LIFE AND CHARACTER OF AN ACCOUNT OF THE REV. WILLIAM
GUTHRIE, FROM WODROW'S HISTORY OF THE SUFFERINGS OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND.
Mr William Guthrie, minister at Fenwick, in the shire of
Ayr, used the greatest of freedom and sincerity in his sermons at this time. I
am too nearly concerned in this great man to say much about him, and therefore
choose to give this in the words of a worthy minister, his contemporary, in his
character of him. "In his doctrine, Mr William Guthrie was as full and 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 people, that they
turned the cornfield of his glebe to a little town, every one building a house
for his family upon it, that they might live under the drop of his ordinances
and ministry." Indeed, the Lord gave him an opportunity to bear a longer
testimony against the defections of this time than most of his brethren; till
at length the malice of the Archbishop of Glasgow turned him out in the year
1664, as we may hear.
CONGREGATIONAL FASTS KEPT.
A good many
ministers kept congregational fasts, and that was all almost they could do,
since now there was scarce any opportunities of presbyterial or synodical
appointments of this nature; and in some places, where there were disaffected
persons to delate them, ministers suffered not a little for this practice, and
the plainness of their doctrine. * * * * * * * * The other instance I promised,
as to the sufferings of old ministers this year, is that of the reverend and
singularly useful Mr William Gutbrie, minister of the gospel at Fenwick. This
extraordinary person I have particular opportunities to have certain . 57 and
distinct accounts of. I heartily wish some proper hand would give the public a
just narrative of this great man's life, which might, I persuade myself, be
very useful. The broken hints we have, before the last edition of his excellent
"Saving Interest," at London, 1705, are lame and indistinct, and were written
without the knowledge of his remaining relations, who could have given more
just and larger accounts. I shall therefore here give the more particular
history of his sufferings at the time, and his being forced to part with his
HE CONTINUES LONGER AT HIS WORK THAN MANY OTHERS.
the interest of several noblemen and others, to whom Mr Guthrie was very dear,
be enjoyed a connivance, and was overlooked for a considerable time, when lie
continued at his Master's work, though in his sermons he was more than
ordinarily free and plain.
WHEN BISHOP BURNET COMES TO GLASGOW, HE AND
SOME OTHER MINISTERS ARE ATTACKED. But soon after Dr Alexander Burnet was
brought from the see of Aberdeen to that of Glasgow, he and the few remaining
ministers about him were attacked; such as, Mr Livingstone at Biggar, Mr M Kail
at Bothwell, Mr Gabriel Maxwell at Dundonald, Mr Gabriel Cunningham at Dunlop,
and Mr Andrew Hutcheson, and Mr William Castlelaw, ministers at Stewarton; and
perhaps the Chancellor's death about this time helped to pave the way for the
greater severity against these worthy persons.
NOTHING PREVAILS WITH
THE ARCHBISHOP TO SPARE MR GUTHRIE.
The Archbishop had been addressed by
some of the greatest in the kingdom in behalf of Mr Guthrie, and treated them
very indiscreetly. By no importunity would he suffer himself to be prevailed
upon to spare him any longer. When means and intercession could not prevail, Mr
Guthrie was warned of the Archbishop's design against him, and advised by
persons of note, his friends, to suffer no resistance to be made to his
dispossession of the church and manse; since his enemies wanted only this for a
handle to prosecute him criminally for his zeal and faithfulness in the former
times: such was their spite against this useful man of God.
3ULY 20TH, KEPT AS A CONGREGATIONAL FAST WITH HIS PEOPLE.
prospect of parting with his beloved people, Wednesday the 20th of July this
year was set apart by him for fasting and prayer with his congregation. The
text he preached from was, Hosea xiii. 9, "0 Israel! thou haat destroyed
thyself." His sermon was afterwards printed very unfairly and indistinctly,
from an uncorrect copy. From that Scripture, with great plainness and
affection, be laid before them their sins, and those of the land, and of that
age; and, indeed, the place was a Bochim.
HE PREACHES NEXT LORD'S DAY
EARLY IN THE MORNING AND TAKES LEAVE OF HIS PEOPLE.
At the close of that
day's works, he gave intimation of sermon upon the next Lord's Day very early,
and his own people and many others met him at the church of Fenwick betwixt
four and five in the morning, where he preached twice to them from the close of
his last text, "But in me is thine help." And as he used upon ordinary
Sabbaths, he had two sermons and a short interval betwixt them, and dismissed
the people before nine in the morning. Upon this melancholy occasion he
directed them unto the great 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
NO VIOLENCE USED AGAINST THE PARTY WHO CAME TO DISPOSSESS
His people would willingly have sacrificed all that was dear to them,
in defence of the gospel, and adhering to him. Indeed, Mr Guthrie had some
difficulty to get their affection to him so far moderated as to keep them from
violent proceedings against the party who came to dispossess him; they would
have effectually prevented the church its being declared vacant, and were ready
to have "resisted even to blood, striving against sin," if they had been
permitted. But Mr Guthrie's peaceable disposition, his great regard to lawful
civil authority, which his prudent foresight of the consequences of such a
procedure, both as to the interests of the gospel, his people, and himself,
made him lay himself out, and use the interests he had in the people, which was
very great, to keep the peace; and there was no disturbance which could be made
a handle of by adversary.
WITH MUCH DIFFICULTY THE ARCHBISHOP GETS ONE
TO INTIMATE HIS SENTENCE AGAINST MR GUTHRIE.
When the Archbishop of Glasgow
resolved upon dispossessing him, he dealt with several of his curates, to
intimate his sentence against Mr Guthrie, and as many refused it. There was an
awe upon their spirits, which scared them from meddling with this great man;
besides, they very well knew it was an action would render them for ever odious
to the West country, and they feared the consequences. At last he prevailed
with one who was curate of Calder, as I am told, and promised him five pounds
sterling for his reward: but, poor man! it was the price of blood, the blood of
souls, and neither he nor his had much satisfaction in it.
OF CALDER INTIMATES IT, JULY 24, IN THE CHURCH OF FENWICK.
Upon the 24th
of July, this man came with a party of twelve soldiers to Fenwick church on the
Lord's Day, and by commission from the archbishop, discharged Mr Guthrie to
preach any more at Fenwick, declared the church vacant, and suspended him from
the exercise of his ministry.
AND TO HIMSELF IN THE MANSE.
commanders of the party and the curate, leaving the soldiers without, came into
the manse, or minister's house. The best account I can at this distance give of
what passed in the house, is by inserting a short minute of this, left amongst
the small remains of a valuable collection of papers belonging to Mr Guthrie;
which were taken away, as we shall afterwards hear, some years after this, by
violence, and against all the rules of equity, from his widow, and fell into
the hands of the bishop. The paper was drawn up at the time to keep up the
remembrance of this affair, without any design of it being published, and I
give it its own native and plain dress.
THE SUM OF THE CURATE'S
DISCOURSE WHEN HE CAME AND INTIMATED MR WILLIAM GUTHRIE HIS SENTENCE OF
SUSPENSION, WITH MR GUTHRIE'S ANSWER TO HIM. AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT PASSED IN THE
"The curate 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 his hand." Mr Guthrie answered, "I judge it not
convenient to say much in answer to what you have spoken: only, whereas you
allege there hath 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 those 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 surcease from the exercise of my ministry for all that
sentence. And as to the crimes I am charged with, I did keep presbyteries 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 met but
I know also I am bidden follow 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
dearest 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 apostatizcd."
Here the curate interrupting him,
said, "That the Lord had a work before that covenant had a being, and that he
judged them apostates who adhered to that covenant; and that he wished that not
only the Lord would forgive him, (Mr Guthrie,) but, if it were lawful to pray
for the dead, (at which expression the soldiers did laugh,) that the Lord would
forgive the sin of this Church these hundred years past." "It is true,"
answered 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
re-formation 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 of this man in this business." One of them scoffingly replied," I
wish we never do a greater fault." "Well," said Mr Guthrie, "a little sin may
damn a man's soul."
MR GUTHRIE'S CIVILITIES TO THE SOLDIERS.
this had passed, Mr Guthrie called for a glass of ale, and craving a blessing
himself, drank to the commander of the soldiers, and after they had been
civilly entertained by him, they left the house. I have it confidently
reported, that Mr Guthrie at parting did signify to the curate, that he
apprehended some evident mark of the Lord's displeasure was abiding him, for
what he was now a-doing, and seriously warned him to prepare for some stroke a-
coming upon him very soon.
THE CURATE DIED A LITTLE AFTER.
Guthrie's relations, and a worthy old minister yet alive when I write this, who
was that day at Fenwick with him, from whom I have part of this account, do not
mind to have heard any thing of this denunciation; but it might have been
without their hearing, since none of them were present at parting. Whatever be
in this, I am well assured the curate never preached more after he left
Fenwick. He came into Glasgow, and whether he reached Calder, but four miles
from it, I know not; but in a few days he died in great torment of an iliac
passion, and his wife and children died all in a year, or thereby; and none
belonging to him were left. So hazardous a thing it is to meddle with Christ's
THE KIRK DECLARED VACANT.
When they left the manse,
the curate went into the church of Fenwick with the soldiers his guard, and now
his hearers, and preached to them not a quarter of an hour, and intimated from
the pulpit the bishop's sentence against Mr Guthrie. Nobody came to hear him,
but the party who came with him, and a few children and boys, who created him
some disturbance, but were chased off by the soldiers.
CONTINUES IN THE PARISH TILL OCTOBER 1665, WREN HE DIED IN ANGUS.
Guthrie continued in the parish, but preached no more in the church, where, as
far as I can learn, there was no curate ever settled. Upon the 10th of October
next year, this excellent person died in Angus, whither he went to settle some
affairs relating to his estate of Pitforthy there. Thus, by the malice of the
prelates, this bright and eminent light of the West of Scotland was put under a
bushel, yea extinguished.
MR WILLIAM GUTHRIE DIES, OCTOBER 10.
this time many of the old Presbyterian ministers, who had seen the glory of the
former temple, were got to their rest. The 10th day of October this year
brought the Reverend Mr William Guthrie to his Father's house. I shall only add
the remark made upon his lamented death, by the worthy minister his
contemporary, whom I cited before, when I spoke of him: "This year the
Presbyterians in Scotland lost one of their pillars, Mr William Guthrie,
minister of the gospel at Fenwick, one of the most eloquent, successful,
popular preachers, that ever was in Scotland. He died a sufferer, for he was
deposed by the bishop, but in hopes that one day the Lord would deliver
Scotland from her thraldom." Many others of the old ministers of this Church
died about this time in peace, being taken away from the evil to come, which
was fast coming on in great measures, and departed under the solid and firm
hope of a glorious deliverance coming to this poor Church.
SOME ACCOUNT OF MR WILLIAM GUTHRIE - BY REV. ROBERT
Mr William Guthrie was the eldest son of a country
gentleman, in the shire of Angus in Scotland, of a good family, and of a
competent estate. After he had past his course of philosophy at the University
of St Andrews, he went to the New College there, where theology and Hebrew are
taught by several professors. And it was then no rare thing for young gentlemen
that had no design of engaging themselves in any of the three learned
professions of law, physic, or divinity, to spend some time at that College.
Then, and there, it pleased the Lord, who had separated him from his mother's
womb, to call him by his grace, by the ministry of excellent Mr Samuel
Rutherford, and this young gentleman became one of the first-fruits of his
ministry at St Andrews. His conversion was begun with great terrors of God on
his soul, and was completed with that joy and peace in believing that did
accompany him through his life. Upon this blessed change wrought in him, he did
immediately resolve to obey the call of God, to serve him in the ministry of
the gospel, which was given him with the Lord's calling him effectually to
grace and glory. And he did for this end so dispose of his outward estate (of
which he was born heir) as not to be entangled with the affairs of this life.
After some time spent in study, he was called to preach, and quickly after was
settled in a congregation in the West of Scotland, and did shine in that place,
till a few months before his death, that he was driven away by persecution, in
1665. In this place he laboured with great diligence, and with no less success,
as himself owned to the Lord's praise, when he said that there was hardly any
under his charge but were brought to make a fair profession of godliness, and
had the worship of God in their families. And it was well known, that many of
them were sincere, and not a few of them eminent Christians. The love he had to
his people made him stiffly refuse all calls and invitations to Glasgow or
Edinburgh, or Stirling, (where his own cousin, grave Mr James Guthrie, was
minister, afterwards Christ's faithful martyr, -whom I saw die in and for the
Lord, at Edinburgh, June lst, 1661,) and pleaded much in a General Assembly,
that he might have his ministry in that city, which was malignant and profane
at that time. But all to no purpose; in this place, though an obscure one, but
by his ministry, he spent all his few days. I have heard several judicious
ministers and Christians observe this of him, that whereas many worthy
ministers have outlived their zeal, the vigour of their gifts, and their
acceptance with the godly, this blessed man rather increased in all these to
His stature was tall and slender, his aspect grave. His natural
temper was cheerful, witty, and facetious, yet tempered with gravity becoming a
minister of Christ. I have seen somewhat of this rare mixture in him myself,
and have heard from many who have had a great intimacy with him, that they have
admired this in him, that immediately after his recreations, and singular
sallies of wit and innocent mirth, when called to pray, he would speak to God
with that holy awe, and faith, and love, and life, as if he had come down from
His gifts were great, strong natural parts, a clear head, and a
sound heart. His voice was of the best sort; loud and yet managed with charming
cadencies 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 oft thought him in this the likest
to the famous Mr John Rogers of Dedham in Essex, by the character I had of him
by many; and especially from his kinsman, Mr William Jenkin, who died Christ s
prisoner in Newgate, 1634.
In preaching, praying, dealing with distressed
consciences, and in pleading for the cause of God in the assemblies of
ministers, he was eminent, and generally so esteemed in his day, which I do
well remember.. I have heard many passages of God's presence with him, and of
his blesaing of his labours, which I forbear to mention; both because it is
unfit to give a long preface to a short book, and because I am not without
hope, that some will think it fit to make this great man better known.
main humbling thing that attended him (next to the apostacy in the land, and
cruel persecution of the Church of Christ in it) was a crazy body, afflicted
much with the stone, and at last with an ulcer in his kidneys, which brought
him to his grave, in 1665, when he had lived little above forty-two years.
This was the man that the rulers in Scotland could not then bear. But though
the love and esteem that most of the neighbouring nobility and gentry bare to
him did prevail, for a year or two, to preserve him in his place, -after many
of his brethren were cast though yet at length, a party of the king's guards
was sent to turn him out, and to put a stranger m his place. Unto which
violence he gave way; and went on a visit to his friends, where he was quickly
seized with a fit of his distemper, and died in 1665, in Angus. I have oft seen
him, conversed with him, and have heard him preach; and if my youth then did
make me an unfit judge of his real great worth, yet his name was so famous his
ministry so followed, especially in his last two or three years, by many
ejected ministers, and so many desolate congregations, (and both were
multiplied in fatal 1662,) that I do but declare what was then the common sense
of thousands in Scotland, that Mr Guthrie was every way an eminent gospel
minister. I had also a special advantage for knowing the spirit of this great
man. My own honoured father and he kept for many years a constant weekly
correspondence by letters; many of which from Mr Gutbrie to my father I did
peruse, and several of them I have still by me, wrote by his own hand.
1. Dunlop says he died in his
2. Wodrow was
married to Margaret Warner, daughter of Rev. Patrick Warner, of Irvine, who had
married a daughter of Guthrie.
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