Friday, April 4, 2014

Guthrie: sword, sin, cheese, and grace in controversy

Covenanenter John Paton's claymore in my hand! Quite a treat. Duncan's War readers will remember this intrepid man.

Another important Covenanter James Guthrie
 (1612? - 1 June 1661), was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who was exempted from the general pardon at therestoration of the monarchy and hanged in Edinburgh.

He was the second Covenanter to die for "the crown rights of the Redeemer in his Kirk." Formerly a Royalist episcopalian, he was converted by the witness of Samuel Rutherford. After teaching at St Andrews, he was made minister of the church in Stirling in the shadow of the castle. Here Knox had crowned 13 month old James VI. 

Particularly noted for his honest and open acknowledgement of his sins, Guthrie was a great lover of cheeses, but cheese did not agree with him and his physician had strictly forbidden him to eat it. After being arrested, he was held at Edinburgh Castle and later moved to Stirling. Convicted of treason for refusing to acknowledge King Charles II as head of the church, he was sentenced to hanging at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. The night before his execution he asked for a plate of cheese to eat for his last meal. 

From Alexander Whyte on James Guthrie: "But in nothing was good James Guthrie's tenderness to sin better seen than in the endless debates and dissensions of which that day was so full. So sensitive was he to the pride and the anger and the ill-will that all controversy kindles in our hearts that, as soon as he felt any unholy heat in his own heart, or saw it in the hearts of the men he debated with, he at once cut short the controversy with some such words as these: 'We have said too much on this matter already; let us leave it till we love one another more.'"

More from Whyte: "There is an excellent story told of James Guthrie's family worship in the manse of Stirling, that bears not unremotely on the matter we have now on hand. Guthrie was wont to pray too much, both at the family altar and in the pulpit, as if he had been alone with his own heart and God. And he carried that bad habit at last to such a length in his family, that he almost drove poor James Cowie, his man-servant, out of his senses, till when Cowie, could endure no longer to be singled out and exposed and denounced before the whole family, he at last stood up with some boldness before his master and demanded to be told out, as man to man, and not in that cruel and injurious way, what it was he had done that made his master actually every day thus denounce and expose him. 'O James, man, pardon me, pardon me. I was, I see now, too much taken up with my own heart and its pollutions to think enough of you and the rest.' 'It was that, and the like of that,' witnessed Cowie, 'that did me and my wife more good than all my master's well-studied sermons.' The intimacy and tenderness of the minister and his man went on deeper and grew closer, till at the end we find Cowie, reading to him at his own request the Epistle to the Romans, and when the reader came to the passage, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,' the listener burst into tears, and exclaimed, 'James, James, halt there, for I have nothing but that to lippen to.' And then, on the ladder, and before a great crowd of Edinburgh citizens: 'I own that I am a sinner—yea, and one of the vilest that ever made a profession of religion. My corruptions have been strong and many, and they have made me a sinner in all things—yea, even in following my duty. But blessed be God, who hath showed His mercy to such a wretch, and hath revealed His Son unto me, and made me a minister of the everlasting Gospel, and hath sealed my ministry on the hearts of not a few of His people.' James Guthrie's ruling passion, as Cowie, remarked, was still strong in his death."

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