Monday, 31 December 2012

Christian Assurance

In his Memoirs Guthrie talks about one of his parishioners, a weaver named 'James Dundas' who lived on the north-west boundary of the Arbirlot Parish.  Guthrie claims Dundas lived an isolated existence and had no society (beyond his wife) but that of God and nature.  Like others in rural Scotland at that time Dundas was known as a bit of a poet and known for 'lofty thoughts, and a singularly vivid imagination.'  Guthrie relates a story about Dundas and a loss of assurance on a Communion Sabbath;

'He rose, bowed down by a sense of sin, in great distress of mind; he would go to the church that day, but being a man of a very tender conscience, he hesitated about going to the Lords table; deep was answering to deep at the noise of God's waterspouts, and all God's billows and waves were going over him; he was walking in darkness, and had no light.  In this state he proceeded to put himself in order for church, and while washing his hands, one by one, he heard a voice say, "Cannot I, in my blood, as easily wash your soul, as that water wash your hands?" "Now Minister," he said, in telling me this, "I do not say there was a real voice, yet I heard it very distinctly, word for word, as you now hear me.  I felt a load taken off my mind, and went to the Table and sat under Christ's shadow with great delight" (Memoir and Autobiography, 1896, p 115).   

Assurance is a huge subject and one which many Christians struggle with.  We must distinguish between how we experience Christ on a daily basis (which can vary with our moods and emotions) and the ground of our salvation which is free unmerited grace of God which cannot be shaken by our feelings.  Professor John Murray very helpfully says; 'When we speak of the grounds of assurance, we are thinking of the ways in which a believer comes to entertain this assurance, not of the ground on which his assurance rests.  The grounds of salvation are as secure for the person who does not have full assurance as for the person who has (Collected Writings, Edinburgh, Banner of Truth 1980).

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Charles Dickens and The Devils Acre

My good friend Rev Dr John Nicholls, Chief Executive of the London City Mission recently sent me an interesting link to a website entitled 'Cholera and the Thames'.  Within the website and under the section on 'Cholera in Westminster' there is a section entitled 'The Devils Acre'.  I find it slightly amusing that the heart of political power in the 1840's was once an area of '...thieves...and charlatans' (no change there then).  All quotes below are from the website unless otherwise stated.

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The Devils Acre was 'located in what is currently the prestigious heart of Westminster. Yet at the time of the cholera outbreak, the Devil’s Acre was little more than a dismal swamp, home to a community of beggars, thieves, prostitutes, and charlatans. It was said that it was the area most ideal for housing criminals of all types as the police only made rare visits to the area—and when they did the local inhabitants vigorously repelled them. Charles Dickens’s campaigning magazine ‘Household Words’ featured the area in its very first edition in 1850 and helped to popularise the infamous name that had been given to an area that lay between the pillars of state; Westminster Abbey (Church), Buckingham Palace (Crown) and the Houses of Parliament (State). The streets that encompassed The Devil's Acre were Old Pye Street, Great St Anne's Lane (now St Ann Street and the location of Westminster Archives) and Duck Lane (now St Matthew Street) in the parish of Westminster St Margaret and St John.'

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens would have been very familiar with the area as a young parliamentary reporter and summarised it as follows; 'There is no part of the metropolis which presents a more chequered aspect, both physical and moral, than Westminster. The most lordly streets are frequently but a mask for the squalid districts which lie behind them, whilst spots consecrated to the most hallowed of purposes are begirt by scenes of indescribably infamy and pollution; the blackest tide of moral turpitude that flows in the capital rolls its filthy wavelets up to the very walls of Westminster Abbey.’

The website confirms the incredible effect of the Ragged School Movement which was taken up by Charles Dickens and others such as Anthony Ashley-Cooper (7th Earl of Shaftesbury), Angela Burdett-Coutts and of course in Scotland Thomas Guthrie.  The famous 'One Tun Pub' in Old Pyre Street, London was a training centre for young street kids who were made in to career criminals.  Dickens was inspired after visiting a Ragged School to write his second novel 'Oliver Twist' or 'The Parish Boys Progress' (an allusion to John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress).  The story of the One Tun Pub parallels the story of Oliver Twist very closely except that the One Tun was converted into a Ragged School and many were helped to choose a different direction in life.

Early attempts to respond to the huge needs of the Devils Acre came from the London City Mission which was begun in 1835 by a Scot named David Nasmith;  'The plight of children in the area, many of them street orphans, also shocked those who went into the area to try and help. The City of London Mission felt that the area was so depraved that it had to be re-conquered for Christianity. For the last half of the 19th century its missionaries compiled reports on the area based on door to door visits in the neighbourhood. One report by missionary Andrew Walker described the extent of the depravity. He was shocked to discover that street orphans were taken off of the streets into ‘the School of Fobology’ which was based in the One Tun pub in Old Pye Street. The ‘Fagin like’ master of the school gave them a master class in the art of pick pocketing. This shocked one wealthy philanthropist Adeline Cooper into buying the pub and converting it into a ‘Ragged school’ with the help of the famous social reformer Lord Shaftesbury. Angela Burdett-Coutts was also a prime mover in the ‘Ragged School’ movement, which sought to provide basic education for poor children. Her involvement in education in the area was long term and eventually she helped to build a school for local children, that still bares her name in Rochester Street, SW1.'

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7th Earl of Shaftesbury
Dickens was going to write a pamphlet on the work of Ragged Schools but instead went on to write 'A Christmas Carol.'  Through this and his magazine 'Household Words' Dickens went on to support the work of the Ragged School movement.  Below is a (very lengthy) letter from Charles Dickens to The Daily News in February 1846 after visiting the Field Lane Ragged School.  Towards the end of the letter Dickens seems to suggest some slight reservations about the schools by saying; 'So far as I have any means of judging of what is taught there, I should individually object to it, as not being sufficiently secular, and as presenting too many religious mysteries and difficulties, to minds not sufficiently prepared for their reception.'  Despite these reservations about the Christian nature of the education, Dickens goes on to heartily recommend the project and appeals to Christian philanthropists to commit money to the building of future Ragged Schools.  Below I have pasted most of the letter but the full version can be found here;

'This attempt is being made in certain of the most obscure and squalid parts of the Metropolis, where rooms are opened, at night, for the gratuitous instruction of all comers, children or adults, under the title of RAGGED SCHOOLS. The name implies the purpose. They who are too ragged, wretched, filthy, and forlorn, to enter any other place: who could gain admission into no charity school, and who would be driven from any church door; are invited to come in here, and find some people not depraved, willing to teach them something, and show them some sympathy, and stretch a hand out, which is not the iron hand of Law, for their correction.'

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The letter continues;
'For the instruction, and as a first step in the reformation, of such unhappy beings, the Ragged Schools were founded. I was first attracted to the subject, and indeed was first made conscious of their existence, about two years ago, or more, by seeing an advertisement in the papers dated from West Street, Saffron Hill, stating "That a room had been opened and supported in that wretched neighbourhood for upwards of twelve months, where religious instruction had been imparted to the poor", and explaining in a few words what was meant by Ragged Schools as a generic term, including, then, four or five similar places of instruction. I wrote to the masters of this particular school to make some further inquiries, and went myself soon afterwards.

It was a hot summer night; and the air of Field Lane and Saffron Hill was not improved by such weather, nor were the people in those streets very sober or honest company. Being unacquainted with the exact locality of the school, I was fain to make some inquiries about it. These were very jocosely received in general; but everybody knew where it was, and gave the right direction to it. The prevailing idea among the loungers (the greater part of them the very sweepings of the streets and station houses) seemed to be, that the teachers were quixotic, and the school upon the whole "a lark". But there was certainly a kind of rough respect for the intention, and (as I have said) nobody denied the school or its whereabouts, or refused assistance in directing to it.

It consisted at that time of either two or three--I forget which-miserable rooms, upstairs in a miserable house. In the best of these, the pupils in the female school were being taught to read and write; and though there were among the number, many wretched creatures steeped in degradation to the lips, they were tolerably quiet, and listened with apparent earnestness and patience to their instructors. The appearance of this room was sad and melancholy, of course--how could it be otherwise!--but, on the whole, encouraging.

The close, low chamber at the back, in which the boys were crowded, was so foul and stifling as to be, at first, almost insupportable. But its moral aspect was so far worse than its physical, that this was soon forgotten. Huddled together on a bench about the room, and shown out by some flaring candles stuck against the walls, were a crowd of boys, varying from mere infants to young men; sellers of fruit, herbs, lucifer-matches, flints; sleepers under the dry arches of bridges; young thieves and beggars--with nothing natural to youth about them: with nothing frank, ingenuous, or pleasant in their faces; low-browed, vicious, cunning, wicked; abandoned of all help but this; speeding downward to destruction; and UNUTTERABLY IGNORANT.

This, Reader, was one room as full as it could hold; but these were only grains in sample of a Multitude that are perpetually sifting through these schools; in sample of a Multitude who had within them once, and perhaps have now, the elements of men as good as you or I, and maybe infinitely better; in sample of a Multitude among whose doomed and sinful ranks (oh, think of this, and think of them!) the child of any man upon this earth, however lofty his degree, must, as by Destiny and Fate, be found, if, at its birth, it were consigned to such an infancy and nurture, as these fallen creatures had!

This was the Class I saw at the Ragged School. They could not be trusted with books; they could only be instructed orally; they were difficult of reduction to anything like attention, obedience, or decent behaviour; their benighted ignorance in reference to the Deity, or to any social duty (how could they guess at any social duty, being so discarded by all social teachers but the gaoler and the hangman!) was terrible to see. Yet, even here, and among these, something had been done already. The Ragged School was of recent date and very poor; but he had inculcated some association with the name of the Almighty, which was not an oath, and had taught them to look forward in a hymn (they sang it) to another life, which would correct the miseries and woes of this.

The new exposition I found in this Ragged School, of the frightful neglect by the State of those whom it punishes so constantly, and whom it might, as easily and less expensively, instruct and save; together with the sight I had seen there, in the heart of London; haunted me, and finally impelled me to an endeavour to bring these Institutions under the notice of the Government; with some faint hope that the vastness of the question would supersede the Theology of the schools, and that the Bench of Bishops might adjust the latter question, after some small grant had been conceded. I made the attempt; and have heard no more of the subject from that hour.

The perusal of an advertisement in yesterday's paper, announcing a lecture on the Ragged Schools last night, has led me into these remarks. I might easily have given them another form; but I address this letter to you, in the hope that some few readers in whom I have awakened an interest, as a writer of fiction, may be, by that means, attracted to the subject, who might otherwise, unintentionally, pass it over.

I have no desire to praise the system pursued in the Ragged Schools; which is necessarily very imperfect, if indeed there be one. So far as I have any means of judging of what is taught there, I should individually object to it, as not being sufficiently secular, and as presenting too many religious mysteries and difficulties, to minds not sufficiently prepared for their reception. But I should very imperfectly discharge in myself the duty I wish to urge and impress on others, if I allowed any such doubt of mine to interfere with my appreciation of the efforts of these teachers, or my true wish to promote them by any slight means in my power. Irritating topics, of all kinds, are equally far removed from my purpose and intention. But, I adjure those excellent persons who aid, munificently, in the building of New Churches, to think of these Ragged Schools; to reflect whether some portion of their rich endowments might not be spared for such a purpose; to contemplate, calmly, the necessity of beginning at the beginning; to consider for themselves where the Christian Religion most needs and most suggests immediate help and illustration; and not to decide on any theory or hearsay, but to go themselves into the Prisons and the Ragged Schools, and form their own conclusions. They will be shocked, pained, and repelled, by much that they learn there; but nothing they can learn will be onethousandth part so shocking, painful, and repulsive, as the continuance for one year more of these things as they have been for too many years already.

Anticipating that some of the more prominent facts connected with the history of the Ragged Schools, may become known to the readers of The Daily News through your account of the lecture in question, I abstain (though in possession of some such information) from pursuing the question further, at this time. But if I should see occasion, I will take leave to return to it.'
First published February 4, 1846, The Daily News

If you look over to the section on 'Ragged Schools' within this blog you will see an interesting obitury to Andrew Walker, London City Missionary who is referred in the website.  Many thanks to John Nicholls and others in the London City Mission for sending me items from their archives. 

Friday, 28 December 2012

Feeding the Homeless at Christmas

Last Sunday night was Livingston FC's first night on the Bethany Christian Trust Winter Care Shelter for rough sleepers.  Our team worked brilliantly together and cooked a very tasty shepherds pie for around 25 men and women.  Many thanks to Alana, Naurice, June, Marion and Janice (all credit to Janice and her great organising and cooking skills!).   The food was all kindly donated from individuals within the church.  Bethany often talks about 'love in action' but it was very evident last Sunday at St Stephens Church, Edinburgh.  Never underestimate the power of ordinary people and their ability to do extraordinary things. 
The A Team
The Winter Care Shelter is now a well oiled machine with a minimum of 3 staff on at all times.  Each year it operates for 5 months during the coldest months of the winter to provide a safe place for some of the most vulnerable men and women in Edinburgh.  It is entirely funded by donations and costs well over £100,000.   Even more remarkably Bethany manages around 500 volunteers from churches all over Edinburgh and the Lothians. 

As always I was very humbled to see the quiet efficiency, humility and compassion of the staff from Bethany.  The remarkable Mike Sherlock (Bethany Care Shelter Team Leader) had been in an ambulance only a few weeks earlier making his peace with God as he struggled for breath with a massive heart attack.  He was saved by the skill of some great doctors and nurses (and the mercy and grace of God) and it was great to see Mike back at the shelter - doing what he does best.

There is something very raw about the shelter.  Myself and 2 off the staff picked the guys up from Waterloo Place; they were a bit loud, some were a bit tipsy, but all were in great need of a safe place and a hot meal. It's hard not to feel some parallel with the work of the Bethany Winter Care Shelter and Guthrie and his fellow social reformers 160 years ago.  It is obviously on a smaller scale and is perhaps a little less radical than what Guthrie proposed to a city that was (or pretended to be) oblivious to the poverty and squalor on their doorstep.  But the parallels are definitely there to be seen.

Firstly Guthrie had a coherent vision for the poor.  This is sadly lacking today with the doctrinal and ecclesiastical fragmentation of the church in Scotland.  Amidst the heated (and important) debates on subjects such as marriage, the authority of scripture and leadership in the church, we have lost the Biblical vision for the marginalised and the poor.  Despite the Bible being laden with teaching on justice for the oppressed and mercy to the poor, it is relegated within many churches to the last item on the Deacons Court Agenda or to some committee of 'the keen and enthusiastic'.  But compassion for the poor (inside and outside the church) can't be an 'added extra'.  It needs to be part of the DNA of the churches work and ministry as Guthrie made it throughout his work in Angus and Edinburgh.  CH Spurgeon the great Baptist preacher said on one occasion; 'Compassion is a great gospel duty, and it must be hearty and practical. When we see a man in distress, we must not pass him by as the Priest and the Levite did, for thus we shall show that our religion is only skin deep, and has never affected our hearts. We must pity, go near and befriend.'  Sometimes this means as Christians being in places and situations that are well out of our comfort zone - but this is where we are called to be. 
Secondly Guthrie brought churches together to work for the same cause.  While Guthrie was certainly not ecumenical in the modern sense of the word, he certainly favoured inter- church co-operation particularly on such projects as the Ragged Schools.  He is quoted in his Memoir by his sons as saying (in 1867) 'let the ministers or representatives of the different denominations within this city - Episcopalian, Baptist, and Independent, United Presbyterian, Free Church, and Established Church - meet, and form themselves into a real working Evangelical Alliance.  Agreeing to regard all old divisions of parishes with an ecclesiastical right over their inhabitants as nowadays a nullity - let them map out the dark and destitute districts of the city, assigning a district to each congregation.  Let each congregation then go to work upon their own part of the field, and giving some five hundred souls to care for, you would thus cover 'the nakedness of the land'' (Autobiography and Memoirs, 1896, p 323). 

With this and other projects Guthrie encouraged collaboration from all churches.  This was particularly seen in the Ragged School movement and when controversy flared over 'protestant indoctrination' Guthrie was able to respond by saying 'the religious instruction conveyed at these schools must necessarily be of the most simple and elementary kind, so as to be adapted to the tender years and gross ignorance of the children.  Its entire freedom from all sectarian biasis effectually secured by the superintendence of a committee impartially selected from the various leading religious bodies composing the great bulk of the community.  The only books hitherto used in the school have been the Bible and the First and Second Books of Education, published under the superintendence of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland.  The Committee feel that they cannot hope for a blessing on their schools if religion is not the pervading principle of the instruction given to the children' (Seed-Time and Harvest; or Plea for Ragged Schools, 1859, p 190). 

Hugh Miller was Editor of the Witness newspaper and great supporter of the Ragged Schools.
Lastly, Guthrie's theology produced action.  Guthrie wasn't the first minister to visit the Cowgate.  He wasn't the first minister to pass the thousands of 'ragged children' that filled the streets and prisons of 19th century Scotland.  Yet why was he one of the few to raise his voice and use his considerable influence to bring about the most incredible acts of Christian philanthropy? Although he was not alone with others such as Dr Thomas Chalmers, Hugh Miller (Editor of the Witness) and James Begg also being used to bring about huge social and spiritual change in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, Guthrie was used to stir up a generation to the plight of the poor and marginalised in urban Scotland.  He was able to fuse doctrine and action, theory and practice and words with deeds like few others before or after him.  Many quotes could embody this but let me leave you with this; 'Yes it is easy to push aside the poor boy in the street, with a harsh and unfeeling refusal, saying to your neighbour, 'these are the pests of our city'.  Call them if you choose, the rubbish of society; only let us say, that there are jewels among that rubbish, which would richly repay the expense of searching.  Bedded in their dark and dismal abodes, precious stones lie there, which only wait to be dug out and polished, to shine, first on earth, and hereafter and for ever in a Redeemer's crown' (Seed-Time and Harvest; or Plea for Ragged Schools, 1859, p 52).  Guthrie's theology led to an active Christianity that impacted the world around him.  It is a Christianity we desperately need to recover in Scotland today.

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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Guthrie and the Kilsyth Revival of 1839

Thomas Guthrie was connected with two men who were closely associated with revivals in Scotland - William Chalmers Burns and Robert Murray McCheyne. In revival the Church is given larger measures of the Spirit of God. Sometimes it can come unexpectedly.  Revivals are characterised by conviction of sin, a deep sense of our need for salvation and a great love for God.  Areas like Kilsyth have experienced several revivals over the years including 1742-3 under the ministry of James Robe.  Perhaps the most famous revival associated with Kilsyth was in 1839 when the minister of the parish (Rev William Burns 1779 - 1859) invited his son William Chalmers Burns (1815 -1886) to preach at a communion season.  Destined for the mission field, Chalmers Burns was delayed in going to India but eventually went out to China.  His friend Robert Murray McCheyne (1813 - 1843) invited him to preach in Dundee while McCheyne was in Israel. 

Robert Murray McCheyne

Chalmers Burns preached his first sermon in Dundee in April 1839 and for the first four months he felt he made little progress.  He went back to Kilsyth on 16 July to assist his father at his communion season.  Preaching on Psalm 110 v 3 (Thy people shall be willing in a day of thy power) 'there was an immediate reaction: weeping, tears, shouts of joy and praise, falling to the ground as though dead' (David Robertson, Awakening, 2009, p 161).  After staying in Kilsyth for 3 weeks, Burns returned to Dundee. 

St Peters Free Church

News of the revival had spread across Scotland and after his first service back in Dundee Burns spoke of the events in Kilsyth.  He invited those were interested to wait behind and 100 people remained.  Burns records; 'suddenly the power of God seemed to descend, and all were bathed in tears.  The next evening there was a prayer meeting in the church.  There was much melting of hearts and intense desire after the beloved of the sooner was the vestry door opened to admit those who might feel anxious to converse, than a vast number pressed in with awful eagerness.  It was like a pent up flood breaking forth; tears were streaming from the eyes of many, and some fell to the ground groaning and weeping and crying for mercy.'

In their Memoir of their father Thomas Guthrie's sons talk about their fathers involvement in the Kilsyth revival of 1839.  Dr William Burns was actually an uncle of Mrs Guthrie so the connection was more than just ministerial.  Guthrie travelled to Kilsyth by canal boat where there has been 'more religious conversation in these boats for the last six weeks than for six years before.'  Guthrie heard that while many remained untouched by the revival in a spiritual sense, none could deny the effects on the community.  The man travelling in the boat with Guthrie told him of a local farmer 'who used always to get his turnip fields destroyed and pillaged; nothing of the kind this year - religion had guarded them better than an armed force.'

Arriving in Kilsyth Guthrie records in a notebook his impressions; 'We met last night at eight.  After service, which closed about eleven o'clock, two girls under deep and serious impressions, along with some others, were waiting.  I was much struck with this, that none appeared ashamed of religion...the singing was remarkably loud and cordial, and an air of devoutness among the people...ninety young communicants within two months, from the ages of seventy to twelve...of the ninety, almost the whole were under the most solemn and serious impressions.'

Returning to Edinburgh Guthrie preached a series on Matthew 7 v 16 'ye shall know them by their fruits'.  Guthrie goes on to preach; 'The spies went in to the land of Canaan and returned with a bunch of grapes as proof of its fertility.  I have visited the parish of Kilsyth; and while things have been both said and done there which I cannot approve, while impressions have been made on some that will vanish away like the morning mist from their own hills (for God never sowed wheat but the devil sowed tares), yet I am satisfied that a wonderful work has been done there.  I cannot tell you all; but in facts which came under my own observation I can show, as it were, a bunch of the grapes of Eschol.'

Dr Thomas Guthrie

Guthrie goes on to make an interesting point which I think has some relevance today.  There were many accusations towards Kilsyth (and Dundee) of fanaticism with the church being open every day (and at times all night).  This is how Guthrie responds; 'But am I to be told that, were it possible, it would be fanaticism to keep an open church every night?  What is it to keep an open theatre?  What is it to keep open public-houses?  The place which has been proved to many a poor soul the way to hell is to be kept open; but it is 'fanaticism,' is it, to keep open the way to heaven?  The play houses and the public house are to open wide their portals every night; but the house of God is to be nailed up.  Oh, what an outcry is raised if people linger in God's house hearing the love of Christ till midnight is rung from the tower; but let the theatre discharge its votaries at the very same hour, and not one of these voices would be lifted up against it...Men speak with the tongue of the country they come from; the scorner speaks the tongue of the country he goes to.' 

Guthrie was a great admirer of Robert Murray McCheyne and records their tour of Forfarshire for the Church Extension Committee.  After breakfast one day in Errol, Guthrie and McCheyne were in the garden together when McCheyne started to do gymnastics on some parallel bars.  Guthrie explains in his Autobiography that as McCheyne was hanging by his heels 5-6 feet off the ground the pole snapped and he hit the ground with a terrible thud. While there was a recovery Guthrie claims that McCheyne was never the same man again.  Guthrie says of his companion; 'While a most pleasant and delightful companion enjoying nature and all good and innocent things in this life, he had in a rare and singular degree his 'conversation in heaven.' 

After a few years in Canada, Chalmers Burns went out to China in 1847.  He worked for many years with Hudson Taylor who persuaded him to wear Chinese clothing so he would be more accepted by the people he was seeking to reach.  After 20 years of  ministry in China Burns died in 1868.

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William Chalmers Burns

How should we respond to these amazing stories of revival?  A revival is an extraordinary work of God. In revival the Church is given larger measures of the Spirit of God and often it can come unexpectedly. In Kilsyth in 1839 it was a case of a special anointing on one who was not reckoned to be a great preacher. We must long and look for such times again but as Iain Murray says in his biography of Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones: 'Christians are not responsible for the extraordinary but they are responsible for for their personal obedience and for such reformation of the church as is required by the Word of God. Faith in the possibility of revival in the future, if it is true faith, will never lead to passivity in the present' (The Fight of Faith, 1990, p 685).  Thomas Guthrie, William Chalmers Burns and Robert Murray McCheyne could never be accused of passivity and they are an inspiration to us today as we seek to reach out to a lost world .

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Mission of Mercy

I had a very enjoyable day off from work today.  After dropping three boys off at school, and after a much needed porridge and coffee at Pret a Manger (a great company who give a lots of money and food to homeless charities), I made my way to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street.  To my shame I can't ever remember visiting before although I'm sure I must have been taken at some point in my childhood.  

After a recent discussion with the fount of all things Free Church, Mr Bill Anderson, I went to look at the two current paintings of Dr Thomas Guthrie hanging in the gallery and ask to look at others in their archives.  The first painting on display was originally entitled 'Dr Guthrie on a Mission of Mercy'.  It is of Guthrie standing at the top of the Lawnmarket with St Giles clearly in the background.  Having just re-read Guthrie's 'Seed Time and Harvest - A Plea for Ragged Schools' the painting doesn't quite capture the harrowing scenes of emaciated children that Guthrie describes.  It does, however capture Guthrie's tenderness for the thousands of 'ragged children' who were victims of the extreme poverty, lack of access to education and general abuse by addicted or absent parents.  Guthrie conservatively estimated the figure of ragged children in Edinburgh to be around 1000 in the mid 1840's although the figure could well have been twice that.

Rev. Thomas Guthrie, 1803 - 1873. Preacher and philanthropist (Exhibited as Dr Guthrie on a Mission of Mercy)

I can't say much about the painter other than what I have picked up on line.  It was a James Edgar (1819 - 1876) who also has a painting of Robert Burns in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  The inscription below the painting gives a very brief overview of Guthrie's life.

The other painting of Guthrie currently hanging in the gallery is a much more domestic scene with Guthrie out fly fishing with his children Patrick and Anne on Lochlee.  

The inscription reads; 'The influential churchman and social reformer Thomas Guthrie was born in Brechin in Angus. He helped found the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Guthrie was also an outspoken supporter of education for all and a passionate opponent of alcohol abuse. Guthrie took up fishing in order to spend time outdoors. Whilst at his Highland retreat at Lochlee, he practised trout fishing and was often found on the loch: 'We are all fishing daft here. My brother Patrick says that between us all together he cannot get a word of rational conversation; nothing but "trouts, baits, hooks, bobs, drags, flies, dressings, hackle and tackle.”' This oil sketch depicts a father at leisure with his children but also alludes to Guthrie’s profession as a 'fisher of men'.'  The painter was Sir George Harvey (1806 - 1876); 'Harvey is best known for his Scottish history painting and contemporary narrative scenes. Many of his subjects, designed to invite an emotional response, appear rather sentimental to modern viewers but were extremely popular when first exhibited.'

Rev. Thomas Guthrie, 1803  -1873. Preacher and philanthropist (With his children, Patrick and Anne, fishing on Lochlee)

There are around 60 other photos or prints of Guthrie in the archives including one of his Kirk Session in Free St John's which I hope to go back and see. 

After a very enjoyable morning I spent some time in the Chalmers Hall of the Free Church College trying to track down the book 'Out of Harness' which Guthrie wrote about various periods of his life.  Prof John Macintosh gave me some help with other Thomas Guthrie sources I hope to look at  over the next few months including Session Minutes from Arbirlot, Old Greyfriars, St John's and Free St John's at the National Archives.  

It was a quick sprint back to Tollcross for a very entertaining Gaelic Pantomime by some very talented actors from Inverness.  A busy but enjoyable day!!