’Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!’
XVI. JAMES GUTHRIE
’The short man who could not bow.’—Cromwell.
James Guthrie was the son of the laird of that ilk in the county of Angus. St. Andrews was his alma mater, and under her excellent nurture young Guthrie soon became a student of no common name. His father had destined him for the Episcopal Church, and, what with his descent from an ancient and influential family, his remarkable talents, and his excellent scholarship, it is not to be wondered at that a bishop’s mitre sometimes dangled before his ambitious eyes. ‘He was then prelatic,’ says Wodrow in his Analecta, ‘and strong for the ceremonies.’ But as time went on, young Guthrie’s whole views of duty and of promotion became totally changed, till, instead of a bishop’s throne, he ended his days on the hangman’s ladder. After having served his college some time as regent or assistant professor in the Moral Philosophy Chair, Guthrie took licence, and was immediately thereafter settled as parish minister of Lauder, in the momentous year 1638. And when every parish in Scotland sent up its representatives to Edinburgh to subscribe the covenant in Greyfriars Churchyard, the parish of Lauder had the pride of seeing its young minister take his life in his hand, like all the best ministers and truest patriots in the land. But just as Guthrie was turning in at the gate of the Greyfriars, who should cross the street before him, so as almost to run against him, but the city executioner! The omen—for it was a day of omens—made the young minister stagger for a moment, but only for a moment. At the same time the ominous incident made such an impression on the young Covenanter’s heart and imagination, that he said to some of his fellow-subscribers as he laid down the pen, ’I know that I shall die for what I have done this day, but I cannot die in a better cause.’