The Christian's Great Interest by the late Rev. William Guthrie, Minister of the Gospel, Fenwick with a Memoir of the Author Contents Preface To the Reader Memoir of the Author Part I. The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ Quest. I.--How shall a man know if he has a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he has, or may lay claim justly to, God's favour and salvation? Chapter I.--Things premised for the better understanding of the trial itself I.--A man's interest in Christ may be known II.--Importance of having an interest in Christ III.--We must allow our condition to be determined by Scripture IV.--Causes why so few attain to a distinct knowledge of their state V.--Some mistakes concerning an interest in Christ removed Chapter II.--Marks of a Saving Change A preparatory law work I.--Some called from the womb II.--Some called in a sovereign gospel-way III.--Some graciously called at the hour of death IV.--God's more ordinary way of calling sinners to Himself V.--Objections and difficulties considered Chapter III.--Evidences of a Believing State I.--Mistakes as to what faith is II.--True saving faith described III.--Farther explanatory remarks concerning saving faith IV.--Difficulties as to what seems to be faith removed Chapter IV.--Evidences of a Renewed State I.--The whole man must be to some extend renewed II.--He must be, to some extent, renewed in all his ways III.--The supposed unattainableness of such evidences considered IV.--The special attainments of hypocrites considered V.--Doubts because of prevailing sin considered VI.--Doubts arising out of a want of Christian experience considered PART II.--How to Attain a Saving Interest in Christ Quest. II. What shall they do who want the marks of a true and saving interest in Christ, already spoken of, and neither can nor dare pretend unto them? Chapter I.--Some Things Premised for the Information of the Ignorant Chapter II.--The Duty of Closing with God's Plan of Saving Sinners by Christ Jesus I.--What it is to accept of, and close with, the gospel offer II.--This the duty of those who would be saved III.--What is required of those who would believe on Christ Jesus and be saved IV.--Some of the properties and native consequences of true believing V.--Some of the effects of saving faith Chapter III.--Objections and Difficulties Answered and Explained I.--The sinner's baseness rendering it presumption to come to Christ II.--The singularity of his sin barring the way III.--Special aggravations a hindrance IV.--Sins not named a barrier V.--The sin against the Holy Ghost alleged I.--What it is not II.--What the sin against the Holy Ghost is III.--Conclusions bearing on the objections VI.--Objections from the want of power to believe answered VII.--Objection arising from the complaints of believers as to unfruitfulness VIII.--Objection from ignorance regarding covenanting with God,-- The nature of that duty unfolded IX.--Doubts as to the inquirer's being savingly in covenant with God answered Certain things premised concerning personal covenanting I.--The thing itself is warrantable II.--The preparation needed III.--How the duty of covenanting is to be performed IV.--What should follow this solemn act X.--A want of proper feeling considered as an obstacle in the way of covenanting XI.--The fear of backsliding a hindrance XII.--Objection arising from past fruitlessness considered Conclusion--The whole Treatise resumed in a Few Questions and Answers Preface The Christian's Great Interest was fist published in 1668, and many editions have appeared since. As it is now almost unobtainable, it is reprinted by the Publications Committee of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with the fervent hope that it will have a further wide circulation, and prove a continued blessing to many. Dr. Owen said, "I have written several folios, but there is more divinity in it (The Christian's Great Interest) than in them all." William Guthrie, of Fenwick, was a cousin of the eminent martyr, James Guthrie, who refused a bishopric and died on the scaffold at the Cross of Edinburgh in 1661. William desired to go to the execution of his valued cousin, but was prevented by friends who feared for his life. It was while a student under Samuel Rutherford, and through his instrumentality, that he received a calling to the ministry. He was accounted one of the greatest preaches of his day. His labours were abundantly blessed. He was banished from his church, amidst bitter persecution, and died a few years later in 1665, at the age of forty-five, sweetly assured of the crown that awaited him in glory. W. Grant, Convener Halkirk, 1951 Caithness To the Reader Christian Reader, While the generality of men, especially in these days, by their eager pursuit after low and base interests, have proclaimed, as upon the house tops, how much they have forgotten to make choice of that better part, which, if chosen, should never be taken from them; I have made an essay, such as it is, in the following Treatise, to take thee off from this unprofitable, though painful pursuit, by proposing the chiefest of interest, even the Christian's Great Interest, to be seriously pondered and constantly pursued by thee. Thou mayst think it strange to see anything in print from my pen, as it is indeed a surprise to myself; but necessity has made me, for this once, to offer so much violence to my own inclination, in regard that some, without my knowledge, have lately published some imperfect note of a few of my sermons, most confusedly cast together, prefixing withal this vain title, as displeasing to myself as the publishing of the thing, 'A Clear Attractive Warming Beam,' &c. Upon this occasion was I prevailed with to publish this late piece, wherein I have purposely used a homely and plain style, lest otherwise-- though, when I have stretched myself to the utmost, I am below the judicious and more understanding--I should be above the reach of the rude and ignorant, whose advantage I have mainly, if not only, consulted. I have, likewise, studied brevity in everything, so far as I conceived it to be consistent with plainness and perspicuity; knowing that the persons to whom I address myself herein, have neither much money to spend upon books, nor much time to spare in reading. If thou be a rigid critic, I know thou mayst meet with several things to carp at; yet assure thyself, that I had no design to offend thee, neither will thy simple approbation satisfy me. It is thy edification I intend, together with the incitements of some others, more expert and experienced in this excellent subject, to handle the same to greater length, which I have more briefly hinted at,-- who am thy servant in the work of the gospel, William Guthrie Memoir of the Author William Guthrie, one of the holiest and ablest of the experimental divines of Scotland, was born at Pitforthy, the seat of his ancestors, in the shire of Angus, in the year 1620. The branch of the house of Guthrie from which he sprang was ancient and honorable; and its interest in the cause of truth and godliness was proved by the fact, that four of the children had early been devoted to the ministry of the gospel. The only one of these who did not obtain a fixed charge was Robert, who soon lost health and life by his abundant labours in the cause of Christ; Alexander was settled at Strickathrow, within his native shire, in 1645, and continued there till his death, in 1661; while John, the youngest of the family, became minister of Tarbolton, Ayrshire, from which he was ejected, for adherence to Presbyters, after the restoration of Charles II to the throne of Britain, and speedily sank under the hardships to which he was exposed, dying in the year 1669. The superior genius of William, the eldest of this excellent band of brothers, was displayed in his early and successful attention to learning; but he did not, till his entrance into college life, obtain that intimate and saving acquaintance with Divine truth which enabled him at once to stay his own soul upon God as the God of his salvation, and to prescribe most skilfully for the cases of spiritual disease that came under his notice. He felt himself greatly indebted for acquaintance with the way of holiness to the instructions of a near kinsman. This was Mr. James Guthrie, then holding one of the chairs in the New College of St. Andrews, and afterwards highly esteemed as the faithful minister of Stirling during the period of the Covenant; for his faithful adherence to which he obtained a martyr's crown. Samuel Rutherford, who became Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews in 1639, took the guidance of William Guthrie's theological studies, confirmed and cherished the principles of piety already implanted, and brought him, with his whole soul, to devote himself to the service of Christ. That he might not be entangles in the network of earthly concerns, he resigned his estate at Pitforthy to a younger brother, not engaged at that time in the prosecution of sacred studies. Thus trained in the schools of literature, and rendered familiar with religion both in theory and practice, William Guthrie was well fitted for usefulness as a preacher of the gospel; and received license, with the high approbation of the Presbytery, in August 1642. It was fully two years later that he obtained a church in the newly erected parish of Fenwick; and was ordained minister, in compliance with the harmonious call of the people, in November 1644. His success and popularity were soon found to be great; and extended far beyond the Ayrshire district in which his parish lays--to Clydesdale, Stirling, and the Lothians. Several calls were addressed to him, but ineffectually, to quit his beloved people, till, about a year after his settlement, and very soon after his marriage to an excellent lady of the noble family of London, he left them for a season, by appointment of the General Assembly, to attend the Scottish army as chaplain during the civil war that ended in the execution of Charles I, and the subjection of Scotland to the Protectorate of Cromwell. While the Protector's troops kept possession of Glasgow about that time, Mr. Guthrie's Christian heroism was called into exercise on a communion Sabbath in Mr. Andrew Gray's church. 'Several of the English officers had formed a design to put in execution the disorderly principle of a promiscuous admission to the Lord's table, by coming to it themselves without acquainting the minister, or being in a due manner found worthy of that privilege. Mr. Guthrie, to whose share it fell to dispense the sacrament at that table, spoke to them, when they were leaving their pews in order to make their attempt, with such gravity, resolution, and zeal, that they were quite confounded, and sat down again without occasioning any further disturbance.' The arrangements then made by the Church Courts regarding chaplains in the army, render it probable that he had been relieved by his brethren at several intervals, and thus enjoyed occasionally the endearments of his home, and opportunities of pastoral and public usefulness. He was providentially preserved throughout the war, and returned to his flock with increased ardour and devotion. They needed his care; for at the commencement of his ministry, profanation of the Sabbath, desertion of the house of God, neglect of family religion, and gross ignorance, with a train of attending evils, were prevalent among his parishioners. His talents, natural and acquired, were dexterously applied to check abounding iniquity. Let one instance suffice for illustration--that of a fowler in his parish engaging in his sport and deserting public worship on the Lord's day,--a practice in which he had long indulged. "Mr. Guthrie asked him what was the reason he had for so doing? He told him that the Sabbath-day was the most fortunate day in all the week. Mr. Guthrie asked him what he could make by that day's exercise? He replied that he could make half-a-crown. Mr. Guthrie told him if he would go to church on Sabbath, he would give him as much; and by that means got his promise; after sermon was over, Mr. Guthrie asked if he would come back the next Sabbath-day, and he would give him the same? which he did, and from that time afterwards never failed to keep the church. He afterwards became a member of his session.' The stated calls made by him at the houses of his people were very acceptable and profitable. The visitation of the sick and the dying, whom he never neglected; the instruction of the young in the doctrine that is accenting to godliness, and the ministrations of the pulpit, declared him a workman who needed not to be ashamed. As a consistent office-bearer, he duly attended to the government and discipline of the Church, in the session and superior judicatories. He seems to have been a member of the general Assembly of 1649, and stands in the lists of its Commission, along with such illustrious names as James Guthrie, the Marquis of Argyle, Dickson, Durham, and Samuel Rutherford. During the unhappy division of the Church of Scotland into the parties of Resolutioners and Protesters or Remonstrants, the two Guthries, Samuel Rutherford, and several of the most pious and zealous Presbyterians, adhered to the latter; and Baillie mentions in his Letters, that at the meeting of their western synod, in 1654, 'the Remonstrants chose Mr. William Guthrie for their Moderator.' His forbearance towards brethren taking the opposite side in that fatal schism has been acknowledged by his biographers; and his pastoral care was fully exercised. Ere long he published 'The Christian's Great Interest.' This work had gone through numerous editions, been translated into various languages, and continues to embalm his memory in the estimation of intelligent Christians of every name. The first edition of it appeared shortly before the restoration of Charles II. Not long after the commencement of the persecution, Mr Guthrie made one of his last efforts for the preservation of ecclesiastical freedom in the courts of the Church. This stand he took at a meeting of the Synod of Glasgow and Aye, in April 1661, when he framed an address, designed for presentation to Parliament had the troubles of the time permitted, which the Synod approved of, as 'contain faithful testimony of the purity of our reformation in worship, doctrine, discipline, and government, in terms equally remarkable for their prudence and their courage. Two months later his zeal for the same cause was manifested by his earnest desire to attend, on the scaffold, his illustrious kinsman, Mr. James Guthrie, who sealed his testimony with his blood, in June 1661, at the cross of Edinburgh. His deference to the warm entreaties of his session alone prevented him from engaging in so perilous a service. The respect which his affable deportment and able performance of pastoral duty gained for him from high and low, screened him from persecution, and he persevered in preaching to his flock the truth as it is in Jesus. His intellectual powers and Christian experience were conspicuous in his discourses, and many, we believe, were the imperishable seals of his ministry, for it is averred by one of his contemporaries, Mr. Matthew Crawford, minister at Eastwood, that 'he converted and confirmed many thousand souls, and was esteemed the greatest practical preacher in Scotland.' Another of them declares his diligence and success among the people of Fenwick to have been so great, that almost all of them 'were brought to make a fair profession of godliness, and had the worship of God in their families. And it was well known that many of them were sincere, and not a few of them eminent Christians.' His own words to the person who ejected him, thus humbly, yet boldly, ascribed his great success to God: 'I thank him for it; yea, I look upon it as a door which God opened to me for preaching this gospel, which neither you nor any man else was able to shut, till it was given you of God.' He was now called to experience those trials, which had been delayed longer in his case than in that of most of his faithful brethren, through the influence of the Earl of Glencairn, then Chancellor of Scotland, who both respected him as a man of worth, and recollected with gratitude Mr. Guthrie's kindness to him during an imprisonment to which the Earl had been subjected for his loyalty to the King during the sway of Cromwell. Sabbath, the 24th of July, was fixed as the day for enforcing the decree. The people of Fenwick, greatly grieved at the prospect of losing so faithful a minister, observed the Wednesday preceding as a day of humiliation and prayer. Mr. Guthrie found an appropriate text for the occasion in these words of Hosea 13: 9, 'O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;' solemnly inculcated on his flock patience and perseverance in the way of holiness, and appointed an early meeting of the congregation for the following Sabbath. The light of that day of the Son of Man ushered in a sorrowful morning for the people who then met to listen for the last time to the welcome voice of their beloved pastor. His theme, most suitable for the day, was the latter clause of his Wednesday's text, "but in Me is thine help,' and at the close of his sermon every countenance was suffused with tears, while he directed his hearers to the 'Fountain of help, when the gospel and ministers were taken from them; and took his leave of them, commending them to this great God, who was able to build them up, and help them in the time of their need.' Before nine o'clock the congregation had dispersed, sorrowing exceedingly that they should listen to his persuasive discourses no more. No sound occurred to disturb the quiet of the hallowed day, till the tramp of horses was heard in the distance, and the troop soon appeared headed by a rider in black, the curate of Calder, whom a fee of five pounds had induced to give formal notice of the sentence of suspension. He observed the ceremony of preaching the church vacant in presence of a congregation of soldiers and children. In the manse he was courteously received by Mr. Guthrie, who declared, in presence of the officers of the party, his reason for submission to the sentence as not arising from respect to the prelate's authority, which had no weight with him, adding, 'were it not for the reverence I owe to the civil magistrate, I would not cease from the exercise of my ministry for all that sentence.' The following passage formed part of his solemn reply to the Archbishop's message: 'I here declare, I think myself called by the Lord to the work of the ministry, and did forsake my nearest relations in the world, and give up myself to the service of the gospel in this place, having received a unanimous call from this parish, and being tried and ordained by the Presbyters; and I bless the Lord He has given me some success, and a seal of my ministry upon the souls and consciences of not a few that are gone to heaven, and of some that are yet in the way to it.' His bodily health, but indifferent before, suffered a severe shock on this occasion; he preached no more in the parish; and about two months after retired to his paternal estate at Pitforthy, now become his possession in consequence of the decease of a surviving brother. It was his but for a year of pain and sorrow, caused by a complication of diseases, and by the calamities that were befalling the Church and nation. He was attended during his last illness by visitors belonging to all parties, received kindly but faithfully the Episcopalian clergy who came to converse with him, and died full of faith in the glorious gospel he had preached, with the confident hope of complete redemption. His death occurred on the afternoon of Wednesday, the 10th of October 1665. Two daughters of a family of six children survived him, one of whom became the wife of the Rev. Patrick Warner, of Irvine, and mother of Margaret Warner, who was afterwards married to the Rev. Robert Wodrow, of Eastwood, the faithful chronicler of the sufferings of the Church of Scotland. None of his sermons appear to have been published during his lifetime. As a specimen of the faithful and practical character of his preaching, we give an extract from a discourse long preserved among the Wodrow MSS., and recently printed, entitled, 'A Sermon on Sympathie.' The text is Matthew 15: 23, 'Send her away, for she cryeth after us.'--'Is it so that sympathy is so cold and weak among God's people at this time, when so much of it is called for? Then I would have yow drawing these three conclusions from it:--1. When any thing ails yow, pray much for yourself; I assure yow ye will get little help of others. 2. As yow would lippen little to other folk's prayers, so ye would make meikle use of Christ's intercession. These prayers are little worth that flow not from sympathy; and, 3. Reckon all your receipts to be free favour, and neither the return of your own or other folks' prayers. I do not forbid yow to pray yourself;-nor to seek the help of other folks' prayers, nor do I judge yow or them void of sympathy; but I would have yow lippening less to them, and making more use of Christ and His intercession.' His theological tutor and bosom friend, Samuel Rutherford, thus expresses his regard for Mr. Guthrie and his flock, during a season of public agitation:--'Dear Brother, help me, and get me the help of their prayers who are with you in whom is my delight.' The author of 'The Christian's Great Interest' was also very highly esteemed by another of his illustrious contemporaries, Dr. Owen, who, on one occasion, drawing a little gilded copy of Mr. Guthrie's treatise from his pocket, said to a minister of the Church of Scotland, 'That author I take to have been one of the greatest divines that ever wrote; it is my Vademecum, and I carry it and the Sedan New Testament, still about with me. I have written several folios, but there is more divinity in it than in them all.' Many years after the author's death, this work, with others of a similar nature, was instrumental in arousing to deeper concern for his soul's salvation, John Brow then a shepherd boy in the neighbourhood of Abernethy, and afterwards highly distinguished as a minister of the gospel, and Professor of Divinity for nearly twenty years in one of the branches of the Secession Church. How more may be the cases in which it has been blessed to the conviction, conversion, and edification of those whom it might enable to teach others also, the great day alone shall declare. The following references to it, in the interesting Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers, prove the high opinion he had formed of the genius it displays:--'Would you inquire for 'Guthrie's Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ?' It is a small duodecimo; and has been long the favourite author of our peasantry in Scotland. He wrote about a hundred and fifty years ago; and one admirable property of his work is, that while it guides it purifies. It males known all our defects, but ministers the highest comfort in the presence of a feeling of our defects. To find mercy we need only to feel misery. ... I am on the eve of finishing Guthrie, which I think is the best book I ever read. I shall leave it as a present to the Anster folks, and pass from it to 'Brook on Religious Experience, ... I should like to know how the little book I left was relished among you. I still think it the best composition I ever read relating to a subject in which we are all deeply interested, and about which it is my earnest prayer, that we may all be found on the right side of the question.' Having given the opinions of these eminent divines regarding the 'Christian's Great Interest', we presume not to attempt a delineation of the merits of its excellent Author. The wise and the good of his own day, as well as of subsequent times, have held him in grateful remembrance, and his works continue to praise him in the gates. The Christian's Great Interest. Part I. The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ Since there are so many people living under the ordinances, pretending, without ground, to a special interest in Christ, and to His favour and salvation, as is clear from the words of our Lord--'Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.' (Matt. 7: 22, 23). 'Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.' (Matt. 25: 11,12.) 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.' (Luke 13: 24.) And since many who have good ground of claim to Christ, are not established in the confidence of this favour, but remain in the dark, without comfort, hesitating concerning the reality of godliness in themselves, and speaking little in the commendation of religion to others, especially in the time of their straits:--I shall speak a little respecting two things of the greatest concern: The one is, How a person may know if he has a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he does lay just claim to God's favour and salvation. The other is, In case a person fall short of assurance in this trial, what course he should take for making sure of God's friendship and salvation to himself. Quest. I.--How shall a man know if he has a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he has, or may lay claim justly to, God's favour and salvation? Chapter I.--Things premised for the better understanding of the trial itself Before we speak directly to the question, we shall premise some things, to make way for the answer. I.--A man's interest in Christ may be known First, That a man's interest in Christ, or his gracious state, may be known, and that with more certainty than people conjecture; yea, and the knowledge of it may be more easily attained unto than many imagine; for not only has the Lord commanded men to know their interest in Him, as a thing attainable--'Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith' (2 Cor. 13: 5); 'Give diligence to make your calling and election sure' (2 Peter 1: 10)--but many of the saints have attained unto the clear persuasion of their interest in Christ, and in God as their own God. How often do they call Him their God and their portion? and how persuaded is Paul 'that nothing can separate him from the love of God?' (Rom. 8: 38, 39.) Therefore the knowledge of a man's gracious state is attainable. And this knowledge of it, which may be attained, is no fancy and mere conceit, but it is most sure: 'Doubtless Thou are our Father,' saith the prophet (Isa. 43: 16), in name of the Church. It is clear from this:--1. That can be no fancy, but a very sure knowledge, which does yield to a rational man comfort in most real straits; but so does this--'When the people spoke of stoning David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.' (1 Sam. 30: 6.) He saith, 'He will not be afraid though ten thousands rise up against him.' (Psa. 3: 6.) Compare these words with the following: 'But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.' (Psa. 3: 3.) 'The Lord is my light, and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.' (Psa. 27: 3.) 2. That is a sure knowledge of a thing which maketh a wise merchant sell all he has, that he may keep it sure; that maketh a man forego children, lands, life, and suffer the spoiling of all joyfully; but so does this--Matt. 13: 44; Mark 10: 28, 29; Heb. 10: 34; Rom. 5: 3; Acts 5: 41. 3. That must be a sure and certain knowledge, and no fancy, upon which a man voluntarily and freely does adventure his soul when he is stepping into eternity, with this word in his mouth, 'This is all my desire' (2 Sam. 23: 5); but such a knowledge is this. And again, not only may a godly man come to the sure knowledge of his gracious state, but it is more easily attainable than many apprehend: for supposing, what shall be afterwards proved, that a man may know the gracious work of God's Spirit in himself; if he will but argue rationally from thence, he shall be forced to conclude his interest in Christ, unless he deny clear Scripture truths. I shall only make use of one here, because we are to speak more directly to this afterwards. A godly man may argue thus, Whosoever receive Christ are justly reputed the children of God--'But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God' (John 1 12); but I have received Christ in all the ways which the word there can import: for I am pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, I agree to the terms, I welcome the offer of Christ in all His offices, as a King to rule over me, a Priest to offer sacrifice and intercede for me, a Prophet to teach me; I lay out my heart for Him and towards Him, resting on Him as I am able. What else can be meant by the word "receiving"? Therefore may I say, and conclude plainly and wsrrantably, I am justly to reckon myself God's child, according to the aforesaid scripture, which cannot fail. II.--Importance of having an interest in Christ The second thing to be premised is, That a man be savingly in covenant with God is a matter of the highest importance: 'It is his life.' (Deut. 32: 47.) And yet very few have, or seek after a saving interest in the covenant; and many foolishly think they have such a thing without any solid ground. (Matt. 7: 14.) Few find, or walk in, the narrow way. This should alarm people to be serious about the matter, since it is of so great consequence to be in Christ, and since there be but few that may lay just claim to Him; and yet many do foolishly fancy an interest in Him, who are deceived by a false confidence, as the foolish virgins were. (Matt. 25.) III.--We must allow our condition to be determined by Scripture The third thing to be premised is, Men must resolve to be determined by Scripture in this matter of their interest in Christ. The Spirit speaking in the Scripture is judge of all controversies'--To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them' (Isa. 8: 20)--and of this also, whether a man be savingly in covenant with God or not. Therefore do not mock God whilst you seem to search after such a thing. If we prove from Scripture, which is the uncontroverted rule, that you are gracious, and have made a covenant savingly with God, then resolve to grant so much, and to acquiesce in it; and if the contrary appear, let there be a determination of the controversy, else you do but mock the Lord, and so 'your bands (continued in part 2...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-03: gutcgi-1.txt .