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Full text of "Thomas Guthrie"

HOMAS GUTHR! 

U OLIPHANT 
SMEATON 




•SCOTS* 
-SERIES- 





/<s. 30, ii 



iFrom tlje Sabrarg of 

Professor Heniattttn iBmkhtrftgr fflarftrlfc 

SK|i!*attp& hd Iftm to 

% Eibrarg of 



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.1 ^ ^-^_< *r^. 



BX 9225 .G85 S63 1900 
Smeaton, William Henry 

Oliphant, 1856-1914. 
Thomas Guthrie 



THOMAS 
GUTHRIE 



FAMOUS SCOTS SERIES 

The following Volumes are now ready : — 

i. THOMAS CARLYLE. By Hector.C. Macpherson. 

2. ALLAN RAMSAY. By Oliphant Smeaton. 

3. HUGH MILLER. By W. Keith Leask. 

4. JOHN KNOX. By A. Taylor Innes. 

5. ROBERT BURNS. By Gabriel Setoun. 

6. THE BALLADISTS. By John Geddie. 

7. RICHARD CAMERON. By Professor Herkless. 

8. SIR JAMES Y. SIMPSON. By Eve Blantyre Simpson. 

9. THOMAS CHALMERS. By Professor W. Garden Blaikie. 

0. JAMES BOSWELL. By W. Keith Leask. 

1. TOBIAS SMOLLETT. By Oliphant Smeaton. 

2. FLETCHER OF SALTOUN. By G. W. T. Omond. 

3. THE BLACKWOOD GROUP. By Sir George Douglas. 

4. NORMAN MACLEOD. By John Wellwood. 

5. SIR WALTER SCOTT. By Professor Saintsbury. 

6. KIRKCALDY OF GRANGE. By Louis A. Barbe. 

7. ROBERT FERGUSSON. By A. B. Grosart. 

8. JAMES THOMSON. By William Bayne. 

9. MUNGO PARK. By T. Banks Maclachlan. 

20. DAVID HUME. By Professor Calderwood. 

21. WILLIAM DUNBAR. By Oliphant Smeaton. 

22. SIR WILLIAM WALLACE. By Professor Murison. 

23. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. By M. M. Black. 

24. THOMAS REID. By Professor Campbell Fraser. 

25. POLLOK and AYTOUN. By Rosaline Masson. 

26. ADAM SMITH. By Hector C. Macpherson. 

27. ANDREW MELVILLE. By William Morison. 

28. JAMES FREDERICK FERRIER. By E. S. Haldane. 

29. KING ROBERT THE BRUCE. By A. F. Murison. 

30. JAMES HOGG. By Sir George Douglas. 

31. THOMAS CAMPBELL. By J. Cuthbert Hadden. 

32. GEORGE BUCHANAN. By Robert Wallace. 

33. SIR DAVID WILKIE. By Edward Pinnington. 

34. THE ERSKINES. By A. R. MacEwen. 

35. THOMAS GUTHRIE. By Oliphant Smeaton. 



THOMAS 
GUTHRIE 

BY 

oliphant i 
ismeaton 

Ifamous 
scots: 

SERIES 




PUBLISHED BY : 
CHARLES *9r<*£J& 
SCRIBNER'S SONS 
1G2&T NEW YORK 



PREFACE 

To return thanks to all by name who have assisted me 
with information, letters, etc., in the preparation of the 
present work, would be impossible. I can only record 
my sense of gratitude to the majority of such helpers 
collectively. To three of these, however, I must return 
especial thanks, viz. to Mr. C. J. Guthrie, Q.C., for his 
kindness in revising my ms., and for many useful criticisms 
and suggestions which have been gratefully adopted; to 
Mr. Mathew S. Tait for making me free of his stores of 
information regarding Disruption times ; and to Mr. 
James Sime, M.A., late Principal of Craigmount School, 
for valuable facts regarding the relation of the Free 
Church to Education. 

The severest condensation and abridgment have been 
necessary to compress the enormous mass of material 
within the authorised limits of the series. Many valuable 
facts have had to be omitted ; and his early life until 
his call to Edinburgh has had to be sketched in the 
compass of a very few pages. I trust, however, the main 
features in the story of Guthrie's life have been so kept in 
view throughout, that a recognisable portrait of the great 
preacher-philanthropist has been cast upon the literary 
canvas. 

O. S. 

Edinburgh, May 1900. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

CHAPTER I 

A Midsummer Sabbath's Scene in Free St. John's . 9 

CHAPTER II 
Birth and Early Years 17 

CHAPTER III 
Parish Minister of Arbirlot 23 

CHAPTER IV 

The Vineyard of Apollyon 35 

CHAPTER V 
The Non-Intrusion Struggle 44 

CHAPTER VI 
The Eventful Last Year 56 

CHAPTER VII 
Guthrie the Free Churchman 61 

CHAPTER VIII 
Arabs— Bedouin and City 76 



viii FAMOUS SCOTS 



CHAPTER IX PAGE 

Guthrie— the Apostle of Temperance . . 93 



CHAPTER X 
Guthrie as the Friend of Education and of Missions 104 

CHAPTER XI 
Final Years of Activity— From Mouth to Pen . . 120 



CHAPTER XI [ 
Last Scene of All 



•133 



CHAPTER XIII 

Critical— Guthrie as Ecclesiastic, Philanthropist, 
and Man 



144 



IMDEX 



. 158 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 

CHAPTER I 

A MIDSUMMER SABBATH'S SCENE IN FREE ST. JOHN'S 

At the point of junction of three thoroughfares in the 
Scots capital — the Castlehill, the Lawnmarket, and the 
West Bow, — thoroughfares with a Past as splendid as their 
Present is squalid — stands a church placed on high like a 
lighthouse, to cast the beacon-gleams of the Gospel over 
the seething sea of misery and vice among the 'lapsed 
masses ' of the Grassmarket and Cowgate. Fifty-five years 
ago, in St. John's Free Church, that light was kindled by 
the devotion and spiritual enthusiasm of Thomas Guthrie, 
and its cheering ray, though trimmed now by other hands, 
is burning brightly yet. 

A midsummer Sabbath morning in the later 'fifties' of 
the nineteenth century ! A firmament of cloudless blue 
and a June sun warm on the towering ' lands,' 1 on the quaint, 
crow-stepped gables and peaked dormer windows, on the 
carven architraves and deeply mullioned casements of the 
romantic ' capital of the Stuarts ' ! 

Ten of the clock had only recently ' chappit ' 2 from the 
steeples of St. Giles' and the Tron. At the 'Bowhead,' 
however, a crowd had already collected before the still 
closed doors of Free St. John's. Momentarily it increases, 
swelled by all sorts and conditions of men and women. 
Will these doors never open ? Patiently the crowd tarries 
as the 'half-hour' approaches, a hum of conversation 

1 Tenements. 2 Struck. 



io FAMOUS SCOTS 

rising the while from the densely packed mass, while the 
bloated and blear-eyed dwellers of the Bowhead, in whom 
godliness and cleanliness alike have become vanished 
virtues along with the days when a ' Bowhead ' Saint was 
a synonym for shining piety, lounge at their doors or lean 
over their windows, discussing in strident Milesian altissimo 
what could be the attraction thus to induce people to 
stand for half an hour in a blazing sun. 

At last the doors are opened. Then the rush and the 
push commence. One American minister ' described his 
experiences as 'fighting my way in to hear Guthrie through 
a crowd that almost tore the coat from my back.' When 
the hour of service arrived every available inch of space in 
the great edifice was occupied. An extraordinarily varied 
audience it was, when the tourist season was at its height, 
and Edinburgh was filled to overflowing with strangers 
from well-nigh every clime under heaven, few of whom 
returned to their homes without having heard that won- 
derful orator of the Castlehill, whose discourses, in their 
persuasive earnestness, their ■ passion and compassion,' as 
Lord Cockburn phrased it, were likened to those of the 
great Massillon in France. 

What with his regular congregation and casual hearers, 
his audience was representative of every class in the 
community, from the peer to the peasant. St. John's was 
often called ' the great leveller,' inasmuch as scions of the 
proudest families in the aristocracy sat side by side with 
the working tailor or the journeyman mason. Yonder, 
seated in the front of the gallery, is the well-known face 
and figure of the most popular of all the Scots Dukes — 
the MacCallum Mohr, otherwise George Douglas Campbell, 
Duke of Argyll, who has brought a brother peer to hear 
the 'Champion of the Ragged Schools' proclaim that 
Gospel of Salvation, full, free, and finished, which makes 
every partaker of it, be his colour what it may, a man and 
a brother in the fraternal unity of the Sons of God. There 
also, busily conning the metrical version of the Psalms 
1 Rev. J. W. Alexander, D.D. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE n 

ere the service commenced, might be seen William Ewart 
Gladstone, greatest of England's Chancellors of the Ex- 
chequer, and yet to be four times Premier of Britain. 
Yonder, in Episcopal apron and cassock, is Samuel Wilber- 
force, Bishop of Oxford, who had worthily earned the title 
' Remodeller of the Episcopate.' Not far from him towered 
the massive frame of William Makepeace Thackeray, 
whose expressive features surmounted by his silvery hair 
attracted the gaze of many an admirer of Becky Sharp and 
Pendennis. Immediately in front of the pulpit, and but a 
short distance from each other, were seated two notable 
and noticeable men — Hugh Miller, next to Chalmers, the 
sturdiest and most vigorous of Scottish thinkers of the 
nineteenth century, yet, alas ! within half a year to perish by 
the saddest of all deaths ; and Dr. James Young Simpson 
(not yet Sir James), to hundreds ' the beloved physician,' 
his name even then wreathed with the imperishable laurels 
of having robbed surgery, and especially maternity, of its 
terrors by the discovery of chloroform. 

We cannot even name all the notables present in these 
pews, — peers and judges, professors of European fame, 
merchant princes, artists, litterateurs British and American, 
soldiers of world-wide celebrity, sitting side by side with the 
labourer and the domestic servant, with the tradesman and 
the clerk, with strangers of well-nigh all lands and languages 
who could make shift to understand our tongue — and all 
attracted by the genius and eloquence of a great orator. 

But the hour of service had come. Scarcely had the 
' bells ' ceased when the old beadle, John Towert, was seen 
entering with 'the books,' and a hush of expectancy fell 
upon the vast congregation as the preacher made his 
appearance. \ It was an impressive and commanding figure 
that met the eye. His stature, at least two inches over six 
feet, his erect carriage, his lithe and sinewy frame, his 
broad square shoulders, which the folds of his severely 
simple Genevan gown could not hide, impressed the 
spectator with an idea of latent power, which a view of 
head and features burdened with the sense of a mighty 



i2 FAMOUS SCOTS 

message tended to confirm. The face, crowned with 
locks powdered with the frost of the ' fifties,' was suggestive 
of great intellectual strength. The high pile of forehead 
sharply chiselled back towards the temples and the occiput, 
but overhanging the eye sockets with an almost excessive 
frontal development, would denote, if the readings of 
phrenology be worth aught, superior imaginative faculties. 
The eyes, bright and piercing, by their quick, almost 
restless, glances, lent an expression of intense alertness to 
the visage. The cheeks were thin and long, the nose 
prominent, the chin resolute and firm in outline and 
moulding. The face would, in truth, have left the impres- 
sion of a somewhat stern and severe character, an idea 
still further strengthened by the shaggy, protuberant pent- 
houses of eyebrows, had it not been relieved by the 
influence of the wonderfully mobile and expressive mouth. 
The lips, finely and delicately curved, were so sensitively 
alive to the emotions of the mind, that almost every feeling 
could be read by their subtle index. When he smiled the 
whole features seemed irradiated, every line and wrinkle 
appearing to laugh in concert. Altogether it was a noble 
and impressive figure that stepped into the pulpit of Free 
St. John's on that Sabbath morning in June and faced his 
audience. 

The opening psalm was announced and read in mellow, 
resonant tones, and with faultless articulation. After this 
had been sung a prayer followed, not too long, but full of 
unction and earnestness, while the voice in its rise and fall 
was just touched and no more with that subtle rhythmic 
cadence that exercised a hallowing influence upon the 
hearer. A chapter from Holy Writ came next, read with 
appropriate accent and emphasis, but with no elocutionary 
embellishments to catch the sensation-lover. Another 
psalm, and then ensued a visible settling down of the con- 
gregation each into his special attitude wherein to listen 
to the sermon. The preliminary exercises were over. 

Up to this point there had been nothing in either voice 
or action to indicate that one of the greatest pulpit orators 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 13 

of the nineteenth century was before that audience. Had 
Guthrie's eloquence been a mere elocutionary trick, it 
would have made itself manifest in all he did. But the 
great deeps of his emotions and his sympathies needed to 
be broken up before the irresistible flood of his oratory 
could find adequate means of expression. He only re- 
vealed himself the peerless orator when his feelings were 
stirred to the inmost Siloam-depths of his many-sided 
nature. 

The preacher now announced his text, 1 Cor. i. 17-18 : 
' Lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 
For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolish- 
ness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.' 
For a moment he allowed his gaze to wander over the sea 
of faces surrounding him on all sides, as he slowly and 
impressively repeated the words, ' The Cross of Christ 
made of none effect — the Cross of Christ the power of God.' 
His voice as he entered upon the introductory part of his 
discourse was pitched almost on a conversational key. He 
talked of this great theme being 'the prime problem of 
every man's being, more vital to his welfare, temporal and 
spiritual, than the most crucial question of science or of 
metaphysics.' 

But ere long his utterance became more rapid. His 
emotions were beginning to be stirred. His eyes were 
sparkling with animation, his face was lighted up with the 
reflected gleams from his spirit's lofty enthusiasm, his 
long arms were used with perfect gesture to lend still 
further emphasis to the ' forcibleness ' of his language as 
it rapidly mounted towards its climax. Then with a burst 
of eloquence, impetuous and irresistible as some mighty 
mountain torrent swollen with winter's snows, he broke 
forth into the following lofty passage, which at once lifted 
his discourse on to a higher plane alike of thought and 
feeling. He was describing Christ's utter desertion and 
loneliness at the Cross, and a thrill of emotion like an 
electric shock vibrated through the audience as they 
heard the words : — 



i 4 FAMOUS SCOTS 

' Christ was alone, awfully alone, in that last terrible conflict 
with the Prince of Darkness. The day had been when crowds 
followed Him, tracked His steps from city to city, from shore to 
shore, hanging on His lips, thronging the streets through which 
He passed, and besieging the houses where He lodged. The 
day was when ten thousand tongues would have spoken and 
ten thousand swords would have flashed in His defence ; but 
the day had arrived when, during for a while, they all fell away, 
and of the crowds that swelled His jubilant train all — all deserted 
Him, the only voice lifted up in His behalf coming from the 
cross of a dying thief, " This man hath done nothing amiss : 
Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."' 

The full, rich tones, now deep as the diapasons of some 
mighty organ, sweet anon as the strains of a well-tuned 
harp, gradually sank in pitch as he neared the close of the 
passage, until, with hushed voice, and eyes and hands 
raised pleadingly to Heaven, he uttered the pathetic words 
of the dying malefactor, ' Lord, remember me when Thou 
comest into Thy kingdom.' 

The audience was now thoroughly in his thrall. Every 
word was followed with a jealous, hungry interest that 
never for an instant flagged. Every type of lofty, persuasive 
oratory was impressed into the service of demonstrating 
that the Cross of Christ is worthy of having all things 
accounted loss for it. Now he thundered forth indignant 
remonstrance against the scoffer who sneered at the 
' Carpenter of Galilee ' : — 

1 The history of infidelity, were it written, would present a 
succession of ignominious defeats — defeats due, not to any want 
of ability in those who have assailed the truth, but to this, that 
its defenders have driven them out of all their positions. We 
have seen the soldier return from the fields of war with scars 
as well as medals on his breast ; but the Cross of Christ and 
our religion, based upon it, has come out of a thousand fights 
unscarred, from a thousand fires unscathed. Our faith bears 
no more evidence of the assaults she has sustained than the air 
of the swords that have cloven it, or the sea of the keels which 
have ploughed its foaming waves ; than some bold rocky head- 
land of the billows that, dashing against it in proud but im- 
potent fury, have shivered themselves on its sides.' 

At other times his voice became tenderly low and 
pleading as he described the love of Christ for the sinner : — 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 15 

'Ah, dear friends, He can and will be all in all to us. Am I 
wounded?— He is balm ! Am I sick? — He is medicine ! Am 
I naked ? — He is clothing ! Am I poor ? — He is wealth ! Am 
I hungry ? — He is bread ! Am I thirsty ? — He is water ! Am 
I tried? — He is my advocate ! Is sentence passed, and am I 
condemned? — He is my pardon ! O blessed Jesus, whose Cross 
of shame has become the sinners' crown of justification !' 

Presently he began to picture the career of a noble- 
minded, noble-spirited youth setting out on the voyage of 
life without religion as his compass. He likened him to 
a stately vessel leaving harbour with all her sails set, a 
thing of beauty and of grandeur. But ere long her course 
is cut short. She gets among the breakers of temptation. 
In vivid and picturesque language he described the awful 
scene of the wreck, the launch of the lifeboat of salvation, 
and the terrible struggle with the powers of evil. As he 
worked up the various details of the picture with realistic 
skill, his hearers lost the consciousness of its parabolic 
character. The whole scene became visualised to them. 
At one time a sob, at another a gasp of excitement, passed 
over the whole church. Some in the back seats involun- 
tarily rose as though to view the scene better. As the cry 
was echoed, 'Man the lifeboat ! ' a young sailor in the front 
of the gallery, oblivious of everything, leapt to his feet and 
began to pull off his coat to volunteer, until he is drawn 
down into his seat again by his friends. 1 Then, when the 
great picture is completed, and the salvation of a soul 
achieved, a long sigh of relief, betokening the loosening 
of the tension of the feelings, seemed to break involuntarily 
from the great gathering. 

But the preacher is now nearing the conclusion of his 
discourse. Only the personal application remains to be 
enforced. With what earnestness, what depth of love, 
what fervour of appeal — nay, with what keen knowledge of 
the human heart — was that application of his sermon not 
driven home ? The orator seemed to bend down from the 

1 An actual occurrence. 



1 6 FAMOUS SCOTS 

pulpit and literally entreat the sinner to accept Christ as 
his individual Saviour : — 

1 The day is quickly dying. ; soon will come the night of death 
for all of us, when life's fitful fever shall be over. By all you 
hold dear, by the memories of your beloved dead who have 
passed within the veil before you, by the value of that immortal 
essence within you, which is neither yours to give nor yours to 
take away, I charge you this day, this hour, this moment, to 
look well to it that your calling and your election is made sure, 
for it is a fearful thing for an unrepentant soul to fall into the 
hands of the living God ! ' 

The solemn close of the sermon produced a deep im- 
pression. People looked at each other anxiously, as though 
mutely inquiring, ' How does that affect us ? ' Ten minutes 
more and all was over. The mighty audience was slowly 
pouring out from the church into the brilliant sunshine, 
discussing the while the merits of the remarkable discourse 
to which they had been listening. As the preacher passed 
down from his pulpit to the vestry he overheard two young 
and beautiful ladies of title referring to the sermon : ' Oh, 
what a charming discourse it was ! Is he not a delightful 
preacher?' said one to the other, an opinion the latter 
warmly indorsed. The man of God looked back at them 
sadly, and the light seemed to die out of his face. 'O 
my Saviour ! ' he unconsciously murmured in the hearing 
of one of his elders who, unseen by him, stood near, 
'why will they always exalt the instrument and not Thee? 
My preaching is a failure if I can only charm but not 
change ! ' 



CHAPTER II 

BIRTH AND EARLY YEARS 

Thomas Guthrie, the twelfth child and the sixth son of 
David Guthrie and Clementina Cay, was born in Brechin, 
Forfarshire, 12th July 1803. 

Both his parents were, to quote the old Scots phrase, 
'by ordinar folk' — that is to say, they were possessed of 
characteristics and qualities differentiating them from the 
general run of their neighbours. His father, David 
Guthrie, who at the time of his distinguished son's birth 
was the leading merchant in Brechin and the Provost of 
the burgh in addition, was a man of sincerely religious 
principles, upright in business, exemplary in his family 
relations, a model citizen, and a staunch friend. He was 
elected a member of the Town Council when only twenty- 
two years of age, and all his life remained one of the 
pillars of the municipality — a position, curiously enough, 
'inherited' by two of his sons, the elder brothers of the 
subject of our sketch. 

Dr. Guthrie, however, owed much of his intense 
spirituality to his mother. She appears to have been 
a woman whose piety was of the most real life-leavening 
type. Finding that in the Established Church of that 
epoch, icebound in Moderatism, she failed to obtain the 
spiritual nourishment she considered indispensable to her 
soul's health, though attached to the State Church by 
many ties, past and present, she decided to leave it, and 
to connect herself with the Burgher section of the Seces- 
sion Church in Brechin, presided over by the well-known 
David Blackadder. 



18 FAMOUS SCOTS 

The home life of the Guthries of Brechin was of the 
most elevated character. The harmonious conjugal rela- 
tions of the heads of the house and the atmosphere of 
peace enfolding all within its walls, caused their example 
to act as a sort of ' object-lesson ' to the community 
around them. The paternal discipline was strict, but not 
stern. 

The farms of Guthrie's paternal grandfather and uncles 
were all in the vicinity of Brechin. He early learned 
to love Nature by visits to these scenes of rural beauty 
and peace, and the lessons thus early acquired were 
never forgotten through life. Nor was his scholastic 
education neglected. When but four years old, he was 
sent, along with his brother Charles, to an elementary 
school taught by a worthy Christian man named Jamie 
Stewart, who combined the dual vocations of pedagogy 
and weaving. Here Thomas Guthrie remained for up- 
wards of two years, receiving a thorough drilling in the 
three R's. When the slender store of the weaver-dominie's 
accomplishments were exhausted, the two boys were sent 
to a school in connection with the Anti-Burgher Church 
in Brechin, where once the great Dr. M'Crie had acted as 
teacher. At this seminary Guthrie received the remainder 
of his education. When he closed his school-days he was 
just twelve years old — an age when others are usually 
only entering upon the grammar-school curriculum. 

To a different sphere he was now called upon to proceed. 
Early in November 1815, accompanied by a friend named 
John Whyte, who, being somewhat older, was supposed 
to play the dual roles of a Mentor as well as a Pythias, 
he journeyed to Edinburgh to enter himself as a student 
at the University of the Scots capital. Guthrie's college- 
days were comparatively uneventful. Though never a 
brilliant, he was, as his certificates from his professors 
show, always a faithful student. His work was conscien- 
tiously performed, although a child of thirteen could 
scarcely be expected to understand the subtleties of 
metaphysics or appreciate the differences between Plato 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 19 

and Aristotle. Natural Philosophy as expounded by 
Professor Leslie alone attracted his interested attention. 
To it he applied himself with an enthusiasm that would 
have ensured success had his powers been developed. I 

At first he felt the loneliness of the great city, where 
all but him seemed to have friends. Gradually he formed 
acquaintanceships which lent a savour and a sweetness 
to life. In the society of such friends as, like himself, 
loathed the very suggestion of vice while they delighted 
in the display of pure, healthy animal spirits and the 
sports which gave scope for them, his spare time during 
his Arts curriculum was passed. / His hours for study 
were carefully observed and were never less than ' five ' 
per day, in addition to his class hours. His general 
reading during his spare time was of a miscellaneous yet 
thoroughly healthy character, comprising Scott, Cowper, 
Bacon, the Morte U Arthur > Milton, Shakespeare, Allan 
Ramsay, Buchanan, Sidney's Arcadia^ etc. ; while Satur- 
days were always devoted to long rambles into the 
country, where he and his companions would be brought 
face to face with God in Nature. During the last years 
of his Arts course he was a member of a University 
Debating Society called the ' Forfarshire Literary Associa- 
tion,' in the work of which, I am informed, he took a 
deep interest, and frequently contributed papers. 

No other profession than that of the pulpit seems to 
have even been considered possible for the young Brechin 
lad. Nor did he shrink from the sphere thus pressed 
upon him. Those years spent partially at least under 
the ministry of godly Mr. Blackadder of the Burgher 
Church in Brechin, had implanted the good seed in his 
heart. To the Divinity Hall in the University of Edin- 
burgh he therefore proceeded, where he spent four years 
more of hard study, under Professors Ritchie, Meiklejohn, 
and Brunton — none of whom, however, were men of any 
great eminence. At the termination of those years, after 
satisfying his teachers of his proficiency in the subjects 
taught by them, he presented his credentials to the 



20 FAMOUS SCOTS 

Presbytery of Brechin, and by them was licensed to 
preach the Gospel. The ' Trial Discourses ' delivered by 
him on the occasion are still extant. In them, even a 
partial eye can detect no trace of the future eloquent orator. 
They are good average productions, but rise little, if at 
all, above mediocrity. However, they satisfied his clerical 
examiners, which was the chief desideratum ; and on the 
2nd February 1825 he was admitted a licentiate of the 
Church of Scotland. 

To him this successful consummation of all his studies 
was robbed of one-half its anticipated pleasure. In 
the previous year his father, who had taken such keen 
delight in his progress, and whose judicious praise had 
been his stimulus, was removed by death. The effect of 
the blow on young Guthrie was for a season almost 
overpowering, until Time, the great healer, mitigated the 
severity of his sorrow. 

In Guthrie's licentiate days the democratic method of 
settling ministerial elections, now practised in connection 
with the Established Church, was unknown. The trail of 
patronage lay over every parish in Scotland. This was, how- 
ever, not a disadvantage to the young preacher. His family 
influence was such that he could confidently expect to 
be presented to a charge at once on taking licence. And 
such would have been the case, had he been prepared to 
join the Moderate party in the Church of Scotland. But 
when he declined to do so, and preferred to leave himself 
freedom of action, the Moderates brought all their influence 
to bear against him when he applied for any ' cure.' The 
consequence was, he had the mortification of seeing four 
presentations, any of which he might have had if only he 
would have bowed to the Moderate yoke, given to others. 

So marked was the hostility shown by the Moderate 
party towards young Thomas Guthrie, and so hopeless 
did the outlook appear, that some of his friends advised 
him to think of some other profession. To this suggestion, 
however, he declined to lend an ear. But that the time 
might not be lost, he first of all entered upon an extensive 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 21 

course of reading at home, then determined to return 
to Edinburgh University and take out one or two extra 
classes in Chemistry and Natural History under Professors 
Hope and Jamieson j also Surgery and Anatomy under the 
extra-mural lecturer Dr. Knox — within three years to 
become unpleasantly associated with the Burke and Hare 
horror. In all these subjects the young man displayed 
conspicuous proficiency. 

The step, however, which more than aught else put the 
copestone on the academic culture of Thomas Guthrie, 
was the visit he paid to the Continent for the purpose of 
studying at the University of Paris. He proceeded thither 
in the autumn of 1826, being attracted by the fame of 
Gay-Lussac, professor of Natural Philosophy; Geoffrey 
St. Hilaire, the Comparative Anatomist \ Louis Jacques 
Thenard, the great Chemist ; also by Lisfranc, Dupuytren, 
and Baron Larrey, the distinguished Surgeons. He made 
a short stay in London en route both going and returning, 
when he met the Hon. W. Maule, Joseph Hume, M.P., 
and others, whose friendship afterwards proved useful 
to him. Llis stay in Paris influenced him beneficially in 
more ways than one, in expanding his intellectual outlook. 
It broadened his sympathies, it widened his ideas of the 
brotherhood of humanity, and taught him many lessons 
in catholicity of sentiment which bore fruit in the years to 
come. There also he studied very hard, and carried back 
with him the approbation of his teachers. He likewise 
walked the hospitals in the 'train' of the great' surgeons, 
where he picked up much of that medical knowledge 
which stood him in good stead in after years. Despite 
the benefits he received, intellectually speaking, from his 
visit to Paris, his pictures of Parisian society, both of the 
bourgeois and of the better classes, are mournfully black. 
He recoiled with horror from the shameless vice which met 
him on all sides ; but, as he said after a visit to Frascati's 
gambling-saloon, which was maintained at the expense of 
the Government, who drew a vast revenue from it, ' what 
else can be expected of a people whose rulers actually 



22 FAMOUS SCOTS 

pander to and provide means for the gratification of the 
vilest vices ? ' 

He returned home in. April 1827. He had gone forth 
a youth full of boyish ways and ideas ; he returned a man 
who had seen the world and studied the world's ways 
under different conditions of life from the majority of his 
fellows, and whose desire now was to utilise the know- 
ledge thus acquired to the best possible advantage. 

On his return he found his prospects of obtaining a 
charge on conditions he could accept as remote as 
ever. Not for a moment did he lose heart. He felt 
that God was preparing him for some service, and that 
his duty meantime was simply to wait. Accordingly 
he resumed his methodised course of reading at home, 
preaching from time to time as opportunity offered. 
While thus engaged, a curious call to duty came to him — 
no less than to take the management of a bank. His 
elder brother, Bailie John Guthrie, who had been manager 
(Scottice agent) of the local branch of the Dundee Union 
Banking Company, a position held by members of the 
family for nearly sixty years, died very suddenly. His 
eldest son was then a boy in the later 'teens, but still too 
young to assume charge of so important an institution. 
The great influence of the family caused the directors of 
the bank to desire that the son should succeed the father, 
if only the place could be held open for a year or two. 
Thomas Guthrie was asked both by his relatives and the 
bank to act as locum tenens. After some hesitation he 
consented, and was accordingly duly installed. 

He made a splendid banker. In a few weeks he had 
mastered all the details, and his success in carrying on 
the branch may be gauged by the remark made by the 
manager of the Head Office on Mr. Guthrie taking leave 
of him, when about to begin work at Arbirlot. ■ Sir,' he 
said, ' if you only preach as well as you have banked, you 
will be sure to succeed.' 



CHAPTER III 

PARISH MINISTER OF ARBIRLOT 

At last the object of Thomas Guthrie's ambition was to be 
realised after five years of waiting. He was to be placed 
as minister over a parish for whose moral and spiritual 
welfare he would be responsible. In the early months of 
1830 the Crown appointed him to the Forfarshire parish 
of Arbirlot, on the recommendation of the Hon. William 
Maule. The presentee having preached before the con- 
gregation to their manifest satisfaction, the 'call' was 
signed, and on the 13th May the 'new minister' was 
inducted into his charge. 

Arbirlot — Aber-Elliot, the place at the mouth of the 
Elliot — is a beautiful country parish on the eastern coast 
of Scotland, situate about three miles from Arbroath and 
sixty from Edinburgh. . The geographical position of the 
parish causes it to combine in itself the somewhat diverse 
natural charms of rich landscape and bold seascape. 
From several points in the district one can command 
views of either kind, unrivalled on the eastern seaboard 
of Scotland for peaceful beauty and impressive grandeur. 1 
It had the advantage of being easy of access, and was, 
moreover, within twenty miles of Brechin, so that he was 
not cut off from intercourse with his kindred. 2 

The parish was neither very large nor very populous. 
In 1824 it had been returned as numbering 1077 souls, 
while by 1830 it had only reached 1086, showing that the 
ratio of increase was not rapid. 

1 Edwards' Description of Angus (1678 : repub. 1791). 

2 After a time his mother came to reside in Arbirlot to be near 

her son. 

23 



24 FAMOUS SCOTS 

To Mr. Guthrie this was an advantage, and from the first 
he regarded it as such. How many promising young 
ministers are dwarfed and stunted, both intellectually and 
spiritually, by being placed at the outset in onerous 
charges where the work is beyond their strength ! Robert 
Hall's remark about the ratio of sermon-production should 
be laid to heart by every young preacher. 

From the outset Mr. Guthrie's preaching was accept- 
able to his people. Of this fact there are many proofs 
extant, chiefly the testimony of those who had heard the 
older residents speak of it. Among others, that of the 
saintly David Key, one of his elders, and given at length 
in the Memoir, is the most remarkable. And yet, from 
existing specimens of his sermons in those early days of his 
Arbirlot ministry we can detect few traces of those 
qualities of figurative diction, picturesque illustration, and 
striking apostrophes and appeals so familiar in the dis- 
courses of later years. The style is severely simple and 
chaste, while ornament is rare. 

No sooner was Mr. Guthrie fairly settled down in his 
sphere of work than he began to evince that tireless 
activity in the service of his Master characteristic of him 
all his days. He threw himself into parochial work with 
an energy and concentration of purpose that astonished 
and delighted all. For five years he had been eating his 
heart out in enforced idleness. The stock of restrained 
activity, kept in check all that time, now had free course 
to flow out from him in a mighty tide of far-reaching 
achievement. Probably that weary delay was the Creator's 
mode of fitting His instrument for the glorious work before 
him. Had he stepped into the ministry fresh from college, 
he might never have learned that great lesson of 'patience 
till God opens the way ' which was not the least of his 
virtues. Disappointment is oftentimes the greatest of 
teachers, and so it proved to Thomas Guthrie. 

His parochial schemes and enterprises were both varied 
and numerous. Five months after his induction into 
Arbirlot he took unto himself an 'helpmate,' who, in the 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 25 

highest and noblest sense of that word, proved herself his 
coadjutrix. For some years he had been engaged to Anne, 
the eldest daughter of the Rev. James Burns of Brechin ; 
and on 6th October 1830 they were married by the bride's 
father. 

Though Arbirlot was, morally speaking, an earthly 
paradise into which the darker and more revolting sins 
of our great cities scarcely entered, the spiritual state of 
the parish was decidedly 'dead.' His predecessor had 
held the living for the lengthened period of fifty-nine years, 
occupying the pulpit in person until he was eighty-seven. 
Though at first a sound Evangelical preacher, the advent 
of age brought listlessness and torpor, so that vital religion 
and warm spirituality burned low in consequence. 

To suffer such a state of things for any length of time 
would not have been in keeping with the splendid activity 
of Mr. Guthrie's nature. He immediately set to work to 
remedy it. fin the first place he established a weekly 
prayer-meeting. One of these was held at Arbirlot, but he 
had two or three other ' cottage-meetings ' throughout the 
parish for those living at a distance. These were superin- 
tended by his elders, and to each of them he paid a visit 
once a month. Though successful in Arbirlot, the ' cottage- 
meetings ' elsewhere scarcely came up to his expectations, 
largely owing to the diffidence and modesty of the elders 
conducting them. 

Another means of reaching his people, and thus pro- 
moting their intellectual as well as their spiritual ameli- 
oration, was through the congregational library, which 
he instituted and, in conjunction with Mrs. Guthrie, 
personally superintended. The books were given out on 
Saturday evenings, and were retained a week. When the 
parishioners returned them they found their pastor or his 
lady always ready to discuss the volumes with them and to 
elicit even from the shyest — but without seeming to do so — 
their opinions on what they had read. The parish library 
was one of the most successful of Mr. Guthrie's means for 
raising the status of intellectual culture among his people. 



26 FAMOUS SCOTS 

But while their spiritual and mental improvement 
was thus carefully considered, he felt that the lessons in- 
culcated regarding thrift and economy would be shorn of 
half their value if there were not at hand some agency 
whereby the savings of the people might be looked after 
for them. Hitherto the time-honoured bank of the 
Scottish peasantry — the stocking or the old teapot — had 
prevailed in Arbirlot as elsewhere. But such a system 
had its evils. The money was always at hand, and the 
pedlars' packs were oftentimes pitfalls, leading the indus- 
trious country-folk into extravagances they afterwards 
regretted. A parish savings-bank was therefore initiated 
and proved a conspicuous success, the minister's banking 
experiences now standing him in good stead in suggesting 
the best means of organising and carrying on such an 
institution. 

Nor were the young children neglected. Several 
Sabbath-schools, conducted by the elders in various parts 
of the parish, were started and proved successful. To-day 
the Sabbath-school is the invariable adjunct and feeder 
of every congregation. Then, however, they were few 
and far between, the opinion being too often entertained 
that such classes destroyed parental responsibility for the 
religious education of their children. At Arbirlot the 
schools were so arranged that they did not interfere with 
family catechising where such existed, but rather acted 
as valuable aids to such domestic instruction. 

Nor was the social welfare of his parish beyond the 
limits of his personal oversight. Though not yet a total 
abstainer, he was a strong advocate of temperance, and 
impressed its necessity upon his people. Not that the 
vice of drunkenness was very prevalent in Arbirlot. 
When Mr. Guthrie went there he found only two public- 
houses in the district. One of these, after a fatal accident 
to an inebriate had roused the community, he succeeded 
in getting closed. The remaining one being at the ex- 
treme end of the parish, offered little temptation to the 
Arbirlot people. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 27 

While Mr. Guthrie was attaching his parishioners to him 
by the closest ties of mutual love and respect, his relations 
with his brethren of the Presbytery of Arbroath were of 
the most friendly character. He likewise interested himself 
in the business of the Synod of Angus and the Mearns, 
and was a Commissioner to the General Assembly in 1832, 
a position he also filled in the years 1834 and 1835. 

Among his important speeches in the Presbytery was 
one he delivered in January 1834, when he moved the 
notable resolution that the Presbytery should petition 
Parliament to repeal the Act relating to Church Patron- 
age. His speech on that occasion was a cogent and con- 
vincing one, and he carried his motion by three votes, 
notwithstanding all the efforts of the Moderate party in 
the Presbytery. This Anti-Patronage resolution brings us 
at last to the time when the first 'soughings' became 
audible of that mighty storm which was first to shake, but 
in the end to rend Scotland, in a social as well as an 
ecclesiastical sense, to her foundations. 

In 1830, when Mr. Guthrie began his ministry at Arbirlot, 
there were in reality two questions adopted by the Evangeli- 
cals of the day as their rallying cries against the dominant 
Moderatism — ' No Patronage ' and 'No Intrusion.' Though 
logically separable and, as was proved, capable of attracting 
each its distinctive class of supporters, yet the two topics 
were virtually the obverse and the reverse of the same 
great problem — 'Was the Church of Scotland " Erastian" 
or "free"? — in other words, was it the thrall of the State, 
or had it inalienable rights — rights that might indeed have 
remained dormant for many long decades, yet rights that 
had never been legally abrogated ? Moderatism 1 main- 
tained the right of the State to intervene in the purely 
spiritual affairs of the Church, while the Evangelicals 
claimed that Christ's Headship over the nations and His 

1 The ' high ' Moderates, that is, of the type of Dr. Cook of St. 
Andrews ; for there were several members of the party, such as 
Dr. Robertson of Ellon and Mr. Story of Roseneath, who went quite 
as far as Dr. Chalmers in denying any rights to the State of jurisdiction 
over the spiritual concerns of the Church. 



28 FAMOUS SCOTS 

Church left the spiritual jurisdiction of the latter indepen- 
dent of the Civil Power, save what was implied in formal 
recognition, protection, and maintenance. 

Mr. Guthrie was not only an ' Evangelical ' in a party 
sense, he was one by conviction, temperament, and bitter 
experience of the evils inflicted alike on the doctrine and 
polity of the Church by Moderatism and its methods. Not 
because Dr. Nicoll and his followers had long debarred 
him from exercising the office of the ministry did he now 
put forth all his efforts to destroy the influence of the 
party. His motives were not dictated by such personal 
considerations. As he says in a letter written a little later, 
1 my aim all through this bitter but monotonous struggle 
has been solely to vindicate the Headship of my Saviour 
over His Church and people, to lead men to see that no 
one, not even the State, has a right to come between 
Christ and His Redeemed.' 

Mr. Guthrie accordingly threw himself into the struggle 
with the enthusiasm of a youthful warrior, conscious of the 
justice of his cause. Never minister ' educated ' his people 
better in the principles at stake. Though with that lofty 
reverence he always manifested for the sanctity of the pulpit, 
he never introduced controversial topics into the Sabbath 
services, he was assiduous on week-nights in lecturing to 
his parishioners on the subjects then bulking so largely on 
the public attention. He also held meetings in the dis- 
trict, at which his friends were brought from far and near 
to speak, and he proposed motions both in Presbytery 
and Synod on the Abolition of Patronage. As yet the 
Auchterarder and Strathbogie cases 1 had not made the 
question of Non-Intrusion so prominent and crucial as 
afterwards it became. To an Anti- Patronage crusade, 
therefore, rather than a Non-Intrusion one, his efforts 
were at this stage devoted. 

Several of the addresses he delivered on such occasions 

1 The Auchterarder case was then only in its initial stages ; the 
vacancy did not occur until August 1834. The Strathbogie case was 
still in the womb of the future. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 29 

are still extant. They are characterised by thorough 
knowledge of the subject, sound logical reasoning, vigorous 
thought, stirring personal appeals, pithy apophthegms, 
almost proverbial in their epigrammatic conciseness, while 
the whole is seasoned with the Attic salt of his wit and 
humour. No wonder opponents even were constrained 
to admit the force of his arguments. 

This, however, was not the only controversial campaign 
wherein he was then engaged. Voluntaryism and the State 
Church principle were being subjected to keen discussion 
and comparative analysis. Into what is known as the 
1 Voluntary Controversy ' Mr. Guthrie threw himself with as 
much gusto as spirit, involving as it did the defence of 
what, at this stage of his career, he believed to be absolutely 
indispensable to the spiritual welfare of the country — the 
national maintenance of religion. In the war of words 
characterising the assertion by either party of its distinctive 
principles, Mr. Guthrie took a prominent part, and crossed 
swords with the redoubtable ' Ajax ' of Voluntaryism him- 
self, 'Potterrow John,' otherwise Dr. John Ritchie of 
Edinburgh. 

The efforts made by Dr. Chalmers and his friends to 
promote the cause of Church Extension in many districts in 
Scotland had filled the Secession churches with dismay. 
At this time there may be said to have been four separate 
denominations coming under the generic designation 
1 Seceders ' : the United Associate Secession Church, formed 
by the re-union, after seventy-three years of disruption over 
the terms of the Burgess oath, of the General Associate or 
Anti-Burgher Church, and the Associate or Burgher Church; 
the Associate Synod of Original Seceders, the Original 
Burgher Associate Synod, and the Relief Synod. The raison 
d'etre of these bodies, apart altogether from the high-handed 
oppression shown towards the original founders of the 
Secession churches, had largely been the inertia and abuses, 
along with the lack of spirituality, peculiar to the State 
Church under the reign of Moderatism. 1 There can be no 
1 See Dr. M'Crie's Statement. 



3 o FAMOUS SCOTS 

doubt, as an unprejudiced study of contemporary facts will 
demonstrate, that in many districts the Church of Scotland 
was either most inadequately represented, or not repre- 
sented at all. In some instances, incumbents who came 
under the designation of ' Slothful Shepherds,' 1 alienated 
the mass of the piously inclined people from the Church ; 
while in the case of others who ostensibly did their duty, 
the icy apathy of Moderatism to all higher spiritual interests, 
with the Socinianism and Rationalism preached from the 
pulpits, drove from the ' parish kirk ' to the ' Secession 
meeting-house ' those who felt that to remain under State 
Church ordinances would be to allow an Arctic winter of 
religious indifference to settle down upon their souls. 

To counteract in some measure these patent evils-, Dr. 
Chalmers had initiated his great Church Extension move- 
ment. His aim was to infuse life into the whole organism 
by commencing aggressive religious effort in certain parts 
of it; and by begetting a spirit of emulation among the 
clergy, to induce the sluggards from mere shame, if from 
no higher motive, to bestir themselves in their respective 
spheres. But the Secession ministers, in place of welcom- 
ing such evidence of 'the coming spring' in the State 
Church, looked upon the Anti-Patronage and Church Ex- 
tension crusades as threatening their existence. If the 
State Church were reformed, where would be the logical 
vindication of the continuance of Dissent? Hitherto none 
of these Secession Churches had definitely pronounced 
against the principle of State Aid. 2 But with the ripening 
reformation of the Church of Scotland before them, with 
the. steady decay of Moderatism and the consequent pre- 
dominance of Evangelicalism, after the turning-point of 
the passing of the 'Veto Act' in 1834, the Seceders felt 
that they must have some more positive and definitive 
foundation for their existence than mere negative dissent 
to certain abuses in the State Church. Thus came into 

1 See Wodrow's description of the Church early last century in 
vol. ii. of the Analecta. 

" Once more see Dr. M'Crie's Statement. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 31 

being what is known as ■ the Voluntary principle,' which, be 
it admitted or not, forms the chief stone in the foundation 
of every Dissenting Church's standards. 

Mr. Guthrie, albeit in after years he was to hold, proudly 
and tenaciously, the Voluntary principle, in most, if not all, 
of its ramifications, considered his duty meantime to lead 
him, as parish minister of Arbirlot, to a vehement opposi- 
tion to the doctrine. Yet he did so in no spirit of bigotry. 
Though a State churchman, he was a liberal-minded 
Christian, and only resisted what he esteemed an unwar- 
rantable aggression. He would not have been the honest 
and honourable man he was, in fact, if, holding the senti- 
ments he did, he had not rushed, when the battle-bugle 
sounded, with all the enthusiasm of his nature, into the 
thickest of the fight. 

But Mr. Guthrie, however busy with Church politics, 
never permitted the interests of his congregation to suffer. 
He might do battle with * Potterrow John ' to-day, and 
with the Moderates of Presbytery and Synod to-morrow ; 
Church Extension meetings might occupy one part of the 
week, and schemes for the social and moral improvement 
of the parish the other ; but when the Sabbath came round 
he entered his pulpit as carefully prepared as though he 
had done nothing else all week than write his sermon. We 
have already noted with what honesty he worked when a 
student at College, and also when removed from every 
beneficial home and social influence during his stay on the 
Continent. To him, as to Carlyle, albeit their spiritual 
and ethical standpoints were so diverse, the Gospel of 
Work-a-day Duty presented its moral Categorical Impera- 
tive so forcibly as to require no external authority to 
induce him to be instant in industry. He loved work for 
its own sake. With regard to the exercise of his powers, 
until he went to Arbirlot his character was still tinged with 
much of the impulsiveness and prodigality of youth. His 
chief anxiety was to do a thing well, without giving much 
consideration to the expenditure of time, talents, and 
energy on the undertaking. He was too apt to take a 



32 FAMOUS SCOTS 

Nasmyth hammer to crack a nut, in place of apportioning 
the degree of effort to the importance of the end. He did 
not, as yet, understand that the subtle laws of the Con- 
servation of Energy hold as potently in the mental as in 
the physical economy. 

When placed in charge of a parish, however, and when 
he realised that he, and he alone, was responsible for its 
progress, both in a religious and a moral sense, his character 
underwent a rapid change. To the irresponsibility of 
youth — and of such a youth as his had been, engirt with 
pious home influences, and where the strictness of the 
family regime had precluded any member being left open 
to the assaults of early temptations — had succeeded a 
sense of personal obligation and liability, with a realisation 
of all the duties the position of pastor and teacher implied. 
Only a few months were to pass, ere those who had 
known him in pre-Arbirlot days, scarce recognised in the 
sagacious, far-seeing clergyman, the volatile youth, brimming 
over with laughter and humour, and ready for all kinds of 
innocent amusement. The laughter and the humour re- 
mained as the salt and savour of his gracious yet dignified 
personality. But into the laughter had crept a new note 
as of one who had looked upon the mystery of the world's 
misery and sin and had been awed by the sight ; while the 
humour, if less piquant, was more human, having lost 
somewhat of its careless abandon, as though the possessor 
had learned to regard all humanity as his brethren, because 
bound to him in the universal ' Brotherhood ' of Christ. 

Meantime, the light of a man so prominent as Mr. 
Guthrie was becoming, both in a spiritual and intellectual 
sense, could not longer be hid under the bushel of a 
country charge. Already the eyes of many of the leaders 
of the Evangelical party in Edinburgh were turning towards 
Arbirlot, anxious to devise means whereby a minister of 
such gifts and controversial ability might be secured for the 
metropolitan pulpit and the central councils of the party. 
More than one deputation went to the beautiful seaboard 
parish from the capital, to hear the young preacher. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 33 

To such deputations as appealed to himself, Mr. Guthrie 
gave no encouragement. He was happy at Arbirlot. He 
believed God was blessing his labours. His 'Ebenezer' 
— or sign that hitherto the Lord had helped him — was 
raised in those numerous fruits of his ministry that had 
come under his personal knowledge. His stipend was 
sufficient for the simple needs of his family : ' not a royal 
revenue would tempt me to leave,' he wrote to a friend in 
Edinburgh, 'were mere social position and increased 
remuneration the sole inducements held out.' Therefore, 
when the new and fashionable parish church of Greenside 
was built, and negotiations were opened with him to see 
if he would accept the pastorship, his reply was an uncon- 
ditional negative. He could not discern the Master's 
leading therein. 

When he was sounded with regard to Old Greyfriars' 
Collegiate Church, however, the matter presented itself in 
a different light. Though at the outset he discouraged 
the proposed transfer, yet when he was informed that the 
charge was about to be ' uncollegiated,' and that his work 
would really lie in that field where he had always desired 
to labour — the slums of the Cowgate — he felt that the 
Lord's voice was present in the ' invitation ' to ' come over 
to the Macedonia of sin, suffering, and sorrow, and help 
us.' 

But another reason, and one of a more secret and 
personal character, decided his acceptance of the call to 
Old Greyfriars. During the fatal winter of 1 836-1 837, 
when the epidemic of influenza passed like a scourge over 
the land, he had been brought within view of the dusky 
shores of death. For months he had lain helpless as a 
babe. Restored at length to life and labour in response 
to earnest prayers, he felt that, in return, notwithstanding 
his love for Arbirlot and its rural peace, that life with ail 
its splendid possibilities must in future be consecrated to 
higher, nobler, and wider issues. Peaceful and pleasant 
beyond most though his pastorate had been, the irresistible 
call had come for the young labourer to proceed to that 

c 



34 FAMOUS SCOTS 

new sphere, to carry the 'good news' of the Gospel, with 
all the force of his burning eloquence, to that ' submerged 
tenth' in our population that had fallen away from the 
means of grace. On the conditions named, therefore, 
Mr. Guthrie accepted the call to Old Greyfriars, and amid 
the regret of his Forfarshire parishioners he took leave of 
them in September 1837, after, as he says, 'seven busy, 
happy, and — I have reason to know and bless God for it — 
not unprofitable years spent amongst them.' The radiance 
of those golden days of his early ministry followed him on 
into life — nay, was never dimmed until the great end 
came. During those years in { Bonnie Arbirlot ' he had 
realised the mission of his manhood. There first he had 
learned the secret of true eloquence — viz. to touch the 
heart in such a way as to tell on the life; there first 
he had known the holy joy of leading a sin-stricken soul 
to the divine Sin-bearer; there first he had adequately 
understood the possibilities as well as responsibilities of 
the pastor's office ; there first he had come to see that not 
by might of intellect or of eloquence, not by power of will, 
but by the working of the Spirit of the living God — was 
the world to be won for Christ. 

And in ever-deepening dependence on that divine 
source of all success, he set up the banner of the Cross 
and marched forward into the unknown future, to achieve 
fresh conquests for his King. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE VINEYARD OF APOLLYON 

Apollyon has his vineyard in all great cities, and no 
sadder sights can be conceived than those revealed there 
from time to time. His terrible vintage is always being 
gathered, and his gatherers leave no gleanings. 

Many of my readers have doubtless stood on the spot 
where George iv. Bridge spans the Cowgate. The stranger 
who comes to view the place for the first time expects 
to see a river flowing beneath. A ' river ' there certainly 
is, but of a different type to what he anticipates. When 
he gazes into the ravine below, he beholds — a river of 
seething, pulsating human life, perpetually swollen with 
the vices and follies of mankind. 

But as the observer looks down into the Cowgate, he 
descries not only a river of human life, but a drama of 
existence being enacted before his eyes — a drama Protean 
in its variety and infinite alternations. He beholds a 
teeming population beneath, moving hither and thither, 
but a population bearing the stamp on well-nigh every 
countenance, of that sullen hopelessness which ensues 
when a soul has relinquished the moral struggle to subdue 
its own vicious propensities. Right below lies the narrow 
street of towering tenements whose chimney-pots reach the 
level of the bridge, and whose patched and battered roofs 
are emblematic of the character and fortunes of the tenants. 
Of these some are lying over the sills of windows inno- 
cent of glass, or stuffed with old hats or dirty rags ; others, 
coarse-looking women with children in their arms, stand 
around in groups. Able-bodied men who should have been 
at work are moodily smoking at the mouths of the closes, 

35 



36 FAMOUS SCOTS 

or brawling among themselves over some partition of the 
proceeds of crime ; brazen-faced girls who have long lost 
woman's subtlest charm — virtuous modesty — are either 
egging their male friends on to quarrels, or shouting coarse 
jests to one another; wrinkled crones, upon whose locks 
the snows of the ' sixties ' and ' seventies ' have fallen 
heavily, are gossiping conveniently near the public-house; 
while troops of children prematurely old and hardened — 
many of them born out of wedlock, and therefore left to 
hang as they grow — are darting in their noisy games hither 
and thither, picturesque in their raggedness, but by their 
gaiety introducing the one human element into the picture; 
fish-hawkers and fruit-sellers are shouting their wares ; while, 
high over all, two termagants, who have quarrelled over 
a lover, are tearing each other's hair out to a running 
accompaniment of oaths and shouts from their respective 
partisans. The public-houses are nearly as numerous as 
autumn leaves — and they are all well patronised ! Disease 
is present on all sides ; while sin, sorrow, and suffering, are 
writ large on almost every face. 

Such then was the Vineyard of Apollyon Mr. Guthrie 
was called upon to take as his parish. I will not say that 
the magnitude of the task did not appal him, much though 
he longed to engage in such work. He w r as standing at 
the point of view named above, a day or two after his 
arrival in Edinburgh, and was gazing somewhat despon- 
dently upon the awful epics and tragedies of misery being 
enacted below, and contrasting the scene with the rural 
peace of ' Bonnie Arbirlot,' when an arm was slipped 
through his, and the broad, Luther-like face of Dr. 
Chalmers looked up into his own, with an encouraging 
smile. For a moment or two they stood both silently 
eyeing the Cowgate. Then the great man, with a sweep of 
his arm that took in the whole district, said in tones of 
genuine rapture — ' A grand field, sir, for your work ; yes, 
indeed, a beautiful field. Far greater is He that is for you, 
than all that are against you.' Like the morning cloud 
Mr. Guthrie's despondency vanished, never to return. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 37 

Largely to Dr. Chalmers did he owe the opportunity now 
about to be afforded him of exercising his powers in 
evangelising the masses. That extraordinary man, at this 
time only slightly past the meridian of his superb intel- 
lectual force, had, since the death of Sir Henry Moncreiff 
and of Dr. Andrew Thomson, been the recognised leader 
of the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland. He 
was now engaged in carrying into effect his great scheme of 
Church Extension, a prominent feature in which was his 
plan for evangelising the ' Lapsed Masses ' by the system 
of ' Territorialism.' To understand this thoroughly we 
must realise what the Edinburgh parochial system compre- 
hended. 

In 1625, Charles 1., affirming the scheme formulated by 
his father, enacted 1 : — 

'That the town of Edinburgh, including the Westport, 
Cowgait Street, and the head of the Canongait, incorporated 
with them by ane late Act of Parliament, and whole sail be 
distributed in four several paroches . . . and that eache of 
the said Parochins and Congregatiouns sail be provided with 
twa Ministers, so that the Town sail have eight Ministers in 
the whole.' 

In 1 64 1 the number of churches was raised to six, and 
at a later date to eleven? * In all the churches' (as Hugo 
Arnot said in 1777) 3 'within the royalty, excepting Lady 
Yester's and New Greyfriars', two ministers officiate.' But 
after the city overflowed its ancient boundaries, and spread 
north and south and east, when, in addition, the wealthier 
parishioners left the older churches to attend quoad sacra 
places of worship erected in the ' New Town,' the Town 
Council found a difficulty in paying the stipends of two 
ministers who were doing work that could easily be 
overtaken by one. Accordingly, one by one they were 
; uncollegiated.' In 1834 the Town Council definitely put 
the question whether the Presbytery of Edinburgh would 
give its consent to the same course being applied to the 

1 Conn. Regist., vol. xiii. f. 289. 

2 Maitland's History of Edinburgh, p. 277. 

3 Arnot's Edinburgh, p. 275. 



38 FAMOUS SCOTS 

five remaining charges within the jurisdiction of the 
regality — to wit the High Church, the Old Church, the 
Tron, Old Greyfriars, and St. Andrew's. 

This consent the Presbytery expressed its willingness to 
grant, upon condition that the city should be divided into 
eighteen instead of thirteen parishes, each parish to have 
a minister of its own ! But eventually the Council shrunk 
from the undertaking — nay, at one time even from fulfilling 
its pledge to provide a new church for Mr. Guthrie. Then 
Dr. Chalmers interposed to relieve the Council of its diffi- 
culty. Thirty individuals were induced by him to 
subscribe ^ioo for the erection of a church in the 
Cowgate, one of the most destitute places in the whole of 
Edinburgh. 1 

The proposal was not destined to be promoted by the 
Town Council to the extent hoped, and had help not been 
extended by Lord Medwyn, one of the judges of the Court 
of Session, and a son of Sir W. Forbes the banker — a man, 
moreover, who though a bigoted Episcopalian and cherish- 
ing a dislike to Presbyterianism, yet placed benevolence 
above sectarian feeling — the erection of the building 
would have been indefinitely delayed. 

Lord Medwyn, with some other prominent citizens of 
Edinburgh, had started what they called ' a Savings-Bank ' 2 
in the city. As soon as his lordship understood that the 
Church of Scotland was about to try the experiment of 
reviving the old parochial or territorial system, and that 
there was a difficulty in securing the necessary funds, he 
proposed to his fellow-managers — then engaged with him 
in winding up their institution, which had been superseded 
by the National Savings Bank — that some ^1700 of un- 
claimed deposits should be devoted to the purpose. 
Help never came more opportunely. 

We now behold Mr. Guthrie installed in his new sphere 
as colleague-minister of Old Greyfriars, a position he would 

1 Hanna's Life of Chalmers, vol. iii. p. 446. 

2 In fact, Lord Medwyn claimed to be the originator of savings- 
banks, as against the claims of Dr. Duncan of Ruthwell. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 39 

hold, sharing the pulpit duties alternately with the Rev. 
John Sym, until the new territorial church was built. Into 
the work of this new sphere he threw himself with an 
energy and enthusiasm which astonished some of his 
patrons of the Town Council, accustomed to the ' easy-ozy 
ways ' of most of his brethren. His many-sided nature, 
cramped hitherto within the narrow bounds of a quiet 
rural parish, where the poor were few, the destitute fewer 
still, while the vicious, criminal, and reprobate classes were 
practically unknown, had now free scope to expand itself. 
Now he had been 'called' to the Vineyard of Apollyon, 
where his parishioners would largely be found among 
those who were not merely indigent, but vicious as 
well. 

The oversight of the Old Greyfriars' congregation he, 
in great measure, left to his colleague, whose flock they 
would continue to be after the charge was uncollegiated. 
Mr. Guthrie opened a vigorous campaign against the 
powers of evil by a ' house-to-house,' nay, we may almost 
say a 'room-to-room' visitation — for few of the residents 
could afford more than a single apartment — of the whole 
field of his operations. Of the awful sights he wit- 
nessed he speaks again and again in his works. 1 They 
were sights which filled him both with sorrow and despair. 
More than once he remarks that had his faith not been 
firmly grounded on the Lord's grace being sufficient to 
enable him to achieve all things, he would have relin- 
quished the work as hopeless. The frightful destitution, 
the ravages of disease among people with constitutions 
undermined by want and excess, the unblushing brazenness 
of vice, the callous criminality of those who lived by 
robbery and violence, the hateful hypocritical deceit which 
feigned religious impression in order to obtain money, the 
prevalence of juvenile depravity, with the almost general 
indulgence in the most degrading forms of drunkenness 
— all combined to form a picture of ' sin, sorrow, and 

1 See particularly The City — its Sins and Sorrows ; his Pleas for 
Ragged Schools, Man and the Gospel, Sketches of the Cowgate, etc. 



4 o FAMOUS SCOTS 

suffering ' never absent from his thoughts until life's 
latest hour. 

But he never faltered.. He took as his motto ' Jehovah- 
nissi : The Lord my Banner,' and every disappointment 
and failure only caused him to redouble his efforts and 
his prayers. ' We must win if we have only faith enough,' 
he was wont to say to those critics who were inclined to 
sneer at a man of his ability throwing himself away ' on 
a lot of paupers and pickpockets.' But despite his hope- 
fulness and cheery good spirits, the position was one of 
great anxiety. He knew he was being watched, not only 
by his own Church, but by all the other denomina- 
tions, who were on the qui vive to see how the experi- 
ment of reviving ' Territorialism ' would work. He 
realised that not only his own reputation but that of Dr. 
Chalmers, and others who had so eagerly promoted the 
scheme, were all involved in his successful achievement 
of the great work set before him. Therefore, in season 
and out of season, morning, noon, and night, Mr. Guthrie 
and his devoted helpmate were at work visiting, re- 
lieving the sick and destitute, obtaining work for the un- 
employed, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry. 
He virtually lived in his parish in every sense of the word, 
for his dwelling was situate d upon the southern ridge 
overlooking the Cowgate, viz. first in Argyle Square and 
next in Brown Square. Within two minutes he could be 
at the bedside of any sufferer who summoned him. 

Such an existence, lived at pressure so high, neces- 
sarily detracted much from that quiet home life which 
was Mr. Guthrie's keenest delight during his Arbirlot 
days. His arrival in Edinburgh marked the close of what 
may be described as the 'domestic period' of his life. 
Henceforward he had to pay the price of popularity 1 and 
metropolitan position, in diminished domesticity; hence- 

1 A good proof of his wide popularity is to be found in the fact 
that his 'figure' was selected by Crombie to form one of the repre- 
sentative ' Modern Athenians ' in the volume of portraits published 
under that title. He appears in plate 21 in company with John 
Menzies of Pitfoddels. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 41 

forward he had to keep 'open house.' His table and 
the warm ' Guthrie welcome ' were ever made free to all 
his country brethren and friends who might come to 
town. His growing fame also drew strangers to his 
roof, who, after being electrified by his eloquence on the 
Sabbath, desired to see if the great pulpit orator practised 
in private what he inculcated in public. I have always 
maintained that Dr. Guthrie preached as powerfully by 
his life as by his lip, for those who came to see found 
that for him the precepts of the Sunday moulded the 
practice of the Monday. Though for thirty-six years he 
lived continually in the fierce light of public scrutiny 
which beats on our prominent men, the words of Monod 
express no more than the truth, ' He is even more mar- 
vellous as a man than as a minister.' 

On the 19th November 1840, Mr. Guthrie's new church, 
named St. John's, was opened, and as the Witness of the 
day remarked, ' the event formed an important era in the 
history of the Church of Scotland.' The whole area of 
the building, containing six hundred and fifty sittings, was 
reserved as absolutely free seats for residents in the parish, 
while the gallery was let to applicants from all parts of the 
city. As might be expected, within a day or two every 
seat was taken up, and hundreds were unable to obtain 
accommodation. Mr. Guthrie's reputation as a pulpit 
orator had now been unquestionably established. When 
he was announced to preach in aid of a scheme or charity 
at any church other than his own, the fact was -sufficient 
to ensure the building being packed to suffocation long 
before the hour of service. In consequence, he was over- 
whelmed with applications for such occasions, the pro- 
moters being thereby assured of a good collection. 
Though the Edinburgh pulpit was at this time exceedingly 
strong in pious, evangelical, and earnest ministers — the 
Revs. Dr. R. S. Candlish being in St. George's, Dr. Gordon 
at the High Church, Dr. Cunningham at Trinity College 
Church, Dr. Bruce at St. Andrew's, Dr. J. Buchanan at 
North Leith, Dr. Charles Brown in the New North, and 



42 FAMOUS SCOTS 

Dr. Begg at Liberton — yet the opinion was widely current 
that, with the solitary exception of Dr. Chalmers, Dr. 
Guthrie was the greatest, pulpit orator in the city. While 
he never manifested the metaphysical subtlety of Cardlish, 
nor the massive thought of Cunningham, nor the airiosa 
feliritas, at times even approaching quaintness, of Bruce, 
nor the majestic stateliness of Buchanan, and thus was 
not their equal as a ' preacher ' or theologian, in all the 
supreme qualities of oratorical pre-eminence, in range, 
volume, and compass of voice, in knowledge of the 
human heart, and skill in adapting tone to tenor of 
thought, in vividness and warmth of imagination united 
to wealth of diction, Guthrie took rank before all, in seme 
respects even excelling Chalmers himself. He was the 
popular pulpit orator, the magic of whose tones swayed 
thousands at will ; but there was in his oratory something 
higher as well, the poet's love of the picturesque and the 
beautiful. 

From 1837 to 1840, when the Non-Intrusion struggle 
began in grim earnest, Mr. Guthrie spared neither time 
nor trouble to make the territorial experiment so great 
a success under God's blessing, that it would justify other 
schemes of a cognate character being tried. "What those 
scenes of horror and of misery cost him in agony of 
spirit when witnessing a destitution so widespread, only 
an infinitesimal portion of which he was able to relieve, 
can be guessed by those alone who knew the great com- 
passionate heart of the man, or who peep into his note- 
books and memoranda. 

With regard to his new church and the special purpose 
it was designed to serve in the neighbourhood, Mr. 
Guthrie at this stage held very strong views with regard 
to the absolute necessity for State connection and State 
aid in prosecuting effectively such operations. On this 
subject he remarked in a speech delivered in 1838 : — 

' I have read of a cave from which the most thoughtless 
came out sobered, the most talkative came out silent ; and 
I have often fancied that if I could get some Voluntary to 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 43 

accompany me on my parochial visitations for a single clay, 
the College Wynd and the Cowgate would rival that cave in 
the wondrous change they would work on him. He might 
go in a Voluntary, but he would come out for an Establish- 
ment, . . . and with the conviction that there was no means 
which would move and lift up these people but that thorough 
parochial system and that pastoral superintendence which is 
inseparable from an Establishment, never has existed with 
Voluntaryism, and, what is more, never can.' 

I quote these words at length in order to show how 
far Dr. Guthrie had modified his views on this subject 
when, in November 187 1, at the centenary of the Wallace 
Green U.P. Church, Berwick (Rev. Dr. Cairns'), he re- 
marked amid thunders of applause : — 

'There is nothing in our formula binding our ministry or 
any one now to hold the principle of endowments, . . . and 
though the Government were to ofler me endowments to- 
morrow, I would fling them in the face of the Government, 
and I would say — " I have learned to walk on my own feet, 
and am no more disposed to lean on your crutches," knowing 
perfectly well from the whole history of the past that when I 
lost the power of walking and depended on your crutches, you 
would knock them out from below me and lay me at your 
feet.' 

What the process of ' Territorialism ' would have effected 
in the direction of evangelising the masses can now, how- 
ever, only be matter for speculation. The promising and 
daily increasing interest in Church Extension was to be 
arrested, to the intense grief of Dr. Chalmers and Mr. 
Guthrie, by the chilling frost of ecclesiastical controversy 
which for years laid its numbing hand upon the healthy 
development of the Church of Scotland. The Evangelical 
party had to lay down the spiritual mattock and hoe and 
take up the controversial sword and breastplate. Scotland, 
however, was to be covered with churches in another way 
than to either of the two friends of 'Extension' had 
appeared possible or expedient. But the Lord had His 
own methods of ecclesiastical development to work out, 
and when despair was deepest, the dawn of a new era 
of spiritual blessing for Scotland was even then ruddyirg 
the east, 



CHAPTER V 

THE NON-INTRUSION STRUGGLE 

Only two and a half years remained wherein Mr. Guthrie, 
as a minister of the Church of Scotland, might labour 
to bring to fruition those carefully matured schemes of 
his for evangelising the masses. But, at the very time 
when his utmost efforts were required to cope with the 
demands of his great charge, other matters claimed his 
attention — matters, moreover, of such cardinal moment, 
not alone to himself but to the Church as a whole, as 
even to warrant time being taken from parochial duties 
for their consideration. 

Scarcely was Mr. Guthrie settled in Edinburgh than the 
horizon-cloud of conflict between the Church and the 
Law Courts — a cloud hitherto not larger than a man's 
hand — began steadily to overspread the entire sky-line of 
that Church's future. The vigorous efforts of the Evan- 
gelicals on behalf of Church Extension, as well as in 
repudiation of the allegations of the Voluntaries, had 
aroused the antagonism of two widely differing types of 
adversaries, viz. the Moderates within the Church, who 
were angry that their slumber had been broken by the 
misdirected enthusiasm of the ' Highfliers,' x as the 
Evangelicals were styled ; and second, the Seceders 
without the Church, who, as we have said, saw their 
raison d^etre threatened by this evidence of vitality within 
the Establishment, and were therefore compelled, in order 
to preserve a logical reason for their continued existence, 

1 ' Highfliers.' — This name gave rise to a misconception in England 
at the time of the Disruption. Some supposed the Scottish Evangeli- 
cals to be identical with the party now known as Ritualists, 
44 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 45 

to advance to the final position of out-and-out opposition 
to all State connection. 

These controversies were still being waged, when the 
early echoes became audible of a more terrible conflict 
than any yet experienced — the attempt of the State, as 
represented by the Court of Session, to coerce the Church 
in the discharge of her spiritual functions. When Mr. 
Guthrie went to Edinburgh, both the Auchterarder and 
the Lethendy cases had already come before the Supreme 
Courts of the Church and of the country. Scotland's 
Church and Scotland's Judicature were rapidly coming 
into collision. Dr. Guthrie in after-life maintained that 
had Dr. Andrew Thomson lived beyond 1831 to combat 
the desire of Dr. Chalmers and Lord MoncrierT to preserve 
patronage under certain restrictions, there would have 
been no Disruption. 1 That event would never have 
occurred had the Evangelical party been united in their 
course of action — if, in other words, under the altered 
state of things in the electorates, due to the Reform Bill, 
the party had first sought to influence the Legislature 
through the polls, then gone to the Reformed Parliament 
asking that the same principle of reform be applied to 
the Church, and that the fetters of patronage, which had 
been reimposed by Queen Anne's Jacobite -tinctured 
Government against the will of the people, should be 
knocked off. By this means the Evangelical party would 
have been kept out of conflict with the Law Courts, whose 
decisions, of course, an English Government, sitting so 
far away as London, accustomed moreover to the absolute 
dependence of the Church of England on the State, and 
also to a large extent ignorant of Presbyterianism and its 
principles, was bound to uphold. 

In August 1834, the parish of Auchterarder 2 having 

1 See also the Life of Hugh Miller ; by Peter Bayne, M.A., vol. ii. 
pp. 185-186. 

2 My father, the late Rev. Professor Smeaton, D.D., was the first 
minister of Auchterarder Free Church. I here draw largely on notes 
left by him with reference to the state of the parish as he found it 
after the Disruption. 



46 FAMOUS SCOTS 

become vacant through the death of the incumbent (the 
Rev. Charles Stewart), the patron, the Earl of Kinnoul, 
appointed Mr. Robert Young, licentiate, to the living. 
But after preaching to the people on two Sabbaths, his 
ministrations proved so unacceptable to them that his call 
on being presented to the Presbytery of Auchterarder, was 
found to be signed by no more than three individuals, 
only two of whom belonged to the parish, while the 
dissentients to the call numbered 287 out of a total of 
330 eligible to exercise the privilege. The Presbytery 
therefore had no hesitation in refusing Mr. Young's 
application to be ordained minister of the parish. There- 
upon the patron and the presentee carried the matter to 
the Law Courts. The latter, in his petition to the 
Judicature, affirmed not merely his right to the stipend, 
manse, and glebe, but, disregarding all distinctions between 
things spiritual and things temporal, he asked to have it 
declared, not only that he was entitled to the benefice, 
but that the Presbytery was bound to ordain him, regardless 
of the parishioners' opposition, provided only they were 
satisfied with his moral and intellectual qualifications. 

The case was argued before the entire bench of thirteen 
judges, the Dean of Faculty (John Hope) being leading 
counsel for Young, and the Solicitor-General (Andrew 
Rutherfurd, afterwards Lord Rutherfurd) representing the 
Church. The decision of the Bench was given in March 
1838 — six months after Mr. Guthrie's translation to Edin- 
burgh — eight judges pronouncing in favour of the presentee, 
the Lord President Hope, Lord Justice-Clerk Boyle, Lords 
Gillies, Mackenzie, Corehouse, Meadowbank, Medwyn, 
Cunningham ; while five — comprising the ablest and 
most brilliant members of the Judicature, in particular 
Glenlee (the acutest legal intellect of his time), Jeffrey, 
Moncreiff, Cockburn, Fullerton — were on the side of the 
Church. 

This decision of the Court could not, of course, be 
submitted to. The matter was appealed to the House 
of Lords. The specific point on which the Church took 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 47 

its stand was that clause in the order of the Judicature 
that 'the Presbytery was bound to take Mr. Young on 
trials with a view to ordination.' The Church declined 
to recognise the control attempted to be arrogated by 
the Civil Courts over the purely spiritual function of 
ordination, and declared that under no circumstances 
could coercion be applied to her to compel her to dis- 
charge duties within her spiritual province which she 
held to be unscriptural. The Judicature, on the other hand, 
contended that, under certain circumstances, it did possess 
the power of coercion, and that these circumstances had 
now occurred. 

The Law Courts, with a sort of dogged obstinacy the 
individual members of which were afterwards bitterly to 
regret, proceeded to push matters to an extremity. They 
interdicted the Presbytery of Dunkeld from ordaining 
Mr. Kessen, licentiate, to the vacant charge of Lethendy 
in place of a Mr. Clark, who had been vetoed by the 
congregation. When the Presbytery, however, under in- 
structions from the General Assembly, actually did ordain 
the former, the Court of Session summoned them to its 
bar and rebuked them. On that occasion Lord President 
Hope remarked that * the next time the ministers of the 
Church of Scotland broke an interdict, they would be 
visited with all the penalties of the law — the penalty of 
the law being, the Calton Jail.' 

This was followed by the famous Strathbogie case, 
wherein the cleavage within the Church, between Moderates 
and Evangelicals, became mournfully apparent. Seven 
Moderate ministers of the Presbytery of Strathbogie were 
suspended by the Commission of Assembly for attempting 
to ordain to' the parish of Marnoch a licentiate named 
Edwards, whose call was only signed by one individual 
—the innkeeper where the Presbytery dined! The 
Court of Session actually interdicted any of the other 
ministers of the Church from entering the parishes of 
any of the seven, to announce the terms of the suspen- 
sion to them, or to perform the public or sealing 



48 FAMOUS SCOTS 

ordinances of religion to the congregations under ecclesi- 
astical discipline. 1 

Of all these proceedings, both before and after "his trans- 
lation to Edinburgh, Mr. Guthrie was an interested spec- 
tator, and in some of them he played a prominent part. 
In February 1840, Mr. Guthrie took his turn with his 
brethren in supplying the ordinances of the Church to 
the flocks of the suspended ministers in Strathbogie, and 
his conduct, under exceptionally perplexing circumstances, 
evinced, as much as any other episode in his career, what 
a fund of practical sagacity he possessed. The seven 
suspended ministers had made a renewed application to 
the Court of Session, which, by a majority, consented to 
issue an extended interdict, forbidding Mr. Guthrie or any 
other of the delegates of the Church, to preach or dispense 
ordinances, in any building whatever within that district 
— nay, not even on the highroad or open moor. I here 
subjoin a copy of the interdict : 2 — 

' I, Robert Falconer, Solicitor in Keith, notary public, by 
virtue of an attested copy of the interlocutor pronounced by 
the Lords of the First Division of the Court of Session, dated 
the fourteenth day of February 1840, on the Reclaiming Note 
for the Rev. John Cruickshank and others against the Rev. 
David Dewar and others, in Note of Suspension and Interdict 
for the said complainers, of which attested copy of Interlocutor, 
Note of Suspension and Interdict, Statement of Facts, Note of 
Pleas, Interlocutor pronounced by the Lord Ordinary dated 
the 1 6th day of January 1840, and Reclaiming Note, the 31 
preceding pages are a full double, in Her Majesty's Name and 
authority, lawfully intimate the said Interlocutor to you, the Rev. 
Thomas (Guthoric) Guthrie, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, 
and require you to conform thereto, and meantime interdict 
and discharge you in terms thereof with certification. This I 
do upon the 17th day of February one thousand eight hundred 
and forty years, before these witnesses, Hugh Wilson and 
Robert Shearer, both residing in Keith, and William Thorburn, 
Solicitor in Keith, and James Petrie, bank-agent in Dufftown. 

Robert Falconer, N.P.' 

Such a veto upon his freedom of action was altogether 

1 Cf. Hugh Miller's telling article in the Witness of Feb. 5, 1S40, 
entitled ' The Twin Presbyteries of Strathbogie.' 

3 Now hanging in the Common Hall of the New College, Edinburgh. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 49 

an abuse of its powers on the part of the Court of Session. 
Not only by the Evangelicals, but by many of the fairer- 
minded members of the Moderate party, such as Mr. 
Robertson of Ellon, the interdict was strongly condemned. 
It also opened the eyes of the people. As Buchanan says, 1 
it overshot the mark, being Erastian overmuch. It brought 
the arm of the civil power too grossly and palpably into 
the domain of the Church. The Government itself, re- 
ceiving so many warnings as to the possible consequences 
of the Court of Session's illegal act, became alarmed. ' Has 
your lordship heard of the extended interdict?' said a 
minister of the Church of Scotland, addressing, two days 
after the interdict was pronounced, a distinguished Con- 
servative statesman (Lord Aberdeen) on the streets of 
London. ' I have,' was the reply. ' What may be your 
lordship's opinion of it?' said the clergyman. 'I am not 
a lawyer,' answered the sagacious senator, speaking with an 
air of reluctance, yet with unusual emphasis ; ' but I con- 
fess I do not understand it. According to the law of this 
country, any one that pleases, any minister of any sect, 
any infidel or Chartist, may go and preach in Strath- 
bogie : how then can it be lawful to hinder the ministers 
of the National Church from doing so? In fact,' added 

his lordship after a little pause, ' I have written to 2 

to tell him that, in my opinion, he has brought the Court 
of Session into a great scrape.' 3 Apparently this remon- 
strance from so influential a source gave the Scots judica- 
ture seasonable warning. Be this as it may, the interdict 
was never enforced. 

Mr. Guthrie, however, was not to know this, and the 
courage of his action in deciding to do what he believed 
his duty, be the consequences what they might, savoured 
not a little of the heroic. He was met by the interdict 
when he arrived in Keith, en route for Strathbogie. Let 
us hear what he says himself on the matter : — 

1 In going to preach at Strathbogie, I was met by an interdict 

1 Ten Years' Conflict, chap. ix. 

2 Supposed to be Lord President Hope. 3 Buchanan. 

D 



5 o FAMOUS SCOTS 

from the Court of Session — an interdict to which, as regards 
civil matters, I gave implicit obedience. On the Lord's Day, 
when I was preparing for divine service, in came a servant of 
the law and handed me an interdict. I told him he had done 
his duty, and I would do mine. The interdict forbade me, 
under penalty of the Calton-hill-jail, to preach the Gospel in 
the school-houses. I said, the school-houses are stone and 
lime and belong to the State ; I will not intrude there. It for- 
bade me to preach in the churchyard, and I said the dust of 
the dead is the State's, and I will not intrude there. But when 
these Lords of Session forbade me to preach my Master's 
blessed Gospel and offer salvation to sinners anywhere in that 
district under the arch of heaven, I put the interdict under my 
feet and — I preached the Gospel.' 

In a word, then, during that eventful period, 1838 to 
1843, Mr. Guthrie bore his share nobly of the heavy duties 
devolving on the Evangelical leaders. He was a Non- 
Intrusionist not merely in theory but in practice. 

Among other services to the party and to the future Free 
Church, was the share he had in bringing Hugh Miller to 
Edinburgh. That great man — one of the noblest intellects 
Scotland ever produced — and Mr. Guthrie maintained an 
unbroken friendship until the day of Miller's lamented 
death. It is the fashion nowadays rather to overlook than 
to undervalue Miller's services to the cause of spiritual inde- 
pendence, consequent, perhaps, on Dr. Robert Buchanan's 
extraordinary omission of all mention of him in his Ten 
Years' Conflict. Guthrie first met Miller at dinner at Mr. 
Paul's of the Commercial Bank, when the ' Author of the 
Letter to Lord Brougham,' as he was known then, came 
down to Edinburgh in 1839 to consult about editing 'a 
Non-Intrusion newspaper.' Guthrie and Miller were mutu- 
ally attracted from the first. The former became one of 
the original guarantors and subscribers to the Witness. 
His name stands sixth on the list of the ' Committee of 
Managers' to whom Hugh Miller addressed his famous 
letter with reference to the unfortunate misunderstanding 
with Dr. Candlish. Miller was a mighty force in Scottish 
journalism from 1840-56, and did more to mould the 
mind of his country on many important questions than 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 51 

any other man of his age, ecclesiastical or lay, save 
Chalmers. 1 

A reference to the Scotsman of the period gives one an 
idea of Mr. Guthrie's tireless activity. 

On December 20, 1838, he delivered a speech in the 
Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, at the great public meeting 
'to Commemorate the Restoration of Civil and Religious 
Liberty, and of Presbyterian Church Government as secured 
by the Glasgow Assembly of 1638.' On June 19, 1839, 
he took part in the meeting in the Assembly Rooms, called 
1 to Consider an Effectual Remedy against the Intrusion of 
Ministers on Resisting Congregations.' In both cases his 
speeches were powerful and convincing appeals. 2 In July 
1839 he contributed ' No. vi.' to the series of Tracts on the 
Intrusion of Ministers, a paper still to be read with interest 
and admiration. During the same month and the succeed- 
ing, we find him addressing ' Non-Intrusion ' meetings at 
Liberton, Dunfermline, Perth, Ayr, and elsewhere, at all 
of which places he was enthusiastically welcomed. 

In 1840, however, his ' Non-Intrusion ' labours maybe 
said to have commenced in real earnest. When we con- 
sider they were prosecuted contemporaneously with his 
parochial work, and in addition to those kindly services in 
consenting to preach for such special charities as the Edin- 
burgh Female Society, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty 
to Animals, Indigent Old Men's Society, Orphan Hospital 
Fund, etc., one realises how relentless was his economisation 
of time, so as to find seasons for study, private reading, 
and, above all, for that daily communion with his Heavenly 
Father without which, as he once remarked, he found his 
whole existence stale, flat, and unprofitable. To him of 
a truth prayer was at once his ' supreme desire ' and his 
1 vital air.' 3 His increasing popularity as a preacher, and 
the crowds which everywhere flocked to hear him, rendered 

1 For an admirable estimate of Hugh Miller, see Mr. Keith Leask's 
monograph on him in this series. 

2 They were both published in pamphlet form. 

3 Letter to the Duchess of Argyll, 1851. 



52 FAMOUS SCOTS 

the most careful preparation imperative, so as to provide 
spiritual food for so many diverse temperaments. 

To follow Mr. Guthrie through all the storm and stress 
of those eventful years immediately preceding the Disrup- 
tion would be foreign to the purpose of this monograph. 
Suffice it to say that from 1840 to 1843 he accomplished an 
amount of stern, hard work on behalf of the Non-Intrusion 
propaganda that has never really been estimated at its true 
value. People were apt to regard him as merely the great 
pulpit orator, the Scots Chrysostom or Golden-Mouth, and 
to lose sight of the fact that for years, both before and after 
the Disruption, he literally ' stumped ' the country on be- 
half of various principles and schemes. There was nothing 
of the faineant about Guthrie. When a duty had to be 
done, be it as thankless, as menial, as onerous as it might, 
to it he went with that cheery Christian courage and 
bonhomie that was so beautiful a trait of his character. 

In company with others of his brethren, he itinerated 
throughout Scotland, impressing with the magic of his 
eloquence vast masses of his fellow-countrymen, to whom 
he made clear the momentous issues involved in the 
struggle between the Judicature and the Church, in a 
manner equalled by few of the other Non-Intrusion 
speakers. No wonder his services were in such request. 
As Dr. Candlish said when preaching his funeral sermon, 
' His eloquence alone, so expressive of himself, so thoroughly 
inspired by his own idiosyncrasy, so full always of genial 
humour, so apt to flash into darts of wit, and yet withal so 
profoundly emotional and ready for passionate or affec- 
tionate appeals — that gift or endowment alone made 
Guthrie an invaluable boon to our Church in the time of 
her "Ten Years' Conflict" and afterwards.' 

As the conflict deepened, and as the Church perceived 
that the ministry of Sir Robert Peel was to manifest 
itself markedly unsympathetic towards the principles the 
majority within her pale held so dear, the Non-Intrusionists 
redoubled their efforts. ' Scotland is in a flame about the 
Church question,' wrote Lord Palmerston to his brother, 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 53 

Sir W. Temple, and the phrase was no exaggeration. 
Much of that fire was the direct result of the fervid appeals 
by the pastor of St. John's. His own heart on flame with 
a burning sense of wrong, is it wonder if he communicated 
the same lofty indignation to all with whom he came in 
contact? Nay, not in Scotland alone did he succeed in 
so doing. Sent in 1841 as one of a deputation to Ireland, 
on the invitation of the Irish Presbyterian Church, he 
produced the same profound impression as in his own 
country. 

In this year (1841) Mr. Guthrie was greatly interested in 
the Bill introduced by the Duke of Argyll into the House 
of Lords for legalising the Church's 'Veto Law,' and thus 
removing the cause of conflict between the Church and the 
Civil Courts. Though he would have preferred a more 
thoroughgoing remedy — a measure aimed at the total 
abolition of Patronage — still he warmly espoused the Duke's 
cause, and in company with Hugh Miller sorrowed sincerely 
when, owing to the opposition it encountered, the Bill had 
to be withdrawn. Not that he regarded the abolition of 
Patronage as the sole or even the main point at issue 
between the two great national institutions. Lord Cock- 
burn * wraps up this, important distinction within the 
compass of a nutshell : ' The contest at first was merely 
about patronage, but this point was soon absorbed in the 
far more vital question whether the Church had any 
spiritual jurisdiction independent of the control of the 
civil power. This became the question on which the 
longer coherence of the elements of the Church de- 
pended.' 2 

The year 1842 — the last of the Church of Scotland's 
existence in its undivided state — was both a busy and an 
anxious one for Mr. Guthrie. Each month made the 
situation look darker, while the prospects of final adjust- 
ment and settlement of differences became increasingly 

1 See Life of Jeffrey. 

2 Hugh Miller's articles entitled ' Tendencies ' in the volume Head- 
ship of Christ deal with this question most cogently. 



54 FAMOUS SCOTS 

faint. In the Assembly of that year the motion for the 
abolition of patronage, proposed in a speech of wonderful 
logical cogency and perspicuous force by Mr. (afterwards 
Dr.) Cunningham, had been carried by a majority of 69 
in a 'house' numbering 363 members. The 'Claim of 
Rights ' — the modern Solemn League and Covenant, a 
document intended as a declaration against the uncon- 
stitutional encroachments of the Civil Courts, and a 
vindication of the people's privileges against the State's 
pretended prerogatives — after having been carefully drawn 
up by Mr. Dunlop and signed by 161 members of the 
house, was presented to the Assembly by Dr. Chalmers 
in a speech which takes rank as one of the grandest dis- 
plays of ecclesiastical forensic oratory ever heard in any 
Church Court. No wonder that the overture in which 
the { Claim of Rights ' was embodied was carried by a 
majority of 131. 

In this eventful year the Government showed its anti- 
pathy towards the Church by the paltry manoeuvre, as 
discreditable to himself as it was damaging to his adminis- 
tration, whereby Sir Robert Peel got rid of Mr. Campbell 
of Monzie's Bill— or, rather, the Duke of Argyll's Bill 
already alluded to transferred to the House of Commons 
and 'fathered' by the gentleman in question. When first 
introduced, the Government had induced Mr. Campbell to 
delay pressing it on through its stages by leading him to 
believe they would bring forward some measure of their 
own. When that promise could no longer be advanced, 
they intimated, on the very day when the second reading 
was to come on, that as the object of the Bill was to 
modify the law of patronage, and as the Crown held the 
patronage of a number of churches to which the measure 
was intended to apply, no Bill which affected any such 
risrhts of the Crown could be introduced into Parliament 

O 

until the consent of the Crown had been obtained. 1 This, 
of course, meant the loss of the Bill, and it also gained 

1 Hugh Miller, who seldom gave way to strong language, character- 
ised the trick as 'dishonourable chicanery.' 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 55 

time, as Buchanan says, for the expected development of 
that defection from the evangelical ranks to which Sir 
Robert Peel and Sir James Graham were looking forward as 
destined to solve all the difficulties of the Scottish Church 
question. For, as the latter, years after, confessed, states- 
men on both sides of politics were led to believe by Hope, 
the Dean of Faculty, and others, that all apprehension of 
a secession from the Church was chimerical. 'Were the 
crisis to come to-morrow,' Hope is stated to have remarked, 
'not ten ministers would leave their charges.' This assur- 
ance it was, coupled with the advice that severity was the 
best deterrent, which led the Government to persist in a 
policy they were subsequently bitterly to rue. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE EVENTFUL LAST YEAR 

In the General Assembly of 1842, Mr. Guthrie delivered 
a speech which attracted attention even amid the many 
splendid efforts of Chalmers, Candlish, and Cunningham. 
Certainly the subject was one calculated to interest the 
majority of the members irrespective of party, and it was 
one, moreover, on which he spoke con amore. The occa- 
sion was a motion for the repeal of the infamous Act of 
Assembly of 1799, whereby Missionary Societies were 
condemned, and their agents, who were insultingly termed 
' vagrant teachers,' were debarred from entering the pulpits 
of the Church of Scotland. 1 A resolution aiming at the 
repeal of an Act so discreditable to Scotland's National 
Church would appeal strongly to Mr. Guthrie's broad, 
catholic sympathies. He bitterly condemned the feelings 
prompting so un-Christian a measure, adding, ' I look 
upon this Act of 1799 as one of the blackest the Church of 
Scotland ever passed, and I rejoice with all my heart that 
this motion has been made.' When we further add that 
shortly before this time Dr. Duff, then at home, had been 
using all his influence to induce Mr. Guthrie to proceed to 
India along with him, and that the latter had for a short 
time seriously considered the proposal, a clue to the depth 
of his interest in mission-work is discovered. 

In June of that year decision was given by the House of 

1 Those who desire to obtain further information regarding that ex- 
traordinary Act and the debate preceding it in the Assembly of 1799, 
cannot do better than read Hugh Miller's articles on ' The Debate on 
Missions' in the Witness, from September 25 to October 9, 1841 ; or 
in the volume of his works on the Headship of Christ, p. 130. 
56 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 57 

Lords in the ' Second Auchterarder Case,' wherein Lord 
Kinnoul and Mr. Young sought to obtain a decree requir- 
ing the Presbytery of Auchterarder to take the rejected 
presentee on trials, and sanctioning his claim for damages 
in the event of their refusing to obey the order of the Civil 
Courts. The 'Lords ' pronounced in favour of the pursuers. 
Lords Lyndhurst, Brougham, Cottenham, and Campbell — 
two of them with Scots blood in their veins, and the third 
intimately connected in many ways with Scotland — in 
their judicial opinions showed an unaccountable ignorance 
not only of Scots law, but of Scots history and customs ; for, 
as Buchanan indicates, from one end to the other of their 
1 findings,' there is not to be discovered so much as one 
solitary reference to those laws by which the spiritual juris- 
diction of the Church of Scotland is declared and ratified, 
nor one single precedent adduced from the history of the 
Church to support the doctrine which this decision laid 
down. 

As soon as this decree became known, Mr. Guthrie 
saw that the end was not far off. Considerable difference 
of opinion existed among the Non-Intrusionists as to the 
course now to be followed. One section, including amongst 
others the Revs. Begg, C. J. Brown, and Elder, contended 
they should remain in the Establishment until driven out, 
doing all the duties that belonged to them. Mr. Guthrie's 
ideas as to the duty of the Church now that the important 
principle had been settled that, in certain circumstances ; 
the Courts of the Church were liable to be coerced by 
the penalties of law in the performance of their spiritual 
functions, appear to me to be characterised by a keener 
sense of ecclesiastical dignity and individual self-respect. 
He embodied his views in one. word, 'Retire.' 

After a ' Convocation ' held in Roxburgh Church, Edin- 
burgh, attended by four hundred and sixty-five ministers 
from all parts of Scotland, and at which the two great 
questions were thoroughly discussed: (a) 'What is our griev- 
ance, and the remedy for it ? ' {b) ' What, if that remedy be 
refused, is it the duty of the Church to do? ' a definite plan 



58 FAMOUS SCOTS 

of action was finally decided upon. In this Convocation 
Mr. Guthrie took a prominent part. More than once his 
sagacity recalled the party to the paths of prudence and 
moderation, when even Chalmers and Candlish allowed 
the enthusiasm of the moment to carry them away from 
the highroad of wise self-restraint. I remember the late 
Dr. John Moir informing me that from several distinct 
sources he had heard the remark made, that Guthrie's tact 
and prudence at the Convocation had gone a long way 
towards turning what might have proved a lamentable 
deadlock between the Begg-Brown-Elder party and their 
other brethren into an harmonious agreement. 

Well might Dr. Candlish say of Mr. Guthrie that he had 
been ' a tower of strength ' to his party during the deadly 
conflict of the Disruption. His invariable cheerfulness, his 
exuberant spirits even in the darkest hour, his immovable 
faith in the Providence of God providing for the future — 
all tended to strengthen the courage of weaker brethren. 
1 With shame I say it,' said a godly Free Church minister 
to my father many years afterwards, 1 

1 but I fear I should not have come out at the Disruption 
had it not been for Dr. Guthrie. My wife was a confirmed 
invalid, dying, as I thought, of an incurable disease ; I had a 
family of nine young children, two of whom were threatened 
with pulmonary disease. I had a comfortable manse and a 
good stipend : was I justified in exposing these delicate plants 
to the inevitable hardships consequent on secession, I reasoned 
with myself? I chanced to meet Dr. Guthrie in the darkest hour 
of my depression, and mentioned my fears to him. He looked 
at me most sympathetically, but said nothing. The season was 
one of intense cold ; frost had prevailed for several days. A 
row of starving sparrows was perched on a house opposite. 
At the moment I spoke, a coachman had been feeding his 
horses, and took the nose-bags from them preparatory to start- 
ing. One of them fell from his cold hands, and some of the 
grain was spilt on the ground. As soon as the carriage moved 
away the sparrows swooped down, and their joyous twitterings 
showed how they relished the food so strangely provided. For 
a moment Dr. Guthrie raised his eyes to heaven ; when he 
turned to me they were brimming with tears : " My friend," he 
said, "the good God who has just fed these sparrows will give 
thy children bread." ' 

1 Recorded in his Commonplace Book. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 59 

And accordingly, it was in humble dependence that the 
God who feedeth the sparrows would not permit His 
servants to lack their daily bread that, on the 18th of May 
1843, f° ur hundred and seventy-four ministers, for the 
sake of what they unfalteringly ' believed ' to be the prin- 
ciples of Christ's Covenanted Church, laid down their 
earthly all on the altar of conscience, and went forth to 
possess their new spiritual heritage. Ten weeks previous, 
the last hope of any redress of the ecclesiastical abuses 
had been extinguished, when the Government, in fulfil- 
ment of the intimation contained in Sir James Graham's 
reply to the Church's Claim of Right, denied the request 
preferred in Mr. Fox Maule's motion for an inquiry into 
the alleged grievances — a motion based on a petition from 
the Commission of the Church of Scotland. The Ministry, 
misinformed as we have seen by Dean of Faculty Hope 
and Dr. Cook, the Moderate leader, obstinately refused to 
believe the danger of secession to be as grave as represented, 
and declined to grant relief. This was the real signal for 
the Non-Intrusionists to gird up their loins and set their 
houses in order, for the hour of departure was at hand. 

On Sabbath, 14th May 1843, Mr. Guthrie preached what * 
was destined to be his last sermon in 'Old St. John's.' 
His text was, ' Here we' have no continuing city,' and one 
who was present on the occasion informs me it was the 
most pathetic and solemn service he had ever heard. 
Twice the preacher's voice broke through overpowering 
emotion, and the sound of weeping was heard all over the 
church. The sorrow, however, was not for themselves, but 
at the thought of leaving that Zion they had loved so well, 
in whose stones they took pleasure, and whose very dust 
to them was dear. Thoughts of flinching from the ordeal 
there were none. On the morning of the eventful 18th 
May, as, with a friend, he was quitting the door of his 
house in Lauriston Lane, Mr. Guthrie turned round for a 
moment to his wife, and said in a resolute yet cheerful 
tone to that staunch and great-souled helpmate — 'Well, 
Anne, this is the last time I go out at this door a minister 
of an Established Church.' He was right. When he re- 



6o FAMOUS SCOTS 

turned that night the Rubicon had been crossed, the great 
victory of principle over personal self-interest was won, and 
he was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland. 

The scene of the Disruption is a familiar narrative to 
every Free Churchman. I do not attempt to describe 
what Dr. Buchanan and Lord Cockburn have embalmed 
and immortalised in language so glowing and felicitous. 
To their pages I refer the reader for the description of 
the solemn scene of separation on the part of these nine- 
teenth-century Spartans ; the anguish, yet the triumph, of 
their everlasting farewell to the church of their fathers ; 
the glorious procession to Tanfield Hall between the 
closely packed lines of spectators, whose admiration was 
even too deep for cheers ; the dignity, yet the devoutness, 
of their conduct throughout — all these are household 
words, and need not be recorded here. Suffice it to say 
that Thomas Guthrie was one of the leaders of that band 
of heroes who on the 18th May 1843 laid down their 'all' 
on the altar of conscience for the sake of principle. 1 

The admiration and wonder excited by the act thrilled 
like an electric shock throughout the country. Lord 
Jeffrey was reading in his library in Moray Place, when a 
friend burst in upon him with the news, 'Over four 
hundred of them are out ! ' In an instant the great critic's 
book was thrown aside. He sprang to his feet, saying, ' I 
am proud of my country ! In not another land in the world 
would such a thing have been done.' 

1 My revered friend Mr. Mathew S. Tait, organiser, and for forty 
years first superintendent of the Ferguson Bequest Fund, is able to 
locate for me Mr. Guthrie's precise place in the procession. He 
occupied the centre place in the third row. Mr. Tait, who was then 
in the service of the Royal Bank of Scotland, had come to St. 
Andrew's Church to witness the final result of the day's proceedings. 
Just as he reached the gate, having pushed his way through the 
immense crowd gathered at the spot, he perceived the leaves of the 
inner door thrown back, and the departing ministers already appearing. 
First came the Moderator (Dr. Welsh), supported on either side by 
Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Gordon. In the second row were Dr. Candlish, 
Dr. Cunningham, and Dr. Macfarlan, and in the third Dr. Clason, 
Mr. Guthrie, and a third who, he thinks, was Dr. Begg, but on 
this point he is not certain. Mr. Tait stepped forward and shook 
Mr. Guthrie's hand, being the first to congratulate him on the step he 
had just taken. 



CHAPTER VII 

GUTHRIE THE FREE CHURCHMAN 

Great as he had been as a minister of the Establishment, 
it was as a Free Churchman that Thomas Guthrie achieved 
his most splendid triumphs and obtained his widest recog- 
nition. No sooner was he liberated from the trammels of 
the State Church system and breathed the stimulating air 
of ' The Church of Scotland — Free,' than his whole nature 
seemed to receive a fillip. ' Opportunities reveal our 
capabilities as much to ourselves as to others,' says 
Rochefoucauld, and the aphorism holds true in the case 
before us. In the new circumstances wherein he was 
placed, Mr. Guthrie's intellect grew more robust and 
vigorous as he felt himself more and more regarded as a 
moulder of popular opinion. He became increasingly 
conscious of the powers wherewith Heaven had endowed 
him, but so far from the fact rendering him self-assertive 
or supercilious, it only caused him to be more scrupulously 
conscientious as to the discharge of his duties in the 
diverse spheres his activity opened up for him. The 
eloquence of his pulpit oratory became permeated with a 
bolder yet more impressive strain of feeling, his diction 
more picturesquely figurative and ornate. He threw 
himself with heart and soul into the work of building up 
the walls of the new ecclesiastical Zion, until it came to 
pass that when a duty had to be done, and no satisfactory 
individual was available to do it, Thomas Guthrie was 
invariably appealed to as the ' saviour ' of the situation. 

Characteristic of him it was, the moment the Disruption 
was an accomplished fact, to set about the reorganisation 

61 



62 FAMOUS SCOTS 

of his own congregation as a unit in the new Free Church. 
The bread of kindness cast by him on the waters of bygone 
years now came back to him after many days. He had 
generously assisted the Wesleyans of Nicolson Square 
Chapel by preaching on more than one occasion in aid of 
their funds. The managers of that place of worship at 
this juncture came forward and unsolicitedly offered the 
use of the building to Mr. Guthrie and his people, until 
they were able to erect a church of their own. Needless 
to say the offer was thankfully accepted. To house the 
congregation which had followed their minister out of the 
Establishment a very large hall was required, and the 
Chapel, although spacious, was taxed to its utmost capacity. 
Upwards of ninety-five per cent, of the seatholders in Old 
St. John's had relinquished their connection with the 
Establishment, of his session all save two, so that the 
new church may be said to have started into existence 
almost full-fledged. The sum of ;£"6ooo was subscribed 
by the congregation for the erection of a new place of 
worship. A site was secured at the head of the West 
Bow — about fifty yards from Old St. John's, and there- 
fore still in his former territorial parish, — and on the 
1 8th April 1845 Free St. John's was opened. From the 
very outset Mr. Guthrie's congregation, though not one 
of the wealthiest, was certainly one of the largest in the 
city, its members and adherents being drawn from all 
classes in the community. Men and women celebrated 
in literature, learning, science, and the arts, distinguished 
judges and prominent lawyers, world-renowned physicians 
and warriors, landed gentry and members of the nobility, 
sat side by side with tradesmen and artisans, with Betty 

the cook and Sandy S the dustman — all hanging 

upon the 'golden speech' of this great orator, who united 
melting pathos of appeal to stern denunciation of indiffer- 
ence or irreligion. 

Before many months were over the working machinery 
of the ecclesiastical organisation of St. John's Free Church 
was so efficiently adjusted in accordance with its pastor's 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 63 

sagacious views of ' system and order in everything,' that 
he was able to be absent for weeks — nay, months — 
at a time, engaged upon the business of the ' Manse 
Fund' and other objects, and yet retain the comforting 
consciousness that his office-bearers and coadjutors were 
carrying on the work as effectively in his absence as 
in his presence. To give an idea of the far-reaching 
character of these efforts, I should like to quote the 
following paragraph from the Memoir : — 

' Besides a Congregational Sunday School held in the 
morning, there was another of three hundred children gathered 
from the poor and squalid neighbourhood around, and con- 
ducted in the evening under the superintendence of David 
Duncan, Esq. Two senior classes were likewise held beneath 
the church : one, containing one hundred young women of the 
humbler class, was taught for years by Miss Greville (now Mrs. 
Hogarth), a member of the Church of England ; the other, a 
class of from seventy to ninety working lads, who had other- 
wise been lounging on the street, was collected and conducted 
by one of the elders, Maurice Lothian, Esq., then Procurator- 
Fiscal for the county. While these were being taught down- 
stairs, the church itself was occupied by Bible-classes for the 
young men of the congregation, taught by three young lawyers 
attached to Mr. Guthrie's ministry, viz. W. G. Dickson, Esq., 
now Sheriff of Lanarkshire, Thomas Ivory, Esq., Advocate, and 
John Carment, Esq., S.S.C. 5 

The immense crowds which had attended his preaching 
in ' Old St. John's ' even increased in numbers when, as he 
was wont to say, 'he crossed the street.' So great were 
these gatherings, especially in summer when strangers 
from all parts of the world who passed through Edinburgh 
flocked to hear the Chrysostom of the Free Church, that 
regular seat-holders were being kept out of their pews. 
Accordingly the rule had to be made that strangers should 
only be admitted after the first psalm and prayer were 
over. Mr. Guthrie had now reached the maturity of his 
powers, and the result was an almost unique combination 
of acute rather than profound thought, with an intensely 
vivid glow of poetical imagination. Nature and her multi- 
form beauties, man and his mysterious moral and spiritual 
attributes, were to him as open books whence he could 



64 FAMOUS SCOTS 

draw an exhaustless fund of impressive images and apo- 
logues calculated to appeal to every range of intelligence. 
Lord Cockburn thus describes Dr. Guthrie's preaching 
in the 'forties.' 1 

'Practical and natural ; passionate without vehemence ; with 
perfect self-possession, and always generous and devoted, he 
is a very powerful preacher. His language and accent are very 
Scotch, but nothing can be less vulgar ; and his gesture (which 
seems as unthought-about as a child's) is the most graceful I 
have ever seen in any public speaker. He deals in the broad 
expository Ovidian page, and is comprehended and felt by the 
poor woman oh the steps of the pulpit as thoroughly as by the 
strangers who are attracted solely by his eloquence. Every- 
thing he does glows with a frank, gallant warm-heartedness, 
rendered more delightful by a boyish simplicity of air and 
style.' 

One other opinion I would quote, and though it bears 

the date of a few years subsequent, yet it may find a place 

here, to save referring to the matter again. The writer is 

an American visitor, the Rev. Dr. J. W. Alexander 2 of 

New York : — 

'At two p.m. I went to Free St. John's. Strangers (how 
truly I comprehend the term !) are admitted only after the 
first singing. I found myself waiting in a basement with about 
five hundred others. At length I was dragged through a 
narrow passage, and found myself in a very hot overcrowded 
house, near the pulpit. Dr. Guthrie was praying. He preached 
from Isaiah xliv. 22 — "Return unto Me, for I have redeemed 
thee." It was fifty minutes, but they passed like nothing. I 
was instantly struck by his strong likeness to Dr. John H. 
Rice. If you remember him you have perfectly the type of 
man he is ; but then it is Dr. Rice with an impetuous freedom 
of motion, a play of ductile and speaking features, and an 
overflowing unction of passion and compassion which would 
carry home even one of my sermons — conceive what it is with 
his exuberant diction and poetic imagery. The best of all is, 
it was honey from the comb, dropping, dropping in effusive 
gospel beseeching. I cannot think Whitefield surpassed him 
in this. You know when you listen to his mighty voice broken 
with sorrow, that he is overwhelmed with the "love of the 
Spirit." He has a colleague, and preaches usually in the after- 

1 Lord Cockbunvs Journal. 

2 Forty Years' Familiar Letters oj James W. Alexander, D.D. 
Constituting, with the Notes, a Memoir of his Life. — Edited by the 
surviving correspondent, Rev. John Hall, D.D. (New York, Charles 
Scribner. i860.) 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 65 

noon. As to manner, it is his own, but in general like Duff's, 
with as much motion, but more significant and less grotesque, 
though still ungraceful. His English, moreover, is not spoiled 
so much. The audience was rapt and melting. It was just 
like his book, all application, and he rose to his height in the 
first sentence. . . . Dr. Guthrie is the link between Evangelical 
religion and the aristocracy. People of all sects go. Nobility 
coming down from London and stopping here cannot pass 
without hearing him. They are willing to pay any sum for 
pews in order to secure an occasional hearing. Dr. G. called 
on me, and was very cordial.' 

But Mr. Guthrie was not, as he had fondly hoped to be, 
allowed to settle down to steady congregational work. ' I 
am glad to get rid of controversy. I wish to devote my 
days to preaching, and to the pastoral superintendence of 
my people,' he remarked in a speech delivered in the 
first Free Church Assembly, a few days after the Disrup- 
tion had occurred. Doubtless he believed that all calls 
of duty summoning him to other labours than that of 
preaching ' the unsearchable riches of Christ ' now lay in 
the past, and that henceforward he would become the 
pastor pure and simple. But for the man who of all 
others could sway vast multitudes of his fellows not alone 
by his sermons, but in almost equal measure by his 
speeches, who at one and the same time could persuade 
by his eloquence, charm by his flights of fancy, and amuse 
by the iridescent play of wit and humour, the infant 
Church had important work to do. A fortnight after ' the 
great Exodus ' he was sent as one of an important deputa- 
tion to visit the chief towns of England, to explain the 
principles of the Free Church, and to solicit help for the 
new cause. His speeches during this triumphal progress 
— for the tour was nothing short of it — were regarded 
by competent judges as being as remarkable specimens 
of persuasive popular eloquence as had ever been de- 
livered in England since the days of Whitefield. The 
well-known statesman Sir George Grey heard him speak 
on one occasion, and, after expressing his high admira- 
tion, said that Mr. Guthrie in many respects realised his 
conception of what the great French preacher Massillon 

E 



66 FAMOUS SCOTS 

must have been, and he applied to him the felicitous 
epithet, 'The Scots Massillon.' Besides successfully 
arousing interest and sympathy in the cause of the Free 
Church, the deputation received substantial proofs of the 
admiration awakened by the self-sacrificing action of its 
members, in the promises of large sums of money. The 
most gratifying result of all their efforts, however, was the 
dispelling of those mists of malicious misrepresentation 
raised by the less generous of their foes, that the ' Seces- 
sionists ' were, a horde of ignorant fanatics, and that the 
' flower ' of the National Church's learning and culture had 
remained ' in.' Mr. Guthrie preached while in London in 
Regent Square Church. Among the audience was Lord 
Campbell — one of the Lords of Appeal who had given 
his decision in the Judicial Committee of the Upper House 
very strongly against the Church. The Fife Sentinel of 
the day reports that at the conclusion of the sermon he 
said to a reverend doctor sitting beside him, ' If this be 
a fair specimen of the ministers of the Free Church, it has 
nothing to fear.' The intellectual calibre of this deputa- 
tion was of the very first order, including as it did Dr. 
Cunningham — a man of gigantic learning and great mental 
ability — and one or two other clergymen, all of notable 
reputation, all dignified, courteous gentlemen^ and, above 
all, each one of them with his soul aflame with the living 
fire of a piety as sincere as it was intense. 

This duty was for Mr. Guthrie only a preliminary 
foretaste of what was yet to be laid to his hand. The 
Free Church had scarcely been launched, when the fact 
became evident that a determined effort was to be made 
to stamp out the movement by refusing sites for churches 
and manses. Let it not be supposed that this persecution 
was to any great degree either proposed or promoted by 
the clergy of the Church of Scotland who had remained 
behind. Once the struggle was over, such men as Dr. 
Cook, Robertson of Ellon, and Norman Macleod, had 
nothing but admiration for a course they, however, con- 
sidered a mistaken one. One or two of the more bigoted 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 67 

Moderate ministers in rural districts may have counten- 
anced a policy so contrary to the Christian principles they 
professed, but in general the refusal of sites was the result 
of personal hostility on the part of heritors who, as they 
said, 'did not wish these pestilent "highfliers" to gain a 
footing in any of their parishes.' Nor was this action in 
every case the outcome of blind, unreasoning animus 
against persons or principles. No heritor was more bitter 
and unyielding — unyielding even to a point far beyond the 
border-line of cruelty, when he compelled the Canonbie 
congregation, through his interdicts, to worship a whole 
winter on the highroad — than Walter Francis Montague, 
fifth Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Privy Seal in Peel's ad- 
ministration of 1842-46. But his action was dictated by a 
sincere desire to promote the welfare of Scotland's National 
Church, and to limit, as he erroneously thought, the radius 
of Dissent. We are sometimes apt to consider that actions 
involving hardships to ourselves or others proceed from 
sheer blind animus against us, when perhaps the ' cruelty ' 
of which we complain is as much the outcome of clearly 
defined principles, as the patient endurance thereof which 
we either exhibit or admire. 

This action of the heritors, however, awakened great 
indignation in Scotland; In no breast did the feeling 
burn more intensely than in Mr. Guthrie's, and he ex- 
pressed himself with all his wonted vigour against the 
actions, but in no case against the actors. He deprecated 
personalities, and it is an interesting point to note that 
while he strongly condemned the cruelty of the deed, the 
doer is never referred to. Even over the Canonbie case, 
after he had visited the parish as one of the Assembly's 
deputies, and beheld on a cold, sleety, wintry Sabbath 
a sight which moved him even to his latest hour — the 
spectacle of upwards of five hundred of God's people 
worshipping Him under the broad vault of heaven, exposed 
to all the inclemency of that wintry day — he had no harder 
terms of reprobation to apply to the Duke of Buccleuch 
personally, than that ' I felt the deepest regret that a 



68 FAMOUS SCOTS 

nobleman so kind and generous as the Duke should have 
been led to put himself in a position, as I thought, injurious 
to his own standing in the country.' 

To many of the rural districts of Scotland where diffi- 
culties regarding sites existed, Mr. Guthrie was sent as a 
deputy to convey to the people the sympathy of the Free 
Church, with the assurance that all was being done that 
was humanly possible to compel the heritors to accede to 
the request of the Church for sites. To many a faint- 
hearted and well-nigh despairing congregation Mr. Guthrie's 
presence and stirring words brought renewed courage and 
determination to wage the struggle with the weapons of 
patient endurance, and such remedies as the legislature 
might provide. When, under the Whig Government of 
Lord John Russell, a Select Committee was appointed 
'to inquire whether, and in what parts of Scotland, and 
under what circumstances, large numbers of Her Majesty's 
subjects have been deprived of the means of religious 
worship, by the refusal of certain proprietors to grant them 
sites for the erection of Churches,' Mr. Guthrie 1 was 
selected along with Dr. Chalmers, Sheriff Graham Spiers, 
and others, to give evidence before it. The result was 
such an overwhelming testimony in support of the com- 
plaints of the Free Church congregations, that the Com- 
mittee arrived at an unanimous finding in their report. 

One by one the site-withholding heritors gave way, and 
by the year 1850 nearly all the Free Churches in Scotland 
had been built in fairly convenient positions. 

But this great question was a bifurcate one. It had 
two 'legs,' the one scarcely of less importance than the 
other. Granted that the very existence of the new Church 
demanded that with the least possible delay edifices 
should be provided wherein its members and adherents 
could worship God in accordance with its standards. No 
sooner were these provided than the other prong of the 
fork had to be considered : where are our ministers to 

1 See his evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on the 
Refusing of Sites. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 69 

be housed while they thus supply the ordinances of the 
Church to their people ? Hard as it had been to relinquish 
the parish churches, sanctified as they were to many a 
minister's heart by the recollection of past outpourings of 
God's Spirit on their work, the wrench of bidding adieu to 
the manses had been even harder. They were endeared 
to them and theirs by reminiscences of bygone family 
felicity, by the memories of dear ones now passed within 
the veil, with whose laughter and pattering footfalls the 
walls had once resounded, but whose existence was only 
marked now by some green mounds in the churchyard, 
and the silent hicjacets of the dead. 

On abandoning their comfortable manses, many country 
ministers had no other means of housing their families 
after the Disruption, save in some vacant cottage in the 
vicinity, or, conveying them to a neighbouring town, to 
rent a house out of such scanty savings as can be laid 
past out of a clergyman's stipend. Obviously, therefore, 
one of the first duties of the infant Church was to provide 
manses for its ministers in those districts wherein their 
work lay. Immediately after the secession was an accom- 
plished fact, a committee was formed 1 for inaugurating 'a 
Manse Fund.' To the honour of the Disruption ministers, 
be it said, however, that they themselves laid an arrest 
upon the work of that committee, declaring that until the 
Church's necessary machinery was all in working order, 
they would not allow their personal comfort to be con- 
sulted. Such was only one instance out of many,' charac- 
teristic of the unobtrusive heroism that ennobled many 
individuals whose lives were otherwise essentially common- 
place. 

But ere the close of the second year of the Free 
Church's existence, viz. 1844-45, her adherents had raised 
.£697.000 ; her five great missionary schemes, with her Sus- 
tentation Fund, her College and School Building Funds, 
had all been organised and liberally responded to. The 
splendid generosity and self-sacrifice of her people, from 
1 Memoir, vol. ii. p. 86. 



7o FAMOUS SCOTS 

the peer to the peasant, had presented an object-lesson 
in 'sanctified giving' to the civilised world which had 
filled it with amazement. One scheme only remained to 
be undertaken, but it was of such cardinal importance as 
to involve within itself much of the future welfare of the 
Church. There was more than appeared at first glance in 
the remark made by Dr. Candlish, that the ' Manse Fund ' 
was the ribs, if the Sustentation Fund was the backbone, 
of the Free Church's temporal wellbeing. But who would 
undertake such a task as to solicit one hundred thousand 
pounds from a field of Christian benevolence which, in 
less than twenty-four months, had yielded such a harvest 
to the various reapers and gleaners that had gone forth as 
six hundred and ninety-seven thousand pounds ? 

For the Assembly to send any other delegate than its 
most effective pleader upon such a mission, at such a time, 
and over a field traversed by so many previous gleaners, 
would be to court failure. Who therefore was fitted for 
a task so difficult? Chalmers, the mighty Nestor and 
Demosthenes in one of the Church, was now too old for 
the wear and tear of such a campaign. To neither 
Candlish nor Cunningham did the special faculty belong 
which constitutes the persuasive 'clerical beggar,' to use 
Dr. Guthrie's own phrase. There was only one man who 
at the moment possessed the rare combination of an 
eloquent tongue, high enthusiasm, an inexhaustible fund 
of humour, profound knowledge of human nature, business 
capacity, unfailing patience and ready tact in seizing the 
most suitable times and seasons wherein to make appeals 
for help. That man was Thomas Guthrie, and it was 
due to the keen insight into character peculiar to Dr. 
Chalmers that the eyes of the Free Church leaders were 
directed towards him. To have sought such a mission 
would have been the last thing he would have done ; to 
refuse it when laid upon him as a sacred duty would have 
been equally foreign to his nature. Yet he entered on the 
work with no slight misgivings. To ask ^100,000 from 
people who had already subscribed so liberally seemed 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 71 

even to him to strain liberality to the breaking-point. 
Were not the demands of the Free Church beginning to 
savour a little of the spirit of 'the daughters of the horse- 
leech,' whose constant cry was ' Give, give.' Such might 
have been the ideas, had the nature of the people been 
less noble, the objects for which the money was solicited 
less necessary. But Mr. Guthrie knew his countrymen, 
and as he often said in after-days, ' he never had a 
moment's doubt of the result after the first day.' 

Thus in May 1845 Mr. Guthrie began that great under- 
taking which was to complete the external framework of 
the Free Church — the Manse Fund. His efforts on behalf 
of it were gigantic, his success phenomenal. His appeal 
to the constituency whence he hoped to draw the funds 
was characteristically humorous : — 

1 By building manses you will complete our ecclesiastical 
machinery, and give the Free Church a permanence in the 
country which it would not otherwise possess. Some one, 
a foe to our Church, said to a friend of mine in Glasgow : 
" Well, we had some hope you would all go to pieces and be 
driven out to sea after the Disruption. When we saw you 
build churches we had less hope ; when we saw you build 
schools we had less still ; but when you have built your 
manses, you will have dropped your anchor and there will be 
no driving you out." I would much rather have stayed at 
home with my own flock and my own family. I have had 
enough of speaking and travelling and fighting, and I am tired 
of it. Were it not that I have reason to believe I am the last 
"big beggar-man" you will ever see, and were it not that the 
cause has all my sympathy and deepest interest, I would not 
have undertaken it.' 

His sympathy ! Ah, there was the secret of his mar- 
vellous success as a special pleader in the cause of the 
Manse Fund. From the very inmost depths of his great, 
big, tenderly sympathetic heart, every word of every appeal 
he uttered came welling forth. None better than he 
knew the martyr-like sufferings through which many of 
the Free Church ministers passed in the years immediately 
subsequent to the Disruption. ' Gentlemen ' of cultured 
instincts and refined sensibilities, delicate ladies, and 



72 FAMOUS SCOTS 

tender children, were compelled to crowd together into 
some humble cottage in the parish, where that minister 
once had been surrounded with every comfort. Laborious 
students, whose days and whose nights had been spent in 
their libraries, were often compelled, for lack of space, 
to make the hillside their study, the grove their oratory. 
The sights Mr. Guthrie witnessed while itinerating through 
the country from Shetland to Solway, pleading the cause 
of the Manse Fund, made an impression upon him time 
could never efface. His feelings were harrowed with the 
scenes of suffering he could not relieve. But, at the same 
time, his warmest admiration was awakened by the mute 
patience that heroically endured anguish untold for con- 
science' sake — anguish whereof the physical privations 
were held of less account, as compared with the aban- 
donment of homes whose every room was eloquent with 
memories of the dear and of the dead. 

Those who heard Mr. Guthrie at the outset of his 
mission, and again at its close, stated with some degree 
of surprise that, if eloquent at the start of his ' pilgrimag- 
ings,' he was well-nigh overpowering towards their finish. 
No need for wonderment at the reason. He had looked 
upon such sufferings among his country brethren as wrung 
his very heart, and made the comfort of his town home 
almost unbearable to him. He had seen the saints of God 
who, for Christ's Crown and Covenant, had sacrificed on 
the altar of conscience all that the world holds essential to 
the sweetening of life, dauntlessly standing at the post of 
duty, while in several instances they realised that their 
renunciation of the comforts of home to face privation, 
cold, out-of-doors services ' in winter, insufficient meals, 
and the thousand-and-one hardships that befell the rural 
ministers in the Disruption year, entailed their death- 
sentence as surely as though signed and sealed under 
judicial warrant. 1 The silent heroism of these men 
thrilled him with admiration, but also with an infinite 

1 This was literally true in the cases of Mr. Baird of Cockburnspalh, 
of the two M'Kenzies of Tongue, and of at least four others. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 73 

sense of compassion. Often when weary, exhausted, and 
suffering from the first premonitory symptoms of that 
disease which all too soon was to render mute the eloquent 
voice — nay, when others would urge on him the advisability 
of rest for a few days — he would shake his head and 
reply: 'The Manse Fund cannot be delayed. The re- 
membrance of those suffering saints banishes sleep from 
my eyes o' nights.' 

The sum aimed at had been ^100,000 — one-half to be 
available at once as a Central Fund to meet pressing 
present needs, and the remainder to be called up gradually 
as required. The number of manses required was seven 
hundred. Each congregation was to receive from the 
Fund a grant of ^200, on the understanding that it 
raised the remainder of the cost locally, or at least by 
its own exertions. The Highland ministers were to have 
their wants supplied first, save such exceptions as were 
of unusual hardship elsewhere; secondly, the Lowland 
country parishes were to be attended to ; third, ministers 
in the smaller towns ; and lastly, ministers in the large 
towns and cities. Such was the scheme formulated by 
Messrs. Paul and Meldrum, the conveners of the Manse 
Fund. 

No light responsibility, therefore, rested on Mr. Guthrie. 
Though he had a few misgivings at the outset, they did 
not last, as I have said, beyond the opening day of his 
campaign. Let us permit him to speak for himself: — 

' I have spent,' he said, when addressing a huge' meeting 
in the City Hall, Glasgow, ' three of the happiest days I ever 
spent in my life in this city. I have gone from house to house 
and from counting-room to counting-room, and I have found 
no cold looks, but genuine kindness. I have been often told, 
" O Mr. Guthrie, there is no use making a speech, we are 
quite prepared for you, sir : where is your book?" ' 

He had considered, and his brethren among the leaders 
of the Church had shared his view, that if he secured 
^1500 as the result of his first day's work, it would 
form a good augury for the future that the sum aimed 



74 FAMOUS SCOTS 

at would be realised. But when the result of his first 
appeal to any individual produced ^1500, and when the 
sum-total of that first day's efforts came nearer .£5000 
than ^4000, Mr. Guthrie, feeling all doubts disappearing 
like morning mists before the sun, determined to aim at 
^100,000 as the amount of the original or Central Fund. 
No one will ever know the hardships this devoted servant 
of God went through when pleading the cause of the 
Manse Fund. But when all was over, when he was able 
to announce in the General Assembly of 1846, amid a 
deafening storm of applause, that even his second mini- 
mum had been far surpassed, and that the grand total of 
subscriptions to the Manse Fund collected by his year's 
work amounted to ;£i 16,370, his reward came to. him 
not in those cheers and applause, pleasant though they 
were, but in the silent pressure of his hand, in the words 
of thanks spoken in tones broken with emotion, in the 
grateful gaze of eyes brimming with tears of joy from 
brethren, whose future comfort he had secured beyond 
all possible doubt. The Manse Fund was the greatest 
of Mr. Guthrie's many great services to the Free Church. 
It is his memorial, his monument, aere perennius, whereby 
he shall be imperishably commemorated while the Free 
Church preserves her corporate existence. After such 
labours, well might he say, ' I have now only one request 
to make of the Church, and that is — that they would let 
me alone.' 

But during those years, 1843-46, when his hands were 
so full of ecclesiastical work, he never neglected his duties 
as . a husband, a father, and a good citizen. As much 
time as he could spare he spent in the bosom of his 
family — no father fonder than he of his children, no 
parent more beloved in turn by those for whose welfare, 
in both a spiritual and a temporal sense, he was so 
solicitous. ' The Guthries' was the happiest home I was 
ever in,' said a lady now a missionary in the East, 'and 
the Doctor [Guthrie] was the merriest of them all.' His 
religion was as sunny as it was sanctifying. He had no 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 75 

sympathy with that grim creed which condemns innocent 
gaiety as wanton levity, and regards ' a grave deportment ' 
as the cardinal evidence of a Christian character. Sancti- 
fied happiness and harmless amusements, he maintained, 
have their rightful niche in the Christian economy. 1 In 
their place and season they are to be encouraged rather 
than repressed. This was Mr. Guthrie's carefully formed 
opinion, and he accounted that day shorn of some of 
its brightest moments in which he was not able to spend 
some time in sharing the innocent pleasures of his sons 
and daughters. ' Show me his family and I shall tell 
you what kind of father he is,' says Firdausi the Persian, 
and the passionate devotion wherewith his children even 
to this day cherish the memory of him who is gone, is 
proof sufficient that Thomas Guthrie was one ' of noblest 
virtues full compact.' 

1 See his admirable booklet on Popular Innocent Entertainments, 
published under the auspices of the Scottish Temperance League. 



CHAPTER VIII 

ARABS — BEDOUIN AND CITY 

Accidental circumstances are often the seedlings whence 
spring the stately trees of beneficent institutions. To such 
an origin the scheme still known amongst us as-' Dr. 
Guthrie's Original Ragged Schools' was due. 

'Strolling one day' (probably in 1845 or 1846) 'with a friend 
among the romantic scenery of the crags and green valleys 
around Arthur Seat' (says the subject of our sketch), ' we came 
at length to St. Anthony's Well, and sat down on the great 
black stone beside it to have a talk with the ragged boys who 
pursue their calling there. Their "tinnies" were ready with 
a draught of the clear cold water in hope of a halfpenny. By 
way of introduction we began to question them about schools. 
As to the boys themselves, one was fatherless, the son of a 
poor widow ; the father of the other was alive, but a man of 
low habits and bad character. Both were poorly clothed. 
The one had never been at school ; the other had sometimes 
attended a Sabbath-school. By way of experiment I said, 
" Would you go to school if, besides your learning, you were 
to get breakfast, dinner, and supper there?" It would have 
done any man's heart good to have seen the flash of joy that 
broke from the eyes of one of them, the flush of pleasure on 
his cheek as — hearing of three sure meals a day — the boy 
leapt to his feet and exclaimed, "Ay will I, sir, and bring the 
haill land 1 too" ; and then, as if afraid I might withdraw what 
seemed to him so large and munificent an offer, he exclaimed, 
" I '11 come for but my denner, sir ! " ' 

This may be regarded as the first step towards the 
origination of a movement, the benefits accruing from 
which have been simply incalculable. But although Mr. 
Guthrie was the eloquent apostle of the Ragged School 

1 haill land : the whole tenement. 
76 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 77 

System, although he formulated many improvements on 
the original design, with characteristic honesty he was 
always careful to disclaim the credit of being the founder 
of the scheme. As is well known, that belongs to the 
Portsmouth cobbler, John Pounds, as far as England is 
concerned, and in Scotland to Sheriff Watson of Aberdeen. 
These two men, independently of each other — nay, un- 
known to each other — had been wrestling with the problem 
aptly stated by Charles Dickens 1 as 'an effort to introduce 
among the most miserable and neglected outcasts some 
knowledge of the commonest principles of morality and 
religion ; to commence their recognition as immortal 
human creatures before the gaol-chaplain becomes their 
only schoolmaster; to suggest to society that its duty to 
this wretched throng, foredoomed to crime and punish- 
ment, rightfully begins at some distance from the police 
office. ' As appeared from the conversation he held with 
the boys at St. Anthony's Well, Mr. Guthrie's conception 
of a 'ragged school' was one where, along with education, 
both sacred and secular, food, clothing, and industrial 
training should be gratuitously supplied. This was a 
development of the idea entertained by John Pounds 
and Sheriff Watson, whose scheme, however, contemplated 
the supply only of food as the incentive to learning. 
The former ' was sometimes seen hunting down a ragged 
urchin on the quays of Portsmouth and compelling him 
to come to school, not by the power of a policeman, but of 
a — potato I He knew the love of an Irishman for a potato, 
and might have been seen running alongside an unwilling 
boy with one held under his nose, with a temper as hot 
and a coat as ragged as his own.' But Mr. Guthrie not 
only proposed to save the children of the City Arab class 
from the contamination and misery of their surroundings 
for so many hours a day — to save them, moreover, from 
drifting towards their inevitable goal, the jail — through 
association with criminal companions; he aimed also at 
teaching them some kind of trade along with their educa- 

1 Letter to Daily News, 1846. 



78 FAMOUS SCOTS 

tion, so that they might be able to earn their own living, 
and not be compelled to prey on society. 

The City Arab presents many features of analogy with 
his prototype, the Bedouin of the desert. Of these none 
is more striking than his dislike of restraint. Great tact 
and skill are essential in dealing with him, lest you scare 
where you hoped to secure. In such a quest Mr. Guthrie 
was not averse, like Pounds, to displaying the wisdom of 
the serpent as well as the gentleness of the dove in order 
to lay hold of promising subjects. But I am anticipating. 

The fact is noteworthy that Mr. Guthrie's first efforts to 
follow in the footsteps of Pounds and Watson ended in 
failure and disappointment. He invited his own office- 
bearers to embark on the scheme, but they dreaded the 
responsibility and declined. The disappointment, how- 
ever, was a blessing in disguise. Had his first attempt 
been a success, the Ragged Schools movement might have 
been merely a sectarian, perhaps only a congregational, 
scheme in place of the wide-spread, catholic organisation 
that claimed support from all creeds and classes. 

From his congregation he appealed to the general public. 
His celebrated first Plea for Ragged Schools 1 was the re- 
sult of this disappointment. He published it in February 
1847 with fear and trembling, as he stated in a letter to a 
friend, inasmuch as he was entirely without experience in 
literary work. ' I remember,' he says, ' of returning home 
after committing the MS. to the printer, and thinking, 
" Well, what a fool I have made of myself !" ' He was not 
long in being undeceived. No sooner was the ' Plea ' 
published than its eloquence and its sincerity, its utter 
lack of any claptrap or rhetorical self-glorification, its 
simple statement of mournfully patent facts, and its sugges- 
tion of a remedy that seemed at once feasible and adequate, 
caused it to strike a responsive note in many sympathetic 
hearts. The very enthusiasm — of which in his humility he 

1 Seedtime, and Harvest of Ragged Schools, by Thomas Guthrie, D. D. 
(the three Pleas bound in one volume). Edinburgh : A. and C. Black. 
i860. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 79 

had felt half ashamed — and the unstudied character of its 
appeals constituted its charm. Before a fortnight had 
elapsed letters of thanks, of sympathy, of admiration, and 
others enclosing substantial pecuniary help, poured in 
upon him from all quarters of the compass, as well as 
from all classes in the community. His doubts dis- 
appeared; the opening battle of the Edinburgh Ragged 
Schools was won. 

I may state here that in addition to delivering many 
speeches and lectures, to giving evidence before a Parlia- 
mentary Commission, and to 'interviewing' Cabinet 
Ministers and statesmen innumerable on the theme so 
near his heart, Dr. Guthrie published 'three' masterly 
1 Pleas ' explanatory of the principles on which the 
' Original Ragged Schools ' were conducted, and in favour 
of them being extended to all the great cities in the 
kingdom. The three booklets in the triune volume Seed- 
time and Harvest constitute a magazine of facts and figures 
indispensable to all interested in the work of the reclama- 
tion of our juvenile city waifs. In these ' Pleas ' Guthrie 
the philanthropist is seen at his best. Apart from their 
extrinsic value in the accuracy of the statistics he furnishes 
— information of importance to the social reformer and 
the criminologist 1 — the 'Pleas' possess an intrinsic value 
in their literary merits, in the charm of their graceful 
English style and vivid imagery, and, finally, in the ' life- 
likeness ' of the scenes described. In these he appears as 
a great literary genre painter. At times his pictures seem 
steeped in a Salvator Rosa gloom of sorrow, sin, and 
suffering when depicting the sights and haunts of that 
poverty and vice whence the children were drawn ; anon 
suffused with the tenderest tints of love and of sympathetic 
joy, when portraying the happiness of lives dragged 
from the maelstrom of crime to be consecrated to useful 
ends. 

1 Professor Lombroso of Turin, the author of many standard works 
on criminology, Dr. Antonio Marro, and Dr. Cone have all spoken in 
high terms of Dr. Guthrie's • methods ' in endeavouring to create what 
they term a new • atmosphere ' for the children of criminal parents. 



80 FAMOUS SCOTS 

The first ' Plea,' as I have stated, appeared on February 
20, 1847, the second on 10th January 1849, the third on 
25th April i860. The ground was no sooner broken 
than a favourable review of the first ' Plea ' appeared in 
the Witness from the pen of Hugh Miller, followed a day 
or two after by a leading article, wherein the work of Dr. 
Chalmers with his ' territorial scheme '. and of Dr. Guthrie 
with the Ragged Schools was compared and discriminatingly 
eulogised. To Hugh Miller a project such as this now 
formulated by his pastor warmly commended itself, and to 
the hour of his lamented death the editor of the Witness 
was the staunchest of advocates in favour of the new 
system. 1 The immediate outcome of ' Plea No. 1 ' was a 
preliminary meeting of those interested in the movement, 
held on March 24th, under the auspices and patronage 
of the Lord Provost, Mr. Adam Black. At that meeting 
Mr. Guthrie gave an outline of the tentative framework of 
the scheme, as the matter presented itself to his mind, 
adding with a humility as rare as it was graceful, ' My 
friends and I who originally moved in this matter are 
desirous to be lost sight of, and to be merged in a general 
committee containing a full and fair representation of all 
classes in the community.' A general committee was 
thereupon nominated by the Lord Provost, who, at Mr. 
Guthrie's request, took care to place upon it representa- 
tives of all classes of the community, of all creeds present 
at the meeting, and of all shades of politics. 2 By this 
committee a constitution and code of rules for the 
association was prepared and laid before a great public 
meeting in the Music Hall on 10th April. At this gather- 
ing, after an eloquent appeal from Mr. Guthrie, the con- 
stitution of the new organisation was approved, and the 
society thereupon took shape. 

1 In his review of the 'Plea' {Witness, Feb. 20), he styles it 'a 
singularly interesting pamphlet in which we promise a treat of no 
everyday kind to every admirer of graphic pictures, lively illustrations, 
vigorous sense, and unsophisticated feeling.' 

2 No Roman Catholics attended the meeting, and therefore none 
Were included on the committee. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 81 

Meanwhile letters laudatory to himself and eulogistic of 
his project poured in upon him from many of the leading 
men of the day. Scarce a journal in the country but 
reviewed the ' Plea ' and praised its aims, even the Edin- 
burgh Review devoting one of its articles to a warm 
appreciation of the beneficent motives underlying the 
plan. 

Francis Jeffrey, Lord John Russell, W. E. Gladstone, 
John Stuart Mill, and others also acknowledged copies of 
the pamphlet, and in many cases sent subscriptions to- 
wards the funds of the Association. Space debars me 
dwelling longer on the circumstances of the inception of 
this great scheme. Suffice it to say that premises were 
secured on the Castlehill, children were induced to 
attend, and success seemed certain when, within ten 
weeks of the commencement of the undertaking, a differ- 
ence of opinion arose, based on those sectarian cleavages 
which have been Scotland's curse for the past two hundred 
years. 

The controversy turned on the meaning attached to 
certain words in the Constitution and Rules of the Asso- 
ciation. These read as follows : — 



' It is the object of this Association to reclaim the neglected 
or profligate children of Edinburgh by affording them the 
benefits of a good, common, and Christian education, and by 
training them to habits of regular industry so as to enable 
them to earn an honest livelihood, and fit them for the duties 
of life. The general plan on which the schools shall be con- 
ducted shall be as follows : — 

' To give the children an allowance of food for their daily 

support. 
'To instruct them in reading, writing, and arithmetic. 
'To train them in habits of industry, by instructing and 

employing them daily in such sorts of work as are suited 

to their years. 
' To teach them the truths of the Gospel, making the Holy 

Scriptures the groundwork ofinstructio7i? 

The cause of this contention arose out of the last 
1 regulation.' One of those hornets of society, an anony- 

F 



82 FAMOUS SCOTS 

mous writer in one of the Edinburgh newspapers, stated 
with the utmost assurance that Roman Catholics were 
excluded from the school. That charge being proved 
false by the logic of facts, the ground was changed and 
the assertion made that the original scope of the consti- 
tution of the society was being covertly changed and the 
school so conducted with regard to religious instruction, as 
virtually to exclude Roman Catholic children. Notwith- 
standing the indignant disclaimer by Mr. Guthrie and the 
acting committee of such action or intention, the fact 
became evident that a serious difference of opinion existed 
among the committee, as to whether the Bible should be 
read in the schools, or the education be limited entirely 
to secular subjects. The controversy, which had already 
agitated Aberdeen and Dundee, was now broached in 
Edinburgh. The majority of the committee agreed with 
Mr. Guthrie that the Bible should be read in the Ragged 
Schools ; otherwise, if religious instruction were to be 
relegated wholly to the home sphere, these unfortunate 
waifs, whose only home was a hell on earth, would re- 
ceive none. 1 An influential minority, however, numbering 
amongst them Lords Dunfermline and Murray, Professor 
Gregory, and others, and assuming the title ' Liberal 
Protestants,' took the opposite view, that religious instruc- 
tion should be given separately by Protestant and Catholic 
clergy or teachers, to children whose parents professed 
these distinctive creeds. 

On July 2, 1847, another great public meeting sum- 
moned by the Lord Provost was held, at which the advo- 
cates of the opposing views severally stated their opinions. 
The speech of Mr. Guthrie was not only beyond question 
the ablest of the day, but was one of the finest he ever 
delivered. The occasion, and all that was contingent 
upon his successful vindication of his case, seemed to 
inspire him. Wit, humour, sarcasm, cogent reasoning, 

1 Let it be remembered that at this time Sabbath-schools were very 
rare, and as far as the poorer districts of Edinburgh were concerned, 
were unknown. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 83 

melting pathos, and persuasive eloquence, were all present 
in it. Even Lord Murray, his opponent, characterised it 
as 'a marvel of splendid oratory.' 

But all his efforts were fruitless. Secession was in- 
evitable. Accordingly, the supporters of the ' secular ' 
view ' hived off,' and established another school called 
the ' United Industrial,' conducted on the principle of 
joint secular and separate religious instruction. Though 
the loss of the influential friends who thus withdrew was 
to be deplored, the matter did not in the least injure the 
1 Original Ragged Schools.' The controversy had tended 
to diffuse a knowledge of its principles and aims among 
classes of society to which its appeals might not have 
penetrated. As a consequence, money and supplies of 
all kinds poured in, until Mr. Guthrie jocularly remarked, 
1 Our weakening was our strengthening ; one or two more 
discussions and we might begin to lay by money for a 
rainy day.' Nothing seemed to depress or diminish his 
energy, while his versatility was just as wonderful as his 
vitality. 

At this time, when one would imagine all his powers 
concentrated on the development of his Ragged School 
scheme, he could nevertheless turn from it to assist his 
brethren, by preaching .at the opening of their new 
churches, when the mere fact of his presence was certain 
to attract larger crowds than otherwise would have 
assembled ; also to plead the cause of the Wesleyan 
Missions, to protest against any relaxation of Sabbath 
Observance, to take his share in Presbytery, Synod, and 
Commission of Assembly work, and yet to maintain at its 
high standard the quality of his Sabbath discourses, as 
well as to fulfil all other necessary pastoral duties. To 
discharge these functions with the ability, assiduity, and 
popular acceptance ever attending his efforts, showed a 
rare power of mental concentration, coupled with a most 
versatile adaptability to circumstances. 

To detail the whole of Mr. Guthrie's work in the cause 
of Ragged Schools would require all the available space 



84 FAMOUS SCOTS 

in this volume. He was the philanthropist born, not 
made. To the day of his death, this movement, next to 
the high and holy duties of his ministerial office, 
held prime place in his heart. 1 Among the very last 
speeches he made was one in 1S71 on behalf of these 
' Schools,' in which, moreover, he intimated his unfaltering 
adherence to the principle of the Bible as an element in 
the instruction supplied ; or, as he put it, ' The Bible, the 
whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible — the Bible without 
note or comment, without the authoritative interpretation 
of priest or presbyter — as the foundation of all its religious 
teaching, and of its religious teaching to all.' By the end 
of 1847, three Schools had been established in Edinburgh 
under the auspices of the ' Original Ragged Schools 
Association,' with a total attendance of two hundred 
and sixty-five children. In 1849, i n n * s second 'Plea,' 
he implored fresh assistance, as the work was increasing 
so enormously that the existing Ragged Schools were 
inadequate to overtake the juvenile destitution in Edin- 
burgh. He appealed to the statistics furnished in each 
annual report to bear testimony to the success achieved ; 
while in the fifth report, that for 185 1, he joyfully records 
the fact that two hundred and sixteen children trained 
in his 'Schools,' were then known to be earning their 
living by honest industry. 2 From Governor Smith, also, 
of the Edinburgh Prison, one of his warmest admirers 
and staunchest supporters, he received this additional 
proof of the beneficial influence of the system, that 
whereas in 1847 more than five per cent, of the total 
number of prisoners in Calton Jail were under fourteen 
years of age, viz. 315 out of 5734, in 1851 the proportion 
had fallen to less tha?i one per cent., viz. 56 out of 5869. 
' From careful observation of the operation of the Ragged 
Industrial Schools,' wrote Mr. Smith, 'I can have no 

1 On his deathbed he tenderly and touchingly commended the 
Ragged Schools to the interest and care of his family. Nobly have 
they fulfilled their trust. 

2 Seethe annual reports of the Schools for full details of the progress 
made. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 85 

doubt they have been the principal instruments in effect- 
ing so desirable a change.' Cheering evidence this to 
the noble-hearted founder that his labours were being 
followed by results so unmistakable. 

So marked a success fully warranted an appeal to 
Government to obtain the insertion of a clause into 
the Minutes of Council on Education embracing the 
Ragged Schools, in order that they might receive aid out 
of the public funds. The institutions were conferring 
great benefit on the community ; why then should not 
the radius of their beneficent influence be extended by 
Government supplementing what private endeavour had 
commenced ? The directors of the Edinburgh Original 
Ragged Schools, therefore, decided to send an influential 
deputation to London to interview Lord Lansdowne, 
President of the Privy Council. Upon this deputation 
the leading place was, of course, assigned to Dr. Guthrie. 
His name was well known in London, and his great 
services, both as a Free Churchman and philanthropist, 
appraised at their true value. 

The welcome he received, accordingly, was most en- 
thusiastic. Immense crowds flocked to hear him preach 
or address meetings, even on a week-day. ' What 's 
wrong ? Is there a house on fire down that street, or is the 
Queen in town ? ' said one Londoner to another, when he 
saw dense masses of people completely blocking one of 
the metropolitan thoroughfares. ' Oh no, it 's Ragged 
Schools Guthrie addressing a meeting, and all London 
is on the trot to hear him.' 1 The remark was no more 
than truth. From royalty to the ' roughs ' for whom he 
was labouring, peers, members of parliament, merchant- 
princes — in a word, the rank, wealth, beauty and fashion, 
as well as the elite of its intellectual and spiritual life — all 
flocked to hear him, and hearing, were captivated. Not 
even Lord Lansdowne escaped the fascination. His 
lordship received the deputation in his official capacity, 
and was visibly impressed by the eloquence and earnest- 
1 A paragraph from a London weekly. 



86 FAMOUS SCOTS 

ness of the speaker, as well as by the facts adduced : — 
1 One of my friends told me afterwards,' says Dr. Guthrie, 
' that I was sitting on a chair three times the breadth of 
the table away from him when I began to address him, 
but that as I got on, I edged nearer and nearer, till at 
last I was clapping him on the 'knee. I gave it to his 
lordship in a speech nearly an hour long, at which he 
seemed lost in astonishment.' 

No wonder he was so, when informed, on the most 
irresistible statistical authority, that each criminal costs 
the country on an average ^300, that before reaching the 
age when crime has become habitual, the Ragged Schools 
take one of these boys off the streets, and place him 
in an institution, clothe, feed, train, and educate him, 
then hand him back to society a useful and valuable 
member of the community, while the whole cost of doing 
so is only £25. If, on the other hand, he is left to 
pursue his evil courses, the State does not finish with 
that boy, either by hanging or by penal confinement, under 
^£300. Lord Lansdowne could not fail to perceive on 
which side the advantage lay, and I may add that what 
was true in 1850-51 is even more so to-day. The upshot 
of the interview with the President of the Privy Council 
was that Dr. Guthrie was asked by Lord Lansdowne to 
place his statements in ' black and white ' and to forward 
them to his lordship. Thus took shape the famous 
Memorial^ printed and despatched to the Government 
in 1851. 

Largely as a result of the spirited efforts of Dr. Guthrie 
in this direction, a Committee of the House of Commons 
was appointed in 1852 to inquire into 'the condition of 
criminal and destitute juveniles in this country, and what 
changes are desirable in their present treatment in order 
to supply industrial training and to combine reforma- 
tion with the due correction of juvenile crime.' Before 
this Parliamentary Committee Dr. Guthrie was requested 
to give evidence, and gladly complied in February 1853. 
His examination was a lengthy and a searching one, but 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 87 

the amount of information elicited from him surprised 
the members. 1 

On every phase of the question they chose to examine 
him, he was able to adduce facts previously unknown to 
them, and to substantiate them by reliable statistics. 
The upshot of all, to Dr. Guthrie's great delight, was that 
the Parliamentary Committee reported (a) that reforma- 
tories, instituted and supported entirely at the public 
expense, ought to be established ; and (0) that the exist- 
ing Ragged Industrial or preventive schools ought to 
participate in the benefits of the national grant, under the 
administration of the Committee of Council for Education. 
This was encouragement and reward for Dr. Guthrie's 
long years of persevering, self-denying effort. He and 
his friends, basing their claims on the Committee's report, 
vigorously pressed their case on the attention of the 
Government. Owing in large measure to the statistics Dr. 
Guthrie was ceaselessly collecting and forwarding to Lord 
Lansdowne, Parliament at length was induced to move. 
Two Acts were passed : the first, known as ' Lord 
Palmerston's Act,' applicable to criminal children; the 
second, introduced by Mr. Dunlop (Dr. Guthrie's friend) 
and known as ' Dunlop's Act,' dealing with vagrant 
children. Together they fulfilled, in large measure at least, 
what was considered necessary by Dr. Guthrie, to give 
magistrates 'powers of commitment,' whereby promising 
cases might be sent to the Schools even in the face of 
parental opposition, when such parents or guardians 
were found unfit to be intrusted with the care' of these 
children. The pecuniary aid so earnestly desired was 
also afforded. By a Minute of Privy Council, dated June 
1856, a capitation allowance of fifty shillings per annum 
was granted for every child in the certified Industrial 
Schools, whether committed by a magistrate or not ! 

Dr. Guthrie's satisfaction was now complete. His 
great scheme was being slowly but surely realised. Mean- 
time he was unwearied in pressing its claims upon the 
1 Vide Official Report of the evidence taken before the Commission. 



88 FAMOUS SCOTS 

attention of all classes in the community. At no small 
expenditure of time and energy, in days when travelling 
was not attended with the comforts and conveniences of 
these latter years, he visited all the large towns in England 
and Wales, as well as in his native country, establishing 
new Ragged Schools, as well as extending the sphere 
of operation of the old; and whithersoever he went, 
meeting enthusiastic receptions, as the great philan- 
thropist who, in the words of an optimistic admirer in the 
Witness, 'bids fair to banish crime from our land by 
the simple expedient of training destitute juveniles to 
earn their own living.' Far and wide his name was 
carried on the wings of countless grateful blessings, until 
' Ragged Schools Guthrie,' as he was styled by the Daily 
Neius after his great lecture in 1855 in Exeter Hall, 
London — a lecture characterised as 'the high-water mark 
of his powerful and pathetic oratory ' — became a familiar 
name all over Europe. 

Nothing daunted his courage, no reverse dimmed his 
cheery faith that ' Our Father doeth all things well.' The 
disappointment was great when, after one year's trial, the 
Privy Council Minute was recalled, and in the new one 
issued in December 1857, the capitation grant was 
reduced from 50s. to 5s. ; but it only nerved him to greater 
exertions. 1 Up to London he went, stirring up popular 
interest in the cause through his eloquence, interviewing 
Ministers and influential statesmen, and finally bombard- 
ing the Government position of non possumus with the 
1 Third ' and greatest of his ' Pleas for Ragged Schools.' 
Wisely he decided to issue all three appeals in one volume 
under the heading, Seedtime and Harvest of Ragged Schools, 
and it was when reviewing the little volume in the issue 
of September 28, i860, that the Times paid the following 
tribute to him : — 

' Dr. Guthrie is the greatest of our pulpit orators, and those 
who have never heard him will probably obtain a better idea 

1 See article in the Times on this sudden change of policy in 
December 1857. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 89 

of his wonderful eloquence from his work on Ragged Schools 
than from his published sermons. . . . They [the Pleas] are 
the most finished of his compositions, and are well worthy of 
his fame. It is impossible to read them unmoved. . . . We 
are inclined almost to rank him as the greatest living master 
of the pathetic' 

But all his efforts could not induce that incarnation of 
the Utilitarian, the Right Hon. Robert Lowe, to unloose 
the national purse-strings. In 1861, the Industrial Schools 
Act became law, whereby even the reduced capitation 
grant of five shillings was lopped off, and only those 
children in the Industrial Ragged Schools that had been 
committed by a magistrate were to receive any grant. 
Although the grant in question was greatly raised, Dr. 
Guthrie's Schools would benefit by it only to a very small 
extent, inasmuch as the proportion of ' committed ' to 
1 uncommitted ' children was exceedingly small. 1 

To many a philanthropist such a blow to his hopes 
would have been staggering. Not so Dr. Guthrie ! The 
moment he realised that further knocking at the Govern- 
mental door was useless, he wheeled round and appealed 
to the general public. At the Social Science Congress 
held in Glasgow under the presidency of Lord Brougham, 
Dr. Guthrie delivered an address in the ' Punishment and 
Reformation Section,' which elicited warm encomiums from 
the aged President. The effects of it were visible a month 
or two afterwards, when a public meeting was called in 
Edinburgh ' to consider what steps should be taken to 
meet the serious deficit of ^700 in the funds for the year 
of the Original Ragged School, caused by the withdrawal 
of the Government Grant for non-committed children.' 
At this meeting Dr. Norman Macleod made one of his 
lofty Christian appeals to the charity of the- community 
not to allow the Schools to perish. He was followed by 
Dr. Guthrie; and both of these noble orators, each peerless 
in his own specific type of eloquence, produced a profound 

1 From the Privy Council Report for 1861, we observe that in the 
year in question 6172 children were in attendance at the Ragged 
Schools in Britain, of which only 242 had been committed by magis- 
trates. 



9 o FAMOUS SCOTS 

impression on the Edinburgh public. Their united efforts 
were irresistible. In place of ,£700 as requested, that 
public meeting realised ^2200. We next find him in 
1 86 1 attending a conference of the friends of Ragged 
Schools, held at Birmingham under the presidency of Sir 
John Pakington. 1 On that occasion he made another telling 
speech when moving the second resolution, which deplored 
the fact that, while destitute children formed so large a class 
in the community, no educational aid in any equitable or 
adequate proportion is given for their education from 
Parliamentary grants. 2 

For five years more he fought on with heroic persistency. 
At length, largely owing to his efforts, in 1866 a new 
' Industrial Schools Act ' was passed, by which • these 
establishments were placed on a much more satisfactory 
footing, through increased facilities being given to magis- 
trates for committing children accused of petty thefts, as 
well as destitute or vagrant children not accused of any 
actual crime. By this means, through the increased 
number of 'committed children,' the Ragged Schools 
benefited to a much larger degree. Dr. Guthrie continued 
to agitate as long as life lasted in the interests of that vast 
mass of ignorant and destitute children who, being 'un- 
committed/ are beyond the pale of any of these statutes. 
Death, in fact, met him while strenuously urging that an 
amendment should be made in the Education Act of 1872 
to meet this crying need. When the mighty voice was 
silent and the great heart stilled by ' the Shadow feared of 
man,' the destitute children of Edinburgh lost a friend whose 
like their class will never see again. He laboured much 
because he loved much those whom no other heart loved 
so well and with whom no other worker sympathised in 
equal degree. He has long ago passed to his rest. 
Monuments and statues become soon forgotten, but in the 
' Original Ragged Schools ' his descendants have the 
assurance that his works will imperishably 'follow' him. 

1 Afterwards Lord Hampton. 

2 Vide Official Report of Conference published in 1861. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 91 

Meantime, from 1846 to 1849 St. John's Free Church 
continued to increase in numbers, in efficiency in Christian 
work, in sanctified liberality. Mr. Guthrie had the blessed 
consciousness to cheer him that he was surrounded by a 
band of prayerful workers, who bore him up daily and 
hourly, by their prayers before the throne of grace, that 
he might be sustained with divine strength amidst his 
manifold labours. 

In 1849 his people, as well as his many friends all over 
the world 'from China to Peru,' were delighted to hear 
that his ancient Alma Mater had conferred on him the 
degree of ' Doctor of Divinity.' His writings, while not 
characterised by striking theological scholarship, are dis- 
tinguished by that broad catholicity of culture which, for 
the peculiar work laid to his hand, was of infinitely more 
service to him than if he had been a profound authority 
on the Hebrew points, or versed in the ' variorum readings' 
of all the Codices. By Dr. Guthrie the degree was valued, 
not for the added prestige it conferred on himself, but 
because thereby honour was paid to the clergy of the 
Church whose interests to him were so dear. 

But amid all this noble and self-denying work, the con- 
gregation of St. John's was called upon to pass under the 
shadow of a great anxiety. Their beloved minister was 
brought once more to the gates of death. The anxieties 
and colossal labour attached to the Manse Fund Scheme 
and to the initiation of his Ragged School System, ex- 
hausted even the vitality of his strong, muscular frame. 
Symptoms of serious cardiac affection began to disclose 
themselves. Leave of absence was eagerly allowed to him 
both by congregation and Presbytery, in the hope that a 
few months' cessation from work might restore all. But 
at the end of the term he was, if anything, worse than 
before. Clearly a lengthened rest, undisturbed by anxieties 
of any kind, was imperatively essential. Drs. Miller, 
Alison, and Fairbairn urged him to give up active work 
for a year or two, and then to accept the assistance of a 
colleague. For a time he refused to make application. 



92 FAMOUS SCOTS 

At length he became so ill that he had no choice. After 
three months' rest, on January 23, 1848, against all his 
friends' advice, he attempted to preach. With the utmost 
difficulty he got through "the service and had to be assisted 
from the pulpit. He never entered it again for nearly two 
years — until Sabbath, 7th October' 1849. When he did so, 
it was as collegiate minister of St. John's, along with the 
Rev. Dr. Hanna. 



CHAPTER IX 

GUTHRIE — THE APOSTLE OF TEMPERANCE 

The night was cold, wet, and cheerless in the winter of 
1 84 1. A tempest had been raging all day, and as 
evening closed in the storm increased rather than mode- 
rated its violence. An Irish car, with two Scottish Non- 
Intrusionist clergymen and an Edinburgh lawyer in it, 
had been toiling across the wind-swept stretches of County 
Tyrone, as the road winds along from Omagh to Cooks- 
town. The occupants, as well as the driver — a strong, 
ruddy-faced Milesian with laughter and good-humour 
peeping out of every line of his countenance — were soaked 
with the drenching rain. Half-way, a small roadside inn 
was reached, into which the clergymen went, ordered 
whisky and hot water, and made toddy. Out of kindness 
to the car-driver they called him in and offered him a 
rummer of the steaming liquor. To their surprise he 
warmly thanked them, but declined it. ' Plaze your 
riv'rence, I am a teetotaler, and I won't taste a dhrop.' He 
was one of Father Mathew's converts to total- abstin- 
ence. Lo, what mighty results are obtained from humble 
causes ! One of these clergymen was Thomas Guthrie. 
The example of the car-driver deeply impressed him. 
The lesson was never forgotten. Gradually the seed of 
conviction germinated, producing the assurance that if 
a man intends to become a social reformer, he must 
commence by being an abstainer, inasmuch as the cause 
of nine-tenths of the destitution and crime in our large 
cities is — drunkenness ! 

Before Dr. Guthrie became a philanthropist, therefore, 

93 



94 FAMOUS SCOTS 

he had been for some years a strong advocate of total 
abstinence. While no bigot on the question, he ever 
sturdily maintained that strong drink was the deadliest 
weapon used by the devil to ruin humanity. ' I have 
four reasons for being an abstainer,' said Dr. Guthrie : ' my 
head is clearer, my health is better, my heart is lighter, and 
my purse is heavier'; to which may be added this other 
remark made on another occasion, ' I would rather see in 
the pulpit a man who is a total abstainer from this root of 
all evil — drink, than a man crammed with all the Hebrew 
roots in the world.' 

He gives a very graphic account of his first appearance 
as an abstainer at a dinner-party given by Mr. Maitland of 
Dundrennan, at which Lords Jeffrey and Cockburn' with 
their wives, and others of the elite of Edinburgh literary 
and legal society were present — people who might have 
heard of teetotalers, but certainly had never seen one 
before, and some of whom never dreamed of denying 
themselves any indulgence whatever for the sake of 
others \- — 

' But by my principles I was resolved to stick, cost what it 
might. So I passed the wine to my neighbour without its 
paying tax or toll to me often enough to attract our host's 
attention, who, to satisfy himself I was not sick, called for an 
explanation. This I gave modestly, but without any shame- 
facedness. The company could hardly conceal their astonish- 
ment. But when Jeffrey, who sat opposite to me, found that in 
this matter I was living not for myself but others, denying 
myself the use of luxuries to which I had been accustomed that 
I might by my example reclaim the vicious and raise the fallen 
and restore peace and plenty to wretched homes, that generous- 
hearted, noble-minded man could not conceal his sympathy and 
admiration. He did not speak, but his look was not to be 
mistaken, and though kind and courteous before my apology, 
he was ten times more so after it.' 

This incident, which occurred in all likelihood in 1845, 
was the initial act in a profession of total abstinence which 
lasted nearly as long as life itself. 1 No sooner did he 

1 During the last year or so he was imperatively ordered by his 
doctor to take a certain quantity of stimulants every day. For a time 
he refused, but at last had to yield. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 95 

begin his great philanthropic labours on behalf of the 
Ragged Schools than the opinion, formed as the result of 
his unwearied visiting in the Cowgate, Grassmarket, and 
West Bow, when pastor of the territorial parish of 
St. John's, that drunkenness was the prime enemy of 
the Church of Christ — an enemy to which all the other 
vices were auxiliaries and subordinates — became settled 
conviction. 

Against an enemy so omnipresent and so powerful, Dr. 
Guthrie neither sought nor gave quarter. While never a 
fanatic or extremist, imposing his views on all alike, and 
denouncing those who did not agree with him, his testi- 
mony to the necessity of temperance principles for young 
men beginning life was unqualified and unceasing. ' When 
you get religion dying, drink is like a fungus growing on 
the rotten tree ; when religion begins to revive, along with 
it revive temperance and total abstinence societies. To a 
young man beginning business, to be an abstainer is as 
good as ^100 a year of additional capital.' 

He was unwearied in his efforts to induce the legislature 
to make, and the municipal authorities strictly to enforce, 
stringent yet fair laws for the regulation of the liquor 
traffic. He denounced Sunday trading, and contended 
every licensed house should be closed at the very latest at 
ten o'clock. He protested against the crime of serving 
drink to young lads, and said the father who sent his 
children into the public-house to fetch beer ought to be 
severely punished, as exposing the moral health of his 
offspring to contamination. How many of the legislative 
seeds he sowed long years ago have now sprung up and 
borne golden grain for the reaping of to-day ? By deputa- 
tions to those in authority, either in London or Edinburgh 
— deputations whereof, in nearly every case, he was chosen 
the spokesman, — by numerous public meetings, by the 
institution of temperance and total abstinence societies, 
he sought to diminish or stamp out this national curse. 

Inebriety was, of course, much more prevalent in the 
days when Dr. Guthrie lived and laboured than now. We 



96 FAMOUS SCOTS 

are becoming a more ' sober' nation, not made so by legis- 
lative enactments, but by the steady diffusion of education, 
of popular science, and by the cultivation of that saving 
grace of common-sense" which presents the case to a man 
in this way that, apart from all religious and moral con- 
siderations, on the low ground of £ s. d., sobriety is pre- 
ferable to indulgence, while total abstinence is better than 
all. I wish to emphasise the fact that we largely owe what 
moral and social improvement there now is to the labours 
of Dr. Guthrie, and such as he, forty or fifty years ago — 
noble-hearted men who, in a good cause, had the courage 
to be singular, when such singularity entailed not a few 
disadvantages, and even a faint soup f on of disapproval. 

In the temperance field, as in that of social reform, Dr. 
Guthrie's ' works ' live after him. He was one of the 
earliest ' teetotalers ' in the Free Church, and stood nearly 
alone : he lived to see the profession of such principles as 
were implied thereby becoming, if not incumbent on, at 
least expedient for each minister to adopt. Along with the 
late Drs. Grey, Burns of Kilsyth, Horatius Bonar, and one 
or two others, he founded the Free Church Temperance 
Society, and was spared to see it become one of the 
strongest of the Church's institutions. He sympathised 
warmly with the formation, by his dear friend, James 
Miller, Professor of Surgery, of a Students' Temperance 
Society in connection with the University of Edinburgh. 
More than once, Dr. Guthrie addressed the members of 
the association in words of sound practical wisdom ; and he 
frequently invited youths belonging to it, whom he knew to 
be alone in Edinburgh, to spend an evening at his house. 
Another group of young people whom he rejoiced to meet 
were the Normal School students. To them he, in like 
manner, spoke more than once on the subject so near his 
heart — appeals instinct with wit and humour, yet withal 
permeated by that rarest of all virtues in a humorous 
speech, common-sense. 

As I have said, Dr. Guthrie was never a bigot in enforc- 
ing his own opinions on others. None more clearly than 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 97 

he recognised the right of each man to hold his own 
opinions. He was always ready to co-operate with all classes 
of temperance reformers. Though personally holding firmly 
by the principle of total abstinence, he joined many lead- 
ing citizens in founding in 1850 the 'Scottish Association 
for the Suppression of Drunkenness,' in which there was 
scarcely an abstainer save himself. In order to interest 
the public in the work of the Society, the members deter- 
mined to issue a series of short, pithy statements upon the 
subject in question, and what remedial measures seemed 
demanded. His two ' Pleas for Ragged Schools ' had 
shown him the unsuspected power he possessed in literary 
composition. Therefore we find him opening the series — 
to which, as he says in a letter to the Hon. Fox Maule, 
Drs. Candlish, Norman Macleod, Begg, Lindsay Alexander, 
and others, were to contribute succeeding numbers — with 
a pithy pamphlet, 'A Plea on behalf of Drunkards and 
against Drunkenness.' 

To many the fact may be of interest that, although the 
1 Association for the Suppression of Drunkenness ' has long 
since passed away, it was able to effect one reform, and 
that was to contribute in a very large degree to the passing 
of the legislative measure known as the Forbes-Mackenzie 
Act, which still forms the basis at least of our present 
Scots Licensing Laws. In the securing of that excellent 
Statute, Dr. Guthrie materially assisted by voice, pen, and 
personal influence, and in the minutes of more than one 
of the temperance societies of Scotland there still stand 
expressions of grateful thanks to the great orator who so 
powerfully aided the efforts of social reformers by his 
eloquence. His pamphlet appeared in 1850, a few months 
subsequent to his restoration to health after his severe 
illness of 1848-49; and he followed it up with three New 
Year Tracts, 'New Year's Drinking' (185 1), 'A Happy 
New Year' (1852), and 'The Old Year's Warning' (1853). 

But this was not all. So impressed was he with the 
ravages committed by this social cancer, so saddened by 
the cases coming under his knowledge of wives mourning 

G 



98 FAMOUS SCOTS 

the moral shipwreck and degradation of husbands, of 
husbands bewailing their wives, of fathers and mothers 
bowed to the dust by the ruin of sons and daughters, of 
sons and daughters lamenting the fall of parents, that he 
determined to address a series of sermons to the com- 
munity at large, particularly to that of the great city where- 
in his lot was cast. In these he aimed at setting forth the 
duty of parents and guardians in training the rising 
generation in the principles of total abstinence. The 
sermons were afterwards published under the title, The 
City — Its Sins and Sorrows. Both when delivered as 
sermons and in their book form, these discourses exercised 
a widespread influence. To this I can bear personal testi- 
mony. Away in far-distant Australia I chanced to -meet 
a wealthy Scots squatter. In conversation this estimable 
Christian, whose charities and benefactions were almost 
princely in their liberality, informed me that when in 
Edinburgh he had been rushing headlong to ruin through 
intemperance and other vices. His friends had despaired 
of him, when by chance he wandered one day into Dr. 
Guthrie's church when he was preaching that remark- 
able series. The young man was arrested at once, he 
listened spellbound, and at the close was greatly im- 
pressed. He left the church, and all through the week 
struggled to drown the voice of conscience by plunging 
into dissipation. But on Sunday, he could not refrain 
from again attending Dr. Guthrie's sermon. This time, 
he confessed, he went much the worse of drink. But 
as the orator proceeded, every sentence seemed to sting 
the youth like a fiery dart, until at last, when the great 
preacher, bending over the pulpit, uttered in tones of ex- 
quisite sweetness and pathos these words — 'There are 
few families among us so happy as not to have had some 
one near and dear to them either in imminent peril hang- 
ing over the precipice, or the slave of intemperance al- 
together sold under sin.' He could endure the torture no 
longer, and bursting into tears he hurried from the place. 
' Never shall I forget,' he said, ' either the words or the 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 99 

tones of overpowering yearning with which they were 
pronounced. I could not rest. After the most miserable 
night I ever spent, I called to see Dr. Guthrie early next 
day. His fatherly kindness still further broke me down, 
and when he had knelt with me at the throne of grace, 
and offered up a prayer, the like of which I never heard 
before or since, he bade me farewell, inviting me to 
return and see him ; but I never did so. Two weeks after 
I was on the ocean, on my way to these fair lands under 
the "Southern Cross," but now you will understand how 
it was I could not restrain my emotion on hearing you 
name Dr. Guthrie.' 

I could cite numerous cases, never yet published, that 
have come to my knowledge, of men and women arrested 
either by the sermons or the book, The City — Its Sins and 
Sorroivs. One of the most brilliant members of the 
Canadian legislature, whose eloquence was the admiration 
of the Dominion, informed a friend of mine, ' Had it not 
been for Guthrie's Sins and Sorrows, I should have been 
lying in all likelihood by this time in a drunkard's grave.' 
Testimonies such as these are assuredly evidence irrefrag- 
able of the permanent character of the work achieved 
in temperance reform by Thomas Guthrie. 

I have already said more on this head than I intended. 
Suffice it to add that, although in his later years able to 
do less than before and certainly much less than he 
desired, to aid the cause of temperance, he never ceased 
to urge on young people, and especially on young ministers, 
the importance of becoming abstainers. One of the most 
scholarly of Free Church ministers informs me that, spend- 
ing an evening at Dr. Guthrie's house about a week after 
he was licensed, and chancing to mention that he had 
resolved to become an abstainer from motives of con- 
science, as thereby he would have greater freedom in 
impressing the principles of temperance on others, Dr. 
Guthrie rose, and with much solemnity laying his hand on 
the young licentiate's head, he said, ' May the God of our 
Fathers, the God who has been to me a buckler and a sure 



ioo FAMOUS SCOTS 

defence in every day of trouble, be the same to you, and 
make you a mighty blessing in extirpating this hideous 
disease from our land.' 'I felt,' said the minister, 'as 
though the dying saint — for this was within a few months 
of his death — were laying on me the work he had done so 
long. It was a consecration — a setting apart, and from 
that day to this I have fought the battle of total abstinence 
wheresoever it raged.' 

It is seven-and-twenty years since Dr. Guthrie passed to 
his rest. New temperance apostles have come to the 
front, but I question if any of them have quite filled the 
niche occupied by him. In comparison with Gough — who 
was his contemporary for some time — Dr. Guthrie's tem- 
perance speeches appealed to a class over whom Gough 
had no influence, the educated and refined portion of the 
population. He might not possess the whirlwind eloquence 
of the great American orator, but his effective range was 
infinitely wider. The late Professor Blackie said 'he 
had heard Dr. Guthrie deliver speeches on behalf of 
temperance which, in all the higher characteristics of 
oratory fell little, if at all, short of Demosthenes.' The 
work he accomplished in the cause of temperance (i) in 
Society, (2) in the Free Church, (3) in influencing the 
Town Council of Edinburgh, (4) in placing the Legislature 
in possession of such a body of facts and statistics of 
priceless value, as aided them to come to some decision 
with regard to licensing legislation, is such as to entitle 
him to one of the highest places in the ranks of temper- 
ance apostles. 

Meantime his congregational work was ever upon his 
mind. After his serious illness, and when the verdict of 
the doctors became known, his congregation determined 
that a colleague should be appointed to relieve him of a 
portion of it. Notwithstanding that the Free Church had 
set its face against collegiate charges, at that epoch of her 
history at least, the circumstances here were felt to be 
altogether so exceptional, that the General Assembly at 
once granted the request of the congregation, and, after 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 101 

some little delay, the Rev. William Hanna, LL.D., son-in- 
law and biographer of Scotland's greatest ecclesiastic next 
to Knox — Dr. Chalmers, — was appointed in 1850 as Dr. 
Guthrie's colleague and successor. For fifteen years they 
worked together in harness with that brotherly accord and 
mutual consideration only to be expected from two men of 
such intellectual gifts and deep spirituality. Dr. Hanna 
was aware of the precarious nature of his colleague's 
health, and that a rather alarming opinion had been given 
regarding it, by Sir Andrew Clark, the Queen's private 
physician, to Dr. Alexander Guthrie of Brechin. 

Beautiful indeed it was to behold how solicitous for 
his 'partner's' health was Dr. Hanna when the warning 
contained in Sir Andrew Clark's opinion was made known. 
Dr. Guthrie on his side was no less 'affectionately' kind, 
so that when the separation at length came in 1864, on 
the senior colleague's heart-affection becoming so pro- 
nounced as to preclude the discharge of regular pulpit 
duties, Dr. Hanna could write of him : — 

' It was my happy privilege, counted by me among the 
greatest I have enjoyed, of being for fifteen years his colleague 
in the ministry of Free St. John's, Edinburgh. To one coming 
from a remote country parish, ten years' residence in which 
had moulded tastes originally congenial with its quiet and 
seclusion, into something like a fixed habit of retreat, the 
position was a trying one — to occupy such a pulpit every 
Sunday, side by side with such a preacher. But never can I 
forget the kindness and tenderness, the constant and delicate 
consideration, with which Dr. Guthrie ever tried to lessen its 
difficulties and to soften its trials. Brother could, not have 
treated brother with more affectionate regard.' 

His family was also increasing, and he deeply felt the 
responsibilities laid on him as a father in view of the tempta- 
tions of the great city. He was wont to say, when returning 
from mourning with those that mourned the bereavement of 
loved ones, that his Heavenly Father had been peculiarly 
gracious in this respect to him, inasmuch as the angel of 
death had never folded its wings over his roof. Seven 
sons and four daughters were born to him and his beloved 



io2 FAMOUS SCOTS 

spouse, twenty-four years elapsing between the births of 
the eldest, the late Rev. D. K. Guthrie, Liberton Free 
Church, Edinburgh, and of the youngest, 'wee Johnnie,' 
who after twenty months' abode on earth winged his way 
back unto the heaven whence he came. This was the 
only occasion that Dr. Guthrie had to sorrow over any 
of his offspring predeceasing him. When to him the 
summons did come to leave those scenes of earth wherein 
he had played so prominent a part, it was by an unbroken 
phalanx of stalwart sons that he was borne to his rest, the 
babe that had passed away in early infancy constituting 
all that could be called a gap in the circle round his 
family board. As they grew up to boyhood, youth, and 
finally to manhood, his anxiety was that they should be 
good rather than great men. 'True greatness lies in 
goodness,' he would say, 'and the greatest man is he who, 
with all his greatness in the eyes of the world, nevertheless 
in the presence of his Saviour becomes as one of those 
little ones of whom it was said, " Of such is the kingdom 
of heaven." ' 

During that period, 1849-185 5, the catholicity of his 
sympathies caused him to make many friends in every 
walk of life and in every class of society. With Lord 
Jeffrey he had enjoyed some delightful intercourse. After 
the death of the Judge, Dr. Guthrie was asked to conduct 
the religious services at the funeral. This he did, and it 
was the only occasion whereon he wrote a prayer and 
committed it to memory. ' I was anxious,' he said, ' to 
avoid the use of one word that could hurt the feelings of 
the family; on the other hand, I was bound in duty to 
my Master to say nothing that would encourage scepticism.' 
The prayer was a very impressive one, and was styled by 
Wordsworth, who was present and heard it, ' a sublime 
apostrophe to the Almighty.' At this time, also, it was 
that the intimacy with the family of the Duke of Argyll 
commenced, which continued unbroken, a treasured 
privilege on both side'?, until the day of his death. With 
Lord Southesk, the Right Hon. Fox Maule, afterwards 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 103 

Earl of Dalhousie, the Duchess of Sutherland, and others 
of the nobility he had much pleasant intercourse ; while 
with many of the highest dignitaries in the Church of 
England, from the Bishop of London, Dr. Tait, afterwards 
Primate, and Dr. Fraser, Bishop of Manchester, to the 
Dean of St. Paul's, Dr. Milman, and the Dean of West- 
minster — ' the beloved Stanley ' — he entered upon relations 
of close friendship only severed by ' life's last consumma- 
tion.' 

Many of England's greatest statesmen were not ashamed 
to consult him on the subjects to which he had devoted 
so many years of earnest study — juvenile crime and 
destitution and their remedy, pauperism and its treatment, 
temperance and how to legislate for it, etc. From him 
Lord John Russell, the Duke of Argyll, Mr. Gladstone, 
John Bright and others, received carefully verified statistics 
and ideas founded upon the unimpeachable evidence of 
facts, which they were able to utilise in legislating for the 
welfare of our great nation. He was never a party 
politician in the proper sense of the word. 

' I am a Conservative in conserving all that is good ; I am 
a Liberal in advocating" a wise liberality as regards Govern- 
ment funds towards all institutions that aim to make men 
better, soberer, and wiser ; and I am a red-hot Radical in 
seeking to uproot everything tending to disgrace the grand old 
name of Briton.' 1 

In Scotland, after the last lingering echoes of the ' storm 
and stress' of the Disruption had died away 'into the 
infinite azure of the past,' he was eager to be on terms of 
familiarity and friendship with his ministerial brethren of 
all denominations. ' Guthrie has room in his heart for all 
Churches,' said the late Dean Ramsay of Edinburgh ; while 
one of the leading members of the Catholic Apostolic 
Church remarked with regard to his freedom from bigotry, 
1 Dr. Guthrie only needs to know that you love the same 
Saviour that he loves, to care one straw which of the 
"isms " you belong to, or whether you belong to an "ism " 
at all.' 

1 Extract from one of his Ragged School speeches. 



CHAPTER X 

GUTHRIE AS THE FRIEND OF EDUCATION AND 
OF MISSIONS 

To trace with the same fulness as in the case of Dr. 
Guthrie's connection with the Ragged Schools and 
Temperance movements, his labours on behalf of all 
those others wherewith he was associated, would require 
more space than now is left to me. Scarce a cause 
was there whose aim was the achievement of social or 
religious reform, which, if its motives were worthy, did not 
receive from him unstinted and unwavering support. 
National Education in all its diverse ramifications, Home 
and Foreign Missions, the Union of the Churches, Sabbath 
Observance, Young Men's Christian Associations, the 
Bible Society, Female Protection, the Housing of the 
Working Classes, Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 
Shorter Hours for Shop Employes, the Saturday Half- 
Holiday, and many other schemes of Christian service and 
of benevolent amelioration of hardship — all benefited by 
his spirited appeals and his contagious enthusiasm. His 
speech in condemnation of slavery at the time of the visit 
of Mrs. Beecher Stowe was said by her to have rivalled the 
efforts of Daniel Webster. Only to one or two of these out- 
lets for his energy can I refer. Let this chapter be devoted 
to his work in Education and on behalf of Missions. 

Dr. Guthrie was a firm believer in education as, next to 
religion, the great lever for raising the moral tone of the 
world. ' Let the legislature affirm that children as members 
of society have a right to protection from the injury 
of ignorance, and take security that they receive, where 

104 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 105 

nothing more can be given, at least a good secular educa- 
tion.' * He was never weary pointing out that the Romish 
Church, by the persistent ignorance in which, at that time 
at least, she kept the lower classes belonging to her com- 
munion, was offending against the common rights of 
humanity, adding : ' An ignorant community is too often a 
decaying community, and can that be denied of Spain, 
Italy, and the Republics of the Spanish Main ? ' 2 

Such then were Dr. Guthrie's views regarding education 
as a principle. Let us note the form of it he desired to 
see established. I need not refer to that excellent system 
of parochial education, first formulated by the efforts of 
John Knox — a system which for nearly three hundred 
years raised Scotland to the proud position of possessing 
the best organised scheme of ' popular ' education in 
Europe, 3 serving for all practical purposes of instruction 
until the middle of the nineteenth century. A new order 
of things, however, was being evolved, consequent upon 
that rise of the democratic spirit which resulted from the 
Reform Act. All the old institutions were being again 
thrown into the testing crucible of specific utility. Among 
them was the Scottish parochial system of Education. 
Many of its principles were obsolete when considered in 
the light of that widening of the thoughts of men which is 

1 Out of Harness, by Rev. T. Guthrie, D.D., p. 246. 

2 Curious corroboration of this saying has just now (February 1900) 
been furnished by M. Ives Guyot, in the well-known Parisian journal, 
Le Sikle. He says : ' We must uncatholicise France — that is our 
bounden duty ; if we do not, we shall promptly sink to the level of 
Spain. But how are we to do it ? The great majority of the people 
feel the want of a religion. But modern history shows the decline 
of the Roman Catholic nations and the rise of the Protestant peoples. 
As we compare their relative situations, we are bound to conclude 
that France has everything to lose by remaining Catholic ; she has 
everything to gain by becoming Protestant.' Note that 27 per cent, of 
the Catholics in France can neither read nor write. 

3 In his first Report on Education presented to the Free Church 
Assembly in 1843, Dr. Welsh said: 'No Church aspiring to be 
National could be fulfilling its mission, if it were not providing for the 
religioustraining of the young, from the lowest Elementary School to 
the first institutions of science and learning.' It was in pursuance of 
this spirit that the Free Church at the outset included Logic and 
Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy in its curriculum. 



106 FAMOUS SCOTS 

continually taking place. Nothing in either thought or 
matter is absolutely permanent and stable. Inasmuch as 
a new system of Education, therefore, was every year 
becoming more imperative, seeing that the old parochial 
scheme was no longer able to overtake all that was required 
of it, in order to keep pace with the development of 
scholarship and culture after the Disruption, Dr. Candlish 
and a large section of Free Church ministers considered 
they were bound to institute a fresh system, which, while 
it occupied the same relation to the new Church as the 
parochial did to the Establishment, should nevertheless be 
superior in adaptability to the wants of the age. Another 
reason inducing Dr. Candlish and his friends to do as they 
did, was the fact that many parish schoolmasters, having 
thrown in their lot with the Free Church, and thus lost 
their appointments, had a sort of tacit claim on the Church 
for employment. 

Against this scheme Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Begg pro- 
tested vigorously. They maintained that for the Free 
Church to saddle itself with a huge and complicated 
educational machinery was not only an inexpedient 
course, and one tending to absorb funds that might be more 
beneficially employed otherwise, but that by doing work 
legitimately the duty of the State, they were, in reality, 
delaying the establishment of a truly national system of 
education. This common-sense way of looking at things, 
however, met with fierce opposition from Dr. Candlish and 
his party. I have no desire to rake up the ashes of long 
dead controversies, but there can be little doubt that 
Dr. Guthrie and his companion, with those who thought 
with them, were for some years exposed to no little 
obloquy and misrepresentation. 

The Free Church had in the matter of education shown 
a renewed example of splendid liberality, in providing 
^■50,000 for her School Building Fund — a Fund owing 
much to the energy of Dr. Robert M'Donald of North Leith. 
In the year 1847 — the one in which the Government of the 
day offered to give grants in aid of all Schools with whose 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 107 

efficiency it was satisfied, leaving the active conduct of 
them in the hands of the parties by whom they had been 
instituted, provided religion should be taught — the Free 
Church might be said to have six hundred and fifty Schools 
under her charge, of which five hundred and thirteen were 
receiving support from her, directly or indirectly. 1 Hard 
indeed it was to think that enthusiasm so noble could yet 
be misdirected ! Yet the scheme was a mistake, and like 
any other merely sectarian system of education which 
conflicts with the popular ideal of a national scheme, 
was foredoomed to failure. 

For Dr. Guthrie to take up a position of antagonism to 
such men as Drs. Candlish and Robert Buchanan — church 
leaders of single-minded probity and calm, balanced 
judgment — was not done without strong reason. But all 
through his life Thomas Guthrie loathed the role of the 
hide-bound partisan. 'Because I see eye to eye with a 
man on one topic, is that any reason why I am straitly 
bound to stifle conviction, and agree with him in every- 
thing ? That is reverting to Pre-Reformation Popery and 
the subjection of the individual Will,' he replied in one of 
his letters to a respected minister who wrote to him asking 
him why he opposed the scheme of Free Church schools. 
The case of Dr. William Gunn, one of the masters of the 
Edinburgh High School, admittedly also one of the ripest 
scholars and best teachers in Scotland, but whose views 
were in favour of a national as opposed to a denominational 
scheme, still further widened the breach between Dr. 
Guthrie and the Education Committee of the Free Church. 
Dr. Gunn had been appointed to one of the Government 
Inspectorships connected with the Free Church schools. 
He had resigned his position in the High School, and was 
about to take up his duties, for which no man was more 
competent, when his election was suddenly cancelled. 
There is nothing to be gained by timorously covering up 

1 Chapters from the History of the Free Church of Scotland, by 
Norman L. Walker, D.D. This is a volume every one should read 
who desires to peruse an impartial presentation of the Free Church 
case. 



108 FAMOUS SCOTS 

the mistakes of public men. Let them be fairly faced and 
admitted. That cancellation was due to the influence of 
the Education Committee of the Free Church, and to a 
letter written by Dr. Candlish in his capacity as Convener ! 
' A more disgraceful job was never perpetrated,' wrote 
one of the Edinburgh newspapers of the day, and every 
fair-minded man will say the same. Dr. Candlish lived to 
regret the step, and had the manly courage to admit the 
error, but by that time the heart-broken victim had passed 
to that bourne where fallible fellow-men would no longer 
be his judges, and where to praise and blame alike he 
was oblivious. 1 

I mention this matter to show the keenness of party 
feeling in the Free Church at the time. Dr. Guthrie 
championed Dr. Gunn's claims to the last, and his remon- 
strance addressed to Dr. Candlish is inspired by a noble 
disinterestedness and lofty indignation : — 

I I never liked controversy all my days, and such experience 
as I have had of it does not recommend it to me. I frankly say 
for myself that I have found it indispose me for higher duties, 
disturb my peace, stir up the baser passions of my nature, and 
expose the parties engaged in it to the risk of quarrels and 
alienated affections. I am now less disposed for it than ever; 
and last of all, I am thoroughly averse to have any controversy 
with you? 

In opposition, therefore, to his former friends, Dr. 
Guthrie worked unceasingly in favour of a national system 
of Education as distinguished from the 'parochial 7 or 
Established Church scheme and that supported by the 
Free Church. Not that he refused to admit the excellent 
work done by Free Church schools and teachers. ' I 
do not deny,' he wrote, 'and am happy to know that our 
Free Church schools have done much good : still I 
thought they were founded on a wrong basis, in such a 
country as ours, at any rate.' What distressed him most 
of all was that, while denominational schemes of education 
tended to widen the breach between the different 

1 See the Scotsman of the time for fuller details. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 109 

Churches, out and beyond the influence of any Church, a 
multitude of children were growing up in Scotland wholly 
without instruction. Writing to the Right Hon. Fox 
Maule, he said : — 

' I long and pray for the time when such unfortunates (those 
outside any denominational scheme) will be educated by the 
State ; nor from such a prayer will I ever come down to con- 
sider schemes of sects. I don't care, if the people are saved, 
whether the scheme crack the crown of St. Giles, or hurl Free 
St. John's down the West Bow. / love my Church as well as 
any one> but I love 7?iy country more than I love my denomina- 
tion.^ 

There spoke the true patriot. Guthrie is never so great 
as when he breaks away from the icy fetters of 
sectarianism ! 

In view of securing a comprehensive system of Educa- 
tion for his country, Dr. Guthrie took an active part in 
founding ' The National Education Association of Scot- 
land,' composed of men of all creeds and parties, who were, 
however, united in this one patriotic endeavour. In con- 
nection with his work on the Committee of this Society, 
he had an interesting correspondence with the Duke of 
Argyll, to whom Scotland largely owes the final settlement 
of this vexed question in the Education Act of 1872. In 
a letter to the Duke dated February 18, 1850, he indicates 
one of the essential principles in any system of Education, 
and one that is prominent in the Act which has worked so 
well in Scotland, viz. that of local control: — 

i I believe that the sure way of having any scheme vigorously 
managed is to give those a considerable power at least in the 
management of it who have a deep stake in the matter. The 
parents have the deepest stake in the schools, and we may rest 
assured they will watch and work them better than parties who 
have but a remote interest in their success.' 

At last, induced by the representations of Dr. Guthrie 
and others of the Scottish clergy and laity, the Govern- 
ment agreed to take up the question, and in 1854 a 
measure for a national scheme of Education in Scotland 



no FAMOUS SCOTS 

was introduced into Parliament by the Lord Advocate 
(Moncreiff), afterwards Lord Moncreiff. Though not 
agreeing in every detail with the principles of the proposed 
measure, Dr. Guthrie lent to it his support. Many who 
knew and trusted him as a social reformer, but who knew 
nothing of the scope of the Bill, became its supporters 
solely from the belief they entertained that he would favour 
nothing but what was beneficial for the nation at large. 
He was at this time in constant communication with the 
Government on the subject. As showing the value they 
attached to his support, we find the Lord Advocate writing 
in April 1854 to him: 'I must press upon you the im- 
portance — to you I may not say the duty — of giving decided 
utterance to your real opinions. You have only to make 
one of your manly, fearless addresses, and you will confirm 
more waverers in the House [of Commons] than all the 
Voluntaries can shake. . . . Depend upon it, names weigh 
far more than numbers up here, and you and Adam Black 
would single-handed make all the agitators kick the beam.' 

But in the Bill in question, as well as in the six other 
measures dealing with National Education in Scotland, 
which were introduced into Parliament between 1854 and 
1872, the principle which ranged all the sectarian differ- 
ences of opinion in the country upon either the one side 
or the other was the presence or the absence of religious 
teaching in the schools. Two extreme parties existed, one 
of which stood out for no Bill which did not enact the use 
of the Bible and Shorter Catechism by express statute j the 
other would oppose any Bill which made allusion to the 
teaching of religion at all. Between these poles of opinion 
were grouped other differences, and the problem was how 
to reconcile them. Nor was the matter settled until the 
great Education Act of 1872. 

Dr. Guthrie took an active part in preparing the way 
for Lord Advocate Young's Bill of 1872, which is still, 
with some modifications, our educational system of to-day. 
In keeping with Dr. Guthrie's liberality was it that, in order 
to avoid giving offence to any phase of faith whatsoever, 



THOMAS GUTHRIE in 

he should warmly support the provision that religious 
instruction, without being either ' prescribed or proscribed ' 
by the Act, should be left to the decision of local boards. 
His heart's desire was to see the Bible read in the schools, 
and he knew that to secure this something of less moment 
had to be conceded. Never did his practical sagacity 
make itself more manifest. So valuable was his opinion 
considered, and so urgent were many official and private 
friends of the Act that he should make some definite 
expression of his views regarding it, that within ten months 
of his death he had to yield to their importunity, and in 
his famous ' Letter to my Fellow-Countrymen ' pronounce 
a warm eulogy upon it : — 

' Can any man in his senses believe that the Bible-reading, 
Bible-loving people of Scotland will thrust the Word of God 
out of their schools ? Lend your hearty support to a Bill which, 
conserving all that is good in our parish schools, will carry the 
blessing of education into every mining district, dark lane of 
the city, and lone Highland glen.' 

Fit words are these to close the record of Dr. Guthrie's 
labours on behalf of Scottish Education ! His words have 
come true. The Bible has not been banished from our 
schools, through religious teaching therein being left an 
optional matter in the hands of the local School Boards. 
On the contrary, this wise provision has reconciled sec- 
tarian factions, and brought peace and harmony where 
formerly discord and animosity prevailed. 

With such catholic sympathies as Dr. Guthrie possessed, 
to say of him that he was the friend of Foreign and of 
Continental Missions may savour of a truism. Still more 
will this seem so if we extend the remark to Home Missions. 
The ' Evangelist ' of ' ragged schools,' the man whose 
scheme had brought more light into wretched young lives 
than any other — his interest in Home Missions may be 
taken as a thing in course. When labouring in the Cow- 
gate and in his territorial charge of ' Old St. John's,' he 
was a 'home missionary' in the noblest sense of the word. 1 

1 See his Sketches of the Cowgate. 



112 



FAMOUS SCOTS 



Nor when circumstances forced him out of ' slum work ' 
pure and simple, to become the eloquent pastor of Free 
St. John's, neither few nor seldom were the glances of 
half-regretful yearning he cast across the street, at that 
sphere wherein his whole heart had been centred. From 
the day he set foot in Edinburgh to begin Dr. Chalmers's 
great territorial scheme, until his latest hour of life, Dr. 
Guthrie was an intense believer in the value of Home 
Mission work. By voice and pen, from pulpit and plat- 
form, in presbyteries and assemblies, in books and journals, 
he continued to fight the battle of the evangelisation of 
the masses. In nearly every volume he wrote, he impressed 
the fact upon his readers that the world must be won for 
Christ, by bread for the body as well as bread for the soul. 
But in Foreign and Continental Missions the intensity 
of his interest has not been so generally recognised. The 
grandeur of his services in other fields has eclipsed the 
lustre of his labours in these, although his work on behalf 
of the Waldenses was such that his name to this day is 
blessed by the inhabitants of the Vaudois Valleys. The 
extent of his sympathies seemed only limited by the field 
of Christian missionary effort. Soon after he went to 
Edinburgh, as we have seen, so keen was his interest in 
the schemes of the apostolic Duff for the evangelisation 
and education of the teeming millions of Hindostan, that 
he contemplated accepting the offers of the latter to 
proceed thither. Only the consciousness of heathenism 
nearer home and the representations of Chalmers as to 
its paramount claims upon him led him to decline. But 
from that hour his heart was stirred within him whenever 
the cause of Foreign Missions was mentioned, and some of 
his finest speeches were delivered in their support. After 
the Disruption his enthusiasm seemed to wax rather than 
to wane. In 1845 we ^ nc ^ mm announcing a donation 
through himself, from a wealthy Wesleyan friend, of ^£500 
in aid of the Foreign Missions schemes of the Free Church. 
At Dr. Duff's second visit home in 1852 we notice from 
contemporary press reports that the great missionary was 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 113 

speaking in Free St. John's on his favourite theme, and 
that Dr. Guthrie 'also gave an address.' In his Modera- 
tor's opening sermon in 1863, when closing his year of 
office, he made a stirring reference to Foreign Missions 
and their importance to a Church, saying in words that 
have often been repeated, ' Foreign Missions beget Home 
Missions.' After his release from active ministerial work, 
he seemed to find a joy in doing all he could to aid in 
the spread of the Gospel in foreign countries. 1 

In Continental Missions his chief claim to the gratitude 
of all Christian people was in his advocacy of the needs of 
the Waldensian Church, whose bitter persecutions at the 
hands of Rome he could never contemplate without keen 
indignation. Though in the second General Assembly of 
the Free Church he had been named as one of the com- 
mittee appointed to correspond with foreign churches, it 
was 1856 before he was able to take a trip abroad. At 
that time he visited Switzerland and the Alps in company 
with Dr. Cunningham, Principal of the New College — a 
tour which lived in his memory, roseate-tinted, for the 
remainder of his life. Chamounix, Interlaken, Fribourg, 
Lucerne, Brussels, and Ghent were all in turn visited, and 
the pleasure he felt is to be estimated by his remark to 
any one who said he had not seen the Alps : ' Not seen 
Switzerland ! then save up as much money as will take 
you there. You will get a new revelation of the Creator's 
glory. I say to everybody, See the Alps before you die.' 

In 1 86 1 he returned to Switzerland to take part in the 
General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance at Geneva. 
Here he had the satisfaction of preaching in the city of 
John Calvin. From Geneva he went to Sion in the Rhone 
valley, thence to Zermatt, and finally to the celebrated 
chalet on the RifTelberg, after which the party returned 
slowly home. Then in 1864 he travelled through Brittany, 
making Quimper his headquarters. With many French 
Protestants he was on terms of friendship — the Monods; 
MM. Fisch, Bersier, Bost; Professors St. Hilaire and 

1 See Sundays Abroad, one of the most delightful of his works. 

H 



ii 4 FAMOUS SCOTS 

La Harpe ; Drs. Merle D'Aubigne and Gaussen. While 
he journeyed on the Continent to admire its exquisite 
scenery and to visit with delight its churches, its picture- 
galleries, and its objects of antiquarian and historic 
interest, he liked to have a definite end in view. Hence 
he often travelled as a deputy to some of the Continental 
Protestant Churches. 

It was in this capacity he first visited the Church of 
the Waldensian Valleys — a Church which henceforward 
he was to champion from pulpit, platform, and press. 
In 1865, when he first visited the Vaudois, he was so 
charmed that he wrote home : — 

'This land of most beautiful and sublime scenery has 
associations and memories surpassing in moral grandeur those, 
perhaps, of any country on earth, save the Holy Land, No 
Church has ever suffered for the truth or maintained it as this 
has done. With breathing-times, the Waldenses were per- 
secuted often to the death for nearly four hundred years. 5 

But his sympathy was not confined to words. On his 
return home he became one of the founders of the Wal- 
densian Aid Society ; and from 1868 to 1872, accompanied 
at one time by Dr. Revel, President of the Waldensian 
College at Florence, and later by Signor Prochet of 
Genoa, he itinerated through a large part of England 
and Scotland pleading the cause of the Vaudois Church. 
Mainly through his exertions some thousands of pounds 
were raised annually. Drawing-room meetings in the 
houses of the nobility and society leaders, where he could 
speak freely regarding the urgent need for help, became 
a valuable means of extending a knowledge of the move- 
ment. Amongst the last addresses — nay, I believe the 
very last — he made, was one in aid of this cause at the 
house of his friend, Mr. D. Matheson, Queen's Gate, 
London. No wonder that when a champion so powerful 
lay dying, ' fervent prayer was offered for his recovery in 
every parish in the Waldensian Valleys, and that his 
death was mourned as that of a well-loved friend.' 1 

1 Remark made by Dr. Stewart of Leghorn, Moderator of the Free 
Church, when referring to Dr. Guthrie's death. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 115 

Nor was his interest in the Colonial and American 
Churches less keen. In 1857 he was urged to visit 
Australia, and the people ' by the long wash of Australasian 
seas' rejoiced to learn he was to be with them. But 
health reasons debarred him, and to the regret both of 
himself and the Antipodean Churches he was unable to 
go. So, too, as regards America. Though he had many 
friends there, notably Drs. Alexander, Adams, Cuyler, 
Talmage, and others whose invitations were frequent and 
pressing, he never made out the journey. In 1867, along 
with the late Principal Fairbairn and the Rev. J. Wells, 
Dr. Guthrie was deputed by the General Assembly of 
the Free Church to represent them to the Presbyterian 
Churches of America. A mighty reception awaited him 
on the other side. On the 6th April 1867, accompanied 
by his wife and son Charles, 1 he embarked on the Cunard 
steamer Scotia, bound from Liverpool to New York. But 
after two days of the voyage had been passed, he was 
obliged to leave the vessel at Queenstown, the anguish 
he had endured in the interim having been intense. As 
the Memoir puts it, 'the peculiar heart affection from 
which he suffered made the air of a ship's cabin at night 
intolerable to him.' Disappointed though he was, he felt 
that to persevere would, in all probability, be to permanently 
cripple even that measure of health he then enjoyed. 

And so it came about that Dr. Guthrie was able to visit 
the Church neither in Australasia nor America. But as 
though his heart went out to these corners of the vineyard 
all the more because he was unable to visit them, his in- 
terest in the Colonial and American Presbyterian Churches 
continued unabated to the end. When he heard in 1872 
of the growth of the Presbyterian system all over America, 
by churches all of which looked back fondly to the ' land 
of the mountain and the flood ' as their common parent, 
he said with a tremor in his voice, 'Worthy daughters 
of a worthy mother — many daughters have done virtuously 
but ye have excelled them all.' 

1 Now Mr. C. J. Guthrie, Q.C., Advocate at the Scottish Bar, 



n6 FAMOUS SCOTS 

That period of Dr. Guthrie's life from 1855 t0 1864, 
when his active ministerial labours were brought to a 
close, may be said to have been, in many respects, the 
most richly beneficent of all others in great and manifold 
acts of religious and philanthropic achievement. In the 
epoch of his life lying between' his fifty-second and sixty- 
first years, or, in other words, just before his final break- 
down in 1864, he appeared, as it were, to have reached 
the maturity of his gifts, the supreme range of his broadly 
human sympathetic affinities. Late in developing as his 
genius was, its full efflorescence came when already he 
was well up in years. 

During the epoch in question, his fame became world- 
wide, through the catholic character of his labours; The 
agencies that sought his aid were almost as varied and 
manifold as human nature itself. His eloquence w r as now 
admitted, even by so competent a critic as the Times, to 
be unsurpassed in Britain. It had lost the ornate — some- 
times the over-ornate — exuberance of earlier years, and 
had become more tempered by reason and judicious taste. 
His best friends had to admit that of old his platform 
oratory sometimes took the bit in its teeth, and in the 
excitement of the moment sacrificed common-sense to 
a witty epigram, a telling story, or a brilliant bon-mot. 
But in those later years, the lucid lamp of his sagacious 
judgment burned supreme over all. His oratory was now 
less the efflux of strong feeling than the reflection of his 
lifelong experience. The effect, therefore, became in- 
creasingly powerful, as well as increasingly permanent. 
Chalmers alone can be said to have excelled him as 
an orator, but that was rather due to the fact of the 
peerless intellect of the former, ranging as it did with 
giant stride over wellnigh the entire realm of human 
knowledge, impressing into the service of his eloquence 
the aid of a culture almost universal. Chalmers appealed 
to the emotions through the intellect, Guthrie through 
the imagination. The former overpowered by the lightning 
flashes of his superb mind, the latter by the pictorial 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 117 

vividness of his fancy. Guthrie exhibited many points 
of resemblance to the great French pulpit orators Bour- 
daloue and Massillon. The subject of our study possessed 
in rich measure Bourdaloue's gift of choosing the aptest 
language to express his meaning — a quality wherein the 
great Jesuit preacher stands unrivalled among the orators 
of his nation. But he also shared Massillon's power 
of infusing the most exquisite pathos and a strain of 
the subtlest sympathy into his sermons and speeches, 
without any seeming premeditation or design. Whitefield's 
vehemence and Boanergic energy he did not much affect, 
nor had his style of pulpit oratory any resemblance to 
the cultured grace and sinuous smoothness of the late 
Canon Liddon. In fact, Dr. Guthrie's eloquence was so 
entirely a part of himself, and not a mere accomplishment, 
that when asked by an English clergyman to give him 
some hints as to the improvement of his pulpit speaking, 
the Doctor replied, ' My dear sir, I know no more about 
oratory or eloquence than I do about navigation. You 
might just as well ask me to teach you how to steer a 
ship. I write or think out my sermon ; I carefully impress 
it on my mind, and then I pray God to enable me to 
deliver it to His praise and glory.' What the Times said 
of his oratory sums up the whole matter : — 

' Dr. Guthrie is essentially an orator, and his skill lies pre- 
cisely in the most wonderful but also the most evanescent 
faculty of the orator — in the art of passionately appealing to 
the imagination rather than to the reason. His effect on his 
hearers is magical. Once within his circle we cannot but 
listen, and as we listen we love the man. He does not argue — 
he describes, he luxuriates in description ; he makes his de- 
scription fascinating by the feeling which he throws into it 
in a gesture, in a look, in a pause, in a tone, -as well as in 
glowing words and thrilling sentences.' 1 

Adequately to realise the numerous points at which his 

sympathies touched the manifold life of society and of the 

churches — for his energies were never confined to his own 

— one has to select a sample year out of those 'nine,' and 

1 Tunes, Jan. 2, 1858. 



n8 FAMOUS SCOTS 

pass in review the work he achieved in it. In doing so 
we must keep before our recollection that at this time he 
was the collegiate minister of one of the largest congrega- 
tions in Edinburgh ; that he never neglected any item of 
pastoral work; that he maintained a constant supervision 
over his great scheme— the Ragged Schools ; and that he 
was the magnet that drew many strangers to Edinburgh, 
to most of whom courtesy and hospitality had to be shown. 
Yet that man, during these nine years from 1855-64, 
achieved annually such a vast record of work as to make 
even the most diligent despair. Of a truth he exemplified 
the aptness of the saying, that ' it is always the busiest 
man who has the most time.' His year of Moderatorship 
in particular was one when the burden he sustained was 
simply Atlantean. 

It was in 1862 that his Church decided to confer upon 
him the only honour at her disposal, and, because the only 
one, on that account ranking with the highest — the Moder- 
atorship. The selection was unanimous, and was received 
with an unbroken chorus of approval by the public. He 
made a courteous and dignified ' chief,' firm in maintaining 
the discipline of the chair, yet exhibiting consummate 
tact and common-sense, in which his ready humour and 
playful satire were not without their use in restraining 
excited ecclesiastical disputants. The Earl of Dalhousie, in 
seconding the nomination made by Dr. Candlish, said, ' In 
honouring Thomas Guthrie, this Court will confer honour 
on itself.' The Caledonian Mercury said: 'It must be 
regarded as a happy circumstance that a divine so eminently 
distinguished for broad catholicity of spirit should this 
year have presided over the Free Church Assembly. There 
is, if we may so characterise it, a humanity about the 
Christianity of Guthrie — as there ought to be about the 
Christianity of every man — that commends him to all sects 
and classes of British society.' 

Long was his year of Moderatorship remembered. He 
had followed in the chair three of the most outstanding 
— Chalmers excepted — of the great fathers of the Free 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 119 

Church — Cunningham, Buchanan, and Candlish. But 
without exaggeration may the remark be made, that the 
three addresses delivered by Dr. Guthrie during his term 
of office were amongst the most remarkable in the history 
of the Church. That famous passage in his closing address, 
so full of broad humanitarian sympathy, I cannot refrain 
from quoting : — 

1 There are three powers — the Press, the Platform, and the 
Pulpit ; and if the talent and genius of the country go into the 
first two, it will be a bad day for the Church and for the country, 
when our pulpits are proverbial for dulness, our Sabbaths for 
weariness, and when the highest of all professions has the 
smallest of men to fill it ; when the power of moulding public 
opinion is gone from the pulpit. That will be a calamity to us ; 
and I call on the Free Church, and the people of every denomi- 
nation, to avert that calamity, and never to starve the pulpit 
of the Christian Church. . . . Did our youth some years ago 
leave titles, estates, luxurious mansions, fathers, mothers, 
sisters, brothers, and brides, and throw themselves on the 
shores of the Black Sea, and on frost and famine, and pestilence, 
and the iron shower of death before the walls of Sebastopol ? 
Did the highest and the noblest of the youth of our country do 
that, and shall piety blush before patriotism ? Shall Jesus Christ 
call in vain on our youth for less costly sacrifices ? I trust that 
the words I have uttered will stir up children of genius and talent 
to give themselves to the ministry of the Word. I have served 
my Master now for more than thirty years : I am grown grey 
in His service, but I can say that even when I saw how much 
richer I might have been in other professions, and when I felt 
the greatest hardships of my life, I never regretted my choice. 
I have been a poor servant ; I have a thousand infirmities on 
my head, and sins, . . . but, fathers and brethren, poor servant 
as I have been, I '11 stand up this day for my Master and say, 
" Christ has been a blessed and a gracious Master to me." 
To Him, with confidence, fathers and brethren, I now com- 
mend you all.' 

Alas ! little did those who heard those eloquent sentences 
in the Moderator's closing address foresee that when the 
Assembly of 1864 met, one of its items of business would 
be, to consider the retirement, through ill-health, of her 
brilliant son, and to give assent to arrangements that 
would close the lips, as one of her regular ministers, of 
Dr. Thomas Guthrie, 



CHAPTER XI 

FINAL YEARS OF ACTIVITY— FROM MOUTH TO PEN 

In October 1863, Dr. Guthrie wrote: 'I have arrived 
slowly at the opinion that I must get out of harness. 
More than any supposed or knew, but those within the 
walls of my own house, my work has been a toil to me, 
and one which is getting heavier each year. Now I am 
forced to call a halt. My heart has got bad again." 1 

The ominous intimation contained in the last sentence 
explained all. The great preacher was a doomed man. 
Guthrie's power, as I have already indicated, lay in his 
electric energy and enthusiasm. Whatsoever he did, he 
had to do it with his whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. 
That was all very good, but meantime the engine of his 
ceaseless activity was exhausting his reserve force, and 
putting a strain on the heart no organ could long endure. 
The opinion of Sir Andrew Clark showed that he had 
taken, in 1847, a very grave view of Mr. Guthrie's case; 
yet, on the understanding that he was ' to take things easy,' 
he had been allowed to resume work. As soon preach 
moderation to a tornado and expect it to listen to you, as 
to enjoin on Dr. Guthrie, to diminish his expenditure of 
vital energy in the discharge of his duties. If he worked 
at all, he had to work with his whole heart, and at the 
highest possible pressure. 

Even his medical advisers, however, had no conception 

how ill he really was until a minute examination was made. 

Professor Sir James Simpson, Professor Miller, and Dr. 

Warburton Begbie all agreed that cardiac disease of a very 

aggravated type was present, due to overwork, and that 
120 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 121 

absolute rest and withdrawal from public work was im- 
perative. In fact, Dr. Begbie, on completing his examina- 
tion, said that such was the state of his pastor's heart's 
action, that the wonder to him was he had not seen him 
drop down in the pulpit. 

Sorrowfully Dr. Guthrie accepted the intimation that his 
work as a preacher was over, and that the scene of his 
oratorical triumphs would know him no more. In a letter 
addressed to the 'Congregation of Free St. John's,' he 
took leave of them, in terms that brought tears to many 
eyes, and which can scarcely be perused even now without 
emotion. To the congregation it came like a thunderclap. 
The decade immediately preceding his retirement had 
been so filled with notable achievements on the part of 
their minister, had been so crowded with splendid projects 
for the amelioration of the lot of stricken humanity, that 
his people, with reason, looked forward to many years of 
pastoral labours amongst them. Now all was at an end. 
Can they be blamed if, with regretful grudging, they said, 
1 Had he done less for others, whose only desire was to 
see how much they could make by him, he would have 
had many more years among us, who love him for himself 
alone.' 

The parting was a sad one. Although he was prepared 
to have made his resignation final in every sense of the 
word, and thus left the congregation free to choose their 
own course as regards the future, they would not accept 
such a proposal. As pastor emeritus he retained a nominal 
connection with Free St. John's to the day of his death. 
Though no longer receiving any allowance from the con- 
gregational funds, an arrangement was come to whereby 
he was enabled to draw his 'dividend' from the Sustenta- 
tion Fund of the Free Church, as well as to retain his seat 
as a member of the Edinburgh Presbytery. Some slight 
misunderstandings, arising out of trivialities, for a time 
created a little friction between a few members of the 
kirk-session and himself, in which, unfortunately, his 
colleague, Dr. Hanna, became involved. But such a 



122 FAMOUS SCOTS 

contretemps, when smoothed away, only evinced how deep 
and sincere was the affection on both sides lying under any 
apparent estrangement. By December 1865, Dr. Guthrie 
could write to Dr. Hanna : ' I propose to call on you at 
ten o'clock to-morrow — not that we may discuss or even 
touch on the past, but, burying it in oblivion, resume our 
intercourse as of old.' 

Situated as he was, however, the question now came to 
be, how was the minister emeritus of Free St. John's to 
live ? He had never been a man who could save money. 
Whilst he had an abhorrence of debt, and always made his 
income suffice for his wants, he had not been in a position to 
lay by much for what is figuratively known as ' a rainy day.' 
His family was large and their education was expensive. 
He had, moreover, literally obeyed the Scriptural injunc- 
tion, 'Use hospitality one to another without grudging,' 
and his table had been almost an open one ' to the house- 
hold of faith.' His income, never more than ^550 per 
annum, was therefore no more than sufficient for his needs. 
If, then, he declined to receive aught from the congrega- 
tion, where was his support to come from ? There is a 
delightful verse in the metrical version of Psalm xxxiv. 10, 
which has always seemed to me one of the most quaintly 
satisfying of promises in all Scripture — 

1 The lions young may hungry be, 
And they may lack their food ; 
But they that truly seek the Lord 
Shall not lack any good. 5 

This was the position of Dr. Guthrie. The God of his 
fathers, who had provided for him and his hitherto, would 
not leave them to want. And so circumstances proved. 

As though in anticipation of his retirement from active 
work in the pulpit, a far-seeing and sagacious London 
publisher, Mr. Alexander Strahan, had offered to establish 
a high-class religious periodical, to which the best writers 
would be asked to contribute, on the condition that Dr. 
Guthrie agreed to assume the editorship. As the contents 
were intended for Sabbath perusal, the name proposed to 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 123 

be given to the publication was the Sunday Magazine. 
For a time he hesitated. Though he had already 
published several works whose popularity evinced that 
he could 'shpake as well wid his pin as wid his tongue,' 
as an enthusiastic Irish admirer said, he felt a diffidence 
in entering on a sphere for which he had passed through 
no preparatory training. But when he was assured that 
his old friend Dr. Blaikie would be associated with him as 
assistant editor, and that the publisher himself would act 
as ' sub-editor,' he realised that here was the provision 
made for him by the Almighty Father whose bounty feeds 
the sparrows, and at the same time gives bread to the sons 
of men. 

Dr. Guthrie had already written a good deal in religious 
periodicals, especially in Good Words, under the editor- 
ship of his friend Dr. Norman Macleod, and his contribu- 
tions were eagerly sought after, for their picturesque 
brightness, their apophthegmatic pithiness, their world- 
wise common-sense wedded to their 'other-world-wise' 
spirituality. 1 He had also, in addition to his Three Pleas 
on behalf of Ragged Schools, subsequently reissued, as 
we have seen, in one volume, under the title Seedtime 
and Harvest, published in 1855, his Gospel in Ezekiel 
— a volume of sermons dealing with the suggestions of 
Messianic Advent and Atonement as given in Ezekiel 
xxxvi. 16, 38, and constituting a rich magazine of Christian 
doctrine and stimulating Christian practice, couched in 
that vivid style so familiar to his auditors. In 1857 
appeared The City — its Sins and Sorrows, a series of 
discourses on the vice and misery present in our large 
cities, and by its powerfully realistic pictures and almost 
Dantean delineation of the horrors of profligacy and 
destitution, forming a strong argument in favour of Home 
Mission work. In the following year came his third 
volume, Christ and the Inherita?ice of the Saints, as 

1 I do not take into account the numerous 'isolated' or 'single' 
sermons and speeches which were published at the request of his con- 
gregation or friends. Our attention is directed only to his ' books.' 



i2 4 FAMOUS SCOTS 

illustrated in a series of discourses from St. Paul's Epistle 
to the Colossians — discourses replete with exquisite gems 
of religious thought in a setting of rich poetic diction. 
These were succeeded by The Way to Life and Speaking to 
the Heart, the former a series of twenty-one sermons on 
a variety of topics, but all dealing with the doctrine of 
Redemption ; the latter consisting of twelve not over-long 
1 essays ' (rather than discourses), on subjects of cardinal 
importance to every child of humanity, who has the 
faintest jot of realisation as to his moral and spiritual 
responsibilities. 

These works, with a short ' Life ' of Robert Flockhart 
the Edinburgh Street Preacher, prefixed to the Autobio- 
graphy of that humble but highly honoured servant of 
the Saviour, were all the volumes published by Dr. Guthrie 
prior to his assuming the editorship of the Simday 
Magazine. Many editions of them had been sold. 
People who had never heard the Free Church 'Chry- 
sostom ' preach, were thus able to enjoy his picturesque 
presentation of current Christian doctrines in their own 
dwellings, and yet feel some touch at least of that 
mysterious witchery he exercised over all who came within 
the radius of his influence. 

When we glance at the preliminary prospectus of the 
Sunday Magazine, and note the somewhat ambitious role 
the editor marks out for his periodical — 

' to make the Sunday a more pleasant as well as a more 
profitable day to thousands ; to make our magazine plain to 
common people without being vulgar, interesting to cultivated 
minds without being unintelligible to men of ordinary educa- 
tion ; to make good our entry, into cottages as well as drawing- 
rooms ; to be read by people of all Christian denominations ; to 
be of no class, of no sect, of no party, but belonging to all, and 
profitable to all ' — 

one feels inclined to smile at his naive sanguineness. 
But time proved the truth of his anticipations. Strahan 
had rightly judged that ' edited by Dr. Guthrie ' would be 
an announcement to conjure with. The success of the 
Magazine was phenomenal even with such a rival as Good 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 125 

Words in the field, and the sale of the early numbers 
exceeded ioc^ooo. 1 

The reason of this success was that Dr. Guthrie, besides 
securing the best writers in all the several departments as 
contributors, wrote largely himself in the pages of the 
periodical. To its columns he gave of his best, and in 
many of his letters of that period he expresses intense joy 
that when the pulpit had been closed to him as a sphere 
of labour, the press had been opened up, where he could 
plead for the schemes so dear to his heart. He soon caught 
the journalistic readiness of composition and the knack of 
uniting rapidity of production with a high standard of ex- 
cellence. During the eight years of his editorship, scarce 
a number appeared that had not some contribution of his 
own in it. He wrote the opening article in the first 
number. Ten days before his death he corrected the 
proofs of The Leper s Lesson, which was published when he 
had really passed away. Many of his books appeared first 
in serial form in the Sunday Magazine — such as Man and 
the Gospel (1865), The Angels' Song (1865), The Parables 
(1866), Our Father's Business (1867), Out of Harness 
(1867), Early Piety (1868), Studies of Character (1868-70), 
Sundays Abroad (187 1) — to be published afterwards in 
book-form. 

The audience he addressed each month in this way 
was enormous, and his popularity never waned until the 
end. Each of the volumes named above is characterised 
by all Dr. Guthrie's peculiar eloquence, his minuteness 
and accuracy of observation, his spirituality, his lofty 
moral grandeur and power of ethical stimulation, his 
catholic benevolence and his love of his fellow-men. The 
more one reads of Guthrie, the more do. we realise the 
fact already alluded to in this sketch, that if he was 
great as a preacher he was even greater as a man. The 
Sunday Magazine proved a blessing to many in the 

1 Dr. Macleod and Dr. Guthrie were never rivals in the real sense 
of the word. They assisted each other, and were firm friends to the 

Xz.'A. 



126 FAMOUS SCOTS 

highest and best sense of the word, and from 1865 to 
1873 Thomas Guthrie's personality was impressed on 
every page of it. 

Dr. Guthrie was late in life in discovering the literary 
faculty he possessed. The First Plea for Ragged Schools 
he regarded as owing its success to the intrinsic interest 
attaching to the subject. But when the Gospel in Ezekiel, 
The City — its Sins and Sorrows, and finally Christ the 
Inheritance of the Saints, had all proved works of con- 
spicuous popularity from a publisher's point of view, facts 
were too strong for his incredulity, and he was obliged to 
admit that perhaps after all, God might have work for him 
to do with his pen. 1 From that hour he began to take 
greater pains in polishing his periods and touching up his 
style. Significant is it that his latest work, Sundays Abroad, 
was as successful as any of its predecessors, proving that 
his popularity was of no evanescent quality. To this day 
1 Guthrie's Works ' are in demand by those who desire that 
pure spiritual food which is neither highly spiced with 
the 'ologies' nor piquantly seasoned with the 'isms,' but 
presents to death-deserving sinners, in all sincerity and 
truth, the cardinal doctrine of our faith, that 'God so 
loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that 
whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have 
everlasting life.' 2 

One of the most remarkable characteristics of Dr. 
Guthrie was the perennial freshness of his sympathies. 
To the end of life he never lost the faculty of interesting 
himself in any new movement that promised to benefit 
his fellow-men either temporally or spiritually. The 
interest taken by him in the question of Union between 
the Free Church and the United Presbyterians is a case 
in point. We have seen how pronounced an Anti- 
Voluntary he was, when minister of Arbirlot, and how 

1 ' I wonder Dr. Guthrie did not discover his literary faculty twentv 
years before he did,' said the late Dr. Tweedie; 'if he had, his useful- 
ness would have been trebled.' 

2 ' In both his pulpit work and his books Dr. Guthrie is rather the 
divine than the theologian.' — Rev. Pastor Gavazzi. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 127 

he got to grips with 'Potterrow John' himself — the 
redoubtable Ajax of Voluntaryism — over the assaults 
made by the latter on the State Kirk. Many persons 
have contemptuously asked what dependence could be 
placed on the views of a man who in 1834 and 1838 
spoke of Voluntaryism with contempt as 'that blessed 
Voluntary system,' yet in 1843 was counselling Dr. Mac- 
farlan to see to it no bar was inserted into the Free 
Church standards that would preclude Union with the 
Secession Churches. 

But those who sneeringly made this remark failed to 
perceive that Dr. Guthrie's position, in place of lying 
exposed to the alternative charge of being either illogical 
or vacillating, was really the result of rational development 
along the lines of the very same principles he had 
championed against the Voluntaries before the Disrup- 
tion. Note what he says in his Moderatorial (Closing) 
Address in 1862 : — 

' I am for union with the United Presbyterian Church ; I am 
prepared to welcome that Church to-morrow with all my heart, 
and I wish that these doors were now thrown open and I saw 
them come marching in. / believe I shall live aitd die holdi?ig 
the principle of a?i Establishme?it, but the United Presbyterian 
Church does not ask me to give it tip, . . . but is willing to make 
it a debatable ground on which we shall agree to differ. / 
believe our successors will ?iot hold the high Established prin- 
ciple that we do ; but I got it with my mother's milk, and I am 
to carry it with me to the grave.' 

Where, then, is there illogicalness in the position above 
assumed? It constitutes only another proof of Guthrie's 
catholicity of sentiment, while the prophecy regarding 
the views of successors has been curiously but absolutely 
fulfilled in the unanimity prevailing in the Free Church 
with respect to the felicitous Union now pending x with the 
United Presbyterian Church. 

As regards the former Union movement, which, taking 
its rise formally in the year 1862, was protracted by 

1 May 1900. 



i 2 8 FAMOUS SCOTS 

regrettable differences of opinion until 1873, when the 
negotiations were broken off, Dr. Guthrie supported the 
proposed incorporating coalescence of the two bodies 
with all his wonted enthusiasm. Sectarianism was detest- 
able to him, and he endeavoured by voice, by pen, and 
by personal influence to do all- he could to promote the 
contemplated change. In addition to the ex cathedra 
references to the subject in his Moderator's Addresses, 
during the ' Ten Years' Coquetting,' as the period of 
the negotiations has been termed, he delivered several 
speeches in favour of Union, and moreover published a 
pamphlet entitled An Unspoken Speech, or Plea for 
Union} which, by its wise moderation, its calm judg- 
ment, its clear-sighted reasoning and perception of the 
real principles at issue, produced a profound impression 
throughout the Church. As is remarked by his sons in 
the Memoir — 'Dr. Guthrie would, even at the risk of 
a partial secession from his own Church, have gone 
through with the Union on which his heart was set. 
"It clouds the evening of my days," he said, "to think 
that we cannot, while retaining our differences, agree to 
bury our quarrels in a grave where no mourner stands 
by.'" His hopes ran high that in the course of time the 
opposition to the Union would diminish. Alas ! he died 
while matters were still in a state of uncertainty and in- 
decision. Although he doubtless would have regretted 
that incorporating Union was not achieved, yet for the 
measure of progress accomplished in the historic General 
Assembly of 1873 he would devoutly have given thanks j 
for to him, as to all advocates of Union, the passing 
of ' The Mutual Eligibility Law ' would have presented 
itself as laying a secure foundation for future incorporation. 
The careful sifting of principles, rendered necessary in 
order to prepare the basis for ' Mutual Eligibility,' proved 
the oneness of the negotiating Churches, and demonstrated 

1 Published by A. and C. Black in 1867. Consult also his speeches 
at the ' Centenary Services at the Wallace Green Church ' (Berwick-on- 
Tweed), November 12 and 13, 1871. — Berwick Advertiser Office. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 129 

beyond a shadow of doubt that the United Presbyterian 
Church held, as substantially as the Free, the great doctrine 
of Christ's Headship over the nations, and the responsi- 
bility of civil rulers with respect to religion and the Church 
of Christ. 1 

To the last, Dr. Guthrie hoped against hope to see 
Union consummated in his lifetime ; and among the last 
letters he dictated were those to his friends, Dr. Candlish, 
Dr. Blaikie, Dr. C. J. Brown, earnestly enjoining upon 
them not to leave aught undone to bring about a con- 
summation so devoutly to be desired. 

I have designedly left to the end of this chapter any 
reference to a circumstance which afforded an admirable 
gauge of the feelings entertained towards Dr. Guthrie by 
the community at large. After his resignation of the 
active pastorship of St. John's had been accepted with 
deep regret by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh, and 
when the fact became known that he received nothing 
from the congregation, a movement was set on foot to 
place his circumstances on such a basis, that the man 
to whom the Free Church owed so much might be freed 
from all financial anxieties. Already, at a period earlier 
in life — to wit, after his exertions on behalf of the Manse 
Fund — a suggestion had been made to present him with 
some token of the gratitude of so many in the Church, 
for his mighty exertions to ensure their comfort. But as 
soon as Dr. Guthrie heard of the proposal to collect 
money to purchase a manse for the 'Big Beggar Man' 
of the Manse Fund, he wrote to the Convener of the 
Committee appointed to collect subscriptions, begging 
that the scheme might be dropped. His reasons were 
as noble as they were generous, viz. that the time was 
one of great public depression, and that, many of the 

1 In some of his letters to his friend, the Rev. D. Cairns of 
Stitchel, the brother of Scotland's noble son, the Rev. Principal John 
Cairns, D. D., Dr. Guthrie expressed himself in terms of great sorrow 
at any opposition to the Union being shown. He also wrote to my 
father — who was opposed to the Union — begging him to reconsider 
his position. 

I 



1 3 o FAMOUS SCOTS 

Church's schemes were languishing. 1 Not until 1856 
would he allow any movement of the kind to be com- 
menced, and then he only consented when he learned 
that many of his fellow-ministers were deeply hurt that 
he would consent to receive no expression of their grati- 
tude. For the last seventeen years of his life, therefore, 
he occupied a villa 2 in a suburb in Edinburgh, one of 
whose attractions in his eyes was that part of the purchase- 
money was a thank-offering to him from his country 
brethren. 

The scheme, however, which took shape after his re- 
signation, was of an altogether different character. To 
it the whole community was invited to subscribe. When 
he retired from active service, the entire Church mourned, 
and he was followed by the sorrowful benedictions of 
hundreds — nay, thousands — who loved the preacher much, 
but the man more. The conviction was felt, however, 
that the circumstances of the man, to whom not only his 
own Church but the community at large owed so much, 
were far from being in a satisfactory state. To relieve 
his mind from the apprehensions of a poverty-haunted 
old age, and yet do so in a way to prevent his sturdy 
Scots independence from rising in arms at any suggestion 
of charity, was the problem before the promoters. His 
letter to the congregation had made the matter clear 
that his stoppage of active duties only referred to per- 
manent ministerial labours, and that he hoped in the new 
sphere of periodical literature still further to serve his 
Master. Such a step was, of course, more or less experi- 
mental, and the fact remained to be seen whether that 
health which incessant activity for a period exceeding 
thirty-five years had undermined, would endure the un- 
wonted strain put upon it. 

On the grounds, then, of relieving his mind from all 
financial cares, while he sought for convalescence, either 

1 Business of all kinds had been paralysed by the effects of the 
railway crisis in the previous year (1847). 

2 That historic villa has now been swept away to afford space for 
the erection of huge tenements. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 131 

complete or comparative, and while he still strove to do 
what work the Lord laid to his hand, the Committee, 
composed of men of all creeds, classes, and conditions, 
ranging from the Earls of Dalhousie, Shaftesbury, Carlisle, 
Kintore, and Southesk, the Lords Bishops of London and 
St. David's, the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, down to 
humble clerks and tradesmen, asked his acceptance on 
February 21, 1865, of a 'Testimonial of Admiration and 
Esteem ' consisting of ^5000, accompanied also by a 
silver tea and coffee service. 

The most gratifying feature in connection with the 
subscriptions to this 'Testimonial' was that they came, 
practically speaking, from all ranks in life, all ages, and 
wellnigh all parts of the world. Dr. Guthrie had no 
difficulty, therefore, in accepting a testimonial the sub- 
scribers to which were of a character so cosmopolitan. 
There had been previous expressions of gratitude and 
regard tendered to Drs. Cunningham and Candlish. They 
had been largely promoted by Free Churchmen, and given 
to the recipients as Free Church leaders. But Dr. Guthrie's 
' Testimonial ' had nothing to do with either Churches or 
Chapels. It represented the most catholic and cosmo- 
politan tribute of esteem a Scottish Dissenting minister 
had ever received. 

In presence of a brilliant gathering, representative of the 
nobility, wealth, arts, science, and fashion of 'the grey 
metropolis of the north,' held in the Royal Hotel on Feb- 
ruary 20, 1865, and presided over by the Lord Provost, 
the ' Testimonial ' was handed over to Dr. Guthrie. His 
reply was dignified and impressive. In the spirit wherein it 
was offered, the testimonial was accepted. ' Next to the 
approbation of God, of my blessed Master, and of my own 
conscience,' he said, ' there is nothing on which I set so 
high a value as the assurance this testimonial warrants 
me to entertain, that I have won a place in the hearts of 
other Christians besides those of my own denomination.' 1 

1 See report of presentation in Scotsman and Daily Review of 
February 21, 1865. 



132 FAMOUS SCOTS 

Of this feeling in the hearts of all classes in the com- 
munity, from the highest to the lowest, he received many 
evidences daring the remaining years of his life. Reports 
of illness drew inquiries from castle and cottage alike, from 
our gracious Sovereign as the highest lady in the land, to 
the Ragged-School children whom, when none cared for, 
he loved and cherished as a father. Conspicuous also was 
the sentiment at the time of the marriage of the Princess 
Louise to the Marquis of Lome in 187 1, when, alone 
among Scots Dissenting clergymen, Dr. Guthrie received 
an invitation to the ceremony, and had the honour of 
being presented to the Queen. This may have been due 
in some degree to his lifelong friendship with the Duke 
and Duchess of Argyll — a friendship so close, so sincere, 
so based on mutual regard and admiration, as to lead His 
Grace after Dr. Guthrie's death to write to the sorrowing 
widow a letter of sympathy as noble in its sentiments as 
it was touching in its sorrow : — 

' I need not tell you,' he said, ' that we all quite loved him, for 
a nobler nature there never was. This was also the feeling of 
our dear mother the late Duchess of Sutherland, whose nature 
was one thoroughly to appreciate your husband's.' 

But I prefer to see in it, from Her Majesty's subsequent 
solicitude after his health when already the Death Angel 
was hovering over him, that desire to distinguish the 
meritorious with marks of her appreciation which has 
always been characteristic of her who will go down to 
history as ' Victoria the Good.' 



CHAPTER XII 

'. . . Last scene of all 
That ends this strange eventful history.' 

The closing year in the life of those near and dear to us 
who have passed 'behind the veil,' is always recalled with 
the bitter-sweet hopelessness of regretful reminiscence. 
What the Romans termed desideriu^n^ and De Quincey 
'the yearning too obstinate for one irrecoverable face,' 1 
usually centres round the sayings and the doings of the 
last year in the existence of the departed. 'This time 
last year our loved one was doing so-and-so.' And thus 
doth Sorrow feed on Sorrow, until Time, the great Consoler, 
blunts the edge of its hungry desire. 

To the family and friends of Dr. Guthrie, the last year 
of his life was inexpressibly painful. Early in 1872 he 
had gone to London with the view of visiting certain of 
the leading metropolitan charities, in order to write about 
them in the Sunday Magazine. He made his investiga- 
tions, dined with the Benchers in the Middle Temple, and 
in reply to the toast of his health delivered one of his 
raciest and wittiest speeches, which Lord Chief-Justice 
Cockburn declared was the finest after-dinner speech he 
had ever heard ; preached for the Rev. J. T. Davidson, 
and addressed an audience of three thousand, in the Minor 
Agricultural Hall, Islington; attended the Thanksgiving 
Service in St. Paul's for the recovery of the Prince of 
Wales, and actually wrote that his health was better at 
that moment than he had ever known it to be. 

Yet scarcely had he returned to Edinburgh in March 

1 De Quincey's Autobiography ; p. 33. 

133 



134 FAMOUS SCOTS 

than that season of good health showed signs of being 
but evanescent. As the Memoir says : — 

'An undeveloped gastric attack hung about him throughout 
that month and the one following, which, though it did not 
prostrate him at the time, predisposed him to the rheumatic 
affection which as summer advanced aggravated the disease 
from which he had so long suffered.' 

He was able, however, to go to London in May to attend 
and officiate at the marriage of his fifth son, Alexander, 
who had come over from San Francisco. His daughter 
was to be married in June, and the week before that event 
took place he wrote to a lady friend his plans for the next 
two years : — 

'Some days after Nelly's marriage, which, God willing, comes 
off next week, we will set off for Lochlee. About the middle 
of November, Mrs. Guthrie and I set off for Rome : we shall 
return home about the beginning of May 1873. We then 
embark in August for Yankeedom, to attend the Evangelical 
Alliance ; and from the Eastern States we '11 go to San 
Francisco, remaining there till March '74. This we propose, 
ever seeking to remember the good old adage, " Man proposes, 
but God disposes." If I am spared to carry out these plans, 
I think I shall then cease my wanderings on the face of the 
earth, and live quietly till they cany me home? 

The 'carrying home' was nearer than he thought! 
Long before these plans had time to ccme to fruition in 
fulfilment, the silver cord was loosed, the golden bowl 
was broken, and the spirit had returned unto the God 
who gave it. 

The final breakdown in his health took place in June 
1872. The day after his daughter's marriage, he attended 
the funeral of his erstwhile foeman but, later on, his 
beloved friend, Dr. Norman Macleod — a man who, when 
he passed from us, left not his equal behind in those 
peculiar gifts and graces which had distinguished him. 
Dr. Guthrie, however, was able to proceed to Lochlee — 
that mountain retreat far from towns, trains, and tourists, 
in the northern part of his native Forfarshire and 
in the very heart of the Grampians, uhere within the 
solitudes of a deer forest, and on the banks of a small, 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 135 

deep, but very picturesque mountain lake, buried amidst 
birch-woods, was the lonely cottage which Lord Dalhousie 
permitted him from 1849 t0 J ^73 to occupy rent free. 
No sooner did he reach Inchgrundle than he was laid 
prostrate. 

' Here I am in bed,' he wrote, ' under what I may say is new 
to me, a rheumatic attack. I think I must have got it on the 
day of Nelly's marriage. Then I was wearied and worn out 
the next day attending Norman Macleod's funeral, and the 
result of all these things — rheums, which have got worse and 
worse, refusing to be arrested, far less removed.' 

Dr. Guthrie was an enthusiastic as well as an expert 
angler, for the exercise of which sport Lochlee and its 
streams offered excellent facilities. He was wont, during 
spare hours, to pursue the gentle art of Walton, early and 
late. To a dear friend he wrote in 1849 : — 

'We are all fishing daft here : my brother Patrick says that 
between us all together he cannot get a word of rational con- 
versation—nothing but " trouts, baits, hooks, bobs, drags, flies, 
dressings, hackle, and tackle." This morning we had our boat 
grinding off the beach by a little after five, and brought home 
seven pounds weight of trout.' 

Besides herring-sized trout and char, Lochlee also con- 
tains the great ' lake trout ' of Scotland (Salmo ferox), and 
in learning to play monsters of six, seven, and even eight 
pounds weight, Dr. Guthrie speedily became one of the 
most skilful anglers of his day. 

He was also fond of riding and driving. He rejoiced 
to feel ' a good bit of blood ' beneath him, and he knew 
how to gauge the ' points ' of a horse as well as most 
dealers. An eager botanist, likewise, he acquired quite 
a special acquaintance with the Alpine flora of the 
Grampians. As his sons state, he would often come 
in from his walks at Lochlee with a miniature nosegay 
tastefully arranged, containing saxifrages, triemalis, 
pinguicula, polygala, rockrose, oakfern, and others of 
his favourites, maintaining that no Covent Garden bouquet 
was half so beautiful. 



136 FAMOUS SCOTS 

With pain his wife and family perceived that these 
sports and pursuits, of old his delight, were this year 
quietly demitted. l We could not hide from ourselves 
that much of the wonted spri?ig was gone. He planned 
our various mountain expeditions, but no longer proposed 
to join us.' In a word, for the first time in twenty-two 
years, Lochlee had failed to recruit his spent energies, and 
those around him sorrowfully realised that at last the 
shadow of an overwhelming sorrow was slowly but surely 
falling athwart their lives. With the usual interest he 
displayed in the affairs of the Free Church Continental 
Mission, he had agreed to supply the preaching-station at 
Rome, along with two other eminent Scots ministers, Dr. 
Macgregor of the Church of Scotland and Dr. John Ker 
of the United Presbyterian Church. He looked forward 
to a pleasant season in the Eternal City and to brotherly 
intercourse with his friends from the two other denomina- 
tions, while many in Rome were on the qui vive to hear 
the preacher-philanthropist whose fame was so world-wide. 
But long before the date of departure, he had become so 
much worse, that intimation had to be given of his inability 
to fulfil his promise. 

Deeper grew life's twilight shadows around him. As he 
was only too evidently becoming worse rather than better 
at Lochlee, his medical advisers ordered him to Buxton. 
For a time he rallied there, and hopes were entertained 
that the cardiac disease had been checked. On his return 
to Edinburgh in the autumn his friends were overjoyed 
at the improvement, and with sanguine anticipations that 
the peace and quietness of Lochlee might complete what 
Buxton had begun, they saw him return to his Highland 
retreat. 

While there, on Sabbath, 25th August 1872, he preached 
what proved to be his last sermon. To hear him on that 
occasion were H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, the Lord 
Chancellor (Cairns), and many distinguished personages 
who were for the time the guests of Lord Dalhousie. Side 
by side they sat with the honest farmers and simple 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 137 

peasantry of the district — all equally hanging upon the 
words of the orator, now pouring out his last fervid appeal 
on behalf of his Master. A brilliant man of letters only 
recently removed from us, who formed one of the audience 
on the occasion, stated that all through that impassioned 
and impressive discourse he could not prevent the thought 
continually recurring to his mind, that Dr. Guthrie was 
preaching 'as a dying man to dying men.' His text 
was taken from Hebrews x. 38 : ' The just shall live by 
faith,' and more than one who heard him said the sermon 
was one of his best. Like the dying cygnet of old Greek 
fable, he poured forth his grandest strain at the last. As 
the Memoir remarks, when he descended from the pulpit 
on that peaceful autumn Sabbath, he had closed his forty 
years' ministry. Little did those who walked away silent 
and softened from Lochlee Church that day realise that 
the mighty voice to which they had just been listening 
would be heard by them no more. His work was now 
completed. ' Servant of God, well done ! ' 

On returning to Edinburgh in September, to the surprise 
of many of his friends he insisted, like Hezekiah, 'on 
setting his house in order' in view of all contingencies. 
Though he looked well, and though, humanly speaking, 
he appeared to have made an excellent recovery, he 
must have had some premonition that the last turn on 
the road of life was already in sight. Suddenly, without 
warning, the blow fell in the last week of September, 
when an attack of congestion of the lungs prostrated 
him, and from that time until the 24th February 1873, 
when the end came, Thomas Guthrie knew he was a 
dying man. Though the congestion yielded to the skilful 
remedies applied by his family medical attendant, Dr. 
W. Cumming, in consultation with Sir Robert Christison 
and Dr. Warburton Begbie; though he slowly fought his 
way back to some degree of strength and general im- 
provement, while wellnigh all Scotland, and friends over 
the length and breadth of Britain, awaited the daily 
bulletins, Dr. Guthrie himself did not entertain any illu- 



138 FAMOUS SCOTS 

sions about his condition. 'The first summons has come, 
the second only tarries awhile. 5 

But when 'the second summons' still tarried, and when 
he actually appeared to be so distinctly gaining in strength 
as to be able to walk up and down once or twice in front 
of his house, he seemed to take heart of courage once 
more, and expressed the hope ' he might yet pull through, 
even though it should be at the price of wintering abroad.' l 
During the dull, grey days of late October and early 
November the slow progress towards the measure of con- 
valescence hoped or was checked ; the digestive system, 
sympathetically affected by the heart, began to fail, food 
lost its relish, and again the insidious enemy commenced 
to make headway. Insomnia supervened, until sleep was 
only obtainable by means of chloral, and the restlessness 
inseparable from the disease was accompanied by an in- 
describable feeling of faintness or sinking, even when 
sleep was falling upon him, that caused slumber to be 
regarded with dread in place of delight. ' For four months 
continuously it was necessary for some of his family and 
attendants to sit in the room with him through the night, 
trying to beguile weariness and induce "natural repose" 
by reading to him in a monotonous tone, or by softly 
singing a psalm or hymn.' 2 

Nothing impressed those around him at this time more 
than the courage and serenity wherewith he contemplated 
the future. The latest symptoms were so fatal in their 
significance, that to his medical attendants as well as to 
himself, they conveyed the intimation that only one ter- 
mination could be looked for. But the constitutional 
strength of his frame was remarkable, and that saddest of 
all sights had to be endured by his loving family — the 
spectacle of a conflict between physical strength and 
disease. Yet the spirit seemed every day to rise more 
triumphantly superior to the ills of the flesh. His interest 
in all that was going on in the world around was unabated. 

1 Letter to Miss Salt, daughter of Sir Titus Salt. 

2 Memoir, vol. ii. p. 473. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 139 

The daily newspaper was read by him or to him, according 
as his health permitted, and each item of intelligence, 
political, ecclesiastical, literary, and scientific discussed 
with undiminished keenness and attention. His numerous 
friends who visited him found his intellectual powers as 
acute as ever, while his spiritual unction and depth of 
religious fervour seemed rather to increase than to diminish 
as the vital forces failed. Up to within ten or twelve days 
of the end he was occupied with his Autobiography and 
the affairs of the Sunday Magazine. He manifested deep 
interest in certain details of Ragged-School work, and both 
by mouth and by letters he earnestly impressed on the 
brethren of his own denomination — Drs. Candlish, Hanna, 
Duff, Blaikie, Brown, etc. — the importance of leaving 
nothing undone to consummate the Union between the 
Free and the U.P. Churches. While the body was steadily 
losing its vital energy, the light of the soul seemed to burn 
ever more steadily and lucently, until merged at length 
into the supernal brightness of the perfect day. 

After four months of tedious suffering in Edinburgh, as 
a last resource he was moved, on the 31st January 1873, 
to the genial climate of St. Leonards-on-Sea, in the hope 
that, as of old, change of scene might rally the failing 
powers. A cheerful, sunny house was secured, where he 
could look out on trie blue expanse of waters, and both 
see and hear the 'multitudinous laughter of the waves.' 1 
For some days the novelty of the surrounding scenes 
stimulated his relaxing energies. He delighted in the 
daily drives, and, as the Memoir informs us, would often 
stop to chat with the quaint old Sussex fisher-folk of the 
ancient port of Hastings, and to purchase zoophytes, algse, 
and other specimens of natural history . prepared by a 
widow in the village. But after the first few days even 
the indomitable will of the man, and his hunger after 
knowledge of all kinds, could no longer battle with the 
deadly complication of diseases that was sapping his 

1 De Quincey considered that the ' avr\pi.d\xov y4~Ka<r/JLa ' referred as 
m uch to the sound as the sight of the waves. 



140 FAMOUS SCOTS 

strength. On the 16th February he returned from his 
drive very much exhausted. As he was being carried into 
the house from the carriage, he turned his head and cast 
a wistful, lingering look" backwards upon the sunny land- 
scape and seascape around him. ' What a beautiful world 
our Father has given us ! ' he murmured. It was his fare- 
well to Nature's scenes he had loved so fondly for these 
seventy years. When the door closed behind him, he had 
looked his last on the loveliness of earth. 

To all, the fact was now evident that the end was only 
a question of days. His family were, therefore, summoned 
and gathered around him. Feeble though the body had 
become, his mind still kept clear and unclouded. His 
spiritual state was tranquil and composed, and he joined 
earnestly and devoutly in the religious exercises which the 
local clergy of the Anglican, Congregational, and United 
Presbyterian bodies conducted by his bedside. He re- 
mained much in secret prayer also, experiencing evidently 
great consolation in the thought that however deep might 
be the guilt of the sinner, the atoning power of the 
Redeemer was more than sufficient to cancel all. More 
than once he was heard to ejaculate, ' O Most Mighty and 
Most Merciful! have compassion on me, once a great sinner, 
now a great sufferer.' Again and again, too, he repeated 
those lines of Toplady — 

' Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to Thy Cross I cling.' 

Meantime the intimation of his dangerous condition had 
been flashed over the length and breadth of the land. 
Once more, from the highest to the lowest in the social 
scale of the British community, a wave of sympathetic 
devotion to the philanthropist who had done so much to 
succour the most friendless class in our great cities, rolled 
down towards the peaceful southern watering-place, where 
he lay fighting his last battle with death. Cheered though 
he was by the universality of the expressions of sympathy 
which reached his family and friends, he was likewise 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 141 

profoundly humbled. 'What have I done to call forth 
such a tribute as this ? All I have done was but a tithe 
of what I ought to have done.' But from Her Majesty 
down to the poor London costermonger, whose brother 
had been rescued by Dr. Guthrie, and whose only manner 
of testifying his gratitude was to call his trusty donkey 
' Dr. Guthrie,' all sections of the community felt that in 
the dying man there was passing away from earth one 
of the noblest Britons of his age. 

And so the weary conflict went on all through that last 
week. Not a murmur escaped him. 'What are my 
pains,' he said on one occasion, 'to those my Saviour 
endured on Calvary for me?' The only sign that he allowed 
to escape him of the physical distress through which he 
was passing, was an ever-increasing longing to be released 
from the infirm tabernacle of the flesh, that he might see 
his Lord. 

On Admiral Hamilton entering his room a day or two 
before his death, and remarking, ' Do you know, I think 
you are looking better, Doctor?' he replied, 'Ah, then, a 
good man comes with evil tidings ! ' On the same day, 
referring to his little son that died in infancy, he said, 
' Johnnie was a sweet lamb, though he didna like me : he 
was long ailing, and aye clung to his mother. Ay, though 
his little feet never ran on earth, I think I see him running 
to meet me at the Golden Gate.' On the Saturday before 
he died, when already the shadows of death were beginning 
to steal over the vital powers, he motioned that his grand- 
child, Anita Williamson, might be lifted up and placed 
on the bed beside him. He feebly kissed her chubby 
little hand and murmured, ' God bless you, my bonnie 
lamb, both for time and for eternity ! ' 

On Sabbath, 23rd February, the issue was seen to be 
one only of a few hours. His weakness was so great that 
the pulse could not be detected, yet he could still listen 
and enjoy the reading of portions of Scripture and 
1 hymns.' Prayer was offered for the dying saint at nearly 
all the churches and chapels both in St. Leonards and 



i 4 2 FAMOUS SCOTS 

Hastings, and the thought appeared to comfort him that 
he was being borne up to the throne of grace on the wings 
of supplication. 

Weaker and yet more weak he grew every hour. In the 
afternoon he had sent a message to his old friend the 
Rev. James Robertson, Newingtori U.P. Church, Edinburgh, 
but since then had not spoken for some hours. After 
night had fallen, his eldest son, 1 fearing lest the power of 
speech had already left him, murmured gently in his 
father's ear — ' Christ is still your staff and your comfort, 
father?' The loved name of his Redeemer pierced 
through the gathering mists of dissolution. The dying 
man opened his eyes once more, and in an emphatic 
whisper said ' Certainly ! ' 

Thereafter he spoke no more, but the benediction of 
eternal peace seemed to settle upon his features as he 
passed into a deep slumber. One or two members of 
the family, worn out with incessant attendance, and not 
apprehending any immediate change, retired to snatch a 
short period of repose. The others sat grouped around 
the deathbed watching the slow approach of the King of 
Terrors. Gradually the hours slip by, but on the expres- 
sive countenance of the dying man, trace of terror there 
was none — nothing, save a glorifying of the expression of 
heavenly rest and resignation. Two o'clock on the 
morning of the 24th was approaching. Still the watchers 
maintained their vigil. At that moment, his faithful 
Highland maid, who had been scanning his face intently, 
whispered, ' Surely the wrinkles are all being smoothed 
out.' 

Yes, she was right. The 'Shadow of Death' had come 
at last, and was already bending over the old man to lay 
that summoning kiss upon his lips which needs no second. 
The family knelt around the bedside as his eldest son 
commended the passing spirit to the care of a loving 
Redeemer. There was only a gentle sigh as of infinite 
restfulness, then the spirit of Thomas Guthrie winged its 
1 The Rev. D. K. Guthrie of Liberton. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 143 

way from earth, to where beyond these voices there is 



peace 



Dr. Guthrie's death evoked an outburst of sorrow all over 
the world such as rarely attends the demise of any clergy- 
man or philanthropist, however distinguished. Not a journal 
in the ' Three Kingdoms ' but published a long obituary 
notice detailing his life and labours. Many of these were 
written by the leading authors of the day ; while in the 
United States, Canada, South America, South Africa, 
India, Australia, and New Zealand, the same volume of 
sorrowful sympathy was outpoured. Nay, even in France, 
Germany, and Italy, the leading newspapers paid their 
tribute to a departed hero who had worthily played his part 
in the great world-battle with destitution, sin, and suffering. 

On Friday, 28th February 1873, tne remains of Dr. 
Guthrie were laid to rest in the Grange Cemetery. Save 
on the occasions of the interment of Dr. Chalmers, Sir 
James Simpson, and Professor Blackie, during the last 
half-century Edinburgh has never witnessed such a funeral. 
All classes in the community were represented there. 
All the honour his fellow-citizens, official and non-official, 
could evince towards his memory was paid. But best 
tribute of all was that, coming from the poor of the city 
and the orphans of his Ragged Schools. ' He was a 
father unto us in very truth,' said one old man who had 
seen better days, and had been a sort of humble pensioner ; 
' men may come and men may go, but it will be long 
before we get the like of Thomas Guthrie again.' 

And this was in great measure what formed the burden 
of the numerous funeral sermons that were preached on 
his life and its lessons, on the succeeding Sabbath. 
Perhaps the best and noblest panegyric pronounced upon 
him was that uttered by Dr. Candlish when preaching 
the memorial discourse in Free St. John's, — ' Friend and 
brother, comrade in the fight ', companion in tribulation, fare- 
well ! But not for ever. May my soul, when my hour comes, 
be with thine? 



CHAPTER XIII 

CRITICAL — GUTHRIE AS ECCLESIASTIC, PHILANTHROPIST, 

AND MAN 

' What constituted Guthrie's greatness ? ' is a question 
often asked nowadays by the younger generation that has 
grown up in the twenty-seven years that have elapsed since 
he passed away. To give a satisfactory answer is by no 
means easy. All the world admits him to have been a 
man of genius, a great and gracious personality, looming 
large against the historic background of his age. When, 
however, we come to analyse the constituents of his great- 
ness, the puzzle presents itself. 

To either wide or exact scholarship he never made any 
pretensions. His books, despite their charm, contain not 
a scrap of formal doctrinal teaching to earn for him the 
title of 'theologian.' He was neither a great Church leader 
like Chalmers or Cunningham, nor a brilliant ecclesiastical 
dialectician and organiser like Candlish or Rainy. As 
he said of himself, in the controversies of the Church, 
he was ' oftener found at the guns than at the wheel.' 
Then, as a philanthropist, there have been men whose 
services in the cause of humanity have been as great 
as his, yet whose names to-day are utterly forgotten. 
As an educational reformer also, he was so far ahead of 
his time, that men like Candlish and Buchanan failed to 
appreciate his catholicity of outlook, and on some occa- 
sions, when he declined to allow Disruption dissidences 
to debar him from extending and receiving the right hand 
of Christian fellowship to and from Established Church 
ministers, they were inclined to think his liberality savour- 
ing of laxity of principle. With sectarian exclusiveness he 
had not an iota of sympathy. 

144 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 145 

As a pulpit orator, moreover, he was undoubtedly great, 
but in his day there were at least six other preachers 
whose claims to rival him in that department he would 
have been the first to admit ; while as a pastor he did no 
more than hundreds of his fellow-ministers were doing with 
equal acceptance. What, then, was the secret which made 
the name of Guthrie one that has been for a generation 
enwreathed with the sincere benisons of his fellow-men ? 
To my mind it was his versatility that constituted his 
magnetic influence over widely diverse temperaments. 
* One of the most gracious personalities it has been my 
fortune to meet, whether of the Court or out of it,' said 
Mr. Gladstone to Canon Liddon when the news of his 
death was made public. ' That man would make me 
religious whether I would or not, if I associated much 
with him,' said a condemned murderer to Governor Smith, 
after a visit paid to him by Dr. Guthrie at the request of 
the Jail-Governor. 

The subtle union of many noble qualities, rather than 
the outstanding possession of any especial one, made 
Guthrie what he was. As Fenelon was reported to have 
made friends for life by the manner in which he pro- 
nounced their name, so Guthrie bound closely to him 
men of the most antagonistic types, because each seemed 
to discover in him points of sympathy and affinity with him- 
self. His broad humanity, united to intense earnestness 
of conviction and to transparent truth, rendered him ready 
to concede to others what he demanded for himself. 

Guthrie the 'ecclesiastic,' however, was utterly distinct 
from Guthrie the ' philanthropist,' and Guthrie the ' man ' 
differed in many particulars from both. To understand 
the limitations of the man, we must take into account the 
lifelong trial it must have been for his tolerant catholicity 
to be so closely associated with the sectarian exclusiveness 
of certain sections of post-Disruption Free Churchism. If 
he were not so intensely fervid in the support of some of 
those minor principles which, nevertheless, certain of his 
brethren considered as well-nigh essential to salvation, it 

K 



i 4 6 FAMOUS SCOTS 

was because he strove always to reduce points of difference 
between denominations to a minimum, preferring rather to 
discover in how many points they agreed than in how 
many they differed. As he remarked in one of his books 
when touching upon this very subject, ' a river cannot be 
both broad and deep.' The simile may be applied to 
himself — his broad catholicity prevented his depth of 
conviction ever becoming so profound as to degenerate 
into bigotry. 

' Guthrie the Ecclesiastic,' therefore, must not be held 
synonymous with ' Guthrie the Free Churchman.' Whilst 
one of the most loyal of her sons, he was never one 
who gloried in being nothing else, and who exalted her 
system of Church Government at the expense of other 
denominations. 

Many people marvelled at Dr. Guthrie's interest in 
religious societies and work — nay, in churches — that seemed 
to lie wholly outside the sphere of his active sympathies. 
Guthrie found truth in all the creeds, and no finer words 
were ever spoken by him than those he uttered in one of 
his Moderator's Addresses — ' Wheresoever we find Christ 
the Saviour worshipped in sincerity and in truth, let us 
welcome these worshippers as brethren in Christ.' The 
prime fact in the world's economy, as it was the prime 
doctrine in its theology, was to him the Atonement. 
Never would he allow that cardinal historical fact with 
its accompanying complement, the 'Resurrection,' to be 
relegated to a secondary position, or to any other position 
than as both the Efficient and Final Cause — to quote a 
distinction of the Scholastics — of human progress and 
development in modern times. As he puts it in one of 
his sermons : — 

' One of the dangerous tendencies of these times is to thrust 
Calvary and its Cross into the background, to modify, and by 
modifying to emasculate, PauFs grand saying, " I am determined 
not to know anything among you but Jesus Christ and Him 
crucified." Many people know Christ, but not Him crucified 
. . . the sacrifice for sin and the Substitute for sinners.' * 

1 Our Father's Business. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 147 

Guthrie's spiritual instincts were so keen, yet at the 
same time so catholic, and his desire for unity among all 
who named the name of Christ so earnest, that minute 
differences of doctrine were lost sight of in securing the 
greater desideratum of the consolidation of all sections 
of Christ's Kingdom. On his deathbed he said : — 

' I have no sympathy with Broad Church views, but there is a 
sense in which I am a Broad Churchman. There are some 
men who have no faith in the salvation of any beyond their 
own narrow sect. My belief, on the contrary, is that in the end 
there will be a vastly larger number saved than we have any 
conception of.' 

Furthermore, Dr. Guthrie's interest in Free Church 
Schemes, and his herculean labours on their behalf, were 
not due to any such narrow motive as merely to put his 
Church in the first place as a great missionary agency, or 
to show to the world ' what we can do.' So unworthy a 
stimulus provoked the lash of his sarcasm, when he heard 
such sentiments expressed in Church Courts. When 
Dr. Guthrie championed a scheme such as Home and 
Foreign Missions, he did not solicit aid by telling his 
audiences that the Established Church had planted a 
church here and a preaching-station there, or that the 
United Presbyterians were breaking ground somewhere 
else and we must not let them get ahead of us. In the 
spirit of Paul, who rejoiced in the fact that Christ was 
preached, though it was done of contention and to add 
affliction to his bonds, Dr. Guthrie rejoiced to hear of any 
Church extending its boundaries. ' Give God the glory,' 
he would say ; * Christ and His Cross are preached, and 
whether the human instrument be Presbyterian, Baptist, 
Wesleyan, or Episcopalian, is quite a secondary con- 
sideration.' 

Again, with regard to Dr. Guthrie's pastoral work, he 
discharged it not merely as a duty to be performed with 
perfunctory monotony, but as a privilege demanding the 
exercise of his highest powers. Cast-iron routine is the 
curse of vital congregational religious life. There are 



148 FAMOUS SCOTS 

some churches where the people are, in a spiritual sense, 
as dead as a palaeozoic fossil. And what is the reason? 
Because the minister does his work like a prisoner 
on the treadmill, without the introduction of a jot of 
variety to break the deadly reign of routine. Where there 
is sluggishness in the pulpit there will be somnolence 
in the pew, and routine is the nursing-mother of dulness. 
Against such practices Dr. Guthrie, from the earliest days 
of his ministry, set his face. ' I don't care about being 
the minister of a large church,' he said on one occasion, 
'but I do wish to be the minister of a live church.' 
He had his desire gratified. Both in Arbirlot and in 
Edinburgh his congregations were characterised by the 
possession of the best kind of religious life, that which 
diffuses itself abroad in far-reaching effort for the welfare 
of others. He repeated at Free St. John's what he had 
initiated at Arbirlot, viz. all kinds of religious, social, 
and literary agencies for the employment of the Christian 
efforts of his people. Aggressive religion is the only 
practical religion, and Dr. Guthrie's motto was 'Some- 
thing for every one to do, and every one engaged upon 
something.' 1 

Though he was able to take but little active part during 
the later years of his ministry in the numerous agencies 
started under the auspices of his congregation, he was the 
mainspring that kept them all in motion, even to the end. 
If he were a great pulpit orator, he was also a great 
parochial organiser. His sagacity and common-sense 
always came to his aid on occasions when a zeal without 
discretion led some of his members to rush into schemes 
that did not promise to be successful. 'A very good 
suggestion,' he would say in such circumstances, 'but 
with the machinery at our command I fear it would 
hardly get as fair a chance as it deserves.' His tact and 
his exquisite courtesy, even to the humblest members of 

1 This is the principle of the Salvation Army. But long before 
William Booth was heard of, Dr. Guthrie had been practising this 
principle in connection with his congregations. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 149 

his flock, endeared him to them all. Any one who had 
a proposal to make with regard to the working of the 
congregation, was convinced that from one individual at 
least, and that one his minister, he would not receive a 
scoff or a rebuff. 

Though never assuming the position of a Church 
leader, he was regular in attendance on the meetings of 
Presbytery, Synod, Commission, and Assembly when 
momentous questions were raised. True, he rarely inter- 
posed with a set speech in any of the great debates, save 
perhaps when Education was under discussion ; but some 
of his happiest impromptus, some of his most humorous 
touches that amused and delighted both sides, without 
leaving a rankle of irritation behind, were delivered in 
little speeches of two or three minutes in duration, 
wherein he would sum up the two sides of the question 
in some delightful jeu d'esprit^ which oftentimes averted 
angry controversial scenes. 

Be the subject what it might, Dr. Guthrie was always 
in favour of moderate courses. 'Truth never lies in 
extremes,' he remarked in one of his Ragged School 
speeches — a saying which smacks of John Stuart Mill's 
famous dictum that truth is generally to be found midway 
between the two opposite poles of belief. Even with re- 
spect to the retention of the Bible in the Ragged Schools 
he was prepared to have made many compromises short 
of forbidding its use altogether, if the secular party had 
been prepared to do the same. 

Viewed as an ecclesiastic, Dr. Guthrie's character and 
work entitle him to a very high place among the clergy 
who have been associated with Edinburgh. Were I asked 
to sum up in one word his nature as it impressed an out- 
sider, I should reply ' Christlikeness.' Not exactly ' saint- 
liness,' for the latter implies a certain element of ' passive 
goodness' which scarcely realised one's idea of Guthrie. 
He was the aggressive, militant champion of the Cross, 
ready to do battle to the death with the powers of evil, 
poverty, and suffering, eager both to account all things but 



150 FAMOUS SCOTS 

loss and to suffer the loss of all things for the excellency 
of the knowledge of Christ. 

Broad in his spiritual sympathies, catholic in his inter- 
pretation of Christian doctrines, lofty in his ideal of 
personal goodness, unsparing in lashing his own weak- 
nesses, but gentle as a woman in dealing with the moral 
or spiritual infirmities of others, he was one of those 
types of character which appear in the world at intervals, 
as if to prove to men that it is possible to ' live ' Christ as 
well as to Move' Him, and that the 'Master' asked 
nothing beyond the capacity of humanity, when He en- 
joined upon His disciples that imitation of Himself which 
is the essence of true religion. 

Closely allied with Dr. Guthrie's labours as a minister, 
and owned by God with almost equal success, although 
the time wherein he was engaged in it was so much shorter, 
was his work as an author. The good he was able to 
achieve by his pen while editor of the Sunday Magazine was 
great, but will not be realised in its fulness until the day 
when the hidden things of earth are made plain. Apart 
from his periodical writings, a good deal of which was of 
merely temporary and ephemeral interest, he wrote in all 
sixteen larger works, reckoning the Three Pleas for Ragged 
Schools as one volume, and not taking account of the 
pamphlets he published on Industrial Schools and the 
' Union Question.' These sixteen volumes, beginning with 
the Gospel in Ezekiel and ending with Sundays Abroad, 
form a valuable library in themselves of popular evangelical 
teaching. Of the professed or professional theologian there 
is, as I have said, no trace. The writer is simply talking 
face to face with his reader, even as formerly he had been 
face to face with his congregation — for most of the papers 
were originally delivered as sermons — and the result 
achieved is, a depth of impression rarely experienced out- 
side the walls of a church. Space will not permit me to deal 
with these books in any detail. I only can add that those 
who have yet to read them for the first time have a rich 
spiritual as well as intellectual treat in store : — the Gospel 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 151 

in Ezekiel, for its picturesque presentation of Scripture 
history and the lessons to be drawn therefrom, dealing 
with the problems and perplexities of this present worka- 
day world ; The City — its Sins and Sorroivs, with its awful 
pictures of the degradation and misery in our great centres 
of population ; Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints, as 
a study of the great mystery of the Love of Christ and of 
the benefits accruing to us from sincere acceptance of 
the Covenant of Grace; The Way to Life, as a practical 
application of the scheme of salvation to the needs and 
necessities of the everyday world around us ; Speaking to 
the Heart, with its simple yet effective demonstration of 
the applicability of Christ's attributes to heal the sorrows 
and the sufferings of the deepest dyed of sinners ; Man 
and the Gospel, wherein the pricelessness of the Cross of 
Christ as a safeguard and panoply against all the temp- 
tations and assaults of the Evil One is proved by the 
testimony and experience of God's saints ; The Parables, 
in which the apologues spoken by Our Lord are read in 
the light of present-day trials and temptations, and the 
conclusion drawn that their force and application is 
just as cogently appropriate to-day, as when the God- 
man uttered them beneath the sunny Syrian skies ; Our 
Father's Business, with its lessons to commercial men, in 
common with all others, that religion is a thing of the 
counting-house and the market as well as of the church 
and the meeting-house ; The Studies of Character from 
the Old Testament, with analogies drawn between the 
Bible heroes and the men and women of ■ to-day — all 
these, with the other works I have not named, for 
spirituality of aim and purpose, beauty and cogency of 
thought, prodigal profusion of metaphor and illustra- 
tion, scorn of falsehood and oppression, pathos and 
sympathy when dealing with the afflicted and heart- 
sore, are as unique in their own way as Dr. Guthrie 
individually was unique in his. They are still read, 
and will continue to be read, for that note of keen 
human sympathy which one finds on every page, and 



152 FAMOUS SCOTS 

for their vigorous assertion of the grand old truths and 
cardinal doctrines of our faith. 

'Guthrie the Philanthropist' was even more widely 
known on the Continent of Europe and in America than 
1 Dr. Guthrie the Preacher.' In fact, the amount of work 
the organiser of the ' Original Ragged Schools ' succeeded 
in accomplishing, and the frequency with which he appeared 
before the public, led to the belief on the part of some 
that 'Thomas Guthrie' and ' Dr. Guthrie' were two different 
persons. Dr. Guthrie, in fact, achieved as much work in 
the cause of the Ragged Schools as would have sufficed 
for many a man's life's labour. Yet this was at the very 
time when he was standing forth as one of the champions 
on the temperance side; at the very time, too, when he was 
fighting against the narrow Sectarianism of denominational 
education ; at the very time, in fine, when he was making 
a determined effort to secure shorter hours for shop- 
employes, and, along with his friend Dr. Begg, was agitating 
for ' better homes for the working classes.' 

As a philanthropist Dr. Guthrie looked first to relieving 
temporal necessities before touching spiritual needs. 'You 
cannot get a fellow-creature to see the felicity of the 
scheme of salvation whose idea of felicity at that moment 
is bounded by the horizon of a threepenny loaf.' Hence, in 
all his efforts to relieve the misery arising from crime and 
destitution, he began with the stomach to reach the soul. 
Starvation and salvation do not constitute a promising 
combination for a philanthropist to work upon. Although 
hunger and holiness in monkish times appear to have 
produced results by no means despicable, when we regard 
the labours of the early Franciscans and Cistercians, whose 
menu was summed up in one scanty meal per day of pulse 
and bread ; in these degenerate days the experience of all 
philanthropists, from Howard to Booth, has been that 
moral and spiritual reformation among the lapsed masses, 
in nine cases out of ten, is dependent on — or rather the 
result of — the relief of temporal necessities. 1 

1 In Darkest England, and the Way Out, by General Booth of the 
Salvation Army. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 153 

Dr. Guthrie's Ragged School work constitutes a page in 
the history of social reform which is not the least bright 
with encouraging prospects for the future. He had the 
strong practical sagacity of his countrymen to guide him 
in formulating the scheme of operations which was laid 
before his committee and accepted by them entirely. He 
made the ' course ' or ' curriculum,' if I might use the term, 
in vogue at the Ragged Schools, not merely of an educa- 
tional but of an industrial or technical character, by which 
lads were trained manually as well as mentally, and furnished 
with a trade as well as with scholastic tuition. His common- 
sense was visible at every turn. A dreamy theorist he 
never was. ' How will the theory work out in practice ? ' 
was always the first question after any new idea had been 
propounded. He was a capital man of business, which 
perhaps he owed to his early banking experiences, and 
was as skilful in financing as in formulating his schemes. 
To this day ' Dr. Guthrie's Original Industrial Schools ' 
remain in as flourishing and progressive a state as ever. 

But as I have said, Dr. Guthrie was not a one-sided 
philanthropist. His charity was as catholic as his religious 
sympathies. Hence we find him throwing himself heart 
and soul into such widely diverse ameliorative movements 
as the Missions to Cabmen and to Lamplighters, the 
abolition of the Contagious Diseases Act, the establish- 
ment of night-schools for shop lads, which, singularly 
enough, by revealing to him the ' white slavery ' of these 
assistants, started him on one of the most successful 
crusades he ever waged, 'Shorter hours for Shop- 
Employes and a Saturday Half-holiday.' 

In the high and holy work of seeking to save the heart- 
broken victims of seduction from drifting into the deeper 
hell of prostitution — nay, in winning many from the last- 
named class itself — Dr. Guthrie and his noble wife achieved 
a success which is little known because it touches upon 
a subject so delicate. 1 In the ' Home for Fallen Women ' 
at Alnwick Hill, near Edinburgh, his interest was deep and 
1 See The City — its Sins and Sorrows, p. 22. 



154 FAMOUS SCOTS 

constant. Over many of the women from that institution 
whom he assisted into respectable situations, where they 
could, as it were, begin the world again, he watched with 
a solicitude tender as a father's. When one of them, 
Mary Craig, lost her life in heroically saving from drown- 
ing the child of the family wherein she was nurse, the 
eulogy he pronounced upon her was one of his finest 
flights of eloquence. 

He took a deep interest also in the affairs of the Edin- 
burgh Royal Infirmary, and his appeals for contributions 
to this excellent institution always met with a liberal 
response. For some years he was a manager of it, and 
never failed to visit it at least once a month. Another 
charity of which he took a leading part in administering 
the affairs for a time was the Blind Asylum. In more 
than one of the reports his name appears as one of the 
directors, along with his friend Mr. Dymock. 

All societies whose aim was the relief of the destitute 
poor received his whole-hearted help. To the 'Society 
for the Relief of the Destitute Sick,' the 'Edinburgh 
Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society,' the 'House of 
Refuge and Night Refuge ' (Queensberry House), the 
' Society for the Relief of Indigent Old Men,' and many 
others too numerous to mention in detail, he not only 
gave his services as a director or member of committee, 
but in several instances preached Charity Sermons in aid 
of the funds, by which the institutions benefited materially 
in a pecuniary sense. 1 

Wherever distress or suffering was brought under his 
notice, Thomas Guthrie at once took steps to mitigate or 
remove it. His great heart ached when he contemplated 
misery for which he could supply no remedy. ' I 'm sure 
you must be often swindled and deceived with regard to a 
lot of these cases you are so constantly relieving,' said a 
cynical Philistine to him one day with a sneer on his lips. 
' Perhaps so, my friend, notwithstanding all the precautions 
we take,' said the Doctor quietly ; ' but I would rather 
1 See the Annual Reports of the institutions referred to. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 155 

be among the Good Samaritans who relieve suffering 
even at the risk of being sometimes deceived, than be 
among the priests and Levites who talk, and criticise, 
and sneer, but take care to pass by on the other side.' 

The philanthropy of Thomas Guthrie, in a word, did 
not proceed from a mere sense of obligation. He did 
not relieve suffering or destitution because he thought it 
becoming or fashionable so to do. No arrow in his 
quiver of sarcasm was too sharp to employ in transfixing 
such low motives when he came across them. 'Be sure 
you value the high and holy privilege of charity,' was a 
phrase he frequently used. It expresses the motive of all 
his philanthropy. He did as he would have desired to 
be done by : ' Whatsoever ye would that men should do 
unto you, do ye so unto them.' 

Thomas Guthrie — the ' Man ' — had laid to heart Solon's 
dictum, 'Know thyself.' Better than most men he 
had gauged the limits of his own capacity, and knew 
exactly what he could and what he could not do. 
Never do we find him attempting anything beyond his 
powers. He never failed in anything he essayed, 
because he never essayed anything wherein failure was 
probable. I have more than once referred to his pro- 
found sagacity and common-sense, because these, along 
with his vivid imaginative force and intense realism, were 
the chief characteristics of his genius. Knowing precisely 
what his powers could effect, and to what extent he 
could rely upon them, he never strayed outside his own 
domain. 

Furthermore, his buoyant nature made work light to 
him. As he never regarded it as a task, but as a supreme 
pleasure, inactivity was to him the irksome burden, not 
work. Each day was carefully mapped out in advance, 
and when he did not succeed in achieving all he desired, 
he took himself to task. Each night, as he remarks in one 
of his letters, he reviewed the actual achievements of the 
day, as compared with his ' purpose ' or scheme. It was 
this habit of piecing out his time and giving to each 



156 FAMOUS SCOTS 

moment some duty to be done, that enabled Thomas 
Guthrie to accomplish the numerous items of business 
whose discharge he so cheerfully undertook. But this very 
delight in work, while it made duty easy and self-sacrifice 
light, also led him to persevere at his post, when the 
physical frame was exhausted. ' Weariness he did not 
seem to feel, languor had no effect upon him. Only 
when the deadly anguish of his cardiac disease brought 
him in more senses than one to his knees, did he come 
to realise the fact that for years he had been doing three 
men's work and burning the candle at both ends. 

Guthrie influenced his age and his fellow-men as much 
by his life as by his works. ' Guthrie the Man ' was 
found to practise in life what 'Guthrie the Preacher' 
inculcated in precept. Had he been less sympathetic, 
had his broad humanity touched the sorrow-seamed 
existence of his fellow-men at fewer points of contact, 
he might have felt less call to spend and be spent 
so completely in the cause of ameliorating the lot of 
destitute and despairing brethren. But in that case he 
would have graven his name less deeply on the hearts 
of his countrymen. The intensity of his devotion to their 
cause was manifested by the fact that he was shattered 
in health at the comparatively early age of fifty-nine. To 
act otherwise than he did, however, would have been 
foreign to his nature. Besides, he would have fallen short 
of his own ideal of right. His lofty enthusiasm in the 
cause of the friendless and downtrodden prevented him 
from feeling aught but delight in suffering for those whom 
he sought to save. Literally with the price of his own 
life did he pay for the souls and bodies of those pariahs 
whom he succeeded in snatching from moral and spiritual 
ruin. 

But, like the Divine Master he served, he never shrank 
from the sacrifice. His enthusiasm carried him through 
all. As early as 1848 he knew that work at the high 
pressure at which he was running would sooner or later 
entail certain death. For a time he tried to labour at 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 157 

'half-speed,' as he called it. The result was unsatis- 
factory in every sense. He had then to choose his alter- 
native. Did he flinch, or decide to leave the perishing 
juvenile and adult waifs to their fate ? No !— ' The work 

THAT MY HEAVENLY FATHER HATH GIVEN ME TO DO, SHALL 
I NOT DO IT ? ' 



INDEX 



America, 115. 

Anti- Burghers, 18-. 

Apollyon, the Vineyard of, 35. 

Arbirlot, 23. 

Argyll, Duke of, 10, 102, 132. 

Auchterarder case, 28, 45, 57. 

Australia, 115. 

Black, Adam, 80. 
Blackadder, David, 17, 19. 
Blackie, Prof., 100. 
Blaikie, Dr., 123. 
Brunton, Prof., 19. 
Buchanan, Dr. R. , 50, 60, 107. 
Burghers, 17. 

Candlish, Dr., 41, 42, 50, 52, 56, 

58, 60, 70, 107, 131. 
Canonbie, 67. 
Chalmers, Dr., 29, 36, 37, 45, 54, 

56, 6o, 70, TOI. 
Christ and the Inheritance of the 

Saints, 123. 
City — its Sins and Sorrows, 98. 
Cockburn, Lord, 46, 64, 94. 
Convocation, the Non-Intrusion, 

57- 
Cottage meetings, 25. 
Court of Session, 45. 
Cow gate, the, 35. 
Cunningham, Dr., 41, 42, 54, 56, 

60, 66, 70, 113, 131. 

Disruption, the, 60, 72, 106. 

Edinburgh, Duke of, 136. 
Eligibility, Mutual, 128. 
V>8 



Evangelicals, the, 28, 45. 
Extension, Church, 29, 30. 

Faculty, Dean of (Hope), 46, 55, 

59- 
Flockhart, Robert, 124. 

Gladstone, Right Hon. W. E., 
11, 81. 

Gospel in Ezekiel, the, 123. 

Graham, Sir James, 55. 

Greyfriars, Old, 33. 

Gunn, Dr. W., 107. 

Guthrie, David, 17. 

Thomas, birth and early 

years, 17 ; education, 18 ; decides 
for the ministry, 19 ; licensed by 
Presbytery of Brechin, 20; blocked 
by Moderates, 20 ; visit to Paris, 
21 ; banker, 22 ; parish minister 
of Arbirlot, 23 ; marriage, 25 ; 
work at Arbirlot, 25-34 ; struggles 
against Patronage, 27 ; Voluntary 
controversy, 29 ; moved to Edin- 
burgh, 34 ; his parochial work, 
40 ; takes part in Non-Intrusion 
struggle, 44 ; interdict served on 
him over Strathbogie case, 48 ; 
assists to bring Hugh Miller to ■ 
Edinburgh, 50 ; writes one of the 
Non-Intrusion tracts, 51 ; his busy 
life, 51 ; great speech on missions, 
56 ; present at Non-Intrusion con- 
vocation, 58 ; preaches his last 
sermon in Old St. John's, 59 ; 
scene of the Disruption, Mr. 
Guthrie's place, 60 ; gets Free St. 



THOMAS GUTHRIE 



i59 



John's built, 62 ; opinions of his 
preaching, 64 ; evidence before 
Commission on Sites, 68 ; the 
Manse Fund, 71 ; amount realised, 
74 ; Ragged Schools scheme, its 
inception, 76 ; issue of First 
Plea, 78 ; committee formed, 80 ; 
Secession, 83 ; work on behalf of 
Ragged Schools, 84-90 ; honour of 
' Doctor of Divinity,' 91 ; work in 
temperance, 93-100 ; work in 
education, 104 ; desires to see a 
national system, not a denomi- 
national, 108 ; helps to prepare 
Lord Advocate Young's Bill, no ; 
zeal in missions, home and 
foreign, in ; visits Waldensian 
Churches, 114; invited to America 
and Australia, 115 ; his oratory, 
116 ; Moderator's chair, 118 ; 
retires from Free St. John's, 
120 ; appointed editor of Sunday 
Magazine, 122 ; great success of 
it, 125 ; finds his sphere as an 
author, 125 ; interest in Union 
movement, 127 ; presented with 
testimonial, 131 ; closing days, 
134 ; delight in angling, 135 ; 
last sermon, 136 ; last days, 138 ; 
death, 142 ; funeral, 143 ; sum- 
ming-up — Guthrie the ecclesias- 
tic, 145 ; the philanthropist, 152 ; 
the man, 155. 

Hanna, Dr., 92, 101, 139. 
Interdict, Strathbogie, 48. 

Jeffrey, Lord, 46, 60, 81, 94. 
John's, St., Old, 41, 63. 
St., Free, 62. 

Ker, Dr. John, 136. 

Lansdowne, Lord, 86. 
Leslie, Prof., 19. 
Lethendy case, 47. 
Lochlee, 134. 
Lome, Marquis of, 132. 
Louise, the Princess, 132. 



M'Crie, Dr., 18. 

Macgregor, Dr., 136. 

Macleod, Dr. Norman, 123, 134. 

Manse Fund, the, 63, 69, 74. 

Masses, lapsed, 37. 

' Massillon, the Scots,' 66. 

Mathew, Father, 93. 

Maule, Hon. W., 21, 23. 

Medwyn, Lord, 38. 

Meiklejohn, Prof., 19. 

Midsummer Sabbath's scene in Free 

St. John's, 9. 
Mill, J. S., 81. 
Miller, Hugh, 50, 56, 80. 
Milman, Dean, 103. 
Missions, Home and Foreign, in. 
Moderates, the, 17, 20, 30. 
Moncreiff, Lord, 45. 
Sir H., 37. 

National Education Associa- 
tion, 109. 
Non-Intrusion, 28, 42, 44-57. 

Paris, Guthrie's visit to, 21. 

Patronage, 27, 53. 

Peel, Sir R. , 54. 

' Potterrow John ' (Dr. J. Ritchie), 

29, 
Pounds, John, 77. 

Ragged Schools, 76-90. 
Ritchie, Prof., 19. 
Robertson (Ellon), 49. 
Russell, Lord John, 81. 

St. Leonards, 139. • 
Scotsman, the, 108, 131. 
Seceders, the, 29, 30. 
Seedtime and Harvest, 79. 
Slavery, 104. 
Stanley, Dean, 103. 
Stewart, Jamie, 18. 
Strahan, A., 122. 
Strathbogie case, 28, 47. 
Sunday Magazine, the, 123. 

Tait, Archbishop, 103. 
M. S., 60. 



i6o 



FAMOUS SCOTS 



Temperance, 94, 97. Vet0 Law > 53- 

Territorialism, 37, 40. Voluntary controversy, 29, 43. 

Thackeray, W. M.,n. 

Thomson, Dr. Andrew, 37,. 45- ; Waldenses, 113. 

Times, the, 88. j Watson, Sheriff, 77. 
Tracts o?i the Intrusion 0/ Ministers, > Whyte, John, 18. 

ex. i Wilberforce, Bishop, 11. 



Union, the, 127, 139. 



Young, Lord, no. 



DATE DUE 


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DEMCO 38-297