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

wicked priest.

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

thus exclaimed:

"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

to prison.

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

following day.

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

religious account."

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.