The Spirituality of William Gurnall: The Devil’s Threat to Puritan Piety

Bibliographic information:

Higdon, Corey. “The Spirituality of William Gurnall: The Devil’s Threat to Puritan Piety” Puritan Reformed Journal 11 (2): 109-26.



If godliness and a zeal for holiness served as the foundation of Puritan spirituality, then Satan loomed as a chief threat to that pattern of life. Indeed, Satan and the doctrine of spiritual warfare pervaded Puritan spirituality as Puritan divines viewed the world through the paradigmatic lens of cosmic conflict with the devil. The primacy of holiness in Puritan piety met a devilish cohort that sought nothing less than the destruction of God’s people. Indeed, in the Puritan formula, the threat of the devil intensified Puritan piety—the necessity of prayer, preaching, intake of the Word, fasting, and the Sabbath were all heightened by the devil’s hostility and his singular devotion to obstruct the path of Christian pilgrims. Thus, Puritan spirituality cannot be fully understood apart from Puritan demonology.

This paper focuses on how demonism and spiritual warfare intersected with Puritan zeal for holiness and godliness. Specifically, it surveys the spirituality of William Gurnall (1616–1679), a Puritan in early-modern England whose Christian in Complete Armor distills the significance of spiritual warfare to Puritan piety. This massive work not only enshrined the essence of Puritan spirituality, but magnifies an enormous theme that permeated Puritanism: the Christian faces a near, present, and powerful foe who will endeavor with all his power to cajole Christian’s from the narrow path of discipleship, holiness, and godly living.


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