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James Guthrie

Mr Guthrie was born of an ancient and honourable family. having passed through the usual course of learning at the grammar school and college with applause, he was elected a regent of philosophy in the university of St. Andrews. While in this situation, by converse with Mr Rutherford, who was then professor of divinity, his sentiments seem to have undergone a most important change; and from having been opposed to the Presbyterian interests, he forthwith became most cordial defender. Having passed his trials, he was in 1638, settled minister at Lauder, where he remained for about ten years. He was then translated to Stirling, where he continued till his death a most faithful watchman on Zion's walls. Notwithstanding the love to his country, and loyalty to his king by which he was distinguished, and which on many occasions he had prominently displayed, he was, according to the spirit of the times, charged with high treason, on account of certain expressions, which, in the discharge of his duty, he had written and uttered; and on the 1st of June 1661, just three days after his friend Argyle's execution, he suffered a similar death.

His Last Words in Prison

Between Mr Guthrie's sentence and his execution, he enjoyed perfect composure and serenity of spirit, and wrote a great many letters to his friends and acquaintances. In this interval he uttered several prophetical expressions, which, together with the foresaid religious letters, could they now be recovered, might be of no small use, in this apostate and backsliding age. The day ( June 1st) on which he was executed, it being reported that he was to buy his life, at the expense of retracting some things he had formerly said and done, he wrote and subscribed  the following declaration:

' These are to declare, that I do own the 'Causes of God's Wrath,' the Supplication at Edinburgh, August last, and the accession I had to the remonstrances. And if any do think, or have reported, that I was willing to recede from these, they have wronged me, as never having any ground from me to think or to report so. This I attest, under my hand at Edinburgh, about eleven o'clock, forenoon, before these witnesses:-

Mr Arthur Forbes; Mr John Guthrie; Mr Hugh Walker; Mr James Cowie.

Upon the same day, and it is probable about the same time, he addressed a farewell letter to his wife, which is as follows.

His Letter to His Wife

' My heart, being within a few hours to lay down my life for the testimony of Jesus Christ, I do send these few lines as the last obedience of unfeigned and spotless affection which I bear to you, not only as one flesh, but as a member with me of that blessed mystical body of the Lord; for I trust you are, and that God who hath begun His good work in you, will also perfect it and bring it to an end, and give you life and salvation. Whatever may be your infirmities and weakness, yet the grace of God shall be sufficient for you, and His strength shall be perfected in your weakness. To me you have been a very kind and faithful yoke fellow, and not a hinderer but a helper in the work of the Lord. I do bear you this testimony as all the recompense I can now leave you with. In all the trails I have met with in the work of the ministry, these twenty years past, which have not been few, and that from aggressors of many sorts, upon the right hand and upon the left, you were never a tempter of me to depart away from the living God, and from the way of my duty, to comply with an evil course, or to hearken to the counsels of flesh and blood, for avoiding the cross and for gaining the profit and preferment of a present world. You have wrought much with your hands for furnishing bread to me and to my children, and was always willing that I should show hospitality, especially to those that bore the image of God. These things I mention not to puff you up, but to encourage you under your present affliction and distress, being persuaded that God will have regard unto you and unto the children of my body which I leave to your care, that they may be bred up in the knowledge of the Lord. Let not your wants and weaknesses discourage you; there is power, riches, and abundance with God, both as to the things of the body and things of the soul; and he will supply all your wants, and carry you through. it is like to be a most trying time, but cleave you to God and keep His way, without casting away your confidence; fear not to be drowned in the depths of the troubles that may attend this land; God will hide you under His shadow, and keep you in the hollow of His hand. Be sober and of a meek spirit; strive not with providence, but be subject to Him who is father of Spirits. Decline not the cross, but embrace it as your own. Love all that love the Lord, and delight in their fellowship. Give yourself unto prayer, and be diligent in reading the holy Scriptures. Wait on the ordinances, and have them in great esteem as the appointed means, of God, for you salvation. Join the exercise of piety and repentance together, and manifest your faith in the fruits of sincere obedience and of a gospel conversation. Value your conscience above your skin. be not solicitous, although you know not where with to clothe you and your children, or wherewith to dine; God's providences and promises are a true, rich, and never failing portion. Jesus Christ be all your salvation and all your desire! You, I recommend unto Him, and Him unto you: My heart! I recommend you to the eternal love of Jesus Christ - I am helped of God, and hope I shall be helped to the end. Pray for me while I am here, and praise with me hereafter. God be with you - I am yours.

After this, he dined with his friends with great cheerfulness. After dinner he called for cheese, of which he was fond, but which he had been dissuaded from using for some time, being subject to the gravel, and said, I am now beyond the hazard of that disease. After having been in secret for some time, he came forth with the utmost fortitude and composure, and was carried down, under a guard from the tollbooth to the scaffold, which was erected at the cross. here he was so far from showing any fear, that he rather expressed a contempt of death; and spoke an hour with the composure of one delivering a sermon.

His Speech on the Scaffold

'Men and brethren, I fear many of you be come hither to gaze, rather than to be edified by the carriage and last words of a dying man; but if any have an ear to hear, as i hope some of this great confluence have, I desire your audience to a few words. I am come hither to lay down this earthly tabernacle and mortal flesh of mine, and I bless God through His grace, I do it willingly and not by constraint. I say, I suffer willingly; if I had been so minded, I might have made a diversion, and not been a prisoner; but being conscious to myself of nothing worthy of death or of bonds, I would not stain my innocence with the suspicion of guiltless by my withdrawing; neither have I wanted opportunities and advantages to escape since I was prisoner, not by the fault of my keepers, God knows, not otherwise; but neither for this had I light or liberty; lest I should reflect upon the Lord's name, and offend the generation of the righteous; and if some men have not been mistaken, or dealt deceitfully in telling me so, I might have avoided not only the severity of the sentence, but also had much favour and countenance, by complying with the courses of the time; but I did not redeem my life with the loss of my integrity; God knows I did not; and that since I was prisoner, He hath so upheld me by the hand, that He never suffered me to bring it into debate in my inward thoughts, much less to hearken to any overture of that kind. I did judge it better to suffer than to sin; and therefore I am come hither to lay down my life this day. And  bless God, I die not as a fool; nor that I have anything wherein to glory in myself; I acknowledge that I am a sinner, yea one of the greatest and vilest that has owned a profession of religion, and one of the most unworthy that has preached the gospel; my corruptions have been strong and many, and have made me a sinner in all things, yea, even in following my duty; and therefore, righteousness have I none of mine own, all is vile; but I do believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, whereof I am chief. Through faith in His righteousness and blood have I hope of a blessed conquest and victory over sin, and Satan, and hell, and death; and that I shall attain unto the resurrection of the just; and be made a partaker of eternal life. I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. I have preached salvation through His name, and as I have preached, so do I believe, and do commend the riches of His free grace, and faith in His name unto you all, as the only way whereby you can be saved.

'And as I bless the Lord that I die not as a fool; so also that I die not for evil doing. Not a few of you may happily judge, that I suffer as a thief, or as a murderer, or as an evil doer, or as a busy body in other men's matters. It was the lot of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and hath been of many of His precious servants and people, to suffer by the world as evil doers; and as my soul is scared not at it, but desires to rejoice in being brought into conformity with my blessed Head, and so blessed a company in this thing; so I do desire and pray, that I may be to none of you today, upon this account, a stone of a stumbling and a rock of offence. Blessed is he that shall not be offended at Jesus Christ, and His poor servants and members, because of their being condemned as evil does by the world. God is my record, that in these things for which sentence of death hath passed against me, I have a good conscience! I bless God, they are not matters of compliance with sectaries, or designs and practices against his majesty's person or government, or the person or government of his majesty's father. My heart, I bless God, is conscious of no disloyalty, no, loyal I have been, and I commend it unto you to be loyal and obedient in the Lord. True piety is the foundation of true loyalty; a wicked man may be a flatterer and a time server, but he will never be a loyal subject. But to return to my purpose, the matters for which I am condemned, are matters belonging to my calling and function as a minister of the gospel, such as the discovery and reproving of sin; the pressing and the holding fast of the oath of God in the covenant, and preserving and carrying on the work of religion and reformation according thereto; and denying to acknowledge the civil magistrate as the proper competent judge in causes ecclesiastical; that in all these things which ( God so ordering by His gracious providence) are the grounds of my indictment and death, I have a good conscience, as having walked therein according to the light and rule of God's word, and as did become a minister of the gospel.

I do also bless the Lord, that I do not die as one not desired. I know that, by not a few, I neither have been nor am desired. It hath been my lot to have been a man of contention and sorrow; but it is my comfort, that for my own things I have not contended, but for the things of Jesus Christ, for what relates to His interest and work, and the well being of His people. In order to the preserving and promoting of these, I did protest against, and stood in opposition to these late assemblies at St. Andrews, Dundee and Edinburgh; and the public resolutions for bringing the malignant party into the judicatories and armies of this kingdom, conceiving the same contrary to the word of God, and to our solemn covenants and engagements; and to be an inlet to defection, and to the ruin and destruction of the work of God. And it is now manifest to many consciences, that I have not been therein mistaken; nor was not fighting against a man of straw. I was also desirous, and did use some poor endeavours to have the church of God purged of insufficient, scandalous, and corrupt ministers and elders; for these things have I been mistaken by some, and hated by others; but, I bless the Lord, as I had the testimony of my own conscience; so I was and am therein approved in the consciences of many of the Lord's precious servants and people; and how little soever I may die desired by some, yet by these I know I do die desired, and their approbation, and prayers, and affection is of more value to me, than the contradiction, or reproach, or hatred of many others; the love of the one I cannot recompense, and the mistake, or hatred, or reproach of the other, I do with all my heart forgive; and wherein I have offended any of them, do beg their mercy and forgiveness. I do from my soul wish that my death may be profitable unto both, that the one may be confirmed and established in the straight ways of the Lord, and that the other ( if the Lord so will) may be convinced, and cease from these things that are not good, and do not edify, but destroy.

One thing I would warn you all of, that God is wroth, yea very wroth with Scotland, and threatens to depart and remove His candlestick; the causes of His wrath are many, and would to God it were not one great cause, that causes of God's wrath are despised and rejected of men. Consider the case that is recorded and the consequence or it, and tremble and fear. I cannot but also say, that there is a great addition and increase of wrath.

1st, By that deluge of profanity that overflows all the land, and hath reins loosed unto it everywhere, in so far that many have lost, not only all use and exercise of religion, but even of morality, and that common civility that is to be found among the heathen.

2nd, By that horrible treachery and perjury that is in the matter of the covenant, and cause of God and work of reformation; be astonished o ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord; for my people have committed two evils. they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cistern, that can hold no water. shall He break the covenant and prosper? Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with God, which frames mischief by a law? I fear the Lord is about to bring a sword on these lands, which shall avenge the quarrel of His covenant.

3rd, Horrible ingratitude; the Lord , after ten years oppression and bondage hath broken the yoke of strangers from off our necks; but what do we render unto Him for His goodness? Most of the fruit of our delivery is to work wickedness, and to strengthen ourselves to do evil.

4th A most  dreadful idolatry, and sacrificing to the creature; we have changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into the image of a corruptible man, in whom many have placed almost all their salvation and desire, and have turned that which might have been a blessing unto us (being kept in a due line of subordination under God) into an idol of jealousy, by preferring it before Him. God is also wroth with a generation of carnal, corrupt, time serving ministers; I know and bear testimony, that in the church of Scotland there is a true and faithful ministry; blessed be God, we have yet many who study their duty, and desire to be found faithful to their Lord and master; and I pray you to honour, and reverence, and esteem much of these for their work's sake; and I pray them to be encouraged in their Lord and Master, who is with them to make them as iron pillars, and brazen walls, and as strong defenced city in the faithful following of their duty; but Oh! that there were not too many who mind earthly things, and are enemies to the cross of Jesus Christ, who push with the side and shoulder, who strengthen the hands of evil does, who make themselves transgressors, by studying to build again what they did formerly warrantably destroy, I mean prelacy, and the ceremonies, and the service book, a mystery of iniquity that works among us, whose steps lead unto the house of the great whore, Babylon, the mother of fornications; or whosoever else he be that builds this Jericho again, let him take heed to the curse of Hiel the Bethelite, and of that flying roll threat. And let all ministers take heed that they watch, and be steadfast in the faith, and quit themselves like men, and be strong; and give faithful and seasonable warning concerning sin and duty. Many of the Lord's people do sadly complain of the fainting and silence of many watchmen; and it concerns them to consider what God calls for at their hands in such a day; silence now in a watchman, when he is so much called to speak, and give testimony upon the peril of his life, is doubtless a great sin. The Lord open the mouths of His servants to speak His word with all boldness, that covenant breaking may be discovered and reproved, and that the kingdom of Jesus Christ may not be supplanted, nor the souls of His people destroyed without a witness. 

I have but a few words more to add; all that are profane among you, I exhort them to repentance, for the day of the Lord's vengeance hastens, and is near ; but there is yet a door of mercy open for you, if you will not despise the day of salvation. All that are maligners, and reproachers, and persecutors of godliness, and of such as live godly, take heed what ye do, it will be hard for you to kick against the pricks; you make yourselves the butt of the Lord's fury, and His flaming indignation, if you do not cease from and repent of all your ungodly deeds. All that are neutral and indifferent, and lukewarm professors, be zealous, and repent; lest the Lord spew you out of His mouth. you that lament after the Lord, and mourn for all the abominations that are done in this city, and in the land, and take pleasure in the stones and dust of Zion, cast not away your confidence, but be comforted and encouraged in the Lord. He will yet appear to your joy, God has not cast away His people nor work in Britain and Ireland; I hope it shall once more revive by the power of His Spirit, and take root downward, and bear fruit upward. There is yet a holy seed and precious remnant, whom God will preserve and bring forth; but how long or dark our night may be, I do not know; the Lord shorten it for the sake of His chosen. In the meanwhile, be ye patient and steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and in love one to another; beware of snare which are strawed thick; cleave to the covenant and work of reformation; do not decline the cross of Jesus Christ; choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; and account the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasure in the world. Let my dearth grieve none of you. it will be more profitable and advantageous both for me, and for you, and for the church of God, and for Christ's interest and honour, than my life could have been. I forgive all men the guilt of it, and I desire you to do so also; pray for them that persecute you, and bless them that curse you, bless I say and curse not. I die in the faith of the apostles and primitive Christians, and protestant reformed churches, particularly of the church of Scotland, whereof I am a member and minister. I bear witness and testimony to the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the church of Scotland, by Kirk sessions, Presbyteries, synods, and general assemblies. popery and prelacy, and all the trumpery of service and ceremonies that wait upon them, I do abhor. I do bear witness unto the national; covenant of Scotland, and the solemn league and covenant between the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland; these sacred, solemn, public oaths of God, I believe, can be loosed nor dispensed with, by no person, or party, or power upon earth; but are still binding upon these kingdoms, and will be for ever hereafter; and are ratified and sealed by the conversion of many thousand souls , since our entering in. I bear witness to the protestation against the controverted assemblies, and public resolutions; to the testimonies given against the sectaries; against the course of backsliding and defection that is now on foot in the land, and all the branches and parts thereof, under whatsoever name or notion, or acted by whatsoever party or person. And in the last place, I bear witness to the cross of Jesus Christ; and that I never had cause, nor have cause this day, to repent because of anything I have suffered, or can now suffer for His name. I take God to record upon my soul, I would not exchange this scaffold with the palace or mitre of the greatest prelate in Britain. Blessed be God, who hath showed mercy to such a wretch, and hath 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 wherein I was last, I mean the congregation and Presbytery of Stirling. God forgive the poor empty man, that did there intruded upon my labours, and hath made a prey of many poor souls, and exposed others to reproach, and oppression, and a famine of the word of the Lord. God forgive the misleaders of that part of the poor people, who tempted them to reject their own pastor, and to admit of intruders, and the Father of mercies pity that poor misled people; and the Lord visit the congregation and Presbytery of Stirling once more with faithful pastors, and grant that the work and people of God may be revived through all Britain, and over all the world. Jesus Christ is my light, and my life, my righteousness, my strength, and my salvation; He is all my salvation, and all my desire. Him, Oh Him, I do with all the strength of my soul commend to you. Blessed are they that are not offended in him; blessed are they that trust in Him. Bless Him. O may soul, from henceforth, even for ever. rejoice, rejoice all ye that love Him, be patient and rejoice in tribulation; blessed are you, and blessed shall you be for ever and ever. Everlasting righteousness and eternal salvation is yours; all are yours and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's. Remember me, O Lord with the favour thou bear to Thy people; O visit me with Thy salvation, that I may see the good of Thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation; that I may glory with Thine inheritance. Now let Thy servant depart in peace, since mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.

He gave a copy of this his last speech and testimony, subscribed and sealed, to a friend to keep, which he was to deliver to his son, then a child, when he came to age. When on the scaffold, he lifted the napkin off his face, just before he was turned over, and cried, ' The covenants, the covenants, shall yet be Scotland's reviving.'