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Christian's Great Interest (Puritan Paperbacks) Paperback – Unabridged, June 1, 1969
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'One of the greatest divines that ever wrote.' --John Owen
'It has long been the favourite work of our peasantry in Scotland. One admirable property of [The Christian's Great Interest] is that, while it guides, it purifies.' --Thomas Chalmers
About the Author
William Guthrie, one of the holiest and ablest of the experimental divines of Scotland, was born at Pitforthy, Angus, the seat of his ancestors, in the year 1620. He was the eldest son of the family, and his superior genius was displayed in his early and successful attention to learning; but till his entrance into college life, he did not obtain that intimate and saving acquaintance with Divine truth which enabled him at once to stay his own soul upon God as the God of his salvation, and to prescribe most skilfully for the cases of spiritual disease that came under his notice.
In 1654 Guthrie served as Moderator of the Protestor Synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Ere long he published The Christian's Great Interest. This work has gone through numerous editions, been translated into various languages, and continues to embalm his memory in the estimation of intelligent Christians of every name.
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To Guthrie, how we answer the question about our salvation is of the greatest interest to all people. It is "not a vain thing because it is your life", and it is "the one thing needful." Our salvation is discernable if we examine our case from the scripture. "To the law and to the testimony if they speak not according to his word, it is because there is no truth in them." The bible commands us "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own self", "give diligence to make your calling and election sure."
The first mark of our salvation is the experience of a preparatory work of the Law. Receiving the Spirit "unto bondage" Ro 8:15. Although many do not experience this, as those called from the womb or from early childhood (John the Baptist, Timothy) or in a "sovereign gospel" way (as Zaccheus) or on their death bed (as the theif on the cross), most people are brought low through sight of the Law, "when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died". The Holy Spirit awakens their conscience and they see they are compased about by innumerable iniquities. Jesus by his Spirit brings them through an intense internal process to make them "dead to the law" and without "confidence in the flesh" in order that they may see they are lost, sick and in need of a Physician.
The second mark is faith. Faith is the grand and only condition of the covenant of grace and the instrument of salvation. "It is of faith that it might be by grace." Therefore it is evident that he who can discover his own faith is saved. Guthrie explains that faith is not a difficult thing even though it is the "gift of God." It is not believing that you are elect or that Christ died for you or any other proposition but it is simply the hearts satisfaction with God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Scripture describes the acts of faith variously as receiving, staying, believing on, desiring, thirsting, looking on, waiting and other actions that indicate faith is not primarily an act of the understanding but of the heart and the will.
The third mark is a renewed state. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Guthrie outlines the evidences of those who are new creatures. The man must be renewed in his understanding, believing and trusting in the truths of scripture. His affections must be renewed, he must have a "new heart" and he must love God and His Law. He must "yield his members servants to righteousness unto holiness." In his interests, worship, outward calling, and relations he must all be renewed. He must do all to the glory of God, "whether ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do."
Guthrie then takes some space to contrast the attainments of hypocrites with the children of God and to address some other difficulties. Hypocrites, he says, may advance very far in religion without a true interest in Christ. They may have the "form" of godliness, they may "taste" the truth, they may even be to some extent "enlightened by the Holy Ghost" but they never choose Jesus as their soul's one satisfying choice nor are they content to make him their savior but all their outward holiness is of some base motive. He then alieves the doubts of those who fear they are excluded from the Kingdom of God because of the power of their prevailing sin. He points out to them that David confessed to God, "iniquities against me do prevail but as for our transgressions thou shalt surely purge them away" and that Paul could say he served "the law of sin" with his "flesh" but despite their sins they still delighted in the Law of God after the inward man. Next, Guthrie shows that the sensible internal operations of the Holy Spirit are the special gift of God but are not the substance of the new man.
In the second part of the book Guthrie leads those who have failed the trial of a saving interest to close with Christ. He begins this section by going through the basic tenets of Christianity. The covenant of works has failed by Adam's sin but God has graciously restored communion with man by providing a sacrifice for sin in his Son Jesus. God covenants with all those who submit themselves and their children to his ordinances and he requires them to seek salvation in Christ. Unfortunately, many in the covenant do not transact with God thusly but they flatter him with their lips, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel." This is the case with most in the Church, "strait is the gate and narrow is the way." For none can do it except they are made willing and able in the day of his power, being effectually called by the Holy Spirit.
To accept the offer of the gospel is to set aside the covenant of works, renounce self-righteousness and to choose Christ as a precious treasure sufficient for the salvation of sinners. It is the command of all those who hear the gospel to do so and none will be saved except those that do. "Ho everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat." He must take to heart that the wrath of God abides on him for the very sins he is guilty of and that his only escape is through Jesus Christ, who, if he comes to him, will in no wise cast him out for, "all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven of men."
To motivate unbelievers to so close with Christ Guthrie discloses to us some native effects of saving faith. Namely, union and communion with God. Through Jesus we have oness with God who is afflicted with our affliction and who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Through Jesus we belong to God and he belongs to us and we can share intimacy with him through prayer.
Next, Guthrie succors poor sinners too afraid to acquiese to Christ with sweet promises and examples from scripture. He shows us how the saints of the bible were guilty of the most heinous sins under the most aggravating circumstances yet still found pardon. He assures us that God will forgive any one and any sin and encourages us that he will be pleased with those that come to Jesus because this is the means he has himself appointed to save sinners.
The last chapter of the book Guthrie enjoins us to make an explicit verbal covenant with God. After the pattern of many men in the bible he recommends simply expressing in words before God what is the substance of the covenant of grace. This cannot save us if we do not have a heart work (contra the Arminian invitation system) and is not necessary to salvation if we do but it will help clear up for us what our state is with God. Guthrie then gives a very thurough example of such a verbal covenant and he recommends not just taking it once but renewing it on special occasions such as after backsliding or before the Lord's Supper.
Finally, Guthrie concludes with a catechism summarizing the whole book. In the Banner of Truth Paper Back ed. there are also excerpts from some of Guthrie's sermons.
This book is not for the casual reader. Guthrie labors hard to show the believer, and the unbeliever, his true state, and I suspect he expected the same type of intense labor from the reader. Like many puritan writers, Guthrie's style is foreign to us today. He writes logically and completely exhausts his subject. The effect of this is that it allows the reader full certainty of the point the author was actually trying to make and it gives readers conclusive arguments for that point. However, a secondary effect is that it requires the reader to study the work intently and to really examine the evidence and conclusions the author makes.
This book is worth every bit of effort. Being sure of our salvation is not something to take lightly and an intense study of Guthrie's work will give the reader enormous insight into their own eternal condition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent price. Nice modern typeface - easy to read. I found at least one typo - probably introduced via scanning and OCR.