St. Andrews Martyrs
The following is extracted from Chapter
15 of Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
The extracts concern the martyrdoms in St. Andrews of Patrick
Hamilton, George Wishart, and Henry
Forrest. Also described is the revenge taken
on Cardinal David Beaton shortly after the death of George
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
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
This steadfast believer in Christ suffered
martyrdom in the year 1527.
Forrest, 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, than burnt.
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.
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
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 and prayer.
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
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 me."
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.
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