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LIFE AND CHARACTER
MR WILLIAM GUTHRIE.
R 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 EasterOgle, 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 sistersgerman, 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 infinnities 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; VOL. II. c
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 proofs 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 the 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 the 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 he 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 value for 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 and 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