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
Mr. George Wishart was born in Scotland, and after receiving a
grammatical education at a private school, he left that place, and
finished his studies at the university of Cambridge.
In order to improve himself as much as possible in the knowledge of
literature, he travelled into various parts abroad, where he
distinguished himself for his great learning and abilities, both in
philosophy and divinity.
After being some time abroad he returned to England, and took up his
residence at Cambridge, where he was admitted a member of Bennet
college. Having taken up his degrees, he entered into holy orders, and
expounded the gospel in so clear and intelligible a manner, as highly to
delight his numerous auditors.
Being desirous of propagating the true gospel in his own country he 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 led by the spirit of truth: but if
unlooked-for trouble 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 was broke 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 eastgate 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, &c. 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
He went from thence to Montrose; where he sometimes preached, but 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
labours 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 on his knees, confessed his intention, and craved pardon. A noise
being 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 to him as if it had been from his
familiar friend, the Laird of Kennier, in which he was desired with all
possible speed to come to him, as he was taken with a sudden sickness.
In the mean time 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 coming 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 back, 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
blood-thirsty 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 Ormiston, in East
Lothian, he 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 endeavoured 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
"O thou Saviour 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, and which
blew into a flame and smoke.
The governor of the castle, who stood so near that he was singed with
the flame, exhorted our 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 as
ignominiously thrown down, as now he proudly lolls at his ease." Which
prediction was soon after fulfilled. The executioner then pulled the
rope which was tied about his neck with great violence, so that he was
soon strangled; and the fire getting strength, burnt with such rapidity
that in less than an hour his body was totally consumed.
The next person who fell a martyr to popish bigotry, was one Adam
Wallace, of Winton, in East-Lothian, who having obtained a true
knowledge of the gospel of Christ, spent the greater part of his time in
endeavouring to propagate it among his fellow-creatures.
His conduct being noticed by some bigoted papists, an information was
laid against him for heresy, on which he was apprehended, and committed
After examination, sentence of death was passed upon him as heretic; and
he was immediately delivered over to the secular power, in order for
In the evening of the same day, Wallace was visited by several Romish
priests, who endeavoured to prevail on him to recant; but he stood so
steadfast in the faith he professed, and used such forcible arguments in
vindication of the gospel, that they left him with some wrath, saying,
"He was too abandoned to receive any impression."
The next morning he was conducted to the Castle-hill at Edinburgh, when,
being chained to the stake, and the fagots lighted, he cheerfully
resigned up his soul into the hands of him who gave it, in full
assurance of receiving a crown of glory in the heavenly mansions.
The last who suffered martyrdom in Scotland, for the cause of Christ,
was one Walter Mill, who was burnt at Edinburgh in the year 1558.
This person, in his younger years, had travelled into 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, 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
This steadfast believer in Christ was eighty-two years of age, and
exceedingly infirm; from 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
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 a
partaker of his heavenly kingdom.