Extended Biography of William Guthrie
WILLIAM GUTHRIE was born in the year 1620. He was the eldest son of the laird of Pitfrothy, in the shire of Angus; and by the mother's side was descended from the ancient house of Easter Ogle, of which she was a daughter. God blessed his parents with a numerous offspring, for he had three sisters german, and four brothers, who all, except one, dedicated themselves to the service of the gospel of Christ. Robert was licensed to preach, but never was ordained to the charge of any parish, his tender constitution and numerous infirmities rendering him unfit, and soon bringing him to the end of his days. Alexander was a minister in the presbytery of Brechin, about the year 1645, where he continued a pious and useful laborer in the work of the Gospel, till the introduction of Prelacy; which unhappy change affected him in the tenderest manner, and was thought to have shortened his days, for he died in 1661. John, the youngest, was minister at Tarbolton, in Ayrshire, in which place he continued till the Restoration, 1662. When, by the infamous Act of Glasgow, above a third part of the ministers in Scotland (amounting to nearly 400), were thrust from their charges, he had his share of the hardships that many faithful ministers of Jesus Christ at that time were brought under. The next year, being 1663, the Council, at the instigation of the Archbishop of Glasgow, summoned him and other nine to appear before them on the 23d of July, under pain of rebellion; but he and other six did not appear. In the year 1666, he joined with that party, who, on the 26th of November, renewed the Covenants at Lanark. After a sermon preached by him, he tendered the Covenants, which were read, to every article of which, with their hands lifted up to Heaven, they engaged, with great solemnity and devotion. After their defeat at Pentland, he, no doubt, had his share of the violence and cruelty that then reigned, till, in the year 1668, he was removed to a better world.
William, who was the eldest of the sons, soon gave proofs of his capacity and genius, by very considerable progress made in the Latin and Greek languages. He was sent to the University of St. Andrews, where he studied philosophy under the memorable James Guthrie, his cousin, afterward minister at Stirling, "and whom," says Mr. Trail, "I saw die in and for the Lord, at Edinburgh, June I, 1661." As the master and scholar were near relations, William was his peculiar care, and lodged, when at the college, in the same chamber with him, and therefore had the principles of learning infused into him with more accuracy than his class-fellows.
Having taken the degree of Master of Arts, he applied himself for some years to the study of divinity, under the direction of Samuel Rutherford. Mr. Trail says, "Then and there it pleased the Lord, who separated him from his mother's womb, to call him by his grace, by the ministry of excellent Samuel Rutherford, and this young gentleman became one of the first fruits of his ministry at St. Andrews. His conversion was begun with great terror of God in his soul, and completed with that joy and peace in believing that accompanied him through his life. After this blessed change wrought upon him, he resolved to obey the call of God to serve Him in the ministry of His Gospel, which was given him by the Lord's calling him effectually to grace and glory. He did for this end so dispose of his outward estate, to which he was born heir, as not to be entangled with the affairs of this life." He gave his estate to the only brother of the five who was not engaged in the sacred office, that thereby he might be perfectly disentangled from the affairs of this life, and entirely employed in those of the eternal world.
Soon after he was licensed to preach he left St. Andrews, with high esteem and approbation from the professors of that university, which they gave proof of by their ample recommendations. After this he became tutor to Lord Mauchline, eldest son to the Earl of Loudon, in which situation he continued for some time, till he entered upon a parochial charge.
The parish of Kilmarnock, in the shire of Ayr, being large, and many of the people belonging to the said parish being no less than six or seven miles distant from their own kirk, the heritors and others procured a disjunction, and called the new parish Fenwick or New Kilmarnock.
William Guthrie was employed to preach at Galston on a preparation day, before the celebration of the Lord's Supper; and several members of the new erected parish being present on that occasion, and being greatly edified by his sermons, conceived such a value for him, that they immediately resolved to make choice of him for their minister, and in consequence thereof, gave him a very harmonious call, which he complied with. It is said that he, along with the people, made choice of the piece of ground for building the church upon, and preached within the walls of the house before it was completed.
He was ordained unto the sacred office, November 7, 1644, and had many difficulties to contend with, many circumstances of his ministry being- extremely discouraging; but 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 many perishing souls.
After William Guthrie came to Fenwick, many of the people were so rude and barbarous, that they never attended upon divine worship, and knew not so much as the face of their pastor. To such, everything that respected religion was disagreeable; many refused to be visited or catechized by him; they would not even admit him into their houses. To such he sometimes went in the evening disguised in the character of a traveler, and sought lodging, which he could not even obtain without much entreaty, but, having obtained it, he would engage in some general amusing conversation at first, and then ask them how they liked their minister. When they told him that they did not go to church, he engaged them to go and take a trial; others he hired with money to go. When the time of family worship came, he desired to know if they made any, and if not, what reasons they had for it.
There was one person, in particular, whom he would have to perform family worship, but he told him that he could not pray. Mr. Guthrie asked what was the reason? He told him that he never was used to pray. Mr. Guthrie would not take this for answer, but would have the man to make a trial in that duty before him, to which the man replied, "O Lord, Thou knowest that this man would have me to pray, but Thou knowest that I cannot pray." After this Mr. Guthrie bade him stop, and said he had done enough, and prayed himself to their great surprise. When prayer was ended the wife said to her husband that surely this was a minister; for they did not know him. After this he engaged them to come to the kirk on Sabbath, and see what they thought of their minister. When they came there they discovered, to their consternation, that it had been their minister himself who had allured them thither. And this condescending manner of gaining them procured such a constant attendance on public ordinances, as was at length accompanied by the fruits of righteousness, which are, through Jesus Christ, unto the praise of God.
There was also another person in the parish, who had a custom of going a-fowling on the Sabbath-day, and neglecting the church; in which practice he had continued for a considerable time. Mr. Guthrie asked him, what reason he had for so doing? He told him, that the Sabbath-day was the most fortunate day in the week for that sport. Guthrie asked, what he could make by that day's fowling? He replied, that he would make half-a-crown of money. Guthrie told him, if he would go to church on Sabbath, he would give him as much; and by that means got his promise. After sermon was over, Guthrie asked, if he would come back the next Sabbath-day, and he would give him the same? which he did, and from that time afterwards never failed to keep the church, and also freed Mr. Guthrie of his promise. He afterwards became a member of his session.
He would frequently use innocent recreations, such as fishing, fowling, and playing on the ice, which contributed much to preserve a vigorous state of health; and while in frequent conversation with the neighboring gentry, as these occasions gave him opportunity, he would bear in upon them reproofs and instructions, with an inoffensive familiarity. Mr. Dunlop has observed of him" that he was animated by a flaming zeal for the glory of his blessed Master, and a tender compassion for the souls of men, and as it was the principal thing which made him desire life and health, that he might employ them in propagating the kingdom of God, and in turning transgressors from their ways, so the very hours of recreation were dedicated to this purpose; which was so endeared to him, that he knew how to make his diversions subservient to the nobler ends of his ministry. He made them the occasion of familiarizing his people to him, and introducing himself to their affections; and, in the disguise of a sportsman, he 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."
His person was stately and well set; his features comely and handsome; he had a strong and clear voice, joined to a good ear, which gave him a great pleasure in music, and he failed not to employ that talent for the noblest use, the praising of his Maker and Saviour; in which part of divine worship his soul and body acted with united and unwearied vigor.
He was happily married in August 1645, to Agnes Campbell, daughter of David Campbell of Sheldon, in the shire of Ayr, a remote branch of the family of Loudon. His family affairs were both easy and comfortable. His wife was a gentlewoman endued with all the qualities that could render her a blessing to her husband, joined to handsome and comely features, good sense, and good breeding, sweetened by a modest cheerfulness of temper; and, what was most comfortable to Mr. Guthrie, she was sincerely pious, so that they lived a little more than twenty years in the most complete friendship, and with a constant mutual satisfaction, founded on the noblest principles; 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 himself, both of them daughters, who endeavored 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 to Mr. Peter Warner, in 1681, who, after the Revolution, was settled at Irvine. The latter had two children, William, of Ardrie, in Ayrshire, and Margaret Warner, married to Mr. Wodrow, minister of Eastwood, who wrote the History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, betwixt the years 1660 and 1688 inclusive.
When William Guthrie was but young and newly married, he was appointed by the General Assembly to attend the army. When he was preparing for his departure, a violent fit of the gravel, to which he was often subject, reduced him to the greatest extremity of pain and danger. This made his religious spouse understand and improve the Divine chastisement. She then saw how easily God could put an end to his life, which she was too apprehensive about; and brought herself to a resolution, never to oppose her inclination to his entering upon any employment, whereby he might honor his Master, though ever so much hazard should attend it.
While he was with the army, upon the defeat of a party he was then with, he was preserved in a very extraordinary manner, which made him ever after retain a greater sense of the Divine goodness, and, after his return to his parish, animated him to a more vigorous diligence in the work of the ministry, and propagating the kingdom of the Son of God, both among his people and all round about him; his public preaching, especially at the administration of the Lord's Supper, and his private conversation, conspiring together for these noble purposes.
After this, William Guthrie had occasion again to be with the army, when the English sectaries prevailed, under Oliver Cromwell. After the defeat at Dunbar, Sept. 3, 1650, when the army was at Stirling, Samuel Rutherford wrote a letter to him, wherein, by way of caution, near the end, he says, "But let me obtest all the serious seekers of His face, His secret sealed ones, by the strongest consolations of the Spirit, by the gentleness of Jesus Christ, that Plant of Renown, by your last accounts, and appearing before God, when the white throne shall be set up, be not deceived with their fair words. Though my spirit be astonished at the cunning distinctions which are found out in the matters of the Covenant, that help may be had against these men, yet my heart trembleth to entertain the least thought of joining with these deceivers." Accordingly Guthrie joined the Protesters, and was chosen moderator at that synod at Edinburgh, after the public Resolutioners went out and left them.
The author of his memoirs saith, "His pleasant and facetious conversation procured him an universal respect from the English officers, and made them fond of his company; while, at the same time, his courage and constancy did not fail him in the cause of his great Master, and was often useful to curb the extravagances of the sectaries, and maintain order and regularity." One instance of this happened at the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, at Glasgow, celebrated 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. It being William Guthrie's turn to serve at that table, he spoke to them when they were leaving their pews in order to make the attempt, with such gravity, resolution, and zeal, that they were quite confounded, and sat down without making any further disturbance.
About this time that sect, called Quakers, endeavored to sow their tares in Fenwick parish, when Mr. Guthrie was some weeks absent about his own private affairs in Angus. He returned home before this infection had sunk deep, recovered some who were in hazard of being tainted by its fatal influence, and confounded the rest, that they despaired of any further attack upon his flock. This wild sect had made many proselytes to their demented delusions in Kilbride, Glasgow, and other neighboring parishes; yea, they prospered so well in Glassford parish, that there is yet a churchyard in that place, where they buried their dead, with their heads to the east, contrary to the practice of all other Christians.
After this he had several calls to other parishes of more importance than Fenwick, such as Renfrew, Linlithgow, Stirling, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. But the air and recreation of a country life were useful to him in maintaining a healthful constitution; and, above all, the love his flock had to him caused him to put on an invincible obstinacy against all designs of separation from them; a relation which, when it is animated with this principle of spiritual life, and founded on so noble a bottom, enters most deeply into the soul. Indeed, a minister can scarcely miss to have peculiar tenderness and warmth of divine affections to those whose father he is after the Spirit, whom he hath been honored of God in bringing to the kingdom of His Son, and begetting 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. Doubtless, when Mr. Guthrie preferred Fenwick, a poor obscure parish, to the most considerable charges in the nation, it was also a proof of his mortification to the world, and that he was moved by views superior to temporal interests.
About the year 1656 or 1657, an unknown person somehow got a copy of a few imperfect notes of some sermons that Guthrie had preached from the 55th chapter of Isaiah, with relation to personal covenanting; and, without the least intimation made to him, printed them in a little pamphlet of sixty-one pages, under the title, "A Clear, Attractive, Warming Beam of Light, from Christ the Sun of Light, leading unto Himself" This book was indeed anonymous; but William Guthrie was reputed the author by the whole country, and was therefore obliged to take notice of it. He was equally displeased at the vanity of the title, and the defect of the work itself, which consisted of some broken notes of his sermons, confusedly huddled together by an injudicious hand. He saw that the only method to remedy this, was to review his own sermons; from which he soon composed that admirable treatise, "The Christian's Great Interest;" the only genuine work of Mr. Guthrie, and one which hath been blessed by God with wonderful success in our own country; being published very seasonably, a little before the reintroduction of Prelacy into Scotland at the Restoration.
The author of his memoirs quotes the sentiments of Dr. John Owen regarding it, who said, "You have truly men of great spirit in Scotland: there is, for a gentleman, Mr. Baillie of Jerviswoode, a person of the greatest abilities I almost ever met with; and for a divine, said he (taking out of his pocket a little gilt copy of Mr. Guthrie's treatise), that author I take to have been one of the greatest divines that ever wrote. It is my vade mecum; 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." 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 there with uncommon civility and kindness, when their relation to its author was known. It was also translated into French and High Dutch; and we are informed that it was also translated into one of the Eastern languages, at the charge of that noble patron of religion, learning, and charity, the Hon. Robert Boyle.
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; and William Guthrie prescribed the draft 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 courage. All the committee approved of it, and it was transmitted to the Synod. But some, on the Resolution side, judging it not convenient, gave an opportunity to those who designed to comply with Prelacy to procure a delay, and, at that time, got it crushed. Yet it affords a proof of Guthrie's zealous honesty and firmness.
About this time, being the last time that he was with his cousin, James Guthrie, he happened to be very melancholy, which made Mr. James say, "A penny for your thoughts, cousin!" Mr. William answered, "There is a poor man at the door, give him the penny:" which being done, he proceeded, and said, "I'll tell you, cousin, what I am not only thinking upon, but am sure of, if I be not under a delusion. The malignants will be your death, and this gravel will be mine; but you will have the advantage of me, for you will die honorably before many witnesses, with a rope about your neck; and I will die whining upon a pickle straw, and will endure more pain before I rise from your table, than all the pain you will have in your death."
He took a resolution to wait on his worthy friend Mr. James, at his execution on Saturday, June 1661, notwithstanding the apparent hazard at that time in so doing; but his session prevailed on him (although with much difficulty) by their earnest entreaties, to lay aside his design.
Through the interposition of the Earl of Eglinton and the Chancellor Glencairn (whom he had obliged before the Restoration, when he was imprisoned for his loyalty, and who now contributed what he could for his preservation), he had nearly four years further respite with his people at Fenwick, during which time his church, although a large country one, was overcrowded every Sabbath-day. Many came from distant parishes, such as Glasgow, Paisley, Hamilton, Lanark, Kilbride, Glassford, Strathaven, Newmilns, Eaglesham, and many other places, who hungered for the pure Gospel preached, and got a meal by the word of his ministry. It was their usual practice to come to Fenwick on Saturday, and after spending the greatest part of the night in prayer to God, and conversation about the great concerns of their souls, to attend the public worship on the Sabbath, dedicating the remainder of that holy day to religious exercises, and then to go home on Monday the length of ten, twelve, or twenty miles, without grudging in the least the long way, or the want of sleep and other refreshment; neither did they find themselves the less prepared for any other business through the week. These years, under the Divine influences of the Holy Spirit accompanying the ministry and ordinances dispensed by Mr. Guthrie, were the most remarkable in all his life, and will still be had in remembrance. A blessing accompanied ordinances to people who came with such a disposition of soul; great numbers were converted unto the truth, and many built up in their most holy faith. In a word, he was honored to be a means in the Lord's hand, of turning many to a religious life, who, after his being taken from them, could never, without exultation of soul, and emotion of revived affection, think upon their spiritual father, and the power of that victorious grace which, in those days, triumphed so gloriously. For many years afterwards they were considered, above many other parishes in the kingdom, as a civilized and religious people; he having, with a becoming boldness, fortified them in a zealous adherence to the purity of our Reformation, warned them of the defection that was then made by the introduction of Prelacy, and instructed them in the duty of such a difficult time; so that they never made any compliance with Prelatical schemes afterwards.
His extraordinary reputation, and the usefulness of his ministry, were admired and followed by all the country around; which provoked the jealous and angry Prelates against him, and was one of the causes of his being at last attacked by them. The Earl of Glencairn made a visit to the Archbishop of Glasgow, at his own house, and at parting asked as a favor, that William Guthrie might be overlooked, as knowing him to be an excellent man. The Archbishop not only refused, but with a disdainful, haughty air, told him, "That shall not be done—it cannot be—he is a ringleader and keeper up of schism in my diocese." Rowallan, and some other Presbyterian gentlemen, who were waiting on him, observing the Chancellor discomposed when the Archbishop left him, presumed to ask him what the matter was; 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 Archbishop Burnet, Mr. Guthrie was, by a commission from him, suspended; and the Archbishop dealt with several of his creatures, the curates, to intimate the sentence against him, but many refused; for, says Wodrow, "There was an awe upon their spirits, which scared them from meddling with this great man." At last he prevailed with the curate of Calder, and promised him five pounds sterling of reward. Guthrie being warned of this design of the Archbishop against him, advised his friends to make no resistance to his expulsion from the church and manse, since his enemy only wanted this as a handle to prosecute him criminally for his former zeal and faithfulness.
Accordingly, on Wednesday, July 20, he with his congregation kept the day with fasting and prayer. He preached to them from Hosea 13:9: "O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself," and with great plainness and affection laid before them their own sins, and the sins of the land and age they lived in; and indeed the place was a Bochim. At the close of this day's work, he gave them intimation of sermon on the next Lord's day, very early; and accordingly his people and many others met him at the church of Fenwick, betwixt four and five in the morning, when he preached to them from the close of his last text: "But in Me is thine help." As usual on ordinary Sabbaths, he also now 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 God, who was able to build them up, and help them in time of need.
Upon the day appointed (the Sabbath-day), the curate came to Fenwick with a party of twelve soldiers, and by commission from the Archbishop discharged William Guthrie from preaching any more in Fenwick, declared the church vacant, and suspended him from the exercise of his ministry.
The curate, leaving the party without, came into the manse, and declared that the Archbishop and Committee, after much lenity showed to him for a long time, were constrained to pass the sentence of suspension against him, for not keeping of presbyteries and synods with the rest of his brethren, and for his unpeaceableness in the Church; of which sentence he was appointed to make public intimation unto him ; and for that purpose he read his commission under the hand of the Archbishop of Glasgow.
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 to you, that I take the Lord for party in that, and thank Him first; yea, I look upon it as a door which God opened to me for the preaching of the 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 these gentlemen (meaning the officers of the party), that I lay no weight upon it, as it comes from you, or those that sent you, though I do respect the civil authority, who, by their law, laid the ground for this sentence passed against me. I declare 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 the rest of my brethren; but I do not judge those who do now sit in these to be my brethren, who have made defection from the truth and cause of God; nor do I judge those to be free and lawful courts of Christ that are now sitting. And as to my peaceableness; I know that I am bidden follow peace with all men, but I know also I am bidden follow it 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 the nearest relation in the world, and gave up myself to the service of the Gospel in this place, having received an unanimous call from this parish, and was licensed and ordained by the presbytery; and I bless the Lord he hath given me some success and seals of my ministry, upon the souls and consciences of not a few who are gone to heaven, and of some who are yet in the way to it. And now, sir, if you will take it upon you to interrupt my work among this people, I shall wish the Lord may forgive you the guilt of it; and I cannot but leave all the bad consequences that may fall out upon it betwixt God and your own consciences. And here I do further declare, before these gentlemen, that I am suspended from my ministry for adhering to the Covenants and word of God, from which you and others have apostatized."
Here the curate interrupting him, said, "That the Lord had a work before that Covenant had a being; and that he judged them apostates that adhered to that Covenant; and he wished that the Lord would not only forgive him (meaning Mr. Guthrie), but if it were lawful to pray for the dead (at which expression the soldiers laughed), that the Lord might forgive the sins of this church these hundred years bypast." "It is true," said 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 this Covenant, who have so deeply corrupted your ways, and seem to reflect on the whole work of Reformation from Popery these hundred years bygone, by intimating that the Church had need of pardon for the same. As for you, gentlemen (added he to the soldiers), I wish the Lord may pardon your countenancing this man in his 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."
After all this and more had passed, Mr. Guthrie called for a glass of ale, and, craving a blessing himself, drank to the commander of the soldiers. After being civilly entertained, they left the house, and at parting with the curate Mr. Guthrie signified so much to him, that he apprehended some evident mark of the Lord's displeasure was abiding him for what he was doing, and seriously warned him to prepare for some stroke coming upon him, and that very soon.
When the curate left the manse, he went to the church with the soldiers (now his hearers), preached to them not a quarter of an hour, and intimated to them from the pulpit the bishop's sentence against Mr. Guthrie. Nobody came to hear him but his party, and a few children, who created some disturbance, till they were chased away by the soldiers. Indeed, the people were ready to have sacrificed their all, and resisted even unto blood, in Mr. Guthrie's defense and the Gospel's, had they been permitted by him.
"As for the curate," says Mr. Wodrow, "I am well assured he never preached any more after he left Fenwick. He reached Glasgow, but it is not certain if he reached Calder, though but four miles from Glasgow. 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. His reward of five pounds was dear bought; it was the price of blood, the blood of souls. Neither he nor his had any satisfaction in it. Such a dangerous thing it is to meddle with Christ's servants."
William Guthrie continued at Fenwick, until the year 1665. The brother to whom his paternal estate was made over dying in summer, his presence at home was necessary for ordering of his private affairs, which made him and his wife make a journey to Angus about the same time. He had not been long in that country until he was seized with a complication of distempers, the gravel, with which he had been formerly troubled, the gout, a violent heartburning, and an ulcer in his kidneys; all which attacked him with great fury. Being thus tormented with violent pain, his friends were sometimes obliged to hold down his head, and lift up his feet, and yet he would say that the Lord had been kind to him, for all the ills he had done; adding, "though I should die mad, yet I know I shall die in the Lord. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord at all times, but more especially when a flood of errors, snares, and judgments, are beginning or coming on a nation, church, or people."
In the midst of all his heavy affliction, 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 did at last indulge the pious breathing of his soul; for, after eight or ten days illness, he was gathered to his fathers, in the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. Lewis Skinner of Brechin, upon Wednesday forenoon, October 10, 1665, in the forty-fifth year of his age, and was buried in the church of Brechin, under Pitfrothy's desk.
During his sickness, he was visited by the Bishop of Brechin, and several Episcopal ministers and relations, who all had a high value for him; notwithstanding that he expressed his sorrow with great freedom for their compliance with the corrupted establishment in ecclesiastical affairs. He died in the full assurance of faith as to his own interest in God's Covenant, and under the pleasing hope, that God would return in glory to the Church of Scotland.
John Livingstone, in his Memorable Characteristics, says: "Mr. William Guthrie, minister at Fenwick, was a man of a most ready wit, fruitful invention, and apposite comparisons, qualified both to awaken and pacify conscience; straight and zealous for the cause of Christ, and a great light in the west of Scotland." Elsewhere he says: "Mr. Guthrie, in his doctrine, 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 affection of his people, that they turned the corn-field of his glebe into a little town, every one building a house for his family on it that they might live under the drop of his ministry."
Mr. Crawford, in a MS. never published, says: "Mr. Guthrie was a burning and a shining light, kept in after many others, by the favor of the old Earl of Eglinton, the Chancellor's father-in-law. He converted and confirmed many thousands of souls, and was esteemed the greatest preacher in Scotland."
And, indeed, he was accounted as singular a person for confirming those that were under soul exercise, as almost any in his age, or any age we have heard of. Many have made reflections on him, because he left off his ministry, on account of the Archbishop's suspension; but his reasons may be taken from what hath been already related. It is true, indeed, the authority of the Stuarts was too much the idol of jealousy to many of our worthy Scots Reformers. For we may well think (as a late author, though no enemy unto these civil powers, says) that it was a wonder the nation did not rise up as one man, to cut off those who had razed the whole of the Presbyterian constitution. But the Lord, for holy and wise ends, saw meet to appoint it otherwise, and to cut off those in power by another arm, after they had all been brought to the furnace together; although they might well have all the while seen, as Mr. Guthrie has observed, "That the civil power laid the foundation for the other."
As far as can be learned, William Guthrie never preached in Fenwick again, after the intimation of the Archbishop's sentence to him; but it is well known, that he, with many of his people in Fenwick, upon a time went to Stewarton, to hear a young Presbyterian minister preach. When coming home, they said to him, that they were not pleased with that man's preaching, he being of a slow delivery. He said they were mistaken in the man; he had a great sermon, and if they pleased, at a convenient place, he should let them hear a good part thereof. And sitting all down on the ground, in a good summer night, about the sunsetting, he rehearsed the sermon, when they thought it a wonderfully great one, because of his good delivery, and their amazing love to him. After which they arose and set forward.
All allow that William Guthrie was a man of strong natural parts, notwithstanding his being a hard student at first. His voice was of the best sort, loud, and yet managed with a charming cadence and elevation; his oratory was singular, and by it he was wholly master of the passions of his hearers. He was an eminent chirurgeon at the jointing of a broken soul, and at the stating of a doubtful conscience; so that persons afflicted in spirit came far and near, and received much satisfaction and comfort by him. Those who were very rude, when he came first to the parish, at his departure were very sorrowful, and, at the curate's intimation of the Archbishop's commission, would have made resistance, if he would have permitted them, not fearing the hazards or hardships they might have endured on that account afterwards.
Besides his valuable treatise already mentioned, there are also a few very faithful sermons, bearing his name, said to be preached at Fenwick, from Matthew 14:24, and Hosea 13:9, etc. But because they are somewhat rude in expression, differing from the style of his treatise, some have thought them spurious, or at least not as they were at first delivered by him. And as for that treatise on Ruling Elders, which is now affixed to the last edition of his Works, it was written by his cousin, James Guthrie of Stirling. There are also some other discourses of his yet in manuscript, out of which I had occasion to transcribe seventeen sermons, published in the year 1779. There are a great variety of sermons, and notes of sermons, bearing his name, yet in manuscript, some of which seem to be written with his own hand.
Source: Howe, John. The Scots Worthies, W. H. Carslaw, ed.. Edinburgh and London, 1870.