WILLIAM GUTHRIE, the author of seventeen of the sermons that follow, was a native of Angusshire, and was born in the year 1620. He was the eldest of five brothers, four of whom devoted themselves to the ministry of the Gospel. The youngest, John Guthrie, was the author of the sermon that appears last in this Collection.
After a careful secular and religious training, preparatory to his higher studies for the great work of his life, William Guthrie became a student at St. Andrews. Under the direction there of James Guthrie, his cousin, who suffered martyrdom in 1661, and Alexander Rutherford, he completed those higher studies in moral philosophy and theology, and received license to preach the Gospel. It was while studying at St. Andrews, "by the ministry of that excellent person," Rutherford, that William Guthrie had that gospel "revealed in" him which he was to proclaim to others. "His conversion was begun with the great terror of God in his soul, and completed with that joy and peace in believing which accompanied him through life." His consecration to the service of His Redeemer was marked from that time forward. He freed himself of all worldly entanglements, and gave himself up to labour in love for the salvation of souls, and in zeal for the Divine glory.
On November 7th, 1644, he was ordained minister of the newly erected Parish of Fenwick, in Ayrshire. The moral and religious condition of the people of his charge was such as to require all the consecration that the young minister brought to the discharge of his duties. An utter indifference to religion and many sinful customs prevailed throughout the district. But every proper expedient that could be thought of to reclaim them and make them servants of Christ Jesus, Guthrie employed. In a disguised manner he visited those who wholly neglected ordinances and had never seen him, and conversed and worshipped with them; he promised to make up the gains which some made by working on the Lord's Day if they should cease their work and attend public worship; he mingled with the people generally in their harmless games, and embraced opportunities in this way of speaking words for the Mastershooting arrows at a venture which reached many consciences. The main motive that seems to have actuated him in all his pastoral relations was that of the Apostle"I seek not yours but you."
His excellence and eminence as a preacher of the Gospel, his faithfulness to covenanted attainments, and specially his opposition to the Resolutioners, drew upon him the envy and wrath of the Prelates. The Archbishop of Glasgow resolved upon his deposition from the office of the ministry, and his extrusion from the manse and rights of Fenwick. Even among the fawning curates it was difficult to obtain a man to carry out the iniquitous resolution. "There was an awe upon their spirits which scared them from meddling with this great man." For the sum of five pounds the curate of Cadder undertook the work, and proceeded with a party of soldiers to carry out the sentence. Guthrie and his attached flock observed suitable services in view of the trying ordeal through which they were to pass. The text of the last sermon preached by Guthrie in the Church was from Hosea"In Me is thine help." Having presented himself in the manse, the curate read his commission from the archbishop, and enumerated several offences which he laid to Guthrie's charge. The answer of the accused was fearless and noble. Guthrie assured his accuser and those for whom he acted that the crimes alleged against him were utterly false, that he laid no weight upon their sentence, that those who assailed him were guilty of defection from the cause of Christ, that upon them, in the sight of God, were chargeable all the consequences of the interruption of his ministry, and he continued in these words:"And here I do further declare, before these gentlemen, that I am superseded from my ministry for adhering to the covenants and Word of God, from which you and others have apostatized." To the curate, who interrupted him by remarking that the Lord's work was carried on before the covenants were entered into, Guthrie replied: "It is true the Lord had a work before that covenant had being; but it is true that it hath been more glorious since that covenant: and it is a small thing for us to be judged by you in adhering to this covenant who have so deeply corrupted your ways." The people were hindered by Guthrie from opposing the sentence by open resistance, and the curate, after going through the form of deposition in a deserted Church, returned to Glasgow, but died in a few days thereafter "of great torment, of an iliac passion," according to Wodrow, who adds, "Such a dangerous thing it is to meddle with Christ's servants."
Like many eminent ministers and other devoted servants of Christ, William Guthrie suffered long under a sore affliction. He was subject to severe attacks of the gravel, which caused him extreme pain, and brought him down frequently to the very verge of the grave with prostration. Being once in a meditative mood in the company of his cousin at St. Andrews, and being asked what he was thinking of, he replied"I'll tell you, cousin, what I am not only thinking upon, but I am sure of, if I be not under 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 honourably 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." Yet amid all his racking pains, his Christian fortitude did not forsake him. He was still strong in the Lord. "Though I should die mad," he said on one occasion after a violent attack, "yet I know I shall die in the Lord. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord at all times, but more especially when a flood of errors, snares, and judgments, is beginning or coming on a nation, church, or people." The deliverance he long sought for was at length granted him. On the 10th of October, 1665, in the forty-fifth year of his age, William Guthrie entered into the joy of his Lord.
His character is described by Livingstone, partly in the following terms:"In his doctrine he 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 cornfield 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." He was "a man of most ready wit, fruitful invention, and apposite comparisons, qualified both to awaken and pacify the conscience, straight and zealous for the cause of Christ, and a great light in the West of Scotland." Though often tempted to leave Fenwick for larger parishes and a more influential position, he preferred abiding with the people among whom he first began his ministry, and where he had many clear evidences of success. Many souls from that parish, saved by his instrumentality, preceded and followed after him to the Church triumphant. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy."