If you want to learn more about Dr Thomas Guthrie the best book you can read is the Autobiography and Memoirs of Thomas Guthrie DD by Guthrie and his sons published in 1875. Dr Guthrie’s Autobiography is a fascinating account of his life. Unfortunately when Guthrie died in 1873 his Autobiography was unfinished and he had only written up to his time in Edinburgh and the increasing tension prior to the Disruption. His sons went on to write a complete Memoir of their father and quote widely from letters and notebooks. There are single volume versions of Guthrie’s Autobiography and his sons Memoirs but the two volume versions contain one or two extra’s such as Guthrie’s first sermon as a Licentiate in 1825 (see ‘About Guthrie’ for full sermon) and his address when St John’s opened in 1840. For a full text of Dr Guthrie’s address at the opening of St Johns read this blogpost.
A Plea for Ragged Schools (1847) – this series of booklets published in 1847, 1849 and 1860, were eventually published together with appendices detailing crime statistics, number of children in Edinburgh prison and the structure of the Ragged Schools. Guthrie didn’t see himself as a great writer and having delivered his initial manuscript to the publisher he wondered if he had made a fool of himself. He needn’t have worried because the book was a sensation or as Guthrie described it ‘a spark amongst combustibles.’ Perhaps more than any other book A Plea for Ragged Schools sums up Guthrie’s practical theology. You can read more about the book in this blog post.
The Gospel in Ezekiel (1856) – Guthrie went on to write many books showing his depth of knowledge on biblical theology but perhaps the best known was the Gospel in Ezekiel published in 1856. The book is a series of twenty two chapters all based on Ezekiel 36 v 16 – 37. It is available as an e-book here. While some of Guthrie’s writing appears to the modern reader as rather flowery, the sermons can only be described as majestic. Guthrie seeks to follow the gospel narrative working his way from; the messenger, the defiler, man sinning, man suffering, God’s positive justice, God’s motive in salvation, man an object of divine mercy, God glorified in redemption, the wisdom and holiness of God illustrated in salvation, the benefits flowing from redemption, man justified, man justified through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, man converted, the heart of stone, the new heart, the renovator, the new life, the blessedness of the saints, the security of the believer, and the nature, necessity and power of prayer. In their Memoir of their father David and Charles Guthrie make mention that by 1875 the Gospel in Ezekiel had sold over 40,000 copies. This is a remarkable figure given the subject and length of the book. But as always it was the content and the author that it made it such a best seller. Here is a taster of some of the content from the title entitled The Messenger. Guthrie is proving that God has entrusted gospel treasures to earthen vessels and drives home the point that he is not just referring to ministers: ‘I am anxious that you should understand that the honours which I have spoken of are not reserved for pulpits. The youth who, finding rest and refreshment in Christian labours, teaches a Sabbath class; the mother with her children grouped around her, sweet solemnity sitting on her face, and an open Bible resting on her knee; the friend who deals faithfully with another’s soul; any man who kindly takes a poor sinner by the hand, and offering to guide, and urging him to go to the Saviour, says “Come with us and we will do you good;” “arise, for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good;” “these are ministers of the Gospel, and not less than its ordained pastors are fellow-labourers with God.’ If you want to know more about the Gospel in Ezekiel you can read a blog post here.
The City its Sins and Sorrows (1857) – Guthrie’s work on total abstinence reached its climax with preaching a series of sermons on Luke 19 v 41 and their publication under the title, The City, Its Sins and Sorrows’ in 1857. You can download an e-book version here. As you will discover if you read The City its Sins and Sorrows, the sermons have much to teach us much about the man. Guthrie preaches like the Saviour he loved. His words are full of love, pity and pathos. His heart had been broken by the sights he had seen in his pastoral visits and this is reflected in his sermons. As Christ wept over the state of the people of Jerusalem, Guthrie was broken over the drunkenness he saw ruining lives and destroying families across Scotland but particularly in Edinburgh. We need to rediscover Guthrie’s love for cities. We need to weep over them, work in them and mend the many broken lives devastated through addiction. As Guthrie says in his final sermon; “Let each select their own manageable field of Christian work. Let us thus embrace the whole city, and cover its nakedness, – although, with different denominations at work, it should be robed, like Joseph, in a coat of many colours” (Thomas Guthrie, The City: its Sins and Sorrows, Edinburgh, 1857).
Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints (1858) – Published in Dr Guthrie’s lifetime ‘Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints’ was an extremely popular series which was preached at the peak of his ministry in St John’s. The book contains 20 sermons on Colossians 1 v 12-20 including The Kingdom of Christ, Christ the Redeemer, The Image of God, The First Born, Christ in Providence and The Fullness.
The Street Preacher, being the Autobiography of Robert Flockhart, Edited by Thomas Guthrie, DD (1858) – In the preface to this book Dr Guthrie writes: ‘Robert Flockhart had been a great sinner, and He, who in other days had changed the bitterest persecutor of the church into its noblest preacher, changed him into a great saint. This brave old soldier united the most ardent piety and untiring zeal to indomitable courage, and had no idea of flinching, whether he was called to fight the French at Port Louise or, for Christ and God’s truth, face ribald crowds in the High Street of Edinburgh.’ While there are old hardback editions available online there is a newer paperback version published by Baker in 1967.
Man and the Gospel (1865) – This book has no introduction or preface so we are left guessing if they are sermons or articles. It is likely given that they were published 10 years after Guthrie’s death that they were probably articles written in the Sunday Magazine and were gathered together by friends and family. The book contains fifteen sermons around the theme of ‘Man and the Gospel’. The first 11 chapters are all based on the book of James with the last 4 articles taken from Proverbs, Colossians and Jeremiah. Guthrie deals with such practical subjects as Refuge in Trial, True Religion, Purity, Riches, the Law of God, Faith and Works and the Poor. A very readable book and a great introduction to the warm and practical theology that Guthrie embodied.
Studies of Character (1869) – This book is a series of 9 studies which include; Abraham, Eliezer, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Boaz, Ruth and Gideon. The articles are full of Dr Guthrie’s usual rich imagery and are well worth reading.
Rev Dr Guthrie Anecdotes and Stories (1864) – This is small book of around 200 pages with all sorts of sayings and quotes from Dr Guthrie. Unfortunately the sayings are in no particular order and the book has no contents. The book is invaluable for the serious Guthrie student and the sayings are of course vintage; We find Episcopalian who will not worship in a Presbyterian Church. We find a Free Church man who turn his back upon the Establishment, and I know an excellent and Old Light Burgher who almost worshiped Dr Chalmers, but who would not worship with him.
The Parables (1866) – Thomas Guthrie was very vivid story teller and his sermons were peppered with stories from around the world. He was never more comfortable than when he was preaching from the parables. It seems almost certain that Guthrie published these sermons as a series in the Sunday Magazine. In this book Guthrie covers 12 parables from the prodigal son, the 10 virgins, the sower, the Pharisee and the publican and the unmerciful servant.
Our of Harness (1874) – This is an amazing book. It includes a range of articles from the original ragged school, 7 ‘sketches of the Cowgate’, the streets of Paris, and a range of articles on Guthrie’s travels to England. These articles must have been written for the Sunday magazine. The articles give us an insight into the breadth and depth of Guthrie’s ministry. The sketches of the Cowgate reveal how involved Guthrie was in pastoral work and new first hand the issues facing his parishioners.
God’s Institution of the Family (1862) – When Guthrie was Moderator of the Free Church in 1862 he gave an opening address at the General Assembly that apparently ruffled a few feathers. He spoke of the poverty that many ministers lived in and how the level of the ministers stipend lead to an impoverished ministry. Guthrie’s closing address was well received. He gave a masterful address on the institution of the family which has now been published as an e-book and can be downloaded here.
The Angels Song (1865) – These are six meditations on the ‘The Angels Song’ as they proclaimed the birth of the Messiah. Print to order copies are available here.
Our Fathers Business (1867)
Early Piety (1868) – This little book is a collection of four sermons encouraging the young to close with Christ before they leave it too late. A modern edition is available here.
Sundays Abroad (1871)
The Way to Life (1862)
Speaking to the Heart (1862)