and love; preserve these and all will go well. There may be preaching, but no edifying, without love. You cut off your trade with heaven, at the throne of grace; you will be little in prayer to God, if much in squabbling with your brethren. It is impossible to go from wrangling to praying, with a free spirit. And if you should be so bold as to knock at God’s door, you are sure to have cold welcome, “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” As we cut off our trade with heaven, so with one another; when two countries fall out they must needs both pinch by the war. No Christian could well live without borrowing from his brethren. There is that “which every joint supplieth according to the effectual working in the measure of every part” (Eph. 4:16). Contentions and divisions spoil all intercourse among believers. Communication flows from communion, and communion is founded upon union. The church grows under persecution; that sheds the seed all over the field, and brings the gospel where else it had not been heard of; but divisions and contentions, like a furious storm, washes the seed out of the land, with its heart, fatness, and all. Contentions not only hazard the decay of grace, but growth of sin. “If ye have bitter envying, and strife in your hearts, glory not; . . . for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” Contention is the devil’s forge, in which if he can but give a Christian a heat or two, he will soften him for his hammer of temptation. Moses himself, when his spirit was a little hot, “spake unadvisedly with his lips.”

We are prone to mistake our heat for zeal, whereas commonly in strife between saints it is a fire-ship sent in by Satan to break their unity and order; wherein while they stand they are an armada invincible: and Satan knows he has no other way but this to shatter them: when the Christians’ language, which should be one, begins to be confounded, they are then near scattering.

Was there ever less love, charity, self-denial, heavenly mindedness, or the power of holiness, than in this sad age of ours? Alas! these are in great danger of perishing in the fire of contention and division, which a perverse zeal in less things has kindled among us.

Lay this deep in thy heart, that God, which gives an eye to see truth, must give a hand to hold it fast when we have it. What we have from God we cannot keep without God; keep therefore thy acquaintance with God, or else truth will not keep her acquaintance long with thee. God is light: thou art going into the dark, as soon as thou turnest thy back upon Him. We stand it better advantage to find truth, and keep it also, when devoutly praying for it, than fiercely wrangling and contending about it: disputes toil the soul and raise the dust of passion; prayer sweetly composeth the mind, and lays the passions which disputes draw forth; and I am sure a man may see further in a still, clear day, than in a windy and cloudy. When a person talks much and rests little, we have great cause to fear his brain will not long hold out; and truly, when a person shall be much in talking and disputing about truth, without a humble spirit in prayer to be led into it, God may justly punish that man’s pride with a spiritual frenzy in his mind, that he shall not know error from truth.

A truth under dispute is stopped in the head: it cannot commence in the heart, or become practicable in the life.

Many a sharp conflict there has been between saint and saint, scuffling in the dark through misunderstanding of the truth and each other.

There is a day coming, and it cannot be far from us, in which we shall meet lovingly in heaven, and sit at one feast: full fruition of God shall be the feast, and peace and love the sweet music that shall sound to it; and what folly it is for us to fight here who shall feast there!

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall-SUFFERING AND SHAME

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.

SUFFERING for Christ. “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29). All the parts and common gifts that a man has will never enable him to drink deep of this cup for Christ; such is the pride of man’s heart, he had rather suffer any way than this; rather from himself, and for himself, than from Christ, or for Christ. You would wonder to see sometimes how much a child will endure at his play, and never cry for it: this fall, and that knock, and no great matter is made of it by him, because got in a way that is pleasing to him; but let his father whip him, though it put him not to half the smart, yet he roars and takes on, that there is no quieting of him.

Most men are more tender of their skin than of their conscience, and had rather the gospel had provided armour to defend their bodies from death and danger, than their souls from sin and Satan. All the pieces are to defend the Christian from sin: none to secure him from suffering. Here is the true reason why so few come at the beat of Christ’s drum to His standard, and so many of those few that have enlisted themselves by an external profession under Him, within a while drop away, and leave His colours; it is suffering work they are sick of.

Sufferings for the gospel are no matter of shame. Paul doth not blush to tell, it is for the gospel he is in bonds. The shame belonged to them that put on the chain, not to him that wore it. “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16). The apostles rejoiced that “they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Shall the wicked glory in their shame, and thou be ashamed of thy glory?

Heaven is but little worth if thou hast not a heart to despise a little shame, and bear a few taunts 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.

Fear not what you can suffer, only be careful for what you suffer. Christ’s cross is made of sweet wood; there are comforts peculiar to those who suffer for righteousness. The true cause of Paul’s sufferings was his zeal for God and His truth; “For which I am in bonds.” That is, for the gospel which I profess and preach: as that martyr, who being asked how he came to prison, showed his Bible, and said, “This brought me hither.” Persecutors may pretend what they please, but it is the saint’s religion and piety that their spite is at.

Blessing through suffering. Persecution doth but mow the church, which afterward comes up the thicker for it; it is unholiness that ruins it. Persecutors do but plough God’s field for Him, while He is sowing it with the blood that they let out. Few are made better by prosperity, whom afflictions make worse. He that will sin, though he goes in pain, will much more if that be gone.

Prepared for suffering. The proverb is, He that would learn to pray let him go to sea; but I think it were better thus, He that would go to sea (this I mean of suffering) let him learn to pray before he comes there.

Christian, suffering may overtake thee suddenly; therefore be ready shod. Sometimes orders come to soldiers for a sudden march; they must be gone as soon as the drum beats. And so mayest thou be called out, before thou art aware, to suffer for God or from God. Abraham had little time given him to deal with his heart, and persuade it into a compliance with God, for offering his son Isaac; a great trial and short warning: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac” (Gen. 22:2). Not a year, a month, a week hence, but now! This was in the night, and Abraham is gone early in the morning. How couldst thou, in thy perfect strength and health, endure to hear the message of death, if God should, before any lingering sickness has brought thee into some acquaintance with death, say no more, but, Up and die, as once to Moses? Art thou shod for such a journey? Couldst thou say, “Good is the word of the Lord”?

“The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” (Ps. 78:9). Why? What is the matter? So well armed, and yet so cowardly? This seems strange: read the preceding verse, and you will cease wondering; they are called there, “a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.”

Be sure thou givest up thy lust to the sword of the Spirit, before thy life is in danger from the sword of the persecutor. Canst thou be willing to lay down thy life for Christ, and yet keep an enemy in thy bosom out of the hand of justice, that seeks to take away the life of Christ? Persecutors tempt as well as torture. It is possible for one to die in the cause of Christ, and not be His martyr. Thy heart must be holy which thou sufferest with, as well as the cause thou sufferest for. He alone is Christ’s martyr, that suffers for Christ. “If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; for even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps; . . . who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not” (1 Peter 2:20-23). This is hard work indeed, in the very fire to keep the spirits cool, and clear of wrath and revenge. But it makes him that by grace can do it, a glorious conqueror. Flesh and blood would bid a man call fire from heaven, rather than mercy to fall upon them that so cruelly handle him. He that can forgive his enemy is too hard for him, and has the better of him; because his enemy’s blows do not bruise his flesh, but the wounds that love gives, pierce the conscience.

Many that never could be beaten from the truth by dint of argument, have been forced from it by fire of persecution. It is not an orthodox judgment will enable a man to suffer for the truth at the stake.

Fellowship in sufferings. This would speak grace high in its exercise when a person is himself swimming in the abundance of all enjoyments, and can then lay aside his own joy to weep and mourn for and with any afflicted saints. It is not usual for any but those of great grace to feel the cords of the church’s afflictions through a bed of down; it must be a David that can prefer Jerusalem above his chief joy. On the other hand, when in the depths of our own personal troubles, we can yet reserve a large space in our prayers for other saints, bespeaks a great measure of grace. When in our distresses we can entertain the tidings of any other saint’s mercies with joy and thankfulness; this requires great grace. The prosperity of others too often breeds envy in them that want it; if, therefore, thou canst praise God for mercies granted to others while the tears stand in thy eyes for thine own miseries, it is what flesh and blood never learnt thee.

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Children are afraid of bugbears, that cannot hurt them; but they can play with fire that will burn them; and no less childish is it to be frightened into a sin at the frown of a man, who has no power to hurt us more than our own fear gives him; and to play with hell-fire into which God is able to cast us for ever. What was John Huss the worse for his fool’s cap that his enemies put on his head, so long as under it he had a helmet of hope, which they could not take off? Or how much the nearer hell was the same blessed martyr for their committing his soul to the devil? No nearer than some of their own are to heaven, for being sainted in the Pope’s Calendar.

Sustained in suffering. None find such quick despatch at the throne of grace as suffering saints. “In the day when I cried,” says David, “thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Ps. 138:3). Peter knocked at the gate, who were assembled to seek God for him, almost as soon as their prayer knocked at heaven’s gate in his behalf. There is ever a door more than the Christian sees in his prison, by which Christ can with a turn of His hand open a way for His saint’s escape. Man may, the devil to be sure will, leave all in the lurch that do his work. But if God sets thee on He will bring thee off; never fear a “look thee to that” from His lips, when thy faithfulness to Him has brought thee into the briers: only be not troubled if thou art cast overboard, like Jonah, before thou seest the provision which God makes for thy safety: it is ever at hand, but sometimes out of sight, like Jonah’s whale, sent of God to ferry him ashore under water, and the prophet in his belly, before he knew where he was. That which thou thinkest come to devour thee, may be the messenger that God sends to bring thee safe to land.

The Egyptians thought they had Israel in a trap, when they saw them by the seaside. When they are out of danger, behold they are in a wilderness, where nothing is to be had for back or belly, and yet here they shall live forty years, without trade or tillage, without begging or robbing of any of the neighbour nations; they shall not be beholden to them for a penny in their way. What cannot almighty power do to provide for His people.

“The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in Him” (Lam. 3:24). Hast thou not chosen Him for thy portion? Dost thou not look for a heaven to enjoy Him in for ever? And can any dungeon of outward affliction be so dark, that this hope will not enlighten? He that has laid up a portion in heaven for thee, will lay out surely all the expenses thou needest in thy way thither. Remember how often God has confuted thy fears, and proved thy unbelief a false prophet. Hath He not knocked at thy door with inward comfort and outward deliverance, when thou hadst put out the candle of hope, given over looking for Him, and been ready to lay thyself down on the bed of despair? Wert thou never at so sad a pass, the storm of thy fears so great that the anchor of hope even came home, and left thee to feed with misgiving and despairing thoughts, as if now thy everlasting night were come, and no morning supply expected by thee? Yet even then thy God proved them all liars, by an unlooked-for surprise of mercy, with which He stole sweetly in upon thee.

Suffering and glory. There are few who are greedy hunters after the world’s enjoyments, that do drive their worldly trade without running in debt to their consciences. And I am sure he buys gold too dear, that pays the peace of his conscience for the purchase. But heaven is had cheap, though it be with the loss of all our carnal interests, even life itself.

“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26). And truly the saints’ way to salvation lies in the same road (Rom. 8:17): “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together,” only with this advantage, that His going before has beaten it plain, so that now it may be forded, which but for Him had been utterly impassable to us.

O comfort one another, Christians, with this! though your life be evil with troubles, yet it is short; a few steps, and you are out of the rain. There is a great difference between a saint, in regard of the evils he meets with, and the wicked; as two travellers riding contrary ways, both taken in the rain and wet, but one rides from the rain, and so is soon out of the shower; but the other rides into the rainy corner, the further he goes the worse he is. The saint meets with trouble as well as the wicked, but he is soon out of the shower; but as for the wicked, the further he goes the worse: what he meets with here is but a few drops, the great storm is the last.

When the Christian’s affairs are most disconsolate, he may soon meet with a happy change. The joy of that blessed day comes “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye . . . we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52). In one moment sick and sad, in the next well and glad, never to know more what groans and tears mean. Now clad with the rags of mortal flesh, made miserable with a thousand troubles that attend it, in the twinkling of an eye arrayed with the robes of immortality, enriched with a thousand times more glory than the sun itself wears in that garment of light which now dazzleth our eyes. Who can wonder to see a saint cheerful in his afflictions, that knows what good news he expects to hear from heaven, and how soon he knows not? The saints’ hope is laid up in heaven, and yet it heals all the wounds which they receive on earth. If Christ sends his disciples to sea, He means to be with them when they most need His company. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee” (Isa. 43:2).

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall — WILES AND TEMPTATIONS

WILES AND TEMPTATIONS

“There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”1 Corinthians 10:13.

THE Devil’s dupes. Many have yielded to go a mile with Satan, that never intended to go two. Thus Satan leads poor creatures down into the depths of sin by winding stairs, that let them not see the bottom whither they are going: first, he presents an object that occasions some thoughts, these set the affections on fire, and these fume up into the brain and cloud the understanding, which, being thus disabled, now Satan dares a little more declare himself, and boldly solicit the creature to that it would otherwise have defied. Give not place to Satan! no, not an inch in his first motions; he that is a beggar, and a modest one without doors, will command the house if let in.

The devil teaches sinners to cover foul practices with fair names — superstition must be styled devotion; covetousness, thrift; pride in apparel, handsomeness; looseness, liberty; and madness, mirth.

The Devil’s wiles. Satan makes choice of such as have a great name for holiness: none like a live bird to draw other birds into the net. Abraham tempts his wife to lie: “Say thou art my sister.” The old prophet leads the man of God out of his way (1 Kings 13).

Under the skirt of Christian liberty Satan conveys in libertinism; by crying up the Spirit he decries and vilifies the Scripture; by magnifying faith, he labours to undermine repentance and blow up good works.

If Satan get into thy spirit and defile it, O, how hard wilt thou find it to stay there? Thou hast already sipped of his broth, and now are more likely to sit down and make thy full meal of that, which by tasting has vitiated thy palate already.

When you hear one commend another for a wise or good man, and at last come in with a “but” that dasheth all, you will easily think he is no friend to the man, but some sly enemy, that by seeming to commend, desires to disgrace the more. Thus, when you find God represented to you as merciful and gracious, but not to such a great sinner as you; to have power and strength, but not able to save thee; you may say, Avaunt, Satan, thy speech bewrayeth thee.

When the flesh or Satan beg time of thee, it is to steal time from thee. They put thee off prayer at one time, to shut thee out at last from prayer at any time.

What day in all the year is inconvenient to Satan? What place or company art thou in, that he cannot make a snare for thy soul?

Satan knows what orders thou keepest in thy house and closet; and though he has not a key to thy heart, yet he can stand in the next room to it, and lightly hear what is whispered there. If once he doth but smell which way thy heart inclines, he knows how to take the hint; if but one door is unbolted, here is advantage enough.

The occasion of temptation. The least passage of thy life may prove an occasion of sin to thee: at what a little wicket many times a great sin enters! David’s eye did but casually light on Bathsheba, and the good man’s foot was presently in the devil’s trap: hast thou not then need to pray that God would set a guard about thy senses wherever thou goest, and to cry with him, “Keep back mine eyes from beholding vanity”?

It should be our care, if we would not yield to the sin, not to walk by, or sit at the door of the occasion: parley not with that in thy thoughts, which thou meanest not to let into thy heart. If we mean not to be burnt, let us not walk upon the coals of temptation. Thou temptest God to suffer thy locks to be cut, when thou art so bold as to lay thy head in the lap of a temptation.

Set a strong guard about thy outward senses: these are Satan’s landing-places, especially the eye and the ear. Take heed what thou importest at these; vain discourse seldom passeth without leaving some tincture upon the heart. And for thy eye, let it not wander; wanton objects cause wanton thoughts. Job knew his eye and his thoughts were like to go together, and therefore to secure one he covenants with the other (Job 31:1).

The haft of Satan’s hatchet, with which he lies chopping at the root of the Christian’s comfort, is commonly made of the Christian’s wood. First, he tempts to sin, and then for it. Satan is but a creature, and cannot work without tools; he can indeed make much of little, but not anything of nothing, as we see in his assaulting of Christ, where he troubled himself to little purpose, because he came and found nothing in Him (John 14:30). Though the devil throws the stone, it is the mud in us that disturbs our comfort.

Be sure thou art watchful more than ordinary over thyself, in those things where thou findest thyself weakest and hast been oftenest foiled. The weakest part of a city needs the strongest guard.

The devil would tempt Christ when he “shewed Him all the kingdoms of the world,” and promised them all to Him, if He would “fall down and worship Him.” Everyone that by unrighteousness doth seek the world’s pelf goes to the devil for it, and doth worship him in effect. How much better it is to have poverty from God than riches from the devil! A temptation comes strong, when the way to relief seems to lie through the sin that Satan is wooing to: when one is poor, and Satan comes, “What, wilt starve rather than step over the hedge, and steal for thy supply?” This is enough to put flesh and blood to the stand.

Deliverance from temptation. What says thy soul, when God hedgeth up thy way, and keeps thee from that sin which Satan has been soliciting for? If on Christ’s side, thou wilt rejoice when thou art delivered out of a temptation, though it be by falling into an affliction.

Christian, it is ill done of thee to make a breach in thy holy course, by tampering with any sin; but thou wilt commit a greater if thou turnest thy back on God also when thou shouldst humble thyself for thy former sin. Thou hast fallen into sin in the day, wilt thou not, therefore, pray at night? Take heed thou run not farther into temptation. Now is the time for the devil to set upon thee, when the weapon of prayer is out of thy hand. The best thou canst look for is a storm from God to bring thee back again, and the sooner it comes the more merciful He is to thee.

“Watch and pray,” says our Saviour, “that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). They, not keeping this pass, gave the enemy, Satan, a fair occasion to come in upon them; and as they were led into temptation by neglect of prayer, so they were rescued and led out of it again by Christ’s prayer, which He mercifully laid in beforehand for them: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”

Let this encourage thee, O Christian, in thy conflict with Satan; the skirmish may be sharp, but it cannot be long. The cloud, while it drops, is rolling over thy head, and then comes fair weather, and eternal sunshine of glory.

Thou canst not be long off thy watch, but the devil will hear on it. The devil knew the apostle’s sleeping time, and then he desires leave to winnow them (Luke 22). The thief riseth when honest men go to bed. The devil begins to tempt when saints cease to watch. . . . The saint’s sleeping time is Satan’s tempting time; every fly dares venture to creep on a sleeping lion. No temptation so weak but is strong enough to foil a Christian that is napping in security. Samson asleep, and Delilah cut his locks. Saul asleep, and the spear is taken away from his very side, and he never the wiser. Noah asleep, and his graceless son has a fit time to discover his father’s nakedness. Eutychus asleep, nods, and falls from the third loft, and is taken up for dead. The Christian asleep may soon lose his spiritual strength, be robbed of his spear, and his nakedness discovered by graceless men, to the shame of his profession. Yea, he may fall from a high loft of profession, so low, into scandalous practices, that others may question whether there be any life of grace in him.

The Christian’s safety lies in resisting. All the armour provided is to defend the Christian fighting, none to secure him flying; stand, and the day is ours; fly, or yield, and all is lost.

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall — FAITH AND HOLINESS

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Hebrews 11:6.

“Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.

FAITH in Christ.  Faith is that act of the soul whereby it rests on Christ crucified for pardon and life, and that upon the warrant of the word. The person of Christ is the object of faith as justifying: secondly, Christ as crucified. First, the person of Christ, not any axiom or proposition in the word; — this is the object of assurance, not of faith. Assurance says, I believe my sins are pardoned through Christ: faith’s language is, I believe on Christ for the pardon of them. . . . Not every one that assents to the truth of what Scripture says of Christ doth believe on Christ. This believing on Christ implies trusting recumbency on Christ. It is not the sight of a man’s arm stretched out to a man in the water will save him from drowning, but the taking hold of it. “Let him take hold of my strength” (Isa. 27:5).

“I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12). None will readily trust a stranger that he is wholly unacquainted with. Abraham went indeed he knew not whither, but he did not go with he knew not whom.

Faith and repentance. Repentance, this is a sweet grace, but set on work by faith. Nineveh’s repentance is attributed to their faith (Jonah 3:5): “The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth.” All is silence and quiet in an unbelieving soul: no news of repentance, no noise of any complaint made against sin, till faith begins to stir.

Faith and love. Love is another heavenly grace; but faith gathers the fuel that makes this fire. Speak, Christian, whose soul now flames with love to God, was it always thus? No, there was a time when thy hearth was cold, not a spark of this fire to be found on the altar of thy heart. How is it, then, Christian, that now thy soul loves God, whom before thou didst scorn and hate? Surely thou hast heard some good news from heaven, that has changed thy thoughts of God, and turned the stream of thy love into this happy channel. And who can be the messenger besides faith, that brings any good news from heaven to thy soul? It is faith that proclaims the word, opens Christ’s excellencies, pours out His name, for which the virgins love Him. When faith has drawn a character of Christ out of the word, and presented Him in His love and loveliness to the soul, the Christian has a copious theme to enlarge upon in his thoughts, whereby to endear Christ more and more to him. “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious” (1 Peter 2:7); and the more faith, the more precious.

Faith and a good conscience. “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1 Tim. 1:19). Wouldst thou preserve thy faith, look to thy conscience. A good conscience is the bottom faith sails in; if the conscience be wrecked, how can it be thought that faith should be safe? If faith be the jewel, a good conscience is the cabinet in which it is kept; and if the cabinet be broken, the jewel must needs be in danger of losing.

The Christian’s care should be to keep, as his conscience pure, so his name pure, which is done by avoiding all appearance of evil. Bernard’s three questions are worth the asking ourselves in any enterprise: An liceat? an deceat? an expediat? “Is it lawful?” May I do it and not sin? “Is it becoming me, a Christian?” May I do it and not wrong my profession? Lastly, “Is it expedient?” May I do it and not offend my weak brother?

Faith and prayer. True faith is prayerful; prayer is the child of faith. As the creature cannot pray without faith, so with faith he cannot but pray. The new creature (like our infants in their natural birth) comes crying into the world: and therefore Christ tells it for great news to Ananias of Saul, a new-born believer, “Behold, he prayeth!”

Faith enables the soul to persevere in prayer. “Will [the hypocrite] always call upon God?” (Job 27:10). No, he prays himself weary of praying; something or other will in time make him quarrel with that which he never inwardly liked; whereas the sincere believer has that in him which makes it impossible he should quite give over praying, except he should also cease believing: prayer is the very breath of faith; stop a man’s breath, and where is he then?

Faith may live in a storm, but it will not suffer a storm to live in it. As faith rises, so the blustering wind of the discontented troublesome thoughts go down. Faith relieves the soul in prayer of that which oppresses it; whereas the unbelieving soul still carries about it the cause of its troubles, because it had not strength to cast forth its sorrows and roll its cares upon God.

Weak faith. Weak faith will as surely land the Christian in heaven as strong faith; but the weak, doubting Christian is not like to have so pleasant a voyage thither as another with strong faith. Though all in the ship come safe to shore, yet he that is all the way seasick has not so comfortable a voyage as he that is strong and healthful.

As melancholy men delight in melancholy walks, so doubting souls most frequent such places of Scripture in their musing thoughts as increase their doubts.

“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith!” (Matt. 8:26). You see the leak at which the water came in to sink their spirits: they had “little faith.” It is not what God is in Himself, but what our apprehensions at present are of God, that pacifies and comforts a soul in great straits. If a man fear the house will fall on his head in a storm though it be as immovable as a rock, yet that will not ease his mind till he thinks it so.

Bold faith. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5) — there is the promise; and the inference, which he teacheth us to draw by faith from this, follows (ver. 6), “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper.” We may boldly assert it in the face of men and devils, because He that is almighty has said it.

Faith is a right pilgrim-grace; it travels with us to heaven, and when it sees us safe got within our Father’s doors it takes leave of us.

Holiness and happiness. “He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy” (Eph. 1:4). Mark, not because He foresaw that they would be of themselves holy, but that they should be holy; this was that God resolved He would make them to be. Consider it is not necessary that thou shouldst be rich; but it is necessary thou shouldst be holy, if thou meanest to be happy. You may travel to heaven with never a penny in your purse, but not without holiness in your heart and life also.

Holiness and contentment. “Godliness with content is great gain.” The holy person is the only contented man in the world. Paul tells us “he had learnt in whatsoever state he was to be content.”

Holiness in the home. It is in vain to talk of holiness if we can bring no letters testimonial from our holy walking with our relations. O, it is sad when they that have reason to know us best, by their daily converse with us, do speak least for our godliness! Few so impudent as to come naked into the streets: if men have anything to cover their naughtiness they will put it on when they come abroad. But what art thou within doors? Pray not only against the power of sin, but for the power of holiness. His zeal is false that seems hot against sin, but is cold to holiness.

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall — GLAD TIDINGS AND JOY

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” — Luke 2:10, 11.

INCARNATION. There is in Christ a foundation laid for greater familiarity with God than Adam was at first capable of. He, indeed, was the son of God, yet he was kept at a further distance, and treated with more state and majesty from God, than now the reconciled soul is; for though he was the son of God by creation, yet the Son of God was not then the Son of man by incarnation; and at this door comes in the believer’s sweetest familiarity with God. God doth descend His throne, exchange His majestic robes of glory for man’s frail flesh; He leaves His palace to live for a time in His creature’s humble cottage, and there not only familiarly converses with him, but, which is stranger, ministers to him; yea, which is more than all these, He surrenders Himself up to endure all manner of indignities, from His sorry creature’s hand. And when this coarse entertainment is done, back He posts to heaven, not to complain to His Father, how He has been abused here below, and raise heaven’s power against those who had so ill-treated Him, but to make ready heaven’s palace for the reception of those who had thus abused Him, and now will accept of His grace. And lest these, yet left on earth, should fear His resumed royalty and majesty, in heaven’s glory, would make some alteration with their affairs in His heart; to give them therefore a constant demonstration that He would be the same in the height of His honour that He was in the depth of His abasement, He goes back in the same clothes, to wear them on the throne, in all His glory, only some princely cost bestowed, to put them into the fashion of that heavenly kingdom, and make them suit with His glorified state; giving them a pattern by this, what their own vile bodies, now so dishonourable, shall be made another day.

Redemption. Conscience requires as much to satisfy it as it doth to satisfy the justice of God Himself. But in the gospel, joyful news is brought to the sinner’s ears of a fountain of blood there opened, which for its preciousness is as far above the price that divine justice demands for man’s sin, as the blood of bulls and beasts was beneath it; and that is, the blood of Jesus Christ, who freely poured it upon the cross, and by it “obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9). This is the door by which all true peace and joy comes into the conscience.

The simplicity of the gospel. If bread were as hard to come by as sweetmeats, or water as scarce as wine, the greatest part of men must needs famish; so if truths necessary to salvation were as hard to be understood, and cleared from Scriptures, as some others, many poor weak-hearted Christians would certainly perish without a miracle to help them. But the saying truths of the gospel lie plain, and run clear to all but those who muddy the streams with their own corrupt minds.

The abiding truth of the gospel. Consider God’s especial care to preserve His truth; whatever is lost, God looks to His truth. In all the great revolutions, changes, and overturning of kingdoms, and churches also, God has still preserved His truth. In a word, in that great and dismal conflagration of heaven and earth, when the elements shall melt for heat, and the world come to its fatal period, then truth shall not suffer the least loss, but “the word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1 Peter 1:25).

The peace of the gospel. “Let him take hold of My strength, that He may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me” (Isa. 27:5). And where lies God’s saving strength, but in Christ? He has laid strength upon this mighty One, able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him. Take hold of Christ, and thou hast hold of God’s arm; He cannot strike the soul that holds thereby.

Where there is peace, such peace as peace with God and conscience, there can want no pleasure. David goes merry to bed, when he had nothing to supper but the gladness that God by this puts into his heart, and promiseth himself a better night’s rest than any of them all, that are feasted with the world’s cheer: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep” (Ps. 4:7, 8). This same peace with God, enjoyed in the conscience, redounds to the comfort of the body. Now David can sleep sweetly, when he lies on a hard bed; what here he says he would do, in Psalm 3:5, he says he has done, “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.” The title of the psalm tells us when David had this sweet night’s rest; not when he lay on his bed of down in his stately palace at Jerusalem, but when he fled for his life from his unnatural son Absalom, and possibly was forced to lie in the open field, under the canopy of heaven. . . . The great care which Christ took for His disciples, when He left the world, was not to leave them a quiet world to live in, but to arm them against a troublesome world: He bequeaths to them His peace.

The rejection of the gospel. “Not one of those invited shall taste of my supper.” God can least bear any contempt cast upon His grace. They would not come when the supper was on the table; and therefore the cloth was drawn, and they go supperless to bed, and die in their sins. Christ thou wilt not, Christ therefore thou shalt not, have. None sink so deep in hell as those that fall into it with stumbling at Christ.

The joy of the gospel. Thy embracing Christ preached to thee in the gospel, will be as welcome news to heaven, I can tell thee, as the tidings of Christ and salvation through Him can be to thee. There is joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner. Those angels that sang Christ into the world, will not want a song when He is received into thy heart, for He came into the world for this end.

Rejoice at the news: glad tidings, and sad hearts, do not go well together. When we see one heavy and sorrowful, we ask him what ill news he has heard. Christian, what ill news has Christ brought from heaven with Him that makes thee walk with thy folded arms and pensive countenance? “Saints shall shout aloud for joy” (Ps. 132:16). To see a wicked man merry and jocund, or a Christian sad and dumpish, is alike uncomely. . . . Truly the saint’s heaviness reflects unkindly upon God Himself: we do not commend His cheer, if it doth not cheer us. O Christians, let the world see you are not losers in your joy, since you have been acquainted with the gospel; give them not cause to think by your uncomfortable walking, that when they turn Christians, they must bid all joy farewell, and resolve to spend their days in a house of mourning. . . . Do not for shame, Christian, run on the world’s score by taking up any of its carnal joy; thou needest not go out of God’s house to be merry. A Christian should deny himself of the world’s joy and delights, lest they say, “These Christians draw their joy out of our cistern.”

The saint’s joy and peace is not such a light, frothy joy as the world’s. The parlour wherein the Spirit of Christ entertains the Christian is an inner room, not next the street, for every one that goes by to smell the feast. “A stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy” (Prov. 14:10). Christ and the soul may be at supper within, and thou not so much as see one dish go in, or hear the music that sounds so sweetly in the Christian’s ears. Perhaps thou thinkest he wants peace, because he doth not hang out a sign in his countenance of the joy and peace he has within. Alas, poor wretch! may not the saint have a peaceful conscience, with a solemn, yea, sad countenance, as well as thou and thy companions have a sorrowful heart, when there is nothing but fair weather in your faces? “In laughter the heart is sorrowful” (Prov. 14:13).

The mystery of the gospel. As the gospel is a mystery of faith, it enables the godly to believe strange mysteries; to believe that which they understand not, and hope for that which they do not see. It teacheth them to believe that Christ was born in time, and that He was from everlasting; that He was comprehended in the Virgin’s womb, and yet the heaven of heavens not able to contain Him: to be the Son of Mary, and yet her Maker; to be born without sin, and yet justly to have died for sin. They believe that God was just in punishing Christ, though innocent; and in justifying penitent believers, who are sinners; they believe themselves to be great sinners, and yet that God sees them in Christ without spot or wrinkle. Again, as the gospel is a mystery of godliness, it enables the godly to do as strange things as they believe; to live by Another’s spirit, to act from Another’s strength, to live to Another’s will, and aim at Another’s glory; they live by the Spirit of Christ, act with His strength, are determined by His will, and aim at His glory: it makes them so gentle, that a child may lead them to anything that is good; yet so stout, that fire shall not frighten them into sin: they can love their enemies, and yet, for Christ’s sake, can hate father and mother: it makes them diligent in their worldly calling, yet enables them to condemn the riches they have obtained by God’s blessing on their labour; they are taught by it that all things are theirs, yet they dare not take a pin from the wicked by force or fraud: it makes them so humble as to prefer every one above themselves; yet so to value their own condition, that the poorest among them would not change his estate with the greatest monarch of the world: it makes them thank God for health, and for sickness also; to rejoice when exalted, and not to repine when made low; they can pray for life, and at the same time desire to die! . . . The gospel opens a mine of unsearchable riches, but in a mystery; it shows men a way how to be rich in faith, rich in God, rich for another world, while poor in this. . . . Again the professors of the gospel are hated, because they partake of its mysterious nature. They are high-born, but in a mystery; you cannot see their birth by their outward breeding; arms they bear, and revenues they have to live on, but not such as the world judges the greatness of persons and families by: no, their outside is mean, while their inside is glorious; and the world values them by what they know and see of their external part, and not by their inward graces; they pass as princes in the disguise of some poor man’s clothes through the world, and their entertainment is accordingly. Had Christ put on His robes of glory and majesty when He came into the world, surely He had not gone out of it with so shameful and cruel a death. The world would have trembled at His footstool, which some of them did, when but a beam of His deity looked forth upon them. Did saints walk on earth in those robes which they shall wear in heaven, then they would be feared and admired by those who now scorn and despise them. But as God’s design in Christ’s first coming would not have been fulfilled, had He so appeared; neither would His design in His saints, did the world know them as one day they shall; therefore He is pleased to let them lie hid under the mean coverings of poverty and infirmities, that so He may exercise their suffering graces, and also accomplish His wrath upon the wicked for theirs against them.

Is the gospel a mystery? then, Christian, long for heaven, and only there shall this mystery be fully known. Here we learn our knowledge of it by little and little, like one that reads a book as it comes from the press, sheet by sheet; there we shall see it altogether: here we learn with much pain and difficulty, there without travail and trouble: glorified saints, though they cease not from work, yet rest from labour: here passion blinds our minds, that we mistake error for truth, and truth for error; but these clouds shall be scattered and gone: here the weakness of natural parts keeps many in the dark, and renders them incapable of apprehending some truths, which others are led into; but there the strong shall not prevent the weak, the scholar shall know as much as his master. . . . When that blessed hour comes, then lift up your heads with joy, for it will lead you into that blissful place where you will see Christ, not a great way off, not with the eye of faith, but with a glorified eye behold His very Person, never more to lose the sight of Him. Thou shalt no more hear what a glorious place heaven is, as thou were wont to have it set forth by the poor rhetoric of mortal man, preaching to thee of that with which he himself was little acquainted; but shalt walk thyself in the streets of that glorious city, and bless thyself, to think what poor, low thoughts thou hadst thereof, when on earth thou didst meditate on this subject: one moment’s sight of that glory will inform thee more than all the books written of it were ever able to do.

 

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall — PRIDE AND WORLDLINESS

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

RELIGIOUS Pride. Some are 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 of man, 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 that is his own teacher,” says Bernard, “is sure to have a fool for a master.”

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

When men stand high their heads do not grow dizzy till they look down; when men look down upon those that are worse than themselves, or less holy than themselves, then their heads turn round; looking up would cure this disease. The most holy men, when once they have fixed their eyes awhile upon God’s holiness, and then looked upon themselves, have been quite out of love with themselves. After the vision the prophet had of God sitting upon the throne, and the seraphim about Him, covering their faces, and crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts,” how was this gracious man smitten with the sense of his own vileness! they did no more cry up God as holy than he did cry out upon himself as unclean (Isa. 6:5). So Job, “Now mine eye sees Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself” (Job 42:5, 6).

Compare not thyself with those that have less than thyself, but look on those that have far exceeded thee: to look on our inferiors occasions pride. “I am not as this publican,” says the Pharisee; but looking on others more eminent than ourselves will both preserve humility, and be a spur to diligence.

A man may be very zealous in prayer and painstaking in preaching, and all the while pride is the master whom he serves, though in God’s livery. It is hard starving this sin; there is nothing almost but it can live on; nothing so base that a proud heart will not be lifted up with, and nothing so sacred but it will profane. . . . So far as pride prevails the man prays and preaches rather to be thought good by others, rather to enthrone himself than Christ, in the opinion and hearts of his hearers.

Remember, Christian, when thou hast thy best suit on, who made it, who paid for it: thy grace, thy comfort, is neither the work of thy own hands, nor the price of thy own desert; be not for shame proud of another’s cost.

Pride of gifts. If once (like Hezekiah) we call in spectators to see our treasure and applaud us for our gifts and comfort, then it is high time for God to send some messengers to carry these away from us, which carry our hearts from Him. . . . Pride of gifts hinders the receiving of good from others. Pride fills the soul, and a full soul will take nothing from God, much less from man.

Joseph’s coat made him finer than his brethren, but caused all his trouble; thus great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but it occasions many temptations which thou meetest not with that are kept low; what with envy from their brethren, malice from Satan, and pride in their own hearts, I dare say none find so hard a work to bear up against those waves and winds.

While thou art priding in thy gifts, thou art dwindling and withering in thy grace. Such are like corn that runs up much into straw, whose ear commonly is light and thin. Grace is too much neglected where gifts are too highly prized; we are commanded to be clothed with humility. . . . Pride kills the spirit of praise: when thou should bless God, thou art applauding thyself. It destroys Christian love, and stabs our fellowship with the saints to the heart: a proud man has not room enough to walk in company, because the gifts of others he thinks stand in his way. Pride so distempers the palate that it can relish nothing that is drawn from another’s vessel. . . . Pride loves to climb up, not as Zaccheus, to see Christ, but to be seen himself.

“God resisteth the proud” (James 4:6). 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. We must either lay self aside or God will lay us aside. . . . A proud scholar and a humble master will never agree: Christ is humble and lowly, and so resists the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.

Love of the world. Tell some of adding faith to faith, one degree of grace to another, and you shall find they have more mind to join house to house, and lay field to field; their souls are athirst, but not for Christ or heaven: it is earth, earth, they never think they have enough of, till death comes and stops their mouth with a shovelful digged out of their own grave!

The canker and rust of our gold and silver, which is got with harder labour than is required here, will rise up in judgment against many, and say, “You could drudge and trudge for us that are now turned to rust and dust, but could walk over the field of the word, where an incorruptible treasure lay, and would lose it rather than your sloth!”

Thy time is short and thy way long. Is it wisdom to lay out so much on thy tenement which thou art leaving, and forget what thou must carry with thee? Before the fruit of these be ripe which thou art now planting, thyself may be rotting in the grave: “Time is short,” says the apostle (1 Cor. 7:29).

Men are very kind to themselves: first they wish it may be long before death comes; and then because they would have it so, they are bold to promise themselves it shall be so. Who makes the lease? the tenant or the landlord? . . . Thou art young, thou canst not therefore say, thou shalt not die as yet: alas! measure the coffins in the churchyard, and thou wilt find some of thy length: young and old are within the reach of death’s scythe; old men, indeed, go to death, their age calls for it; but young men cannot hinder death’s coming to them.

It is an ill time to caulk the ship when at sea, tumbling up and down in a storm: this should have been looked to when on her seat in the harbour. And as bad it is to begin to trim a soul for heaven, when tossing on a sick-bed. Things that are done in a hurry are seldom done well. These poor creatures, I am afraid, go in an ill dress to another world who begin to provide for it when on a dying bed. . . . There is but one heaven: miss that, and where can you take up your lodging but in hell? One Christ that can lead you thither: reject Him, “and there remains no more sacrifice for sin.”

O, how many part with Christ at the crossway! like Orpah, that go a furlong or two with Christ, until He goes to take them off from their worldly hopes, and bids them prepare for hardship, and then they fairly kiss and leave Him; loath indeed to lose heaven, but more loath to buy it at such a rate.

Of all men out of hell, none more to be pitied than he that hangs over the mouth of it, and yet is fearless of his danger.

It requires courage to despise the shame which the Christian must expect to meet for his singularity, to avoid which many durst not confess Christ openly (John 7:13). Many lose heaven because they are ashamed to go in a fool’s coat thither. When the Christian must turn or burn, leave praying or become a prey, how many self-preserving distinctions would a cowardly heart invent? The Christian that has so great opposition had need to be well locked into the saddle of his profession, or he will soon be dismounted.