Guthrie on the Free Offer
Guthrie’s reputation grew rapidly and after seven years in Angus he was called to Old Greyfriars in Edinburgh, where he was inducted in September 1837, as assistant to John Sym. Guthrie preached to huge congregations of the middle and upper classes in his new congregation but many of the poor were kept out due to pew rents. Guthrie conducted an afternoon service in the Magdalen Chapel (with associations with the Reformation and the Covenanting period) where he connected with the poor and marginalised in the Cowgate district of Edinburgh. His great desire was to communicate the redeeming power of the gospel to those who were often shut out of the established churches in the 19th century. This involved giving the unreserved and free offer of the gospel, a fact which his sons underline in their Memoirs:
Still Calvinist as he certainly was he emphatically disapproved any attempt to square Scripture with the supposed requirements of a doctrinal system. “John,” to quote a sentence from one of his discourses, “uses a very broad expression, ‘Jesus Christ,’ he says, ‘…is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’ ‘The whole world’ – ‘ah!’ some would say, ‘that is dangerous language.’ It is God’s language: John speaking as he was moved by the Holy Ghost. It throws a zone of mercy around the world. Perish the hand that would narrow it by a hair’s breadth!”. (Autobiography, p 510).
It was this theology that infused Guthrie’s preaching and evangelism and fuelled an irrepressible belief that the most unlikely candidate could be saved.