In the lack of better authorities we are compelled to trace the footsteps of James Guthrie through the Laodicean pages of Robert Baillie for several years to come. Baillie did not like Guthrie, and there was no love lost between the two men. The one man was all fire together in every true and noble cause, and the other we spew out of our mouth at every page of his indispensable book. As Carlyle says, Baillie contrived to ‘carry his dish level’ through all that terrible jostle of a time. And accordingly while we owe Baillie our very grateful thanks that he kept such a diary, and carried on such an extensive and regular correspondence during all that distracted time, we owe him no other thanks. He carried his dish level, and he had his reward.
As we trace James Guthrie’s passionate footsteps for the years to come through Principal Baillie’s sufficiently gossiping, but not unshrewd, pages, we soon see that he is travelling fast and sure toward the Nether Bow. We hear continually from our time-serving correspondent of Guthrie’s ‘public invective,’ of his ‘passionate debates,’ of his ‘venting of his mind,’ of his ‘peremptory letters,’ of his ’sharp writing,’ and of his being ‘rigid as ever,’ and so on. All that about his too zealous co-presbyter, and then his fulsome eulogy of the returning king—his royal wisdom, his moderation, his piety, and his grave carriage—as also what he says of ’the conspicuous justice of God in hanging up the bones of Oliver Cromwell, the disgracing of the two Goodwins, blind Milton, John Owen, and others of that maleficent crew,’ all crowned with the naive remark that ’the wisest and best are quiet till they see whither these things will go’—it is plain that while our wise and good author is carrying his dish as level as the uneven roads will allow, Guthrie is as plainly carrying his head straight to the Cross of Edinburgh, and to the iron spikes of the Canongate.
All the untold woes of that so woful time came of the sword of the civil power being still grafted on the crook of the Church; as also of the insane attempt of so many of our forefathers to solder the crown of Charles Stuart to the crown of Jesus Christ. How those two so fatal, and not even yet wholly remedied, mistakes, brought Argyll to the block and Guthrie to the ladder in one day in Edinburgh, we read in the instructive and inspiriting histories of that terrible time; and we have no better book on that time for the mass of readers than just honest John Howie’s Scots Worthies. There is a passage in our Scottish martyr’s last defence of himself that has always reminded me of Socrates’ similar defence before the judges of Athens. ‘My lords,’ said Guthrie, ’my conscience I cannot submit. But this old and crazy body I do submit, to do with it whatsoever you will; only, I beseech you to ponder well what profit there is likely to be in my blood. It is not the extinguishing of me, or of many more like me, that will extinguish