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The Martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton


From CLARK’S Martyrology, page 257, and KNOX’S History Book i.


Patrick Hamilton was the first Protestant martyr in Scotland. He was burnt at the stake in 1527, for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his profession of God’s truth


1. PATRICK HAMILTON, in Scotland, was brother’s son to James Hamilton, earl of Arran, and sister’s son to John Stuart, duke of Albany, which in providence was subservient to raise more attention to his doctrine, holy life, and sufferings. Having travelled into Germany, he became acquainted at Wittenberg with those eminent servants of Christ, Martin Luther, and Philip Melancthon, whereby he greatly increased in godly knowledge and learning; from thence he went to the university of Marburg, which was then newly erected by Philip Landgrave of Hesse, where he was intimate with other learned men, especially with Francis Lambert, by whose instigation he was the first that there publicly set up conclusions to be disputed of concerning faith and good works. By reason of his learning and integrity of life, he was had in admiration by many; but the zeal of God’s glory did so eat him up, that he could not rest till he returned into his own country, where the bright beams of the true light, which by God’s grace were planted in his heart, began most abundantly to break forth, as well in public as in secret.


In process of time, the fame of his doctrine troubled the clergy, and came to the ears of James Beaton, archbishop of St Andrews, who grew impatient, that by this means the kingdom of darkness was disturbed; and therefore he so laboured with Patrick Hamilton, that he got him to St Andrews, where, after divers days’ conference, he had his freedom and liberty, the bishop seeming to approve his doctrine, acknowledging, that in many things there needed a reformation in the church; but, withal, fearing that their kingdom should be endamaged, they laboured with the king, who was then young, and much led by them, to go on pilgrimage to St Dothesse in Ross, that so by reason of his absence no intercession might be made to him, for the saving the life of this innocent servant of Jesus Christ, who, not suspecting the malice that lodged in their hearts, remained as a lamb amongst wolves.  


The king being gone, upon a night, Mr Hamilton was seized by the bishop’s officers, and carried to the castle, and the morrow after he was brought forth unto judgement, and was condemned to be burnt for the testimony of God’s truth; the articles for which he suffered, were about pilgrimages, purgatory, prayer to saints, and for the dead, &c. And that his condemnation might have the greater authority, they caused it to be subscribed by all those of esteem that were present; and to make their number great, they took the subscription of the very children who were of the nobility. Immediately after dinner, the fire was prepared, and he was led to execution; yet most men thought it was only to terrify him, and to cause him to recant. But God, for his own glory, the good of his servants, and for the manifestation of their brutal tyranny, had otherwise decreed; for he so strengthened him, that neither the love of life, nor fear of this cruel death, could once move him to swerve from the truth which he had professed.


At the place of execution he gave to his servant, that had long attended him, his gown, coat, cap, and his other garments, saying, “After this, of me thou canst receive no commodity, except the example of my death, which I pray thee to bear in mind; for, though it be bitter in the flesh, and fearful before men, yet it is the entrance into eternal life, which none shall possess who deny Jesus Christ before this wicked generation;” and so, being tied to the stake in the midst of coals, and timber, they set fire to some powder, which with the blast scorched his left hand, and the side of his face, but neither killed him nor kindled the wood and coals, till they ran to the castle for more powder and more combustible matter; which being at last kindled, with a loud voice he cried, “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 was slow, and therefore put him to the greater torment. But that which most grieved him, was the clamour of some wicked men set on by the friars, who continually cried, “Turn thou heretic; call upon our lady; say salve regina,” &.,  to whom he answered, “Depart from me and trouble me not, thou messenger of Satan;” and speaking to one Campbell, a friar, that was the ringleader, who still roared on him with great vehemence, he said to him, “Wicked man, thou knowest the contrary, and hast confessed the contrary to me; I appeal thee before the tribunal seat of Jesus Christ,” after which words he resigned up his spirit unto God, in the year of Christ 1527; and, within a few days after, the said friar died in a frenzy, and as one that despaired.


From KNOX’S History, Book i.


When those cruel wolves had, as they supposed, clean devoured the prey, they found themselves in worse case than before; for then, within St Andrews, yea, almost within the whole realm, who heard of that fact, there was none found who began not to inquire, wherefore Mr Patrick Hamilton was burnt; and when his articles were rehearsed, question was holden, if such articles were necessary to be believed, under the pain of damnation? And so, within short space, many began to call in doubt, that which before they held for a certain verity, insomuch that the University of St Andrews and St Leonard’s college, principally by the labourers of Mr Gavin Logy, the novices of the abbey, and the subprior, began to smell somewhat of the verity, and to espy the vanity of the received superstition; yea, within few years after, began both black and grey friars publicly to preach against the pride and idle life of bishops, and against the abuses of the whole ecclesiastical estate. Amongst whom was one called William Arithe, who, in a sermon preached in Dundee, spake somewhat more liberally against the licentious life of the bishops, than they could well bear. The bishop of Brechin having his parasites in the town, buffetted the friar, and called him heretic. The friar passed to St Andrews, and did communicate the heads of his sermon to Mr John Mair, whose word was then holden as an oracle, in matters of religion; and, being assured of him that such doctrine might well be defended, and that he would defend it, for it contained no heresy, there was a day appointed to the said friar, to make repetition of the same sermon; an advertisement was given to all such as were offended at the former to be present. And so, in the parish church of St Andrews upon the day appointed, appeared the said friar, and had, amongst his auditors, Mr John Mair, Mr George Lockhart, the abbot of Cambuskeneth, Mr Patrick Hepburn, prior of St Andrews, with all the doctors and masters of the universities. Shortly after this, new consultation was taken there, some should be burnt; for men began liberally to speak. A merry gentleman, named John Lindsay, familiar to James Beaton, standing by when consultation was had, said, “My lord, if ye burn any more, except ye follow my counsel, ye will utterly destroy yourselves; if ye will burn them, let them be burnt in hollow cellars; for the smoke of Mr Patrick Hamilton hath infected as many as it blew upon.”



“HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF ACCOUNTS OF REVIVAL,” compiled by the Rev. John Gillies, D.D., 1754. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1981. pp 44-45.