church ragged edinburgh
GUTHRIE, THOMAS (1803-1873), Scottish clergyman and philanthropist, was born at Brechin, Forfarshire, on July 12, 1803. He entered tire university of Edinburgh at the early age of twelve (November 1815), and continued to attend classes there for more than ten years. During that period he seems to have read widely in general literature, although he did not distinguish himself as a student in the strict sense. On the 2d of February 1825 the presbytery of Brechin licensed him as a preacher in connexion with the Church of Scotland; but it was not till 1830 that he was inducted to Iris first charge, Arbirlot, in Forfar-shire, where he laboured for seven years. In 1837 he became tire colleague of the Rev. John Sym in the pastorate of Old Greyfriars, Edinburgh, and at once attracted notice as a great pulpit orator. Towards the close of 1840 Guthrie was chosen minister of St John's Church, Victoria Street, Edinburgh. His increasing popularity brought him flattering invitations both from London and from India ; but these he firmly declined. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the movement which led to the Disruption of 1843 ; and his name is thenceforth associated with the Free Church. In 1847 he began the greatest work of his life by the publication of his first Plea for Ragged Schools. This pamphlet, amid a multitude of other encomiums, elicited a beautiful and sympathetic letter from Lord Jeffrey. A ragged school was opened on the Castle Hill, which has been the parent of many similar institutions elsewhere. Guthrie insisted on bringing up all the children in his school as Protestants ; and he thus made his ragged schools not only educational but proselytizing institutions. This interference with religious liberty led to some controversy; and ultimately those who differed from Guthrie founded the United Industrial School, which is managed on the principle of combined secular and separate religious instruction. In April 1817 the degree of D.D. was conferred on Guthrie by the university of Edinburgh ; and in 1850 Dr Hanna, the biographer of Dr Chalmers, was inducted as his colleague in Free St John's Church.
In 1850 Guthrie published A Plea on behalf of Drunkards and against Drunkenness, which was followed by The Gospel in Ezekiel (1855); The City, its Sins and Sorrows (1857); Christ and the Inheritance of the Saints (1858) ; Seedtinte and Harvest of Ragged Schools (1860), consisting of his three Pleas for Ragged Schools; and The Way to Life and Speaking to the Heart (1862). These works had an enormous sale, and carried his fame to distant parts of the world. Portions of them were translated into French and Dutch. In 1862 he was moderator of the Free Church General Assembly; . but he seldom took a prominent part in the business of the Church courts. In connexion with the total abstinence movement he often appeared on the platform, where his oratorical talents, rich humour, genuine pathos, and inimitable power of storytelling eminently qualified him to shine. He was also greatly interested in the work of the Evangelical Alliance, of which he was one of the vice-presidents. In 1864, his health being seriously impaired, lie resigned public work as pastor of Free St John's (May 17), although his nominal connexion with the congregation ceased only with his death. Guthrie had occasionally contributed papers to Good Words, and, about the time of his retirement from the ministry, he became editor of the Sunday liagazine, himself contributing several series of papers which were afterwards published separately. In 1865 he was presented with £5000 as a mark of appreciation from the public. His closing years were spent mostly in retirement ; and after an illness of several months' duration he died at St Leonard's-on-Sea, February 24, 1873.
Dr„,Guthrie's fame rests on his labours as a social reformer and his extraordinary oratorical power as a preacher and platform speaker. He will always be remembered as one of the most successful and warm-hearted of Christian philanthropists ; and his influence over the masses of his countrymen was very great. His theology was the moderate Calvinism generally accepted by the Evangelical school. His style is distinguished by great graphic power And richness of illustration ; but, although admirably adapted for effect on a popular audience, it is far too florid and Asiatic in its rhetoric to please a sound literary critic.
See Autobiography of Thomas Guthrie, D.D., and Memoir by his sons, 2 vols., London, 1874-5.