An Account of the Persecutions in Scotland During the Reign of King Henry VIII
Like as there was no place, either of Germany, Italy, or France,
wherein there were not some branches sprung out of that most fruitful
root of Luther; so likewise was not this isle of Britain without
his fruit and branches. Amongst whom was Patrick Hamilton, a Scotchman
born of high and noble stock, and of the king's blood, of excellent
towardness, twenty-three years of age, called abbot of Ferne.
Coming out of his country with three companions to seek godly
learning, he went to the University of Marburg in Germany, which
university was then newly erected by Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
During his residence here, he became intimately acquainted with
those eminent lights of the Gospel, Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon;
from whose writings and doctrines he strongly attached himself
to the Protestant religion.
The archbishop of St. Andrews (who was a rigid papist) learning
of Mr. Hamilton's proceedings, caused him to be seized, and being
brought before him, after a short examination relative to his
religious principles, he committed him a prisoner to the castle,
at the same time ordering him to be confined in the most loathsome
part of the prison.
The next morning Mr. Hamilton was brought before the bishop, and
several others, for examination, when the principal articles exhibited
against him were, his publicly disapproving of pilgrimages, purgatory,
prayers to saints, for the dead, etc.
These articles Mr. Hamilton acknowledged to be true, in consequence
of which he was immediately condemned to be burnt; and that his
condemnation might have the greater authority, they caused it
to be subscribed by all those of any note who were present, and
to make the number as considerable as possible, even admitted
the subscription of boys who were sons of the nobility.
So anxious was this bigoted and persecuting prelate for the destruction
of Mr. Hamilton, that he ordered his sentence to be put in execution
on the afternoon of the very day it was pronounced. He was accordingly
led to the place appointed for the horrid tragedy, and was attended
by a prodigious number of spectators. The greatest part of the
multitude would not believe it was intended he should be put to
death, but that it was only done to frighten him, and thereby
bring him over to embrace the principles of the Romish religion.
When he arrived at the stake, he kneeled down, and, for some time
prayed with great fervency. After this he was fastened to the
stake, and the fagots placed round him. A quantity of gunpowder
having been placed under his arms was first set on fire which
scorched his left hand and one side of his face, but did no material
injury, neither did it communicate with the fagots. In consequence
of this, more powder and combustible matter were brought, which
being set on fire took effect, and the fagots being kindled, he
called out, with an audible voice: "Lord Jesus, receive my
spirit! How long shall darkness overwhelm this realm? And how
long wilt Thou suffer the tyranny of these men?"
The fire burning slow put him to great torment; but he bore it
with Christian magnanimity. What gave him the greatest pain was,
the clamor of some wicked men set on by the friars, who frequently
cried, "Turn, thou heretic; call upon our Lady; say, Salve
Regina, etc." To whom he replied, "Depart from me, and
trouble me not, ye messengers of Satan." One Campbell, a
friar, who was the ringleader, still continuing to interrupt him
by opprobrious language; he said to him, "Wicked man, God
forgive thee." After which, being prevented from further
speech by the violence of the smoke, and the rapidity of the flames,
he resigned up his soul into the hands of Him who gave it.
This steadfast believer in Christ suffered martyrdom in the year
One Henry Forest, a young inoffensive Benedictine, being charged
with speaking respectfully of the above Patrick Hamilton, was
thrown into prison; and, in confessing himself to a friar, owned
that he thought Hamilton a good man; and that the articles for
which he was sentenced to die, might be defended. This being revealed
by the friar, it was received as evidence; and the poor Benedictine
was sentenced to be burnt.
Whilst consultation was held, with regard to the manner of his
execution, John Lindsay, one of the archbishop's gentlemen, offered
his advice, to burn Friar Forest in some cellar; "for,"
said he, "the smoke of Patrick Hamilton hath infected all
those on whom it blew."
This advice was taken, and the poor victim was rather suffocated,
The next who fell victims for professing the truth of the Gospel,
were David Stratton and Norman Gourlay.
When they arrived at the fatal spot, they both kneeled down, and
prayed for some time with great fervency. They then arose, when
Stratton, addressing himself to the spectators, exhorted them
to lay aside their superstitious and idolatrous notions, and employ
their time in seeking the true light of the Gospel. He would have
said more, but was prevented by the officers who attended.
Their sentence was then put into execution, and they cheerfully
resigned up their souls to that God who gave them, hoping, through
the merits of the great Redeemer, for a glorious resurrection
to life immortal. They suffered in the year 1534.
The martyrdoms of the two before-mentioned persons, were soon
followed by that of Mr. Thomas Forret, who, for a considerable
time, had been dean of the Romish Church; Killor and Beverage,
two blacksmiths; Duncan Simson, a priest; and Robert Forrester,
a gentleman. They were all burnt together, on the Castle-hill
at Edinburgh, the last day of February, 1538.
The year following the martyrdoms of the before-mentioned persons,
viz. 1539, two others were apprehended on a suspicion of herresy;
namely, Jerome Russell and Alexander Kennedy, a youth about eighteen
years of age.
These two persons, after being some time confined in prison, were
brought before the archbishop for examination. In the course of
which Russell, being a very sensible man, reasoned learnedly against
his accusers; while they in return made use of very opprobrious
The examination being over, and both of them deemed heretics,
the archbishop pronounced the dreadful sentence of death, and
they were immediately delivered over to the secular power in order
The next day they were led to the place appointed for them to
suffer; in their way to which, Russell, seeing his fellow-sufferer
have the appearance of timidity in his countenance, thus addressed
him: "Brother, fear not; greater is He that is in us, than
He that is in the world. The pain that we are to suffer is short,
and shall be light; but our joy and consolation shall never have
an end. Let us, therefore, strive to enter into our Master and
Savior's joy, by the same straight way which He hath taken before
us. Death cannot hurt us, for it is already destroyed by Him,
for whose sake we are now going to suffer."
When they arrived at the fatal spot, they both kneeled down and
prayed for some time; after which being fastened to the stake,
and the fagots lighted, they cheerfully resigned their souls into
the hands of Him who gave them, in full hopes of an everlasting
reward in the heavenly mansions.
An Account of the Life, Sufferings, and Death of Mr. George Wishart,
Who Was Strangled and Afterward Burned, in Scotland,
for Professing the Truth of the Gospel
About the year of our Lord 1543, there was, in the University
of Cambridge, one Master George Wishart, commonly called Master
George of Benet's College, a man of tall stature, polled-headed,
and on the same a round French cap of the best; judged to be of
melancholy complexion by his physiognomy, black-haired, long-bearded,
comely of personage, well spoken after his country of Scotland,
courteous, lowly, lovely, glad to teach, desirous to learn, and
well travelled; having on him for his clothing a frieze gown to
the shoes, a black millian fustian doublet, and plain black hosen,
coarse new canvas for his shirts, and white falling bands and
cuffs at his hands.
He was a man modest, temperate, fearing God, hating covetousness;
for his charity had never end, night, noon, nor day; he forbare
one meal in three, one day in four for the most part, except something
to comfort nature. He lay hard upon a puff of straw and coarse,
new canvas sheets, which, when he changed, he gave away. He had
commonly by his bedside a tub of water, in the which (his people
being in bed, the candle put out and all quiet) he used to bathe
himself. He loved me tenderly, and I him. He taught with great
modesty and gravity, so that some of his people thought him severe,
and would have slain him; but the Lord was his defence. And he,
after due correction for their malice, by good exhortation amended
them and went his way. Oh, that the Lord had left him to me, his
poor boy, that he might have finished what he had begun! for he
went into scotland with divers of the nobility, that came for
a treaty to King Henry.
In 1543, the archbishop of St. Andrews made a visitation into
various parts of his diocese, where several persons were informed
against at Perth for heresy. Among those the following were condemned
to die, viz. William Anderson, Robert Lamb, James Finlayson, James
Hunter, James Raveleson, and Helen Stark.
The accusations laid against these respective persons were as
follow: The four first were accused of having hung up the image
of St. Francis, nailing ram's horns on his head, and fastening
a cow's tail to his rump; but the principal matter on which they
were condemned was having regaled themselves with a goose on fast
James Reveleson was accused of having ornamented his house with
the three crowned diadem of Peter, carved in wood, which the archbishop
conceived to be done in mockery to his cardinal's cap.
Helen Stark was accused of not having accustomed herself to pray
to the Virgin Mary, more especially during the time she was in
On these respective accusations they were all found guilty, and
immediately received sentence of death; the four men, for eating
the goose, to be hanged; James Raveleson to be burnt; and the
woman, with her sucking infant, to be put into a sack and drowned.
The four men, with the woman and the child, suffered at the same
time, but James Raveleson was not executed until some days after.
The martyrs were carried by a great band of armed men (for they
feared rebellion in the town except they had their men of war)
to the place of execution, which was common to all thieves, and
that to make their cause appear more odious to the people. Every
one comforting another, and assuring themselves that they should
sup together in the Kingdom of Heaven that night, they commended
themselves to God, and died constantly in the Lord.
The woman desired earnestly to die with her husband, but she was
not suffered; yet, following him to the place of execution, she
gave him comfort, exhorting him to perseverance and patience for
Christ's sake, and, parting from him with a kiss, said, "Husband,
rejoice, for we have lived together many joyful days; but this
day, in which we must die, ought to be most joyful unto us both,
because we must have joy forever; therefore I will not bid you
good night, for we shall suddenly meet with joy in the Kingdom
of Heaven." The woman, after that, was taken to a place to
be drowned, and albeit she had a child sucking on her breast,
yet this moved nothing in the unmerciful hearts of the enemies.
So, after she had commended her children to the neighbors of
the town for God's sake, and the sucking bairn was given to the
nurse, she sealed up the truth by her death.
Being desirous of propagating the true Gospel in his own country
George Wishart left Cambridge in 1544, and on his arrival in Scotland
he first preached at Montrose, and afterwards at Dundee. In this
last place he made a public exposition of the Epistle to the Romans,
which he went through with such grace and freedom, as greatly
alarmed the papists.
In consequence of this, (at the instigation of Cardinal Beaton,
the archbishop of St. Andrews) one Robert Miln, a principal man
at Dundee, went to the church where Wishart preached, and in the
middle of his discourse publicly told him not to trouble the town
any more, for he was determined not to suffer it.
This sudden rebuff greatly surprised Wishart, who, after a short
pause, looking sorrowfully on the speaker and the audience, said:
"God is my witness, that I never minded your trouble but
your comfort; yea, your trouble is more grievous to me than it
is to yourselves: but I am assured to refuse God's Word, and to
chase from you His messenger, shall not preserve you from trouble,
but shall bring you into it: for God shall send you ministers
that shall fear neither burning nor banishment. I have offered
you the Word of salvation. With the hazard of my life I have remained
among you; now you yourselves refuse me; and I must leave my innocence
to be declared by my God. If it be long prosperous with you, I
am not lede by the Spirit of truth; but if unlooked-for troubles
come upon you, acknowledge the cause and turn to God, who is gracious
and merciful. But if you turn not at the first warning, He will
visit you with fire and sword." At the close of this speech
he left the pulpit, and retired.
After this he went into the west of Scotland, where he preached
God's Word, which was gladly received by many.
A short time after this Mr. Wishart received intelligence that
the plague had broken out in Dundee. It began four days after
he was prohibited from preaching there, and raged so extremely
that it was almost beyond credit how many died in the space of
twenty-four hours. This being related to him, he, notwithstanding
the importunity of his friends to detain him, determined to go
there, saying: "They are now in troubles, and need comfort.
Perhaps this hand of God will make them now to magnify and reverence
the Word of God, which before they lightly esteemed."
Here he was with joy received by the godly. He chose the east
gate for the place of his preaching; so that the healthy were
within, and the sick without the gate. He took his text from these
words, "He sent His word and healed them," etc. In this
sermon he chiefly dwelt upon the advantage and comfort of God's
Word, the judgments that ensue upon the contempt or rejection
of it, the freedom of God's grace to all His people, and the happiness
of those of His elect, whom He takes to Himself out of this miserable
world. The hearts of his hearers were so raised by the divine
force of this discourse, as not to regard death, but to judge
them the more happy who should then be called, not knowing whether
he should have such comfort again with them.
After this the plague abated; though, in the midst of it, Wishart
constantly visited those that lay in the greatest extremity, and
comforted them by his exhortations.
When he took his leave of the people of Dundee, he said that God
had almost put an end to that plague, and that he was now called
to another place. He went from thence to Montrose; where he sometimes
preached, but he spent most of his time in private meditation
It is said that before he left Dundee, and while he was engaged
in the labors of love to the bodies as well as to the souls of
those poor afflicted people, Cardinal Beaton engaged a desperate
popish priest, called John Weighton, to kill him; the attempt
to execute which was as follows: one day, after Wishart had finished
his sermon, and the people departed, a priest stood waiting at
the bottom of the stairs, with a naked dagger in his hand under
his gown. But Mr. Wishart, having a sharp, piercing eye, and seeing
the priest as he came from the pulpit, said to him, "My friend,
what would you have?" and immediately clapping his hand upon
the dagger, took it from him. The priest being terrified, fell
to his knees, confessed his intention, and craved pardon. A noise
was hereupon raised, and it coming to the ears of those who were
sick, they cried, "Deliver the traitor to us, we will take
him by force"; and they burst in at the gate. But Wishart,
taking the priest in his arms, said, "Whatsoever hurts him
shall hurt me; for he hath done me no mischief, but much good,
by teaching more heedfulness for the time to come." By this
conduct he appeased the people and saved the life of the wicked
Soon after his return to Montrose, the cardinal again conspired
his death, causing a letter to be sent him as if it had been from
his familiar friend, the laird of Kennier, in which it was desired
with all possible speed to come to him, as he was taken with a
sudden sickness. In the meantime the cardinal had provided sixty
men armed to lie in wait within a mile and a half of Montrose,
in order to murder him as he passed that way.
The letter came to Wishart's hand by a boy, who also brought him
a horse for the journey. Wishart, accompanied by some honest men,
his friends, set forward; but something particular striking his
mind by the way, he returned, which they wondering at, asked him
the cause; to whom he said, "I will not go; I am forbidden
of God; I am assured there is treason. Let some of you go to yonder
place, and tell me what you find." Which doing, they made
the discovery; and hastily returning, they told Mr. Wishart; whereupon
he said, "I know I shall end my life by that bloodthirsty
man's hands, but it will not be in this manner."
A short time after this he left Montrose, and proceeded to Edinburgh,
in order to propagate the Gospel in that city. By the way he lodged
with a faithful brother, called James Watson of Inner-Goury. In
the middle of the night he got up, and went into the yard, which
two men hearing they privately followed him. While in the yard,
he fell on his knees, and prayed for some time with the greatest
fervency, after which he arose, and returned to his bed. Those
who attended him, appearing as though they were ignorant of all,
came and asked him where he had been. But he would not answer
them. The next day they importuned him to tell them, saying "Be
plain with us, for we heard your mourning, and saw your gestures."
On this he with a dejected countenance, said, "I had rather
you had been in your beds." But they still pressing upon
him to know something, he said, "I will tell you; I am assured
that my warfare is near at an end, and therefore pray to God with
me, that I shrink not when the battle waxeth most hot."
Soon after, Cardinal Beaton, archbishop of St. Andrews, being
informed that Mr. Wishart was at the house of Mr. Cockburn, of
Ormistohn, in East Lothian, applied to the regent to cause him
to be apprehended; with which, after great persuasion, and much
against his will, he complied.
In consequence of this the cardinal immediately proceeded to the
trial of Wishart, against whom no less than eighteen articles
were exhibited. Mr. Wishart answered the respective articles with
great composure of mind, and in so learned and clear a manner
as greatly surprised most of those who were present.
After the examination was finished, the archbishop endeavored
to prevail on Mr. Wishart to recant; but he was too firmly fixed
in his religious principles and too much enlightened with the
truth of the Gospel, to be in the least moved.
On the morning of his execution there came to him two friars from
the cardinal; one of whom put on him a black linen coat, and the
other brought several bags of gunpowder, which they tied about
different parts of his body.
As soon as he arrived at the stake, the executioner put a rope
round his neck and a chain about his middle, upon which he fell
on his knees and thus exclaimed:
"O thou Savior of the world, have mercy upon me! Father of
heaven, I commend my spirit into Thy holy hands."
After this he prayed for his accusers, saying, "I beseech
thee, Father of heaven, forgive them that have, from ignorance
or an evil mind, forged lies of me: I forgive them with all my
heart. I beseech Christ to forgive them that have ignorantly condemned
He was then fastened to the stake, and the fagots being lighted
immediately set fire to the powder that was tied about him, which
blew into a flame and smoke.
The governor of the castle, who stood so near that he was singed
with the flame, exhorted the martyr, in a few words, to be of
good cheer, and to ask the pardon of God for his offences. To
which he replied, "This flame occasions trouble to my body,
indeed, but it hath in nowise broken my spirit. But he who now
so proudly looks down upon me from yonder lofty place (pointing
to the cardinal) shall, ere long, be ignominiously thrown down,
as now he proudly lolls at his ease." Which prediction was
soon after fulfilled.
The hangman, that was his tormentor, sat down upon his knees,
and said, "Sir, I pray you to forgive me, for I am not guilty
of your death." To whom he answered, "Come hither to
me." When that he was come to him, he kissed his cheek, and
said: "Lo, here is a token that I forgive thee. My heart,
do thine office." And then he was put upon the gibbet and
hanged, and burned to powder. When that the people beheld the
great tormenting, they might not withhold from piteous mourning
and complaining of this innocent lamb's slaughter.
It was not long after the martyrdom of this blessed man of God,
Master George Wishart, who was put to death by David Beaton, the
bloody archbishop and cardinal of Scotland, A.D. 1546, the first
day of March, that the said David Beaton, by the just revenge
of God's mighty judgment, was slain within his own castle of St.
Andrews, by the hands of one Leslie and other gentlemen, who,
by the Lord stirred up, brake in suddenly upon him, and in his
bed murdered him the said year, the last day of May, crying out,
"Alas! alas! slay me not! I am a priest!" And so, like
a butcher he lived, and like a butcher he died, and lay seven
months and more unburied, and at last like a carrion was buried
in a dunghill.
The last who suffered martyrdom in Scotland, for the cause of
Christ, was one Walter Mill, who was burnt at Edinburgh in the
This person, in his younger years, had travelled in Germany, and
on his return was installed a priest of the Church of Lunan in
Angus, but, on an information of heresy, in the time of Cardinal
Beaton, he was forced to abandon his charge and abscond. But
he was soon apprehended, and committed to prison.
Being interrogated by Sir Andrew Oliphant, whether he would recant
his opinions, he answered in the negative, saying that he would
'sooner forfeit ten thousand lives, than relinquish a particle
of those heavenly principles he had received from the suffrages
of his blessed Redeemer.'
In consequence of this, sentence of condemnation was immediately
passed on him, and he was conducted to prison in order for execution
the following day.
This steadfast believe in Christ was eighty-two years of age,
and exceedingly infirm; whence it was supposed that he could scarcely
be heard. However, when he was taken to the place of execution,
he expressed his religious sentiments with such courage, and at
the same time composure of mind, as astonished even his enemies.
As soon as he was fastened to the stake and the fagots lighted,
he addressed the spectators as follows: "The cause why I
suffer this day is not for any crime, (though I acknowledge myself
a miserable sinner) but only for the defence of the truth as it
is in Jesus Christ; and I praise God who hath called me, by His
mercy, to seal the truth with my life; which, as I received it
from Him, so I willingly and joyfully offer it up to His glory.
Therefore, as you would escape eternal death, be no longer seduced
by the lies of the seat of Antichrist: but depend solely on Jesus
Christ, and His mercy, that you may be delivered from condemnation."
And then added that he trusted he should be the last who would
suffer death in Scotland upon a religious account.
Thus did this pious Christian cheerfully give up his life in defence
of the truth of Christ's Gospel, not doubting but he should be
made partaker of his heavenly Kingdom.