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William Gurnall (1617-1679) pastored in the little town of Lavenham, in the English county of Suffolk. Despite his Puritan leanings, Gurnall signed the Act of Uniformity and agreed to the dictates of the Church of England. Though not ejected from his pulpit as were other non-conformists, his position was not respected on either side of the conflict. His massive treatise on spiritual warfare and two small pieces--The Christian's Labor and Reward and The Magistrate's Portrait Drawn from the Word-- comprise all of Gurnall's known published works.
Hendrickson's reprint of the 1865 Edinburgh edition of William Gurnall's "The Christian in Complete Armour " will be welcomed by all lovers of practical and pastoral divinity. Little is known about Gurnall, who was rector of Lavenham in Suffolk from 1644 until his death in 1679, and his reputation rests almost entirely on the "Complete Armour." The work itself originally appeared in three quarto volumes, published in 1655, 1658 and 1662 respectively, and consists of a long consecutive series of sermons preached at Lavenham on Ephesians 6:10-20. It was so popular that by the time of Gurnall's death it had already reached its 6th edition. However, while admired by such evangelical luminaries as Richard Baxter, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Newton, today it is little known. The grand theme of the work is spiritual warfare and as the full title declares Gurnall's aim was to furnish the Christian with 'spiritual arms for the battle' against his Satanic foe. In its depth and scope the "Complete Armour" doubles as a body of practical divinity. The style is pictorial and 'affectionate' in the best Puritan tradition. Following a common template each section concludes with an application or 'use' intended to ground the received doctrine in the life of the believer - in Gurnall's own striking words to drive a nail hard into the conscience. Doctrinally the focus is Christological and Gurnall is emphatic that it is Christ himself who is the Christian's 'complete armour' and not his own merits or qualities. Throughout, his discussion is characterised by great psychological depth and he is assiduous in applying Scripture to diagnose and treat the believer's spiritual maladies. His desire is for the believer's final perseverance in holiness and all the 'evangelical graces' until the 'evil day' of which Ephesians 6 speaks: their grapple with the 'last enemy' of death. His emphasis is therefore on the lived-out life of holiness as the fruit of the believer's righteousness in Christ and in this way he combines his Christology with a strong pneumatological thrust. Hendrickson's are certainly to be congratulated for making this little-known work widely available. . . [I]t still very much retains the flavour of its nineteenth-century original. . . To ease the modern reader the Latin is helpfully translated and explanations of unusual dialect terms given. No other apparatus is provided but no other is strictly necessary. Apart from students of the seventeenth-century this work will be of particular interest to pastoral theologians and preachers, both in its plain, pithy style and its veritable mine of practical, biblical advice. "--Expository Times"