A Word of Counsel for the Recovery of Declining Grace -- Gurnall

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
This quote might seem a little long, but it is short for you who need it.

The Christian in Complete Armour



WE come now to give a few directions to the Christian, how to recover decaying grace.
Inquire faithfully into the cause of thy declining. The Christian’s armour decays two ways; either by violent battery, when the Christian is overcome by temptation to sin, or else by neglecting to furbish and scour it with the use of those means which are as oil to keep it clean and bright. Now inquire which of these have been the cause of thy decay. It is likely both concur.

First, If thy grace be weakened by any blow given it, by any sin committed by thee, there then lies a threefold duty upon thee towards the recovery of it.

First, Thou art to renew thy repentance. It is Christ’s counsel, Rev. 2:5, to Ephesus, ‘Repent, and do thy first works;’ where it is not only commanded as a duty, but prescribed as a means for her recovery; as if he had said, Repent, that thou mayest do thy first works. Lo, Hos. 14:2, the Lord sets backsliding Israel about this work, bidding her ‘take words, and turn to the Lord;’ and, ver. 4, he then tells her he will take her in hand to recover her of her sins, ‘I will heal their backslidings.’ A repenting soul is under promise of healing; and therefore, Christian, go and search thy heart, as thou wouldst do thy house if some thief or murderer lay hid in it to cut thy throat in the night; when thou hast found the sin that has done thee the mischief, then labour to fill thy heart with shame for it, and indignation against it, and so go big with sorrow, and cast it forth before the Lord in a heartbreaking confession. Better thou do this, than Satan do thy errand to God for thee.

Secondly, When thou hast renewed thy repentance, forget not, delay not then to renew thy faith on the promise for pardon. Repentance, that is like purging physic to evacuate the pcceant humour; but if faith come not presently with its restorative, the poor creature will never get heart, or recover his strength. A soul may die of a flux of sorrow, as well as of sin; faith hath an incarnating virtue, as they say of some strengthening meats; it feeds upon the promise, and that is ‘perfect, converting,’ or rather restoring ‘the soul,’ Psa. 19:7. Though thou wert pined to skin and bones, all thy strength wasted, yet faith would soon recruit thee, and enable every grace to perform its office cheerfully. Faith sucks peace from the promise, called ‘peace in believing;’ from peace flows joy; ‘being justified by faith, we have peace with God,’ Rom. 5:1; and, ver. 2, ‘We rejoice in hope of glory;’ and joy affords strength, ‘the joy of the Lord is our strength.’

Thirdly, Back both these with a daily endeavour to mortify those lusts which most prevail over thy grace. Weeds cannot thrive and the flowers also; when grace doth not act vigorously and freely, conclude it is oppressed with some contrary lust, which weighs down its spirits, and makes them lumpish; even as superfluous humours do load the natural spirits in our bodies, that we have little joy to stir or go about any business till they be evacuated: and therefore ply this work close; it is not a day’s work or two in the year, like physic at spring and fall. Nothing more vain than to make a bustle, as the papists do at their Lent, or as some unsound professors among ourselves, who seem to bestir themselves before a sacrament or day of fasting, with a great noise of zeal, and then let those very lusts live peaceably in them all the year after. No, this is child play, to do and undo; thou must ‘mortify daily thy lusts by the Spirit,’ Rom. 8:13. Follow but this work conscientiously in thy Christian course, making it thy endeavour, as constantly as the labouring man goes out every day to work in the field where his calling lies, to watch thy heart, and use all means for the discovery of sin; and as it breaks forth, to be humbled for it, and be chopping at the root of it with the axe of mortification; and thou shalt see, by the blessing of God, what a change for the better there will be in the constitution of thy grace; thou, who art now so poor, so pale, that thou art afraid to see thy own face long in the glass of thy own conscience, thou shalt then reflect with joy upon thy own conscience, and dare to converse with thyself without those surprisals of horror and fear which before did appal thee; thy grace, though it shall not be thy rejoicing, yet it will be thy evidence for Christ, in whom it is, and lead thee in with boldness to lay claim to him; while the loose Christian, whose grace is overgrown with lusts, for want of this weeding-hook, shall stand trembling at the door, questioning whether his grace be true or no; and from that, doubt of his welcome.

Secondly, If, upon inquiry, thou findest that thy armour decays, rather for want of scouring than by any blow from sin presumptuously committed, (as that is most common and ordinary, rust will soon spoil the best armour, and negligence give grace its bane, as well as gross sins,) then apply thyself to the use of those means which God hath appointed for strengthening grace. If the fire goes out by taking off the wood, what may preserve it but by laying it on again?

First, I shall send 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;’ this was the sunny bank he sat under. The word draws forth the Christian’s grace, by presenting every one with an object suitable to act upon, this is of great power to rouse them up; as the coming of a friend makes us, though sleepy before, shake off all drowsiness, to enjoy his company. Affections are actuated when their object is before them; if we love a person, this is excited by sight of him; if we hate one, our blood riseth much more against him when before us. Now the word brings the Christian’s graces and their objects 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 them?

Secondly, From the word go to meditation; this is a bellows to the fire: 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 some 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. First, ask thy soul what takings it hath had that day, what mercies heaven hath sent in to thee; and do not, when thou hast asked the question, like Pilate, go out, but stay till thy soul hath made report of God’s gracious dealings with thee. And if thou art wise to observe, and faithful to relate them, thy conscience must tell thee that the cock was never turned, the breast of mercy never put up all the day; yea, while thou art viewing these fresh mercies, telling over this new coin, hot out of the mint of God’s bounty, ancient mercies will come crowding in upon thee, and call for a place in thy thoughts, and tell thee what God hath done for thee, months and years ago; and, indeed, old debts should not be paid last; give them, Christian, all a hearing one time or another, and thou shalt see how they work upon thy ingenuous spirit. It is with the Christian in this ease, as with some merchant’s servant that keeps his master’s cash; he tells his master he hath a great sum of his by him, and desires he would discharge him of it, and see how his accounts stand; but he can never find him at leisure. 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 behindhand in their spiritual estate, who take no more notice what the gracious dealings of God are with them? How can he be thankful that seldom thinks of 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 soul’s love flame to God that is kept at such a distance from the mercies of God, which are fuel to it? And the like may be said of all the other graces. Secondly, Reflect upon thyself, and bestow a few serious thoughts upon thine own behaviour, what it hath been towards God and man all along the day. Ask thy soul, as Elisha his servant, Whence comest thou, O my soul? Where hast thou been? What hast thou done for God this day; and how? And when thou goest about this, look that thou neither art taken off from a thorough search, as Jacob was by Rachel’s specious excuse; nor to be found to excuse thyself, as Eli his sons, when thou shalt upon inquiry take thy heart tardy in any point of duty; take heed what thou doest, for thou judgest for God, who receives the wrong by thy sin, and therefore will do himself justice, if thou wilt not.

Thirdly, 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. They say stars have greatest influences when they are in conjunction with the sun: then sure the graces of a saint should never work more powerfully than in prayer, for then he is in the nearest conjunction and communion with God. That ordinance, which hath such power with God, must needs have a mighty influence on ourselves. It will not let God rest, but raiseth him up to his people’s succour; and is it any wonder if it be a means to rouse up and excite the Christian’s grace? How oft do we see a dark cloud upon David’s spirit at the beginning of his prayer, which by that time he is a little warm in his work begins to clear up, and, before he ends, breaks forth into high actings of faith, and acclamations of praise! Only here, Christian, take heed of formal praying, this is as baneful to grace as not praying. A plaster, though proper, and of sovereign virtue, yet if it be laid on cold, may do more hurt than good.

Fourthly, 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, he travels in company, he dwells in a city where one house keeps up another, to which Jerusalem is compared. It is observable, concerning the house in whose ruins Job’s children were entombed, that a wind came from the wilderness and smote the four corners of it; it seems it stood alone. The devil knows what he does in hindering this great ordinance of communion of saints; in 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 consider one another, and provoke unto love and to good works,’ Heb. 10:23, 24. Indeed, it is a dangerous step to apostasy to forsake the communion of saints; hence it is said of Demas, ‘he hath left us, and embraced the present world.’ O what mischief has Satan done us in these few late years in this one particular! What is become of this communion of saints? Where are two or three to be found that can agree to walk together? Those that could formerly pray together, cannot sit together at their Father’s table, can hardly pray one with or one for another; the breath of one Christian is strange to another, that once lay in his bosom. ‘This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.’

Gurnall, W., & Campbell, J. (1845). The Christian in Complete Armour (pp. 169–172). London: Thomas Tegg.


Staff member
My view of Grace changed significantly after I read the banner book. There are different editions even in the Banner of Truth. I read from the one volume book. Not the four volume paperbacks. Grace is not just unmerited Favor. It is the cause for our walk with God. Both monergistically and synergistically.

Mark Herzer had our group, 'Reformed Dogmatics' read it and discuss it in Indiana. He wasn't ordained yet. Wow, that was a long time ago. Most of the group bought the Sovereign Grace edition which one of my mentors published. J. P. Green Sr.

I wrote a paper on the Grace of God and how it is weakened now days back in the late 80's with some help from someone who taught Greek at the Local Bible College.


https://www.dropbox.com/s/bugpvkwqlnif6p1/Knowing God By His Majestic Grace.pdf?dl=0
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