« PreviousContinue »
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 his 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 pre face 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, 12mo, 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,' 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.
1 An edition of Guthrie's Works, printed at Glasgow in 1771, contains :1. The Christian's great Interest; 2. Five Sermons on Particular Occasions ; and, 3. A Treatise on Ruling Elders and Deacons. The last is commonly ascribed to the martyr Guthrie.
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 have 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.
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,3 is that of the reverend and singularly useful Mr William Guthrie, minister of the gospel at Fenwick. This extraordinary person I have particular opportunities to have certain
? Wodrow was married to Margaret Warner, daughter of Rev. Patrick Warner, of Irvine, who had married a daughter of Guthrie.