Guthrie’s Retirement from Free St John’s

When Dr Guthrie and his wife when retired in 1864 on the grounds of ill health he was presented with a silver teapot and some money.  It is in the archives of the Edinburgh Museum in the Canongate, Edinburgh.  A Committee was established to ensure that Dr Guthrie was supported in his retirement and that his incredible work was marked appropriately. The committee included the Earls of Dalhousie, Shaftesbury, Carlisle, Kintore and Southesk, the Lord Bishops of London and St David’s, the Right Hon W.E. Gladstone as well as clerks and tradesmen.   

We learn in Guthrie’s Memoirs that he found out about the testimonial prior to the presentation.  In classic Guthrie humility he wrote to Mr J.R. Dymock in Lochlee; Some may fancy that this may blow me up.  I have no feelings of the kind, not because I am above the ordinary feelings of our nature, or have not a great deal more corruption than I should have; but such a thing sends a man back to think of his own unworthiness before God, and, if at all right-minded, humbles rather than puffs up; leading him, when he looks at himself and the many blessings he enjoys  than others not less unworthy and perhaps more deserving, to say ‘What am I?  Despite all his achievements, and even at the end of his long and fruitful ministerial career Guthrie could only see himself as an unprofitable servant.  Some of our ministers could learn a few lessons from Dr Guthrie.

On February 20th 1865 at the Royal Hotel, Edinburgh the ‘Testimonial of Admiration and Esteem’ was handed over to Dr Guthrie which consisted of £5000 and a ‘silver tea and coffee service’. Guthrie responded; …I do not despise the money; I never did despise money.  Many a day have I wished I had a great deal more money, for I would have found a great deal more happiness in doing good to others, as it were not needed in any other way;…but, next to the approbation of God, of my blessed Master, and of my own conscience, 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.


Unbelievably this beautiful piece of history remains in the archives and is not on display. Perhaps with the exception of a mention in the tiny Old Greyfriars Kirk exhibition there is no official museum which tells the incredible story of Guthrie and the way the Lord used him to rescue thousands from a life of poverty and abuse.  Wouldn’t it be great to see this story told and to see these amazing pieces of history on display for everyone to see?  Perhaps one day we will see a Guthrie Museum in Edinburgh – wouldn’t that be great?

 Guthrie reminds us of Proverbs 10 v 7 ‘The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot.’  What kind of legacy are we leaving?  If Guthrie was alive today he would invite you to come to the Saviour who he preached and followed.  It is not religion that we all need it is the Lord Jesus Christ.  I’ll leave the last word to Dr Guthrie; Never mistake the dead robes for the living body of religion. Never forget that “to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly before God,” is what the Lord requires of thee; that faith without works is dead; that form without spirit is dead; and that, the highest piety being ever associated with the deepest humility, true religion is like the sweetest of all singing-birds, the skylark, which with the lowest nest but highest wing dwells in the ground, and yet soars to the skies (The Pharisee and Publican, The Parables, 1874).