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Life Sketches from Scottish History of Brief Biographies of the Scottish Presbyterian Worthies
Patrick Hamilton


This noble Scotchman led the van of that army of martyrs who laid down their lives for Christ’s crown and covenant. He was nephew, on his father’s side, of James Hamilton, earl of Arran; and, on his mother’s side, of John Stuart, duke of Albany. When very young, he was settled in a living which entitled him Abbot of Fearn,—but having an ardent desire for the truth, he left Scotland and went to Germany. The fame of the University of Wittenberg having reached him, he directed his steps thither. At Wittenberg, he became acquainted with Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon, under whose guidance, as John Knox says, “he did so grow and advance in godly knowledge, joined with fervency and integrity of life, that he was in admiration of many.”

Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, had established the University of Marburg about this time, and Hamilton determined to spend some time there. At this place, he enjoyed the society and instruction of the celebrated Francis Lambert. But now, the desire to return to his own country became so great, and the zeal of God’s glory did so eat him up, that he could no longer continue there, but returned to his own country, where the bright beams of the true light, which by God’s grace was planted in his heart, began most abundantly to burst forth.

The return to Scotland of this noble youth at once attracted all eyes, as if a new star had appeared in the heavens. His instructions were listened to with the deepest attention, and the doctrines which he taught began to spread rapidly through the kingdom. His high birth, and reputation for learning, the attractive elegance of his youthful aspect, and the persuasive graces of his courteous demeanour, rendered his influence almost irresistible; and the Popish clergy saw no safety to their cause, but in his destruction. James Beaton, the cardinal, determined, therefore, to get him into his power; but fearing the interference of the young king, James V., he persuaded him to go on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Dothess, in Rosshire.

Hamilton, suspecting no danger, remained as a lamb among wolves. He was decoyed to St. Andrews on the pretence of a free conference on religious subjects; they even went so far as to procure a friar, named Alexander Campbell, to converse with him, and concur in his opinions, in order fully to draw him out, and thus have evidence against linn. On the very next day. he was condemned to death, merely for holding those opinions which we now consider as our life.

Immediately after dinner of that same day, the fire was prepared before the old college, and he was led to the place of execution. On arriving, he gave to his servant his gown, coat, and bonnet, saying, “These will not profit in the fire, they will profit thee; after this, of me, thou canst receive no commodity, except the example of my death, which I pray thee bear in mind; for although it he bitter to the flesh and fearful before man, yet it is the entrance into eternal life, which none shall possess who deny Jesus Christ before this wicked generation.”

A train of gunpowder laid for the purpose of setting fire to the pile exploded ineffectually, scorching his left side and face, but leaving the mass unkindled. While they were procuring materials of a more combustible nature, the calm spirit of the scorched sufferer poured itself forth in earnest exhortations and instructions to the pitying spectators. The treacherous friar, Campbell, attempted to disturb him by calling on him to recant, and pray to the Virgin Mary; which drew from the dying martyr a severely solemn rebuke, saying, “Wicked man, thou knowest the contrary, and hast confessed the contrary to me; I appeal thee before the tribunal seat of Jesus Christ.” The pile was then effectually kindled, and as the flames blazed up around him, his voice rose calm and clear, “How long, 0 Lord, shall darkness cover this realm? How long wilt thou suffer the tyranny of man? Lord Jesus receive my spirit;” and so he died.


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