Village Sermons - Thomas Guthrie at Arbirlot

His brother-in-law, the Rev. J. C. Burns, writes of the earlier part of his ministry as follows

When Mr. Guthrie was settled as minister of Arbirlot he became much more of a Bible-student than he had been before, and his discourses, which he prepared with great care (using almost exclusively as his help Cruden's Concordance and Dr. Chalmers Sripture References), became correspondingly instructive and interesting. Though he had possessed himself, immediately on seeing his name gazetted as presentee, of Poli Synopsis Criticorum, and the Commentaries of Thomas Scott and Matthew Henry (I got a commission next morning in Edinburgh to go and purchase them), he made comparatively little use of any of them. He preferred Cruden and himself to them all i.e. his own first and fresh impressions of the meaning of the passage he was expounding; and these he set himself to convey in the plainest and most familiar language, and in the most vivid and telling form; so that, while his exegesis might sometimes be at fault, and was always defective, he never failed both to get and keep the attention of his hearers, and to put them in possession of what he wished them to know.
In this way he expounded (I think on each alternate Sabbath) the Gospel of Mark, and I have a distinct recollectior of admiring the vivaciousness which he imparted to the sacred narrative, and the novelty which old familiar themes seemed to acquire from the way in which he handled them. I remember well, too, how eagerly attentive a congregation he had to preach to; every eye and ear seemed open, wideawake; there was attention even where there was not approval
But during the earlier part of his ministry at Arbirlot when alone, I had the opportunity of hearing him - he did not discover much of that pictorial power in which he afterwards excelled; still less of that artistic finish with which (without seeming to be artistic, or, at any rate, without seeming to be artificial) he was wont afterwards to use that power. Homeliness, if not uncouthness at times, was characteristic of his style, rather than classic elegance or beauty. There, however, amid its qniet scenes of rural loveliness, he learned the art of illustration; and I suppose it was in part his experience in his Sabbath- afternoon Bible-class which led him to study it, and which served also to develop his own rare and unrivalled capacity for its use.

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