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CURIOSITY is ever busy. It urges us to trace objects up to their source, and impels alike the philosopher and historian, to account for the various phenomena presented to them in the natural and moral world. On coming in sight of a majestic river mingling its waters with the great ocean, bearing on its bosom flotillas of wealth from every country, and washing the shores which its own immensity has formed, we are naturally led to run our thoughts beyond the objects before us, to trace in imagination the source from which this great sheet of ever-flowing water has its rise, and to follow it through all its windings, from the bubbling pool, down to the point where it resembles Time sinking into Eternity. If we meet accidentally a stranger, whose mind flashes genius from every sentiment which he utters, and whose conversation bears the solidity and depth of true science, and scatters improvement and wisdom on every side of him, we inwardly ask, Who can this be? What steps led to such intellectual 24improvement, and under what judicious instruction has he obtained such correctness of thinking and extent of information? nobody tell us of the place of his birth, his parentage, his instructors, his pursuits and predilections? Can we find no tale of his boyish days, that might throw some light upon the origin and development of a mind, whose faculties are so invigorated, and whose stores of knowledge are so varied and abundant? And if we happen to pick up a book which interests us very much, we turn over to the preface and introduction, to see if any thing has been said of its author, that we may get somewhat acquainted with the man who has afforded us such rational and solid pleasure.

We are happy to satisfy this laudable curiosity on the present occasion. No one can read attentively “The Christian’s Great Interest,” without having a desire to know something of its author,—and to such we present the following brief Memoir.

Mr. William Guthrie was born at Pitforthy, in Angus-shire, in the year 1620. His father was a cadet of the ancient family of Guthrie, and was laird of the lands of Pitforthy. His mother was a daughter of the house of Easter-Ogle, whose family show a long and honourable genealogical tree.

He was the eldest of a numerous family, having three sisters-german, and four brothers. Three of his brothers dedicated themselves to the service of God in preaching the gospel: His brother Robert was of a too delicate constitution to weather long the 25difficulties and hardships of that period, as a conscientious ambassador of Christ. He was licensed, but never ordained to a parochial charge, and sunk into an early tomb. Alexander became minister of the Parish of Strickathrow, in the Presbytery of Brechin, in his native county, about the year.1645. This parish was not blessed long with his faithful ministry, for we find his death to have taken place in 1661. John, his youngest brother, obtained the Parish of Torbolton in Ayrshire, where he remained until he was ejected at the Restoration, for nonconformity. This was too severe a blow to a naturally tender frame, with its consequent hardships, long to endure; and he sunk under it and died in 1669.

Thus the subject of the present memoir brought the weight of most respectable, and independent, and pious connections to a character, which, for talents and integrity, would have arisen and shone forth from the lowest obscurity.

He gave early indications of capacity and genius, by the rapidity with which he acquired the Latin and Greek languages. Providence cradled his infant mind in a situation which had neither the neglect of poverty, nor the carelessness of indolent parents to check the growth of its rising powers. The plant was tended and cultivated with the greatest care, that its fruit and stability might afterwards be secured. Little is known of the first ten years of a man’s life, though this is generally the period when the foundation of future character is laid. And we have often to regret that the first 26impressions, which are most lasting, and give a bias to the pursuits and tendencies of the man, are seldom retained in general biography. The gradual steps in the formation of the character are summed up in a single sentence, and imagination has to supply the deficiencies. So it is with Guthrie. Indeed the routine of a boy’s education previous to his departure for College, leaves little upon which to dilate. And since we find nothing of any importance, which happened in the boyhood of William Guthrie, that could affect either the development of his talents or give a direction to his views and pursuits, we present him at once a student of the University of St. Andrews.

Here he enjoyed peculiar advantages. The memorable Mr. James Guthrie, who was one of the earliest sacrifices of the heedlessness and folly of Charles II, and whose name is enshrined among the Worthies of Scotland, was at this time one of the. Professors of Philosophy in the New College there; and being cousin to the subject of this memoir, became at once his guardian and instructor. Lodged with this distinguished man, lie enjoyed all the influence of the society and direct superintendence of one no less noted for his firmness of principle, than for his cultivated mind, eloquence, and piety. Such a situation to young Guthrie, was incalculable. Freed from the contamination of bad associates, he had the living epistle of a servant of Christ at all times before his eyes. He received important instruction from his varied and interesting Conversation. Christianity was recommended, by 27seeing its influence in producing motives and guiding the activities of life for the best interests of humanity. And science and literature were keenly pursued and relished, when associated with all that is dignified and academic in character, and useful to the softening and elevating of the species. To his advantages here, we may trace the formation of that character which afterwards distinguished his useful existence. He found in his guardian, Mr. Guthrie, an able instructor in all his academical pursuits, as well as a vigilant monitor over the morals of his rising manhood. And his great progress in the various branches of languages and philosophy, shows how greatly he had appreciated and used his peculiar advantages.

Having obtained the degree of Master of Arts, he applied himself with great assiduity to the study of Theology. Whatever may have been his previous views, they appear now to have taken a decided turn towards the work of the ministry of the Gospel. Heir to a very competent estate, and as yet only receiving an education suitable to that rank in which Providence had placed him by inheritance, we do not find that his attendance at the University had any other aim, until he became a hearer of the celebrated Samuel Rutherford, whose Letters breathe such simplicity and heavenly-mindedness. He was at this time Professor of Theology at St. Andrews; and under this eminent servant of Christ, William Guthrie not only studied divinity, but derived from his pulpit ministrations such views and impressions of religion, as led him to dedicate himself 28wholly to the service of the Lord. He was all along piously inclined. The care of his education at home, and the vigilance of his excellent cousin, Mr. James Guthrie, checked any wayward feeling which the ardour of youth might have excited, and kept him if that respectable and decent tenor of conduct which gains the approbation of man, and often lulls conscience asleep as to the deep feeling of ungodliness, which, under the fairest outside may be slumbering at the bottom: but now, by the preaching of Mr. Rutherford, he got such an awakening as set him into a fearful state of agitation. He saw the infinite distance he stood from that holiness, “without which no man can see the Lord.” He felt the justice of that condemnation which is passed upon all men on account of sin: and he stood trembling for the awful consequences of it, in regard to himself. The terrors of the Lord, indeed, took fast hold of him; but they only tended to rivet more deeply in his soul, the abiding consolations of the gospel of peace. He found himself such a debtor to the free grace of God in Christ Jesus, that he felt his whole existence must be dedicated to one who so loved him, as to lay down his life for him. And in order the more effectually to accomplish this, and to show the sincerity and strength of his resolution, he made over his estate of Pitforthy to his brother, who had not entered upon the holy ministry. Now that he was disengaged from all worldly concerns, he gave himself entirely to the solemn preparation of the duties of an ambassador of Christ. With what singleness of intention and devotedness 29this was performed, the whole of his succeeding years fully demonstrated. Having gone through the various trials of languages, philosophy, and divinity, with distinguished ability, he was licensed to preach the gospel in August 1642, in the twenty-second year of his age.

His own natural endowments, aided by his great opportunities of moral and intellectual improvement, under two such able and distinguished men as James Guthrie and Samuel Rutherford, who then adorned St. Andrew’s, eminently fitted him for the various duties of a minister of religion. His depth of piety, and strength of mind, appeared in all his pulpit exhibitions. His great popularity arose from no flimsy and flashy style of sermonizing, but from a stretch of thought which vigorously embraced and elucidated every subject which he handled—an ardour of devotion which descended with a thrilling effect upon his audience—and a strong desire to win souls to Christ, which at once gained him the confidence of his hearers, and told them that this was a man sent from God to deal with them about the momentous concerns of eternity. “His gifts were great,” says Mr. Train, who was his contemporary, and knew him well, “strong natural parts, a clear head, and a sound heart. His voice was of the best sort, loud, and yet managed with charming cadences and elevations. His oratory singular, and by it he was master of the passions of his hearers. His action in preaching was more than ordinary; yet was it all decent and taking in him. I have often thought him in this the likest to the famous Mr. John Rogers of 30Dedham in Essex, by the character I had of him from many, and especially from his kinsman Mr. William Jenkyn, who died Christ’s prisoner in Newgate, 1684.”

He now left St. Andrew’s to enter on the important duty of tutor to Lord Mauchlin, eldest son of the Earl of Loudon, who was then Chancellor of Scotland. On leaving the college, he received from his Professors not a common-place or formal testimonial of his attention, talents, and progress in his studies, but one marked with the kindness and sympathies of friendship.

About a year after he had entered Lord Loudon’s family, he preached in the parish-church of Galston, on a preparation day, before the celebration of the Lord’s supper. The newly-erected parish of Fenwick was without a pastor. A few respectable inhabitants from this parish happened to hear him preach on this occasion, and were so edified and lighted as to set forth to their neighbours the fitness and qualifications of Mr. Guthrie to be their minis ter. In consequence of which a call was moderated and harmoniously made out by the parish of Fenwick, that he should be settled among them; and the presbytery accordingly ordained him to the sacred office, in that parish, on the 7th of November, 1644.

Here was a scene of usefulness which brought into exercise all his talents, his piety, and prudence. Most of his parishioners had hitherto been destitute of the common means of instruction, and of the ordinances of religion; and it was only the glaring want of church-accommodation and instruction in 31this neglected part of an old overgrown parish, that caused the formation of the new parish of Fenwick. He, in consequence, found them in a very low state of moral and mental improvement. Vice had grown up in all its wildness and deformity on the basis of ignorance. And the age and general features of that time, gave a severity and harshness of expression to the manners of those who had enjoyed neither the softening influence of the gospel, nor the bland impressions of high civilization. But in proportion to the stubbornness of the soil, and the difficulty of breaking it up, were the effects of his ardour and diligence conspicuous; and the condition in which he found them was a strong contrast to the general piety and moral feeling which a few years of his labours introduced. He found them wandering without a guide, and sunk in all the consequences of a neglected education;—he brought them into the great fold of the gospel, and enlightened them by every means which his powerful and judicious management devised, both in the pulpit and out of it. He found them heedless of the Sabbath; some loitering in the fields, some gossipping in their neighbour’s houses; almost all spending it as a day of pleasure, without considering the important blessings it brought to the improvement of their immortal souls:11   There were, doubtless, some who partook not of the general outline given above, and were ready to appreciate and to second all his labours and improvements in this parish; yet we cannot conceive that the description is overcharged, in order to show off the success of their minister, when we look abroad over many parts of Scotland at this day, where the population, from the immense boundaries of parishes, is destitute of church-accommodation. he soon gained their attendance on all the 32ordinances of the gospel, and their lipoid observance of keeping sacred the Lord’s day, He found a sad lack of family devotion among them; few families in his parish, in the course of his ministry, could be singled out as omitting this solemn and improving exercise: And many were the instances of the careless sinner aroused and subdued by his preaching; and many, he had the happiness of witnessing, in their lives and conversation, as the humble and devoted followers of that Saviour whom he unceasingly held forth to the acceptance of all. In short, the moral change wrought among them by his ministry, was a notable instance of the power of God accompanying the exertions of one of His choicest instruments.

And a choice instrument he was.—He was a man of great power in the pulpit. His sermons were enriched with the stores of a mind equally distinguished for native vigour and strength, and for literary and theological acquirements. He was a close and hard student in his youth, and this habit of assiduous application never forsook him. But the peculiar charm in his sermons was the glow of evangelical feeling and sentiment which pervaded the whole.—The pointedness and adaptation of his illustrations, sent home to the plainest understandings the truths which he expounded, and rendered dear and winning these peculiar doctrines of the gospel, which, when declared in the meagre form of an abstract truth, have 33often a repulsive tendency. And the deep insight which he had of the workings of the human soul made the application of his discourses the most heart-searching and powerful. No conscience could escape the glance of his keen perception into the mysteries of the soul; and he knew well where to hunt out those “refuges of lies” which are so deadening to the conscience, and insidious in their hold of the inner man. And while he was one of the most arousing and alarming preachers to careless sinners in Zion, he was no less successful in nourishing the people of God with proper spiritual supplies, so necessary for their growth in grace and holiness, and in guarding them against every temptation, and the danger of falling into spiritual lethargy. Out of his own varied and extensive experience he clearly read the condition of others. He sympathized with those of a fearful and alarmed disposition; for he himself had undergone all the pains and struggles of a most anxious apprehension for the fate of his own soul, when under the ministry of Mr. Samuel Rutherford, as we have already noticed. And he was able to pour into the wounded spirit the consolations which had been as balm to his own soul. And of those subtle feelings and thoughts which overcome many a professed disciple of Jesus, and lull their consciences into a profound repose, he was an able exposer; and there were few sins, however deep-seated, which he did not probe by the power of that instrument which is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” The Scriptures were his chief study and delight; although his excellent education gave 34him a peculiar relish for the varied pursuits of literature. His perfect knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew enabled him to read his Bible in these original languages, and gave him a decided superiority over those who were obliged to stand at a distance from such noble fountains, and satisfy themselves with the streams which flowed to their doors by the industry and skill of others. From the treasures of God’s word, he brought forth “things new and old,” and his invention and power seemed as inexhaustible as the materials he had to work upon. No wonder then that his popularity as a preacher was great, and that persons from Glasgow, Hamilton, Lanark, and many places at a distance, came almost regularly to enjoy the benefit of his public ministrations. Many were well contented with hearing out of doors, which his powerful voice and animated delivery put fully in their power; for although his church was large, it was crowded to that excess, that a great part of his audience had to remain without. But his soul spread itself in delivering his sermon, over the whole of his audience. His manner was all earnestness. The importance and value of immortal souls lay always before him. He felt the impulse of his commanding situation over his audience; and filled with the thought of the risk and danger which the thoughtless and indifferent ran in hearing the gospel without improving it, and with the great responsibility which lay upon himself to deliver faithfully that message with which his master had intrusted him—these considerations brought tears to his eyes, and gave him a peculiar solemnity and interesting appearance, 35which at once rivetted the attention, and awed the most careless and abandoned.

And he knew human nature too well, and the various avenues to the human heart, to circumscribe his ministerial duties by the services of the pulpit. Catechising and visiting from house to house, were means of instruction which the Bible and his prudence would have dictated for the benefit of his parishioners, although the articles of the church had said nothing on the subject. “In performing whereof he joined an indefatigable diligence to a holy skill, knew how to embrace every opportunity of discoursing upon the most important and awful subjects in a plain and familiar manner, and of recommending religion to the consciences of every one in the way which their special circumstances called for. And it was his peculiar care to endear the ways of God to the youth of his parish, and give them early impressions of an eternal world, before the devil and their lusts had seized upon their hearts, and enslaved them; and the seed of grace, that was thus sown during the spring of life, was, through the divine blessing, preserved in many, as they advanced in years, and brought forth much fruit.”

And he knew that in the family circle, where the solemnity and generality of public discoursing was superseded by the free, open, and pointed remarks of familiar conversation, was the place peculiarly suited to make an impression on the heart. Here thought flashes upon thought, and feeling upon feeling, with no intervening circumstance to ward off or destroy the direct object of the interview. Cases 36of conscience are laid open without reserve, and the admonition or consolation is delightfully seasoned, by the affectionate tones of friendship with which the visit of a faithful pastor is almost always accompanied among his parishioners. A word is thus said in private to a particular case which remains untouched by the most particular application which can be condescended upon with propriety from the pulpit. Mr. Guthrie’s manner was finely fitted for this duty. Grave without austerity, warm in feeling and friendship, and easy and familiar, he stole, as it were, into the chambers of their thoughts, and saw the state of their souls with an intuitive perception, before they were aware that they had laid themselves open to his keen but friendly inspection. His visits, which he paid regularly to his people, were hailed by every family with peculiar feelings of delight. The dim eye of fourscore sparkled with the lustre of the grandchild, as his footsteps approached the threshold. And although it was afterwards suffused by tears, as his pious voice lifted itself up to a throne of grace, in behalf of the happy groupe standing around him, yet they were tears of joy which the heart spontaneously yields when overcharged with affection and pleasure; and the eye looks nothing the dimmer for them. And O! in this vale of tears, we know of no human exhibition more interesting, than the man of God bending with the earnestness of devotion to heaven, over the emaciated sufferer, in behalf of that soul which is fluttering on the confines of eternity; cheering the spirit sunk and forlorn, with the offers of mercy, and spreading the bright suffusion of hope 37and confidence over the wan face of departing nature.

He was peculiarly tender and felicitous in visiting the sick. “His own experience in the ways of God, and the great depths of troubles and sorrows, doubts and fears, whereby awakened consciences are exercised, into which he himself was often plunged, eminently qualified him for assisting and comforting others in the like circumstances, for strengthening the weak hands, and confirming the feeble knees; and could not miss to beget in him that affectionate concern for poor souls, those bowels of tenderness and sympathy, which can never be found with any but such who themselves have had a feeling acquaintance with the methods of the spiritual life, and the work of the Holy Spirit in their own hearts and lives. And it were easy to enlarge upon the common dexterity which this excellent person had in improving sickness, and the approaches of the King of Terrors, to the advantage of those who were exposed to them; so that though instances of a deathbed repentance rarely happen, and it be indeed infinite madness to delay to the last hour that work, which is of eternal consequence, yet there wanted not evidence of the divine blessing upon his endeavours to reclaim sinners, and call them to God, even in the last hour.”

He had a happy tact of turning his amusement and time for exercise, a considerable portion of which the state of his health required, into great usefulness to others. Fishing and fowling were his favourite recreations. In his rambles in the field, or 38by the river, he frequently met with persons in his parish who were not to be gained by the preaching of the gospel from the pulpit, but were delighted to hear the sportsman talk, although they never could be induced to hear the minister exhort. The minister of Christ, however, lay concealed under the fowler’s habit, and he frequently gained those whose ignorance and waywardness scowled defiance at the church, to become regular attendants on divine ordinances, while he tried to bring the trout to the shore, and the partridge to the ground. Such experiments, however, are not to be tried, but by those ministers of the gospel, who, like Mr. Guthrie, have their Master’s interest paramount to every other, lest the pointer and the fishing-hook become greater objects of attachment, than the instruments of winning souls to Christ.

Two instances are worthy of notice, of his happy manner in winning the most ignorant and stubborn of his flock to attend divine ordinances, while he was in the habiliments of a sportsman. The facts are taken from his life, in the Biographia Scoticana.”

“There was one person in particular whom he would have to perform family-worship, who told him that he could not pray; and he asked what was the reason? He replied, ‘O Lord, thou knowest that this man would have me to pray, but thou knowest that I cannot pray.’ After which Mr. Guthrie bid him stop, and said he had done enough; and prayed himself, to their great surprise. After this he engaged them to come to the kirk on Sabbath, and see what they thought of their minister. When 39they came there, they discovered to their consternation, that it had been their minister himself who had allured them thither.”

“There was also another person in his parish, who had a custom of going a-fowling on the Sabbath-day, and neglecting the church; in which practice he had continued for a considerable time. Mr. Guthrie asked him, what was the reason he had for so doing? He told him, that the Sabbath-day was the most fortunate day in all the week. Mr. Guthrie asked, what he could make by that day’s exercise? He replied that he would make half-a-crown. Mr. Guthrie told him if he would go to church on Sabbath, he would give him as much; and by that means got his promise. After sermon was over, Mr. Guthrie asked, if he would come back the next Sabbath-day, and he would give him the same? which he did, and from that time afterwards never failed to keep the church. He afterwards became a member of his session.”

His fluency and acuteness, command of temper, a powerful observer of the minds and tendencies of others, with his agreeable manners and extensive knowledge, made him a distinguished member of church-courts—in the debates and business of which he took a considerable share. He was the person, who, in the Synod of Glasgow, held April, 1661, presented the draught of an address to the Parliament, in order the better to secure the privileges of the Church and the purity of religion in Scotland. The Synod approved of it, as “containing a faithful testimony of the purity of our reformation in worship, 40doctrine, discipline; and government, in terms equally remarkable for their prudence and their courage.” But the great agitation of the times prevented its transmission.

In his session his candour and humility were as conspicuous, as his talents and learning in the higher church-courts. During the whole time of his ministry there never happened the slightest irruption in his session. Perfect confidence always existed between his elders and him. So that the discipline of his parish was maintained with vigour, and with perfect harmony.

Such was the person introduced to the parochial charge of Fenwick, and such were his talents and manner in the discharge of his official duties.

He had not been above a twelvemonth settled, when he married Agnes Campbell, daughter of David Campbell, Esq. of Skeldon, in Ayrshire, a remote branch of the Loudon family. This connection proved a happy one. The happy disposition of his own mind was increased by the amiable qualities of his wife. To a handsome form and fine features, she added the more substantial beauties of good sense, an excellent education, great sweetness of temper, and a humility of mind, which was too deep to arise from any thing less than the proper view she took of herself in the gospel. Of six children, the offspring of their union, two only survived them, both daughters, who showed by their piety and eminent qualities, that the care, and attention, and example of their parents, were well bestowed. One was married to Miller of Glenlee, a gentleman in 41Ayrshire; and the other became the wife of the Rev. Patrick Warner, December 1681, and was a great source of comfort to him, “in tribulation, imprisonment, and banishment, for the truth’s sake.” Their daughter, Margaret, was married to Mr. Robert Wodrow, minister of Eastwood, near Glasgow, who has given so faithful an account of the history of the Church of Scotland, and the lives of many of her most distinguished and afflicted sons.22   To Mr. Wodrow we are indebted for the most of the materials of this memoir. The facts not acknowledged are from this source.

Shortly after his marriage, he was chosen by the General Assembly, to attend the army as chaplain. To part so soon from an amiable wife, was a severe trial to his feelings, but he yielded to duty, and remained with it, until the party to which he had been attached, suffered discomfiture, when he was wonderfully preserved. The remembrance of his preservation was a source of gratitude to his heavenly Father, during the remainder of his life, and he returned to his parish, with great ardour and devotedness to his sacred duties, and with increased affection for his parish and his home.

His great talents and splendid powers in the pulpit, brought many solicitations to him from several distinguished places to become their pastor. Linlithgow, Stirling, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, all in their turn presented calls to him, but without effect. The sacred tie which had bound him at first to Fenwick continued to strengthen, and he would not leave 42his country parish with its green fields, and its cottages, for all the grandeur, and emolument, and distinction, which the metropolis could hold out to him. He was not, however, careless about extending his influence and his usefulness, in a proper manner; but his retired habits, his taste, and above all, the preservation of his health, which required free rural exercises, gave him a decided preference to remain in his country charge. Here he continued till his ejection by the Episcopal party, which happened about twenty or twenty-one years after his settlement, a faithful watchman of Zion, and was distinguished in those dark and disastrous times, no less for his prudence and skill, than for his zeal and boldness in not shrinking to declare his sentiments upon all matters regarding the welfare of his flock, and the good of the church at large.

His manners gained him the esteem of all, and he often accomplished his aim by a beautiful combination of gentleness and firmness. When it was necessary to exert the latter, he did it with great effect. Few men showed more the wisdom of the serpent with the innocence and harmlessness of the dove. On one occasion, when assisting the Rev. Andrew Gray of Glasgow, at the celebration of the Lord’s supper, during the time that Cromwell’s army was in Scotland, a few of the officers of that army were in church, and had formed the impious resolution of a promiscuous participation of that holy ordinance, and were in the act of coming forward in the crowd, when Mr. Guthrie, in language and in a manner that perfectly overawed them, obliged them 43to retreat to their seats again. And this too when no civil authority could avail any thing, against a power which had become predominant in the country.

An abundant testimony of the affection of his parishioners to him is given by Mr. Livingstone, his contemporary, in these words: “In his doctrine, Mr. William Guthrie was as full slid free as any man in Scotland had ever been, which, together with the excellency of his preaching gift, did so recommend him to the affections of his people, that they turned the corn-field of his glebe to a little town; every one building a house for his family upon it, that they might live in the enjoyment of his ministry.”

But this godly minister was to be driven from his flock, and all the hopes and expectations of his much-endeared people were to be buried under that general ruin which fell upon Scotland, when the unhappy house of Stewart was again recalled to the throne. The people seemed to feel that this great light was soon to be extinguished by their increased attachment to him, and the tears that were shed on every Lord’s day, during the last of his ministry.

Under these gloomy apprehensions, he visited his cousin, Mr. James Guthrie. He happened to be very melancholy and silent, which made James say, “A penny for your thought, cousin.” Mr. Guthrie answered, “There is a poor man at the door, give him a penny;” which being done, he proceeded and said, “I’ll tell you, cousin, what I am not only thinking upon, but am sure of if I be not under a delusion. The malignants will be your 44death, and this gravel will be mine; but you will have the advantage of me, for you will die honourably before many witnesses, with a rope about your neck, and I will die whining upon a little straw, and will endure more pain before I rise from your table, than all the pain you will have in your death.”

He was indeed not mistaken. A short time afterwards he had the melancholy act of friendship to perform, in waiting upon Mr. James Guthrie to the place of his execution. This was upon Saturday, the first of June, 1661. The circumstances of his trial and execution are too well known. The fires of persecution were again lighted up. Faithful ministers of the Presbyterian Church were driven from their charges. And as bloody and harassing a scene covered the face of poor Scotland) as can be found in the annals of cruelty. He, too, in course of time,33   24th July, 1664. was obliged to abandon his church, and leave that flock over which Christ had made him overseer, to the great agitation of the times, and the inroads of Satan, who is ever ready to turn to his profit the calamities of the servants of Christ.

The Earl of Glencairn, who was now Chancellor of Scotland, interested himself much in behalf of Mr. Guthrie. His Lordship waited upon the Arch, bishop of Glasgow, and earnestly requested that his friend Mr. Guthrie might lie overlooked. The Bishop heard him with almost incivility. He peremptorily refused it, and said, with a haughty and disdainful air, “It cannot be; he is a ringleader, and keeper of schism in my diocese.” A commission 45was immediately made out by the bishop for his suspension, and carried into effect by one of his curates, who, after much entreaty, (for nobody liked such a job, not even his curates,) undertook to serve it against him and preach the church vacant.

The commission of suspension from the Archbishop, threw the parish into the deepest grief. The Wednesday before its enforcement, was observed by them as a day of humiliation and prayer. On this occasion, he chose for the subject of his address, Hosea xiii. 9. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.” He turned his subject to a most practical account, insisted chiefly upon the sins of his people, and the sins of the land—and, at the conclusion, enforced the necessity of yielding to the authority which drove them asunder, without any resistance on their part, and exhorted them to those fruits of righteousness, which are peaceable as well as pure* and to follow peace with all men, without which, as well as holiness, no man shall see the Lord. He appointed to meet his congregation early on the morning of the Sabbath following—the day fixed upon for the execution of his suspension by the Archbishop. The meeting of that morning was deeply affecting. Many of his friends attended from a distance with the congregation. He took for his subject the close of his Wednesday’s text: “But in me is thine help.” Every word was treasured up by his people, as the last he should address to them from that place. And tears flowed fast from every countenance as he came near the close of his discourse, and “directed them unto the 46great Fountain of help, when the gospel and ministers were taken from them; and took his leave of them, commending them to this great God, who was able to build them up, and help them in the time of their need.”

He dismissed the congregation by nine o’clock; but many still lingered to get but the glimpse of his Person once more, before they should return to their homes in solitude and agony. Nothing was now to be done but wait the arrival of the curate, whom the prelate had found to put in execution the sentence of suspension. The people had quietly dispersed, and the stillness of the hallowed day prevailed around the manse and church. The bell sounded not as usual to disturb the placidity of the scene. At length the trample of horses was heard—soldiers appeared gleaming with their helmets in the distance—and, at the head of the party, was seen a rider in black, as the messenger of final separation between this great and good man, and his mourning parishioners. They soon alighted, and entered the manse, where they found Mr. Guthrie ready to receive them. The curate presented his commission from the Archbishop of Glasgow. And he went through the ceremony of preaching the church vacant, and discharging Mr. Guthrie from the exercise of his ministry there, without any molestation, save from a number of boys and children, whom curiosity had collected about the doors, and to no other congregation than the party of soldiers, who had accompanied him. It will not be uninteresting to our readers, to give the substance 47of what passed between Mr. Guthrie and the curate upon this occasion. The paper which contains it was found among some valuable papers belonging to Mr. Guthrie, which were some years after this violently taken from his widow, and fell into the hands of the bishops.

The curate on entering the manse, showed, “That the bishop and committee, after much lenity shown to him for a long time, were constrained to pass the sentence of suspension against him, for not keeping of presbyteries and synods with his brethren, and his unpeaceableness in the church, of which sentence he was appointed to make public intimation to him, for which he read his commission under the Archbishop of Glasgow’s hand.”

Mr. Guthrie answered—“I judge it not convenient to say much in answer to what you have spoken; only, whereas you allege there has been much lenity used towards me, be it known unto you, that I take the Lord for party in that, and thank him for it; yea, I look upon it as a door which God opened to me for preaching this gospel, which neither you nor any man else was able to shut, till it was given you of God. And as to that sentence passed against me, I declare before these gentlemen (the officers of the party) that I lay no weight upon it, as it comes from you, or those who sent you; though I do respect the civil authority, who by their law laid the ground for this sentence, and were it not for the reverence I owe to the civil magistrate, I would not cease from the exercise of my ministry for all that sentence. And as to the crimes am charged with, I did hold 48presbyteries and synods with my brethren; but I do not judge those who now sit in these to be my brethren, but men who have made defection from the truth and, cause of God; nor do I judge those to be free or lawful courts of Christ that are now sitting. And as to my unpeaceableness, I know I am bidden follow peace with all men, but I know also I am bidden follow it with holiness; and since I could not obtain peace without prejudice to holiness, I thought myself obliged to let it go. And as for your commission, Sir, to intimate this sentence, I here declare, I think myself called by the Lord to the work of the ministry; and did forsake my nearest relations in the world, and give up myself to the service of the gospel in this place, having received an unanimous call from this parish, and being tried and ordained by the presbytery; and I bless the Lord he hath given me some success, and a seal of my ministry upon the souls and consciences of not a few that are gone to heaven, and of some that are yet in the way to it. And now, Sir, if you will take it upon you to interrupt my work among this people, as I shall wish the Lord may forgive you the guilt of it, so I cannot but leave all the bad consequences that follow upon it betwixt God and your own conscience. And here I do further declare before these gentlemen, that I am suspended from my ministry, for adhering to the covenants and work of God, from which you and others have apostatized.”

“The Lord,” said the curate, “had a work before that covenant had a being, and I judge them apostates who adhere to that covenant. I wish, not only that 49 the Lord would forgive you, but; if it be lawful to ray for the dead, (at which expression the soldiers laughed,) that the Lord would forgive the sin of this church these hundred years past.”

“It is true,” replied Mr. Guthrie, “the Lord had a work before that covenant had a being, but it is as true that it hath been more glorious since that covenant; and it is a small thing for us to be judged of you in adhering to that covenant, who have so deeply corrupted your ways, and seem to reflect on the whole work of Reformation from Popery these hundred years past, by intimating that the Church had need of pardon for the same.—As for you, gentlemen,” added he, directing himself to the soldiers, “I wish the Lord may pardon you, for countenancing this man in this business.”

One of them scoffingly replied, “I wish we may never do a greater fault.”

“Well,” said Mr. Guthrie, “a little sin may damn a man’s soul.”

When this had passed, he entertained them with suitable refreshments, and drank with much kindness and complaisance to the curate and soldiers, conscious that they were the mere servile instruments in the execution of a deed, however overwhelming to himself and his parish; and he showed the temper and spirit of that gospel of which he was a faithful minister, in so doing.

His constitution and frame, which at best were not vigorous, now began to languish, from the depression necessarily consequent upon the recent calamity, and from fresh attacks of his old malady, the gravel. 50He lived for some time in the parish, but never preached; but the death of his brother, to whom he had, upon his entering the ministry, assigned his paternal estate, gave a new direction to his thoughts, and aroused him from the stupor with which his disease and suspension from the ministry had thrown him. He set out immediately for Pitforthy, near Brechin, being about two months after the close of his preaching in the parish of Fenwick; and a comfortable asylum was thus opened for him, amidst the scenes of his boyhood, by the melancholy bereavement of now an only brother. He was not destined to enjoy it long. No scene could be joyous to him, whose happiness was interwoven with the weal of the church, while she was in such affliction. His health declined daily, and a complication of severe and painful diseases stretched him on a bed of the keenest suffering. The gravel, gout, a violent heartburning and ulcer in the kidneys, all at once attacked him, and their violence was such as to render him an object of the greatest commiseration to his friends, and those around him. Yet he had his thoughts and his hopes firmly fixed upon the Lord, and often expressed his gratitude and love to him for the wonderful marks of his kindness, in the midst of his severest pain. “Though I die mad,” said he, on one occasion, “yet I know I shall die in the Lord. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, at all times, but more especially when a flood of errors, snares, and judgments, are beginning, or coming on a nation, church, or people.”

“In the midst of all his heavy affliction, he still 51adored the measures of divine Providence, though at the same time he longed for his dissolution, and expressed the satisfaction and joy with which he would make the grave his dwelling-place, when God should think fit to give him rest there. His compassionate Master did at last indulge the pious breathing of his soul; for, after eight or ten days illness, he was gathered to his fathers, in the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. Lewis Skinner of Brechin, upon Wednesday afternoon, October the 10th, 1665, in the forty-fifth year of his age, and was buried in his family burying-place, under the Pitforthy gallery in the church of Brechin.”44   See his Life in the Biographia Scoticana.

During his last illness he was visited by gentlemen of all parties. The bishop of Brechin, and several Episcopal clergymen among others, came to see him, to whom he expressed himself freely on the affairs of Scotland and the church. But no difference in church opinions could destroy that love he had for all men, and he felt the kindness of the visit of such friends stronger, in proportion to the decided stand he had taken against the measures of prelacy in the country. He died in the full confidence of pardon and acceptance with his heavenly Father, to whom he had early personally dedicated himself, and he knew whom he believed, and was persuaded that he would accomplish that which he had committed to him, both in the complete redemption of himself, and in the final triumph and prosperity of the Church of Scotland.

His person was tall and slender, and his countenance of a fine cast between the grave and cheerful. His liveliness of imagination made his conversation very varied and interesting, and he could with equal case throw a gleam of cheerfulness over the countenances of his friends, and sink them in deepest thought, by the alternate facetiousness and gravity of his remarks. His friends had frequent opportunities of remarking the versatility of his manner when in company; for out of some witty remark, could emerge with such heavenly-mindedness to address himself to a throne of grace, that plainly showed, that the bottom of his character was genuine devotion and piety, while the surface only played and undulated for tire amusement of his friends.

He was a character finely suited to the age. His zeal was at all times tempered with great wisdom, and his firmness and decision never yielded to the natural suavity of his disposition. His connection with many of the first families of the country, particularly with the Earls of Eglinton and Glencairn, to the latter of whom he at one time did some kind service, when that nobleman was imprisoned on account of his great loyalty to Charles, gained for him such general esteem, that he retained his charge a considerable time longer than any of his fellow-labourers, who adhered to the same principles with himself.

He was extremely modest; and but for a circumstance which aroused his sense of justice to himself and the public, it is possible that nothing of his in the shape of a publication should have reached us. He 53preached a series of sermons from the 55th chapter of Isaiah, on personal covenanting, and some zealous but injudicious hand got hold of imperfect notes of them, and sent them into the world with a wonderfully glaring title, namely, “A clear, attractive, warming beam of light, from Christ the Sun of life, leading to himself; wherein is held forth a clear, sound, and easy way of a soul’s particular closing with God, in the covenant of free grace, to the full ending and clearing all debates thereanent.” It was printed at Aberdeen, by J. B. 1657, and although it was anonymous, yet the public somehow understood that it had originated with Mr. Guthrie. He immediately set about arranging his materials for a work on the subject, that might bear his name, without such an ostentatious title-page, and the result of his labours on that subject was the invaluable little work before us.

“The Christian’s Great Interest,” was admired both at home and abroad. The opinion of the famous Dr. Owen will show how highly that venerable and very learned divine prized it, and, at the same time, will give a noble testimony to the humility of his own mind. “You have,” says he, to one of the ministers of Scotland, who chanced to visit him, “truly great spirits in Scotland; there is, for a gentleman, Mr. Baillie of Jerviswood, a person of the greatest abilities I almost ever met with; and for a divine, said he, (taking out of his pocket a little gilt copy of Mr. Guthrie’s treatise,) that author I take to be one of the greatest divines that ever wrote. It is my vade mecum, and I carry it and the Sedan New Testament still about me. 54I have wrote several folios, but there is more divinity in it than them all.”

It soon became a favourite in Germany. The reverend and pious Mr. Koelman translated it into Low Dutch; and it was early to be found also in the French language. The piety and truly Christian benevolence of the Honourable Robert Boyle, it is said, effected its translation into some eastern languages—and we trust that such a gem will be found in the breast of every one who can read and appreciate such a masterly and heart-searching production.

The value of this excellent Treatise is admirably set forth in the following Letter from a Christian Friend, giving an account of his thoughts on a perusal of the work, with which we shall close our account of Mr. Guthrie’s life.


I HAVE sent you by the bearer this book, which by Providence came to my hand, and a blessed providence it was to me: for I hope the same mercy that brought it to my hand hath brought by it the Saviour to my heart.

Upon the perusal of it, I find such a blessed and happy connection betwixt the gifts and the graces of the Spirit, such a holy and humble condescension to my plain capacity, such a serious handling of serious truths, that the language of my heart upon perusal of it was somewhat like that of the woman of Canaan, “Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did;” or rather, all that God hath done in me, and for me. He that hath waded 55much in the water of soul-trouble, may here behold a lively description of the spirit of bondage in all its terrors and troubles; and he who is got out of these, and is sunning his soul in the light of God’s countenance, may here behold the light side of the cloud; I mean the spirit of adoption, in all its beautiful colours.

The first part of this book sets forth the soul in a storm, when the law comes thundering to the conscience; the last leads it into a calm of sweet peace and serenity, when the Spirit of God comes to a troubled soul, as the Son of God once came to the troubled sea, with a “Peace, be still.” But if it should not be thus, the believer is here directed to be willing to want what God is not willing to give; and to know he is wise to give when he will, what he will, and how he will. I find now, that “peace is sown for the righteous.” But all do not reap the crop till they come into Immanuel’s land. There our joy, as well as our light, shall be clear, and our love perfect.

And if there be any more concerned in this piece than others, (though it deals forth its bread to all its young men and young converts,) the latter may here behold, as in a map or mirror, the several providences, and various workings, of the blessed Spirit, that have all concurred in bringing them home to God; and may take notice of all the inducements and remoras they meet with in the way. As Moses was to write a history of the children of Israel “passing through the wilderness,” so doth this book, with a holy kind of elegance, describe the Spirit’s leading the soul out of its bewildered estate 56into the spiritual Canaan, never leaving it till it come to “the mountain of spices,” out of Satin’s reach, where his habitation shall be the “munition of rocks,” Neither is there one hath omitted, so far as I could ever read, or gather from my own or other experience; so that it, may not unfitly be termed, “A spiritual day-book of all the passages between the Spirit of God and the soul, in its work of regeneration;” which is no less profitable than delightful for the believer to be reading over the records of God’s love manifested in the gospel; what care and cost he took with him to recover him out of the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity: for trial brings truth to light, and those things which, through many clouds intercepting, may have lost their remembrance in the soul, are here clearly discovered that they have been; although for the present the believer cries out, “How is the gold become dim! how is the fine gold changed!” And the looking over past experiences brings a renewed savour; and a spiritual relish, of all those things upon the heart to them who have thus tasted that the Lord is good; at least supports the soul under the want of sensible feeling, Whilst it calls to “remembrance the days of old, the years of his right hand.” But I have done, and yet methinks I can never write enough of the excellence and utility of this piece. The Lord make it so profitable to others as it hath been to me. To his blessing I leave both you and it, and remain,

Your true Christian Friend,

G. B.

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