Scottish martyr: Patrick Hamilton

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Patrick Hamilton was a Scotsman, born of high and noble stock, and of the king’s blood. He was twenty-three years of age when he was martyred for the Christian faith during the reign of King Henry VIII.

He left Scotland with three companions to seek godly learning, and went to the University of Marburg in Germany. 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 faith.

The archbishop of St Andrews (who was a a rigid papist), learning of Patrick 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, Patrick Hamilton was brought before the bishop, and several others, for examination, when the principal articles exhibited against him were; his publicly disproving of pilgrimages, purgatory, prayers to the saints, prayers for the dead, ect.

These articles Patrick 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 cause 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 the sons of notability.

So anxious was this bigoted and persecuting prelate for the destruction of Patrick Hamilton, that the archbishop of St Andrews ordered his sentence to be put in execution on the afternoon of the very day it was pronounced. Patrick Hamilton 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 that 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. But they soon found themselves mistaken.

When Patrick Hamilton 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, Patrick Hamilton 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 clamour of some wicked men set on by the friars, who frequently cried, “turn thou heretic; call upon our Lady”: to whom he replied, “depart from me, and trouble me not, ye messengers of Satan”.

One friar, who was the ringleader, still continuing to interrupt him by offensive language, said to him, “wicked man, God forgive thee”. After which, Patrick Hamilton, prevented from further speech by the violence of the smoke, and the rapidity of the flames, resigned up his soul into the hands of Him who gave it.

This steadfast believer in Christ suffered martyrdom in the year 1527.

Some further Protestant martyrs were murdered in secret under the advice of John Lindsay, one of the archbishops gentlemen, for the reason “the smoke of Patrick Hamilton hath infected all those on whom it blew”.

(Abridged from: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)