Do Not Give Up!

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jw

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If you have a minute or two, I would commend to you the following pastoral direction from the Rev. William Gurnall, where he posits and answers an objection from the perspective of a soul dejected by his own sins, and is on the precipice of giving up the fight. It is very instructive, encouraging, and helpful to the penitent sinner who is seeking to mortify his sins, but cannot sense any progress (The Christian in Complete Armour, p. 21–23):

Objection:​
O BUT, saith some disconsolate Christian, I have prayed again and again for strength against such a corruption, and to this day my hands are weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are so strong, that I am ready to say, all the preachers do but flatter me, that do pour their oil of comfort upon my head, and tell me I shall at last get the conquest of these mine enemies, and see that joyful day wherein, with David, I shall ‘sing to the Lord, for delivering me out of the hands of all mine enemies.’ I have prayed for strength for such a duty, and find it come off as weakly and dead-heartedly as before. If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?​
Answer:​
First, Look once again, poor heart, into thine own bosom, and see whether thou findest not some strength sent into thee, which thou didst overlook before; this may be, yea, very ordinary in this case, when God answers our prayer, not in the letter, or when the thing itself is sent, but it comes in at the back door, while we are expecting it at the fore; and truly thus the friend thou art looking for may be in thine house, and thou not know it. Is not this thy case, poor soul? Thou hast been praying for strength against such a lust, and now thou wouldest have God presently put forth his power to knock it on the head, and lay it for dead, that it should never stir more in thy bosom. Is not this the door thou hast stood looking for God to come in at, and no sight or news of thy God is coming that way? Thy corruption yet stirs, it may be is more troublesome than before; now thou askest, where is the strength promised for thy relief? Let me entreat thee, before thou layest down that sad conclusion against thy God or self, see whether he hath not conveyed in some strength by another door. Perhaps thou hast not strength to conquer it so soon as thou desirest; but hath he not given further praying strength against it? Thou prayedst before, but now more earnestly; all the powers of thy soul are up to plead with God. Before, thou wast more favourable and moderate in thy request; now thou hast a zeal, thou canst take no denial; yea, welcome any thing in the room of thy corruption: would God but take thy sin and send a cross, thou wouldst bless him. Now, poor soul, is this nothing, no strength? Had not thy God reinforced thee, thy sin would have weakened the spirit of thy prayer, and not increased it.​
David began to recover himself when he began to recover his spirit of prayer. The stronger the cry, the stronger the child, I warrant you. Jacob wrestled, and this is called his strength, Hos. 12. It appeared there was much of God in him that he could take such hold of the Almighty as to keep it, though God seemed to shake him off. If thus thou art enabled, soul, to deal with the God of heaven, no fear but thou shalt be much more able to deal with sin and Satan. If God hath given thee so much strength to wrestle with him above and against denials, thou hast prevailed with the stronger of the two. Overcome God, and he will overcome the other for thee. Again, perhaps thou hast been praying for further strength to be communicated to thee in duty, that thou mightest be more spiritual, vigorous, united, sincere, and the like therein; and yet thou findest thy old distempers hanging about thee, as if thou hadst never acquainted God with thy malady. Well, soul, look once again into thy bosom with an unprejudiced eye, though thou dost not find the assisting strength thou prayedst for, yet hast thou no more self-abasing strength? Perhaps the annoyance thou hast from these remaining distempers in duty, occasions thee to have a meaner opinion of all thy duties than ever, yea, they make thee abhor thyself in the sense of these, as if thou hadst so many loathsome vermin about thee.​
Job’s condition on the dunghill, with all his blotches and running sores on his body, appears desirable to thee in comparison of thine, whose soul thou complainest is worse than his body. O this afflicts thy soul deeply, doth it not, that thou shouldest appear before the Lord with such a dead, divided heart, and do his work worst that deserves best at thy hands: and is all this nothing? Surely, Christian, thine eyes are held as much as Hagar’s, or else thou wouldst see the streamings forth of divine grace in this frame of thy heart; surely others will think God hath done a mighty work in thy soul. What harder and more against the grain than to bring our proud hearts to take shame for that whereof they naturally boast and glory? And is it nothing for thee, to tread on the very neck of thy duties, and count them matter of thy humiliation and abasing, which others make the matter of their confidence and self-rejoicing? Good store of virtue hath gone from Christ to dry this issue of pride in thy heart, which sometimes in gracious ones runs through and through their duties, that it is seen, may be, by those that have less grace than themselves.​
 
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