William Gurnall (1617-1679) was rector of Lavenham in Suffolk. Although a Puritan in doctrine, he remained loyal to the Church of England all his life. He is known for one book, The Christian in Complete Armour. This is a massive exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20, and is a classic on spiritual warfare. Massive it may be (almost 1200 pages) and yet, as someone once said, there is often more solid teaching in one line of Gurnall than in any number of pages of other Christian writers.
Here are a few of Gurnall’s one-liners (plus some that are slightly longer):-
Grace in this life is but weak, like a king in a cradle.
Pride loves to climb up, not as Zaccheus to see Christ, but to be seen.
Prayer is nothing but the promise reversed, or God’s Word formed into an argument, and retorted by faith upon God again.
Say not that thou hast royal blood in thy veins, and art born of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by daring to be holy.
Thou hast an art above God Himself, if thou canst fetch any true pleasure out of unholiness.
Faith is not assurance. If it were, Saint John might have spared his pains, who wrote to them that believe on the name of the Son of God, that they might know that they have eternal life. They might then have said, “We do this already.”
Set a strong guard about thy outward senses: these are Satan’s landing places, especially the eye and the ear.
When people do not mind what God speaks to them in His word, God does as little mind what they say to Him in prayer.
None will have such a sad parting from Christ, as those who went half–way with Him and then left Him.
Joseph’s coat made him finer than his brethren, but it caused all his trouble; so great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but they occasion many trials, from which thou who art low art exempt.
Unholiness in a preacher’s life will either stop his mouth from reproving, or the people’s ears from receiving.
The hypocrite sets his watch, not by the sun, that is, the Bible, but by the town clock; what most do, that he will do. Vox populi is his vox Dei.
Take God into thy counsel. Heaven overlooks hell. God at any time can tell thee what plots are hatching there against thee.
As Christ hath His saints in Nero’s court; so the devil his servants in the outer court of the visible church.
It was a charge long ago laid upon Christianity, that it was better known in leaves of books, than in the lives of Christians.
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.
The reason why many poor souls have so little heat of joy in their hearts, is that they have so little light of Gospel knowledge in their mind. The further a soul stands from the light of truth the further his needs must be from the heat of comfort.
To the Christian in duty the body is as the beast to the traveler; he cannot go his journey without it, and much ado to go with it. If the flesh be kept high and lusty, then ’tis wanton, and will not obey; if low, then it’s weak, and soon tires.
Our hearts are of that color which our most constant thoughts dye into it.
The Christian, when fullest of divine communications, is but a glass without a foot, he cannot stand, or hold what he hath received, any longer than God holds him in his strong hand.
Were saints to fight it out in open field by the strength of their own grace, then the strong were more likely to stand, and the weak to fall in battle; but both castled in the covenant, are alike safe.
Knowlege is the candle without which faith cannot see to do its work.
Satan was too crafty for man in his perfection, much more now in his maimed estate.
We must not spread our sails of profession in a calm, and furl them up when the wind riseth.
Can you think he means honestly that undermines the foundation of your house? This they do that would call in question the grand truths of the gospel.
Many of the above quotations can also be found in the excellent A Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, edited by I.D.E. Thomas.