William Guthrie



The following account of WILLIAM GUTHRIE originally formed part of a preface to his chief Work - THE TRIAL OF A SAVING INTEREST IN CHRIST. It is to be regretted that nothing more finished or exact can be found regarding one who acted so prominent a part, and exercised so extensive an influence in his day and generation. With the addition, however, of WODROW'S Remarks, extracted from his History - and a short account of Outline by Rev. Robert Traill, of London, also forming part of a preface to an Edition of his chief production, both of which are here subjoined, we are enabled to form some tolerable estimate of the character of another of those of whom the world was not worthy. It will be seen, from the narrative which follows, that Dr John Owen reckoned Guthrie capable of embodying more theology in a small volume than Owen himself could do in several folios. An eulogy of such a nature, from so competent a judge, makes us anxious to know exactly the mental as well as the external history of such a man - and though the few pages that follow cannot completely gratify our curiosity, they at least make it apparent that William Guthrie, as far as we know him, was not unworthy of the encomium bestowed on him by Owen, and of the admiration with which he was regarded by many of his contemporaries.
The Rev. William Dunlop, the Author of these Memoirs, was Professor of Divinity and Church History in the University of Edinburgh. He died October 29th, 1720, at the early age of twenty-eight, and Wodrow records that "his death was a great loss to the Church of Scot land." Some of his Sermons and Lectures were published towards the close of the year 1722, and have been subsequently reprinted. He is well known to have acted an important part in the ecclesiastical proceedings of his day, especially in regard to the Confession of Faith. Dunlop was supplied by Wodrow, who was related to Guthrie, with materials for the following Memoirs. - See WOD. CORRESPOND. i. 23; iii. 186, 201, 202.

WILLIAM GUTHRIE was eldest son to the Laird of Pitforthy in the shire of Angus, a cadet of the old family of Guthrie; and by the mother's side descended from the ancient house of Easter Ogle, of which she was a daughter: whereby he enjoyed such advantages of birth, as at least raised him above the contempt of those who give the highest value to nobleness of blood, and doat most fondly on the antiquity of families. God blessed his parents with a numerous offspring, so that he had three sisters - german, and four brothers, all of which, except one, dedicated themselves to the service of God in the gospel of His Son: namely, Robert, who was licensed to preach, but never ordained to a parochial charge, his tender constitution and numerous infirmities rendering him unequal for so laborious an office, and bringing him soon to an end of his days; Alexander, who became minister of the parish of Strickathrow, in the presbytery of Brechin in Angus, about the year 1645, where he continued a pious and useful labourer in the work of the gospel till the introduction of Prelacy ; which unhappy change of our constitution affected him in the tenderest manner, and is thought to have shortened his days, and contributed to his death, anno 1661; and John, the youngest son, minister of Tarbolton in the shire of Ayr, in which post he remained till he was turned out at the Restoration, for nonconformity, and had his share of the violence and cruelty which then reigned; till in the year 1669 he was removed to the better world of peace and joy.
And as it was a very distinguished honour to this family, that of five sons, four of them should have devoted themselves to the noblest employment of human nature, the ministry of reconciliation, and the promoting the eternal happiness of perishing souls; so no doubt it was one of the most pleasing circumstances in the life of our author, and could not but mightily heighten the endearments of a natural relation to his brothers, that they were at the same time brethren in the ministry, and united in the peculiar service of their common Lord.
He was born at Pitforthy in the year 1620, and no sooner got beyond the bloom of infancy, but he gave proof of his capacity and genius, by very quick and considerable advances in the Latin and Greek tongues. After which he was sent to the University of St Andrews, where he studied philosophy under the memorable Mr James Guthrie, who was afterwards minister at Stirling; and became so famous by his uncommon zeal for the religion and liberty of his country, and by his being made one of the earliest sacrifices to the growing tyranny of King Charles II's reign. The scholar being the master's relation, was entitled to his peculiar care, lodged, when at the college, in the same chamber with him, and had thereby the principles of learning infused into him with more accuracy and advantage than his class-fellows, in conjunction with a constant regard to God and religion, and early impressions of piety; and no doubt this happy situation contributed not a little to the unusual progress he made in all thó parts of university studies.
Having taken the degree of Master of Arts, he applied himself for some years to the study of divinity, under the direction of Mr Samuel Rutherford. After which, being entered upon trials, which he underwent with great applause, he was licensed to preach the gospel in August 1642. And according to Mr Traill's account, he not only happily improved in theological learning, under Mr Rutherford as professor of divinity, but the ministry of that good man, so justly celebrated for his affecting and lively preaching, and holy life, was, by the blessing of God, made the instrument, if not of his conversion, which his early piety gives us ground to believe ‘was sooner effected, at least of great advances in a religious life, which was so endeared to his soul, that, he resolved to devote himself to the immediate service of God in the office of the holy ministry And in consequence of that pious resolution, he gave an uncommon instance of mortification to the world, and with how ardent a zeal he designed. to give himself wholly to the work of tlao gospel, in quitting his paternal estate to the only brother of the five who was not engaged in the sacred office, that thereby he himself might be perfectly disentangled from the affairs of this life, and entirely employed in those of the eternal world. Soon after his being licensed he left St Andrews, accompanied with the high esteem and approbation of the professors of that university, which they gave proof of, by a recommendation conceived in terms so full and strong, that they bore the character of an inward regard and value, more than the form of a customary testimonial. After this, he became governor to my Lord Mauchline., eldest son to the Earl of Loudon, Chancellor of Scotland; in which station he continued till be entered upon a parochial charge, of which this was the occasion.
He was employed to preach in Galstoun upon a preparation-day, before the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and where several members of the new erected parish of Fenwick being present, they were so much edified by his sermon, and conceived so just a valueof him, that they immediately resolved to make choice of him for their minister; and in consequence hereof gave him a very harmonious call, which Mr Guthrie having complied with, he was ordained to the sacred office in that parish, November 7th, 1644. In this place he had peculiar difficulties to struggle with, and many circumstances of his ministry extremely discouraging; and yet, through the divine blessing, the gospel preached by him had surprising success, and became, in an eminent manner, the wisdom and power of God to the salvation of lost souls.
As this was a new erected parish, and Mr Guthrie the first pastor of it, the people had been very much neglected, and had not enjoyed the means of grace with that ease and advantage which others were favoured with: the melancholy effects whereof were evidently discernible in the rudeness and gross ignorance of many of them; and, consequently, in a too general neglect of God and religion.
But under all these disadvantages, that heavenly zeal for the glory of his great Master which animated the labours of this excellent minister, his fervent love to the souls of men dying in their sins, and his holy wisdom and diligence in reclaiming and instructing them, were so honoured by God, and accompanied with the powerful influences of his Holy Spirit, that in a little time a noble change was wrought upon a barbarous multitude. They were almost all persuaded to attend the public ordinances, to set up nnd maintain the stated worship of God in their families; and scarce was there a house in the whole parish that did not bring forth some fruits of his ministry, and afford some real converts to a religious life. And thus he was made the instrument of many notable triumphs of victorious grace, which Jesus Christ leads over the souls of obstinate transgressors, when he turns them from their ways, and subdues the people under him. And what can be more worthy of everlasting remembrance, than such glorious achievements in the spiritual warfare, and successful battles with the implacable enemy of the happiness of mankind, and the kingdom of their Maker; which will one day shine with an eternal lustre, and be celebrated with louder and more lasting acclamations of an endless world, than the fading honour of an earthly diadem, or the bravest actions and most finished victory of any of the heroes of war, who make now such noise and bustle upon the stage? And how little needed the man we are now speaking of to envy the dazzling pomp and show of this earth, or to be desirous of its richest treasures? He possessed another portion, since almost every family in his parish, however little and obscure, afforded a shining ornament for that divine crown of glory and rejoicing, which shall be beautified with the lustre of an eternal excellency, and be, by the triumphant King of the Church, bestowed upon all those who have turned many unto righteousness.
Mr Guthrie was possessed of all those qualities which became a minister of the gospel, and being accompanied by the powerful influences of divine grace, gave a happy prospect of uncommon success: for, besides his excellent endowments which were discovered in the pulpit, he was eminently fitted to improve, for the edification of his people, the ministerial duties of visiting and catechising; 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. Nor did Mr Guthrie neglect, in visiting poor families, to join works of charity to his instructions, and imitate his great Master, in showing compassion both to the bodies and souls of men. By all which winning methods be engaged their esteem and affections, which could not fail to add a mighty force to his exhortation and reproofs.
He excelled also in that unusual mean of knowledge, catechising, and avoided those mistakes in the management of. this exercise, which frequently lessen the advantage thereof: his questions were mostly confined to such truths of the doctrine according to godliness as were recommended by their great importance, and extensive influence upon practical religion herein conforming himself to the apostolical injunction, by insisting upon those things which were good and profitable unto men, and avoiding foolish and trifling questions that were vain and useless; and knowing that it was his business to feed the meanest and weakest of the Christian flock with wholesome instruction, he adapted these exercises to the lowest capacities, begun with the most easy and obvious truths of religion, and so prepared the way for those which required a more enlightened understanding. He was careful not to expose the ignorant, so as to beget a distaste in them of the means of knowledge, nor to confound the modest and bashful; but by his meekness and condescension he encouraged and engaged them; whereby catechising became a pleasure to them, and he had the joy to see useful and solid knowledge spreading itself among a people whom he found grossly ignorant.
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 bad 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 uncommon 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 death-bed 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 evidences of the divine blessing upon his endeavours to reclaim sinners, and call them to God even in the last hour.
It would be justly blameable if we neglected to mention one other noble quality of Mr Guthrie's; the state of his health made it necessary for him to use frequent and vigorous exercises, and this made him choose fishing and fowling for his common recreations: but as he was always animated by a flaming zeal for the glory of his blessed Master, and a tender compassion to the souls of men, and as it was the principal thing made him desire life and health, that he might employ them in propagating the kingdom of God, and turning transgressors from their ways; so the very hours of recreation were dedicated to this purpose which was so endeared to him, and he knew how to make his diversions subservient to the nobler ends of his ministry, he made them the occasions of familiarizing his people to him, and introducing himself to their affections; and, in the disguise of a sportsman, be gained some to a religious life, whom he could have little influence upon in a minister's gown; of which there happened several memorable examples.
Some of the parish wero so extremely rude and barbarous, that they never attended upon divine worship, and knew not so much as the face of their pastor; to such, every thing that regarded religion was distasteful - a minister would have been enough to have frightened them, nor could he have access either to visit or catechise them: but what Mr Guthrie might have almost otherwise despaired of, he effectuated by his diversions; in the habit which he then wore, he conciliated the esteem and love even of these ignorant creatures, made use of their curiosity, as well as of nobler arguments, to bring them to the church, and enter them into the paths of salvation; so that the pulpit was the first place which discovered to them that it was their minister himself who had allured them thither; and so condescending a method of gaining them procured a constant attendance upon public ordinances, and was at length accompanied by the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ unto the praise of God. Thus, in imitation of the great apostle, being crafty he caught them with guile. And thus heavenly wisdom and dexterity will be one day celebrated with juster applauses by the assembly of the first-born, than the cunningest stratagems, or the bravest attempts which raise the chararacter of princes and generals, whose fame flies now swiftest and widest through the world.
Thus his eminent abilities and unwearied diligence in the work of the ministry continued to exert themselves with distinguished success; they procured the universal love of his parish; and he lived for one-and-twenty years in such perfect harmony with his session, that during all that time, there happened not the smallest difference betwixt them.
His family affairs were also very easy and comfortable to him. August 1645, he was happily married to Agnes Campbell, daughter to David Campbell of Skeldon, in the shire of Ayr, a remote branch of the family of Loudon; a gentlewoman endowed with all those qualities that could render her a blessing to her husband, having joined to a handsome shape and comely features, good sense and good breeding, sweetened by a modest cheerfulness of temper; and what endeared her to Mr Guthrie beyond every thing else, sincere piety: so that they lived a little more than twenty years, in the most complete friendship, and with. a constant mutual satisfaction, founded upon the noblest principle, one faith, one hope, one baptism, and a sovereign love to Jesus Christ which zealously inspired them both. By her he had six children, two of whom only outlived him, both daughters, who were eminent for their sincere piety, and endeavoured to follow the example of their excellent parents. One of them was married to Miller of Glenlee, a gentleman in the shire of Ayr; and the other was married to the Reverend Mr Patrick Warner, December 1681, when the tyranny and cruelty of the times were growing to their height, and so she soon became a companion to him in tribulation, imprisonment and banishment for the truth's sake; till the glorious Revolution, when Mr Warner was settled minister of the gospel at Irvine. Both he and she are yet living, full of years, waiting till their change come. Their children are, William Warner of Ardeir, in the shire of Ayr; and Margaret Warner, married to Mr Robert Wodrow, minister of the gospel at Eastwood, to whom we are obliged for the materials from which this account of Mr Guthrie's life is composed.
We have given a short account of Mr Guthrie s eminent ministerial endowments, as they appeared in the discharge of the pastoral office among his own people, and of the glorious successes wherewith God blessed his zealous love and unwearied diligence: but this was not the sole character which he excelled in; for in every other capacity he gave equal proofs of his superior accomplishments.
He was distinguished in the judicatures of the Church, from which he never allowed himself to be absent, by a thorough knowledge of our constitution, an heroic courage and firmness whenever the cause of truth and holiness was concerned; and that modest regard for others, and affection to his brethren, which endeared him to them, and qualified him for the business and duties of society.
When that unhappy distinction betwixt the public Resolutioners and Protesters found place in the Church, Mr Guthrie thought it his duty to be of the last denomination: yet he took care that his angry passions did not embitter his zeal, which he tempered with a constant moderation, and sweetened with an ardent love to peace. he preached with his brethren of different sentiments; and warmly entertained every thing that had a tendency to union, and could give a prospect of an accommodation. The power of divine grace, and his native genius and temper, with united force engaging him to healing measures, and inspiring him with an abhorrence for such as were factious and divisive; so that during a season of so great difficulties and hazards, he avoided every extreme, and became a bright example of a zealous moderation, whereby he was of more than ordinary usefulness to the Church on all public occasions.
In the year 1645, when a young man, he was appointed by the Assembly to attend the army; a happy conjunction of all the endowments which could qualify a person for that station, soon determining the Church to make him their choice. Being newly married, he was then in such circumstances as, under the Mosaical economy, would have afforded him a dispensation from that service; and his affectionate wife was not a little frightened at the dangers he might be exposed to, which increased her aversion to such a degree, that her reluctant affection struggled with her duty; but the voice of Providence soon gave the last principle the superiority. When he was preparing for his departure, a violent fit of the gravel reduced him to the greatest extremity of pain and danger. His religious spouse understood and improved the divine chastisement. She saw how easily God could put an end to a life she was too apprehensive about; and this wrought her up to a fixed resolution never to oppose her inclinations to his entering upon any employment whereby he might honour his Master, how formidable soever were the hazards which attended it. While he was with the army, he was in a remarkable manner preserved when in very dangerous circumstances, upon a defeat of a party which he was then with. He ever after retained a grateful sense of the divine goodness, and, after his return to the parish, was animated thereby to a more vigorous diligence in the work of the ministry, and propagating the kingdom of the Son of God, both among his own people, and all who were round about him, his public preaching, especially at the administration of the Lord's Supper, and his. private conversation, conspiring for those noble purposes.
And, indeed, in other respects also, his shining piety, wisdom, and good breeding, made him universally useful in the country where he lived. The just value which the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood had for him, and the interest which this gave him with them, enabled him to improve successfully frequent opportunities he had to do good offices to particular persons, to compose differences, and remove feuds which were ready enough to prevail in the country; and to assist the judicatures of the Church by procuring the consent and support concerned, in planting vacant congregations with men worthy of the sacred character.
The prevailing of the English sectarians under Oliver Cromwell, and the variety of attempts which they made, while in Scotland, upon the constitution and discipline of the Church, was one of the difficulties which the ministry had then to struggle with; and it, among others, gave a discovery of the excellent qualities of Mr Guthrie. His pleasant facetious conversation, and masterly reasoning procured him an universal respect from the company. While, at the same time, his courage and constancy did not fail him in the cause of his great Master, and were often useful to curb the extravagancies of the sectarians, and maintain order and regularity. One instance hereof happened at the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, celebrated at Glasgow by Mr Andrew Gray. Several of the English officers had formed a design to put in execution the disorderly principle of a promiscuous admission to the Lord's Table, by coming to it themselves without acquainting the minister, or being in a due manner found worthy of that privilege. Mr Guthrie, to whose share it fell to dispense the sacrament at that table spoke to them, when they were leaving their pews in to make their attempt, with such gravity, resolution, and zeal, that they were quite confounded, and sat down again without occasioning any further disturbance.
The Quakers also endeavoured, about this time, to sow tares in Mr Guthrie's parish, improving for this end his absence for some weeks, during which he was detained in Angus about his private affairs. But he returned before the poison had sunk deep, recovered some that were in hazard of being tainted by its fatal influences; and in conference so confounded those heretics, that they despaired of ever attacking with success a flock guarded by so watchful and skilful a shepherd, whereas they had made too many proselytes to their wild delusions in Kilbride, and some other neighbouring parishes.
It may be easily imagined that the eminent gifts and graces of this excellent person would engage parishes of greater character and importance than Fenwick to desire his ministry, and earnestly labour for success in their attempts to obtain it; and, indeed, his people and himself were frequently exposed to the troubles of processes of transportation, and vexed with fears as to the issue of them, Renfrew, Linlithgow, Stirling, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, having all of them called him. But beside the indifferent opinion be entertained of the method of supplying vacancies by transportations in general, and that the air and diversions of a country life were of use to him in maintaining a healthy constitution, his love to his flock was so warm and constant, that he put an invincible obstinacy against all designs of separating him from them. A relation is indeed founded on the noblest bottom, and sinks deepest into the soul, when it is animated by the principle of the spiritual life; and therefore it must, in the highest degree, endear a minister to his people, and engage their affection and esteem by the most powerful tie, when his labours have been successful in reclaiming them from sin, their ruin, and persuading them to enter upon a religious life; and so they owe to him, as far as they can do to an instrument in the hand of God, the salvation of their immortal souls, which is the incomparably strongest obligation that one man can have to another, and the most flowing source of gratitude. And, on the other hand, a minister can scarce miss to have a peculiar tenderness and warmth of divine affection for those whose father he is after the Spirit, and hath been honoured by God in bringing them to the kingdom of his Son, and begetting them through the gospel, whose heavenly birth is now the highest pleasure, and brightest triumph of his life, and will be one day his crown of glory and rejoicing. A. friendship that had such a life, and was invigorated by a spirit so pure and active, made Mr Guthrie prefer Fenwick, a poor obscure parish, to the most considerable charges in the nation; which was a proof of his mortification to the world, and that he was moved by views superior to temporal interests.
Thus Mr Gutlrie continued with his old parish till the great alteration which the restoration of King Charles II. made in public affairs. The first discovery that the measures of the Court gave of a design to overturn the government of the Church, affected the worthy Mr Guthrie in the most sensible part; nor could anything afford him satisfaction while she was in trouble, and about to be laid desolate. Nor did he let any occasion slip of showing his concern for that which was dearer to him than his other interests. At the Synod of Glasgow, held April 1661, after long reasoning about proper measures for the security of religion, the matter was referred to a committee. Mr Guthrie presented the draught of an address to the Parliament, wherein a faithful testimony was given to the purity of our reformation in worship, doctrine, discipline, and government, in terms equally remarkable for their prudence and their courage. Every body approved of it, and it was transmitted to the synod. But some worthy ministers, of the side of the public Resolutioners, being doubtful of the seasonableness of such a representation, considering the difficulties of the times, gave an opportunity to those who designed to comply with Prelacy to procure a delay, and so to crush it; which did not prevent its being serviceable to the end of our now mentioning it, namely, affording a proof of the zealous honesty and firmness of Mr Guthrie.
Another instance whereof was, the resolution he took to wait upon his worthy friend, Mr James Guthrie, at his execution, notwithstanding the apparent hazard he must thereby have exposed him self to. But his session prevailed upon him, though not without difficulty, by their earnest entreaties, to lay aside a design that could not miss to deprive them immediately of his ministry, which, by the goodness of God, they enjoyed some years after his brethren were ejected.
Next to the protection of a kind Providence, and the fervent prayers of his own people, and of many others, unto which he always attributed this distinguished favour in the first place, Mr Guthrie's being connived at for some time was principally owing to the favour of some great men in the government, particularly the Earls of Eglinton and Glencairn, the last of whom had a regard for him, which was heightened by a conjunction of esteem and gratitude, Mr Guthrie having had occasion to oblige him when imprisoned for his loyalty before the Restoration, which that noble lord never forgot; and, when he was Chancellor, contributed what he could to his preservation, by which means he enjoyed the peaceable possession of his church till the year 1664.
As God had designed and prepared him for eminent and extensive services, during this period his excellent accomplishments now exerted themselyes with the greatest efficacy, and his usefulness was more universally diffused through the whole country, which was in a great measure deprived of their pastors. Many then hungered after the word of the Lord, and this made them with more eagerness embrace the advantage which a merciful Providence afforded them of Mr Guthrie's ministry. Great multitudes resorted to him from all the parts of the west country; his large church was crowded with hearers from Glasgow, Paisley, Lanark, Hamilton, and other distant places, and his strong and clear voice enabled him to extend the profit of his discourses to the many hundreds who were obliged to keep without doors.
An extraordinary zeal then enlivened the souls of sincere Christians; they were animated by a warm affection to the truth, and an uncommon delight in hearing the joyful sound; and this made them despise the difficulties that lay in their way, and bear cheerfully with many inconveniences, which attendance upon the sacred ordinances was then accompanied with; so that we are assured by several worthy persons, who enjoyed Mr Guthrie's ministry at that time, that it was their usual practice to come to Fenwick upon Saturday, spend the greatest part of that night in prayer to God, and conversation about the great concerns of their souls, attend on the public worship on the Sabbath, dedicate the remainder of that holy day to religious exercise, and then, on the Monday, go home ten, twelve, or twenty miles, without grudging the fatigue of so long a way, and the want of sleep and other refreshments, or finding themselves less prepared for any business throughout the week, so much was their heart engaged in the attendance they gave to the sacred administrations. A remarkable blessing accompanied ordinances that were dispensed to people who came with such a disposition of soul: great numbers were converted unto the truth, and many were built up in their most holy faith; a divine power animated the gospel that was preached, and exerted itself in a holy warmth of sanctified affections, a ravishing pleasure in divine fellowship, and a noble joy and triumph in their King and Saviour, in which were to be visibly discerned in the hearers; many were confirmed in the good ways of the Lord, strengthened and comforted against temporal fears and discouragements; and the fruits of righteousness discovering their beauty and excellency in a holy conversation, were a glorious proof of the sincerity of their profession, and the wonderful success of Mr Gutbrie's ministry. And there are some of those yet alive, of whose conversion to a religious life God honoured him to be the instrument, who are ready to attest much more than hath been now said, and can never think, without an exultation of soul, and emotion of revived affections, upon the memory of their spiritual father, and the power of that victorious grace, which in those days triumphed so gloriously.
During these few years, while Mr Guthrie was connived at, the dangers of the time never frightened him from his duty; but, with a becoming boldness, [he] fortified his people in a zealous adherence to the purity of our reformation, warned them of the defection that was then made by the the introduction of Prelacy, and instructed them in the duties of so difficult a season; while he recommended, by his own steadiness, what he taught from the pulpit, he constantly maintaining fellowship with his ejected brethren, and never making the least compliance with the prelatic schemes. And yet, in his sermons, he governed his courage and faithfulness by Christian prudence; and, with reference to civil affairs, confined himself so much to the language of the sacred oracles, and expressed himself with such a just regard to lawful authority, that his enemies could find no occasion against him.
The extraordinary reputation and usefulness of Mr Guthrie, who was admired and followed by all the country, provoked the jealous and angry passions of the prelates; and his excellent merit became one of the causes of his being attacked. Intercessions were, indeed, made in his behalf; but without success. Particularly by the Earl of Glencairn, then Chancellor, who made a visit to the Archbishop of Glasgow, at his house there; and, at parting, asked it as a particular favour from him, that Mr Guthrie might be overlooked, he knowing him to be an excellent man, and well affected to the civil government; but the Bishop not only refused him, but did it with a haughty and disdainful air, telling him, "That cannot be done, it shall not; he is a ringleader, and keeper up of schism in my diocese;" and then pretty abruptly left the Chancellor. Rowallan, Cunninghamhead, and some other Presbyterian gentlemen, who were waiting on him, observing the Chancellor discomposed when. he left the Archbishop, presumed to ask what the matter might be., To which the Earl answered, We have set up these men, and they will tread us under their feet. In consequence of this resolution of the inexorable Archbishop Burnet, upon the 24th of July 1664, Mr Gutbrie was, by a commission from him, suspended, discharged the exercise of his ministry, and his church declared vacant, and he himself, by an armed force, obliged to remove from it, a large account of which will be given by the Reverend Mr Wodrow, in that useful and much desired work, "The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland," which will shortly be published :1 he was, notwithstanding, allowed to live in his manse at Fenwick, where he continued some more than a year, during which he was exceeding useful to his people in a private character.
His brother, to whom he had made over his paternal estate of Pitforthy, dying in the summer 1665, Mr Guthrie's presence there was necessary for ordering private affairs, which made him and his wife take journey for Angus about that time. He had not been long in that country till he was seized by a complication of distempers, the gravel, with which he had been frequently tortured, the gout, and a violent heart-burning, at once attacking him with great fury. The agonies which those three terrible engines of pain occasioned were almost insupportable; and were therefore a scene prepared for a brighter appearance of the constancy, patience, and resignation of this worthy minister. In the midst of his heavy afflictions, he still adored 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 at last indulged the pious breathings of his soul. After eight or ten days illness he was gathered to his fathers, and died in the house of his brother-in-law, Mr Lewis Skinner, minister at Brechin, upon Wednesday the 10th of October 1665, afternoon, in the forty-fifth year of his age, and was buried in the church of Brechin, under Pitforthy's desk. And as he himself died in the full assurance of faith, as to his own interest in the covenant of God, and under the pleasing hopes that God would return in glory to the Church of Scotland, so we have no doubt that his better part, his soul, was carried by angels to those peaceful regions, not one of the inhabitants whereof ever says that he is sick; and is now shining amidst the dazzling glories of those superior orbs, which are destined for the heroes of Christianity who have turned many unto righteousness, and have borne a distinguished part in the battles and triumphs of the King of saints.
During his sickness be was visited by the Bishop of Brecliin, and several Episcopal ministers his relations and acquaintances, who all had an high value for him, notwithstanding he, with an ingenuous freedom, expressed to them his sorrow for their compliance with the corrupt establishment in ecclesiastical affairs, which was then made.
This short and imperfect account of his life may, in some measure, let the reader into the character of this excellent person; but we hope it will not be unacceptable, if, without repeating what hath been already represented, we, in a very plain and simple manner, give some further account of his character, as we have it from persons of undoubted reputation, who were themselves well acquainted with him.
His person was stately and well-shaped, and his features comely and handsome. And while he was raised above an effeminate delicacy, which was unworthy the dignity of the ministerial character, be abhorred a slovenly meanness, as very far below it, and was, therefore, neat and cleanly in his apparel; and in his whole behaviour, as well as in his dress, there was nothing that could give the least disgust to gentlemen of the politest education and nicest taste. An awful gravity dwelt upon his countenance, and never gave way to levity in conversation, or those freedoms which were unbecoming his sacred office, however allowable they might be to persons of a different order. But he knew how to sweeten and manage his temper, so as never to degenerate into an affected solemnity, or inconversible austerity, but was usually extremely cheerful and facetious in his conversation, which made it universally agreeable, and added to the esteem of a minister, the endearments of a friend and comrade ; - though, indeed, (which is generally the case of great spirits,) there was in his temper an intermixture of thoughtfulness and melancholy, which sometimes gained the superiority when the public interests were endangered, and the enemies of Zion, which was his favourite concern, prevailed.
He used the innocent recreations and exercises which then prevailed, fishing, fowling, and playing upon the ice, which, at the same time, contributed to preserve a vigorous health; and, while in frequent conversation with the best of the neighbouring gentry, as these occasions gave him access, to bear in upon them reproofs and instructions with an inoffensive familiarity.
His strong,. clear, and melodious voice, joined to a good ear, gave him a great pleasure in music, in the theory and practice of which he had a more than ordinary dexterity; and he failed not, with mighty joy and satisfaction, to employ frequently his voice for the noblest use of it, the praises of his Maker and Saviour; in which part of divine worship his soul and body acted with an united and unwearied vigour.
All the other amiable qualities that can give a lustre to a man or a Christian, recommended this excellent person. His generosity, hospitality, and charitable disposition, were on all proper occasions conspicuous, and his modest humility gave a loveliness to his other virtues. Few men had greater temptations offered to pride and vanity; his natural and acquired abilities, great success, established reputation, and the applauses of the whole country who admired him, were all dangerous flatterers, apt to beguile a man into a fond conceit of himself; but his lowliness of mind was proof against these pleasing seducers, nor could they charm him into self-sufficiency and esteem, for he had not so learned Christ, and knew that he possessed nothing but what he had freely received.
He excelled in another noble part of religion, as well as humanity, an affectionate sympathy with such as were exposed either to outward afflictions, or the heavier troubles of a disquieted soul; for such he had always a melting tenderness, and embraced every occasion of succouring and relieving them. His own experience filled him with pity for those who were in like circumstances, gave him, in some measure, what his great Master hath always in an incomparably more exalted degree for poor sinners, a fellow-feeling of their infirmities, and enabled, as well as stirred him up, to comfort them with the consolations whereby God had refreshed and solaced his own soul; and he was ever sending up fervent prayers to the throne of grace in their behalf.
We have, in. the former part of this account of Mr Guthrie, mentienèd several of those eminent ministerial qualifications which he possessed, and made his character as a minister equal to that which he so justly enjoyed as a man and a Christian.
In his youth he had been a hard student, and this gave him a value for all the branches of learning, and an acquaintance with them. But above all, his favourite employment was the study of the Holy Scriptures, which he read often in the original languages; and out of this divine treasure of spiritual knowledge he brought out, as our Saviour speaks, things new and old, which were of the highest advantage to him when he came to the pulpit. As a thorough acquaintance with the Bible is the best way to make a good preacher, so this was one mean of that excellency in discourses from the pulpit, for which Mr Guthrie was so much celebrated. And, indeed, his sermons had all the advantages which could be given them, by a clear explication of the text, observations and enlargements that were important and suitable to the subject, allusions and illustrations adapted to the meanest capacities of his people, and, at the same time, to the dignity of the pulpit, and the honour of religion, which required a very uncommon talent; and then. a lively and affecting application of the doctrines which he taught, to the consciences of his hearers, with an admirable mixture of light and heat, calculated to instruct the ignorant, awaken the secure, and enliven the whole soul in the ways of God. And to conclude, sermons so excellent in their composure were delivered with a clear, strong, and well-turned voice, a graceful and vehement action, and eyes flowing with tears, which were circumstances of no little advantage.
In prayer to God, Mr Guthrie equalled, if not exceeded himself as a preacher. The highest seriousness and fervency, an awe of the great God on his soul, and a lively faith in his fatherly goodness and care, together with an inward feeling of what he spoke, all remarkably accompanying hjs addresses to the throne of grace in such a degree, that many who heard him were usually melted into tears of affection, and exceedingly edified.
And to conclude, all his eminent qualities were sanctified by the grace of God, and heightened by an unaffected piety, and delightful fellowship with God through Christ, under the shinings of whose countenance he habitually lived, and attained to a very uncommon degree of spiritual-mindedness, of a heavenly frame and temper, and of joy and peace in believing, while he both lived and died in full assurance of faith.
We shall put an end to this imperfect account of the life and character of so eminent a person, by the testimonies of Mr John Livingston, minister at Ancrum, and Mr Matthew Crawford, minister at Eastwood, both his contemporaries, concerning him. The first, in a manuscript account which he wrote of the ministers of his own time, hath what follows: "Mr William Guthrie, minister at Fenwick, was a man of a most ready gift and plentiful invention, with most apposite comparisons, fit both to awaken and pacify consciences; straight and stedfast in the public cause of Christ. He was a great light in the West of Scotland. He was much and often troubled with the gravel, whereof he died." In another place, he says, "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 ministry."
The other, Mr Matthew Crawford, in his MS. History of the Church of Scotland, hath these words : - " Mr William Guthrie was a burning and shining light, kept in after many others, by the favour of the old Earl of Eglinton, the Chancellor's father-in-law. He converted and confirmed many thousand souls, and was esteemed the greatest practical preacher in Scotland."
Mr Rutherford, in his Letters, hath some passages concerning Mr Guthrie; but these being already published, it would be needless to transcribe any thing from them; nor shall we detain the reader by the character which Mr Traill gives of Mr Guthrie from his own knowledge of him, since it may be found with more advantage in the preface which that worthy minister prefixed to the edition of his Treatise, published at London, 1705, and since reprinted at Edinburgh.
Though few people have been in all respects better qualified to write upon practical subjects, yet the modest and diffident sentiment which Mr Guthrie always entertained of himself, deprived the world of the great advantage they would have reaped from his sermons, and other composures of this nature, had he thought fit to make them public. But, to the no small loss of the Church, his excellent treatise, The Christian's Great Interest, is the only genuine performance of Mr Guthrie which hath seen the light, the publication whereof was owing to another cause, rather than to the inclination of the author, which was plainly enough forced upon this occasion. Some unknown person came by a copy of a few imperfect notes of some sermons that Mr Guthrie had preached upon the 55th of Isaiah, with a relation to personal covenanting; and without the smallest intimation of his design made to him, printed them in a small pamphlet of sixty-one pages, l2mo, under this title : - " 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. Printed at Aberdeen, by J. B., 1657." The book indeed was anonymous, but Mr Guthrie was reputed the author of it by the whole country, and so obliged to take notice of it. He was equally displeased at the vanity of the title, and the gross defects of the work itself which consisted of some broken notes of his sermons, confusedly huddled together by an injudicious hand; and when he saw that it was the only remedy, he felt himself under a necessity, however uneasy to him, to review his sermons, from which he soon composed this admirable treatise.
There were, indeed, after the Restoration, some sermons of Mr Guthrie upon Hosea xiii. 9,1 and a few other texts, printed from very imperfect notes taken by a hearer, by some obscure person, who wanted to make a little gain. But as those could in no just sense be accounted the work of Mr Guthrie, being both extremely corrupt and defective, and were very injurious to his memory, Mrs Guthrie, his widow, printed an advertisement, and spread it as far as she could, to guard the public from being imposed upon by those spurious sermons, which in a great measure put a stop to so unfair a practice; and should in reason have prevented the disingenuous extracts of some coarse unguarded expressions from them, which are to be met with in some prelatical pamphlets, whereby they endeavour calumniously to expose the Presbyterian interest, from the falsely alleged failures of one of its eminent guides and supporters.
The small treatise, "The Christian's Great Interest," the only genuine work of Mr Guthrie, hath been blessed by God with wonderful success in our own country; it was published very seasonably, a little before the introduction of Prelacy, at the Restoration; nor is the conduct of a merciful Providence to be overlooked in affording so useful a help to multitudes of the people of God, when their worthy pastors were torn from them. Severals have owed their conversion unto a religious life to the reading of the treatise; and many thousands have been thereby mightily edified and built up in the most holy faith.
Nor hath it less regard paid it abroad; in England its author and itself were highly esteemed by the greatest and best men there; and that there could not be a greater honour done it than by the character given thereof by Dr Owen, will appear to all who are acquainted with the incomparable learning and worth of that excellent scholar and divine; as we haye the story from a reverend minister of this Church, yet alive, who had the doctor's sentiments from his own mouth. One day in conversation with him, the doctor, speaking of Scotland, said to our informer, "You have truly men of great spirits in Scotland; there is, for a gentleman, Mr Baillie of Jerviswood, a person of the greatest abilities I ever almost met with. And for divines," said he, pulling out of his pocket a little gilded copy of this treatise of Mr Guthrie's, "that author I take to have been one of the greatest divines that ever wrote; it is my Vade-mecum, and I carry it, and the Sedan New Testament, still about with me. I have written several folios, but there is more divinity in it than in them all." Though the great modesty of this admirable divine made him give a very unequal character of his own excellent performances; yet this does not hinder such an account of Mr Guthrie's book, given by so mastelry a judge, from being as much for its reputation as any thing of that nature can be.
Nor was the usefulness of this pious treatise confined either to the author's own country or language. Foreigners also valued it, translated it, and were eminently profited thereby. It was translated into Low Dutch by the reverend and pious Mr Koelman, and was highly esteemed in Holland, so that Mrs Guthrie and one of her daughters met with uncommon civilities and kindness when their relation to its author was known. It is also translated into French and High Dutch; and we are informed that it was also translated into one of the Eastern tongues, at the charges of that noble pattern of religion, learning, and charity, the Honourable Robert Boyle.

1 These Memoirs of the Life of Mr William Guthrie were written in the year 1720, before Wodrows History was published
2 For the "Additional material" by Robert Traill referred to, click here.


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