“Newton had gone to sea at age 11, apprenticed on his father’s ship. He spent his teen years learning to be profane, irreligious, and indulgent. Female slaves being transported from Africa were at Newton’s disposal, and even seasoned sailors were alarmed at his corruption. Newton’s life angered his father and disgusted his friends, and he was finally pressed into service for the British Navy. He deserted, but was arrested, stripped, and flogged. He became the property of a slave trader in Sierra Leone, who gave him to his sadistic mistress. John became a loathsome toy she tormented for over a year. He finally boarded ship for Britain.
“On March 9, as he carelessly read a Christian book to pass the time, the thought came to him, ‘What if these things are true?’ He snapped the book closed and shook off the question. ‘I went to bed in my usual indifference, but was awakened by a violent sea which broke on us. Much of it came down below and filled the cabin where I lay. This alarm was followed by a cry that the ship was going down. We had immediate recourse to the pumps, but the water increased against all our efforts. Almost every passing wave broke over my head. I expected that every time the vessel descended into the sea, she would rise no more. I dreaded death now, and my heart foreboded the worst, if the Scriptures, which I had long since opposed, were true.’
“The vessel survived the March 10, 1748, storm, and Newton began earnestly studying the Bible. He embraced Christ and eventually entered the ministry, becoming one of England’s best-loved preachers and a leader in the fight against slavery. He once recalled, ‘That tenth of March is a day much remembered by me; and I have never suffered it to pass unnoticed since the year 1748—the Lord came from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.’” —from On This Day
When I saw both John Newton and Charles Spurgeon put William Gurnall on their “must read” lists (I’ll share their quotes in a moment), I thought, “I have to get this book!” Although The Christian In Complete Armour was written by Gurnall over 360 years ago, the words ring just as true for Christians today.
In summary, The Christian In Complete Armour is an intensive look at the spiritual warfare preparations that the Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 6:10-18. Gurnall opens his book with these sobering challenges to Christians:
“All may have a desire to be successful soldiers, but few have the courage and determination to grapple with the difficulties that accost them on the way to victory.”
“The fearful are those who march for Hell (Revelation 21:8); the valiant are those who take Heaven by force (Matthew 11:12). Cowards never won Heaven. Do not claim that you are begotten of God and have His royal blood running in your veins unless you can prove your lineage by this heroic spirit: to dare to be holy in spite of man and devils.” (emphasis mine in both quotes)
So piece by piece, step by step, William Gurnall explains the value of each of the Christian’s armaments. He tells us what we can expect when we employ them as God intended, and what we should fear if we fail to make use of each and every piece of equipment God has made available for His soldiers.
John Newton said, “If I might read only one book besides the Bible, I would choose The Christian In Complete Armour.”
And Charles Spurgeon noted, “Gurnall’s work is peerless and priceless; every line is full of wisdom; every sentence is suggestive…the best thought-breeder in all our library.”
Although a very old text, James S. Bell, Jr. has done a marvelous work in preserving Gurnall’s message, but presenting it to us in modern-day English. This is an excellent work for every Christian soldier to have on their shelf.
I am a Moody Press book reviewer.
“How strange is it, that when I have the fullest convictions that prayer is not only my duty—not only necessary as the appointed means of receiving these supplies, without which I can do nothing, but likewise the greatest honor and privilege to which I can be admitted in the present life—I should still find myself so unwilling to engage in it. However, I think it is not prayer itself that I am weary of, but such prayers as mine. How can it be accounted prayer, when the heart is so little affected—when it is polluted with such a mixture of vile and vain imaginations—when I hardly know what I say myself—but I feel my mind collected one minute, the next, my thoughts are gone to the ends of the earth. If what I express with my lips were written down, and the thoughts which at the same time are passing through my heart were likewise written between the lines, the whole taken together would be such an absurd and incoherent jumble—such a medley of inconsistency, that it might pass for the ravings of a lunatic. When He points out to me the wildness of this jargon, and asks, is this a prayer fit to be presented to the holy heart-searching God? I am at a loss what to answer, till it is given to me to recollect that I am not under the law, but under grace—that my hope is to be placed, not in my own prayers, but in the righteousness and intercession of Jesus. The poorer and viler I am in myself, so much the more is the power and riches of His grace magnified in my behalf. Therefore I must, and, the Lord being my helper, I will pray on, and admire His condescension and love, that He can and does take notice of such a creature….” —John Newton
(hattip: Amy Hall)