Cloud of witnesses – James Guthrie


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Proverbs 29:2

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.

Psalm 2

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

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File:Execution of the Rev. James Guthrie, Edinburgh 1661.tiff

Charles was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661. Coronation portrait by John Michael Wright, c. 1661“James Guthrie (1612? – 1 June 1661), was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who was exempted from the general pardon at the restoration of the monarchy and hanged in Edinburgh.”

James Guthrie (minister) – Wikipedia

Some church history is very new to me, such as the history of the Church in Scotland. Intense and complicated, its unfamiliar issues have challenged me to learn and grow. 

Raised and educated as an Anglican, under Samuel Rutherford’s influence James Guthrie became a non-conforming Presbyterian preacher of the Gospel in 1638, the year the National Covenant was signed. Guthrie is counted among the “Scots Worthies” and was dubbed the “short little man who could not bow” by Oliver Cromwell.

A central issue of his age, and a chief reason for his execution, was his rejection of the King as head of the Church and the King’s rule over it through “prelacy”, the rule of bishops. After Cromwell’s death, one year after the British monarchy was restored, King Charles II and his “Drunken Parliament” made an example of Guthrie by executing him. 

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James Guthrie

[Covenanter, Scotland]

by Alexander Whyte

Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings

The circumstances under which his faith was tried

All the untold woes of that so woful time came of the sword of the civil power being still grafted on the crook of the Church; as also of the insane attempt of so many of our forefathers to solder the crown of Charles Stuart to the crown of Jesus Christ. How those two so fatal, and not even yet wholly remedied, mistakes, brought Argyll to the block and Guthrie to the ladder in one day in Edinburgh, we read in the instructive and inspiriting histories of that terrible time; and we have no better book on that time for the mass of readers than just honest John Howie’s Scots Worthies…

James Cowie, his precentor, and beadle, and body-servant, also saw his master suffer, and, like Bishop Burnet, he used to tell the impression that his old master’s last days made upon him. ‘When he had received sentence of death,’ Cowie told Wodrow’s informant, ‘he came forth with a kind of majesty, and his face seemed truly to shine.’ 

A characteristic of Guthrie and other faithful men of his time

There is one fine outstanding feature that has always characterised and distinguished the whole of the Rutherford circle in our eyes, and that is their deep, keen Pauline sense of sin. Without this, all their patriotism, all their true statesmanship, and even all their martyrdom for the sake of the truth, would have had, comparatively speaking, little or no interest for us. What think ye of sin? is the crucial question we put to any character, scriptural or ecclesiastical, who claims our time and our attention. If they are right about sin, they are all the more likely to be right about everything else; and if they are either wrong or only shallow about sin, their teaching and their experience on other matters are not likely to be of much value or much interest to us. 

Guthrie’s character was refined by his view of sin.

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.’

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Scottish Covenanters – James Guthrie

EIP – European Institute of Protestant Studies (Ian Paisley)

Guthrie’s refusal to bow

One day a friend would have had him compromise a little. Said he, ‘Mr Guthrie, we have an old Scots proverb, “Jouk [duck] that the wave may gang oure ye! Will ye nae jouk a wee bit”‘ And gravely Guthrie replied, ‘There is nae jouking in the Cause of Christ!’ And so it was. That unbending, surefooted, non-ducking soldier of God held his head high until it was taken from him, and shamefully set aloft upon a pike above the thronging Netherbow Port of Edinburgh…

An undaunted fighter in a worthwhile cause, and a hater of everything lower than true godliness, such as he was soon, and always, in conflict with the loose-living King Charles Stuart and his like Committees. He utterly refused such a profane ruler any authority in the affairs of the Church. Although dismissed after one big trial, his refusal to allow the king any power over the conscience of a Christian was made much of against him in his last trials, ten years later…

He helped to write the searching pamphlet, The Causes of the Lord’s Wrath against Scotland, and this paper was the principal pretext for his condemnation and execution. It had the honour of being put on a par with Lex Rex by Samuel Rutherford, and copies of both books were publicly burned by the common hangman…

Every page of the proscribed books is for the Crown Rights of the Redeemer In His Church, the freedom of the conscience, and against the so-called Divine Right of Kings.

From his last words:

‘I take God to record upon my soul, I would not exchange this scaffold with the palace and mitre of the greatest prelate in Britain. Blessed be God who has shown mercy to me such a wretch, and has revealed His Son in me, and made me a minister of the everlasting Gospel, and that He hath deigned, in the midst of much contradiction from Satan, and the world, to seal my ministry upon the hearts of not a few of His people, and especially in the station where I was last, I mean the congregation and presbytery of Stirling. Jesus Christ is my Life and my Light, my Righteousness, my strength, and my Salvation and all my desire. Him! O Him, I do with all the strength of my soul commend to you. Bless Him, O my soul, from henceforth even forever. Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’ A copy of his last testimony was handed by him to a friend, for his son William when he should come to years. Then further up the ladder of death he went, exclaiming, ‘Art not Thou from everlasting, O Lord my God. I shall not die but live.’

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James Guthrie – Wikipedia

Guthrie's place of execution, Mercat Cross on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, from geograph.org.uk, author - kim traynor

Guthrie’s place of execution, Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, from geograph.org.uk, author – kim traynor

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Resources:

Biographia Scoticana (Scots Worthies) by John Howie

The Men of the Blue Banner
(The Scottish Covenanters)
by W.J. Seaton 1968

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15 thoughts on “Cloud of witnesses – James Guthrie

        • We’re tempted to sidestep genuine controversy – we’re not sure of our place in preaching and sharing God’s Word. I sometimes wait for an “open door” instead of speaking the Word in season and out of season. Duck and the wave will go over and past us – yes!

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          • Sometimes if just join the conversation and ask “So what do you think is causing all the evil and turmoil?” Will open a door. When someone gives a ’cause’, like racism, you just ask “What causes racism?” And it just keeps going and finally you ask “Is it maybe something in US? Like sin?” The Colombo approach….:)

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              • Big question. God knows the answer. I’ve been part of a military ministry for about 30 years (Christian Military Fellowship http://www.cmfhq.org) so am involved with military chapels and soldiers. Then there are the opportunities just ‘doing’ life. CMF is based on serving the military community with the motto “To Win, To Disciple, To Equip, To Win” so the field staff all wear uniforms. I teach a Bible Study at one of the Ft. carson Chapels through books of the Bible with a focus on personal evangelism. Small class and not quite what the current head chaplain has in mind, but I was there when he came in? He’s big on spiritual formation – the contemplative prayer rooted in Roman Catholic mysticism? Just ‘doing’ life and being open about my faith and unashamed of the gospel is perhaps more challenging in many ways. God is still in control!

                If you know anyone who would like to support a good military ministry, point them to CMF. 🙂

                Have a great day! Time for a long cycle ride in the cool morning here!

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                • Dan, I hope you enjoyed your ride in the cool morning/ It’s overcast in Ohio today so we have relief from the heat.

                  I’ve bookmarked in my Kindle CMF to take a longer look. How wonderful to do this! I hope others note that you are doing this, as well as ministering in your everyday life. Bible study with a focus on personal evangelism is great. I like the motto “To Win, To Disciple, To Equip, To Win,” bringing it full circle into maturity. Currently I’m encountering more Catholics which is unusual. When my Mother was alive I knew more Catholics and attended Catholic Charismatic Renewal conferences with her. They were exciting then but now it’s obvious that this is a bridge to the RCC.

                  Have a great day too, truly! :0)

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                • Perhaps there is a bit providential activity in meeting more Catholics these days. Some might say that the charismatic movement is THE bridge between Protestantism and the RCC.

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