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Guthrie, William (1620-1665) (DNB00)


GUTHRIE, WILLIAM (1620–1665), Scottish presbyterian divine, was born in 1620 at Pitforthy, Forfarshire, of which his father was laird, his mother being of the house of Easter Ogle, parish of Tannadice, Forfarshire. William was the eldest of eight children; his three brothers were in the ministry; Robert died soon after license; Alexander (d. 1661) was minister of Strickathrow, Forfarshire; John, the youngest (d. 1669), minister of Tarbolton, Ayrshire, was ejected at the Restoration. William was educated at St. Andrews under his cousin James Guthrie [q. v.] Having graduated M.A. on 5 June 1638, he studied divinity under Samuel Rutherford. Before entering the ministry he assigned the estate of Pitforthy to one of his brothers. He was licensed by St. Andrews presbytery in August 1642, and became tutor to James, lord Mauchline, eldest son of John Campbell, first earl of Loudoun [q. v.], then lord high chancellor of Scotland. A sermon at Galston, Ayrshire, gained him a unanimous call to Fenwick (or New Kilmarnock), Ayrshire. James, eighth lord Boyd of Kilmarnock, patron of the parish, a strong loyalist, opposed the choice, but Guthrie was ordained at Fenwick by Irvine presbytery on 7 Nov. 1644. His preaching crowded his church, and his pastoral visitation was assiduous and successful. His health required outdoor exercise, and he was a keen sportsman and angler. A ready wit and unconventional dress earned him the appellation of 'the fool [jester] of Fenwick,' which appears even on title-pages of his sermons. He mixed with his parishioners on easy terms. Finding that one of them went fowling on Sunday, and made half-a-crown by it, he offered him that sum to attend the kirk, of which the man ultimately became an elder.

The general assembly appointed him an army chaplain, and in this capacity he was present at the engagement with the royal army at Mauchline Moor in June 1648. On 8 March 1649 he declined a call to Renfrew, and later calls to Linlithgow, Stirling, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. He sat in the general assembly which met at Edinburgh on 7 July 1649. After 'Dunbar drove' (3 Sept. 1650) he returned to Fenwick. In 1651, when the church of Scotland was divided between 'resolutioners' and 'protesters' [see Guthrie, James], he adhered to the latter party, and was moderator of a synod which they held in Edinburgh. On 8 Aug. 1654 he was appointed by the English privy council one of the 'triers' for the province of Glasgow and Ayr. At the Restoration he was prominent in his efforts for the maintenance of the presbyterian system, proposing at the synod of Glasgow and Ayr (2 April 1661) an address to parliament for protection of the liberties of the church. He was obliged to be satisfied with a declaration against 'prelatical' episcopacy, without allusion to the covenants. William Cunningham, ninth earl of Glencairn [q. v.], to whom he had rendered some services and who was now chancellor, interposed on his behalf with Andrew Fairfoul, archbishop of Glasgow, and afterwards with Fairfoul's successor, Alexander Burnet [q. v.], but to no purpose. 'It cannot be,' said Burnet, 'he is a ringleader and a keeper up of schism in my diocese.' On 24 July 1664 Burnet's commissioner declared the parish of Fenwick vacant, an act of questionable legality. Guthrie remained some time in the parish, but did not preach again. In the autumn of 1665 he returned to his paternal estate of Pitforthy, which had again come into his possession by his brother's death. He had been subject for years to attacks of gravel, and now suffered from ulceration of the kidneys. He died on 10 Oct. 1665, in the house of his brother-in-law, Lewis Skinner, minister at Brechin, and was buried in Brechin Church. In August 1645 (Hew Scott's 1648 is a misprint) he married Agnes (who survived him), daughter of David Campbell of Skeldon House in the parish of Dalrymple, Ayrshire. He had two sons and four daughters, but left only two daughters: Agnes, married to Matthew Miller of Glenlee, Ayrshire, and Mary, married to Patrick Warner, minister of Irvine; her daughter, Margaret, married Robert Wodrow, the church historian.

He published ‘The Christian's Great Interest,’ &c., 1658(?). This book, which is based on sermons from Isaiah lv., has passed through numerous editions (e.g. 4th edition, 1667, 8vo; Glasgow, 1755, 8vo; Edinburgh, 1797, 12mo), and has been translated into French, German, Dutch, Gaelic (1783, 12mo, and 1845, 12mo), and ‘into one of the eastern languages, at the charge of the honourable Robert Boyle.’ Its publication was occasioned by the issue of a surreptitious and imperfect copy of notes of the sermons, issued at Aberdeen, 1657, with the title ‘A Clear, Attractive, Warming Beam of Light,’ &c. In 1680, 4to, appeared ‘The Heads of some Sermons preached at Fenwick in August 1662, by Mr. William Guthrie;’ his widow, by public advertisement, disclaimed this publication as unauthentic. ‘A Collection of Lectures and Sermons, preached mostly in the time of the late persecution,’ &c., Glasgow, 1779, 8vo, contains seventeen sermons transcribed from Guthrie's manuscripts by the editor, J. H. (i.e. John Howie). This volume was reprinted as ‘Sermons delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland,’ Edinburgh, 1880, 8vo, with biographical notices by the Rev. James Kerr, Greenock. Most of Guthrie's papers were carried off in 1682, when his widow's house was searched by a party of soldiery.

[Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scoticanæ; Howie's Biographia Scoticana (1775), edition of 1862 (Scots Worthies), p. 429 sq.; Chambers's Gazetteer of Scotland, 1832, i. 424; Wodrow's Analecta, 1842; Memoir and Original Letters, by Muir, 1854 (originally published 1827); Grub's Eccl. Hist. of Scotland, 1861, vol. iii.; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1872, ii. 313, 389 sq.; Kerr's Sermons in Times of Persecution, 1880, p. 81 sq., 659 sq. (gives also sermon by John Guthrie); Irvine's Book of Scotsmen, 1881, p. 187.]

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