Wishart was born
in Scotland and died as a martyr, being 33 years old. He was a
teacher of New Testament Greek at Montrose. He was exceptional in
his eloquence and manner of communication.
Being the time of the reformation, he adopted the Reformed
view of Scripture, denied the errors of the Catholic Church and was
then charged with heresy. He went to England and then to the
Continent where he was introduced to the Helvetic Confession and
became the first one to translate it into English. He returned to
England and spent some time teaching at Cambridge around 1542.
Afterwards, he returned to Scotland. He fasted every fourth day, ate
only twice a day, and lived in humble lodgings, even though his
family was well connected and had sufficient means to support him.
He was a sacrificial saint who ministered greatly to those suffering
with the plague that swept through Scotland at that time. He married
the daughter of John Knox.
The Catholic church was dominant in Scotland and his preaching
against the papacy and the catholic doctrinal errors, aroused in the
papists such a fury that he was threatened with death. Their tyranny
was carried out with deadly aim. An attempt was even made on his
life. When he was finally captured at Mirmiston, he was taken to St.
Andrews, and burned at the stake.
The plague being now considerably
abated, he determined to pay a visit to the town of Montrose. .
.he received a letter directed to him from his intimate friend the
laird of Kinnear, acquainting him that he had taken a sudden
sickness, and requested him to come to him with all diligence.
Upon this he immediately set out on his journey, attended by some
honest friends in Montrose, who, out of affection, would accompany
him part of the way. They had not traveled above a quarter of a
mile, when all of a sudden he stopped, saying to the company, "I
am forbidden by God to go this journey. Will some of you be
pleased to ride to yonder place (point with his finger to a little
hill), and see what you find, for I apprehend there is a plot
against my life; "whereupon he returned to the town, and they,
who went forward to the place, found about sixty horsemen ready to
intercept him. By this the whole plot came to light; they found
that the letter had been forged; and upon their telling Mr.
Wishart what they had seen, he replied, "I know that I shall end
my life by the hands of that wicked man (meaning the Cardinal),
but it will not be after this manner."(The Scots Worthies," by
John Howie, of Lochgoin. Edingburgh and London: Oliphant,
Anderson, & Ferrier, 1870, page 22)
The two Sabbaths following he
preached at Tranent; and in all his sermons, after leaving
Montrose, he more or less hinted that his ministry was near an
end. . . The next place he preached was Hadington, where his
congregation was at first very large, but the following day very
few attended him, which was though to be owing to the influence of
the Earl of Bothwell, who, at the instigation of the Cardinal, had
inhibited the people from attending. . .Not withstanding the
anxiety and discouragement which he laboured under, he went
immediately to the pulpit, and sharply rebuking the people for
their neglect of the Gospel he warned them, "That sore and fearful
would be the plages that should ensue; that fire and sword wouldl
waste them; that strangers should possess their houses, and chase
them from their habitations." This prediction was soon after
verified, when the English took and possessed the town, and while
the French and Scots besieged it in the year 1548. This was the
last sermon which he preached; in it, as had for some time been
usual with him, he spoke of his death as near at hand. . .He went
to Ormiston, accompanied by the Lairds of Brunston and Ormiston,
and Sir John Sandilands, the younger of Calder. John Knox was also
desirous to have gone with him; but Wishart desired him to return,
saying, "One is enough for a sacrifice at this time."
Another mighty Reformed
father moved in the gifts of the Spirit. It seems that those who are
deep in prayer are given by God that communication to such a degree
that He reveals to his friends the secrets of what is to come.
Fox's Book of Martyrs
An Account of the Life, Sufferings, and Death of Mr.
Wishart, Who Was Strangled and Afterward Burned, in
Scotland, for Professing the Truth of the Gospel
About the year of our Lord 1543, there was, in the University of
Cambridge, one Master George Wishart, commonly called Master George of
Benet's College, a man of tall stature, polled-headed, and on the same a
round French cap of the best; judged to be of melancholy complexion by
his physiognomy, black-haired, long-bearded, comely of personage, well
spoken after his country of Scotland, courteous, lowly, lovely, glad to
teach, desirous to learn, and well travelled; having on him for his
clothing a frieze gown to the shoes, a black millian fustian doublet,
and plain black hosen, coarse new canvas for his shirts, and white
falling bands and cuffs at his hands.
He was a man modest, temperate, fearing God, hating covetousness; for
his charity had never end, night, noon, nor day; he forbare one meal in
three, one day in four for the most part, except something to comfort
nature. He lay hard upon a puff of straw and coarse, new canvas sheets,
which, when he changed, he gave away. He had commonly by his bedside a
tub of water, in the which (his people being in bed, the candle put out
and all quiet) he used to bathe himself. He loved me tenderly, and I
him. He taught with great modesty and gravity, so that some of his
people thought him severe, and would have slain him; but the Lord was
his defence. And he, after due correction for their malice, by good
exhortation amended them and went his way. Oh, that the Lord had left
him to me, his poor boy, that he might have finished what he had begun!
for he went into scotland with divers of the nobility, that came for a
treaty to King Henry.
In 1543, the archbishop of St. Andrews made a visitation into various
parts of his diocese, where several persons were informed against at
Perth for heresy. Among those the following were condemned to die, viz.
William Anderson, Robert Lamb, James Finlayson, James Hunter, James
Raveleson, and Helen Stark.
The accusations laid against these respective persons were as follow:
The four first were accused of having hung up the image of St. Francis,
nailing ram's horns on his head, and fastening a cow's tail to his rump;
but the principal matter on which they were condemned was having regaled
themselves with a goose on fast day.
James Reveleson was accused of having ornamented his house with the
three crowned diadem of Peter, carved in wood, which the archbishop
conceived to be done in mockery to his cardinal's cap.
Helen Stark was accused of not having accustomed herself to pray to
the Virgin Mary, more especially during the time she was in childbed.
On these respective accusations they were all found guilty, and
immediately received sentence of death; the four men, for eating the
goose, to be hanged; James Raveleson to be burnt; and the woman, with
her sucking infant, to be put into a sack and drowned.
The four men, with the woman and the child, suffered at the same
time, but James Raveleson was not executed until some days after.
The martyrs were carried by a great band of armed men (for they
feared rebellion in the town except they had their men of war) to the
place of execution, which was common to all thieves, and that to make
their cause appear more odious to the people. Every one comforting
another, and assuring themselves that they should sup together in the
Kingdom of Heaven that night, they commended themselves to God, and died
constantly in the Lord.
The woman desired earnestly to die with her husband, but she was not
suffered; yet, following him to the place of execution, she gave him
comfort, exhorting him to perseverance and patience for Christ's sake,
and, parting from him with a kiss, said, "Husband, rejoice, for we have
lived together many joyful days; but this day, in which we must die,
ought to be most joyful unto us both, because we must have joy forever;
therefore I will not bid you good night, for we shall suddenly meet with
joy in the Kingdom of Heaven." The woman, after that, was taken to a
place to be drowned, and albeit she had a child sucking on her breast,
yet this moved nothing in the unmerciful hearts of the enemies. So,
after she had commended her children to the neighbors of the town for
God's sake, and the sucking bairn was given to the nurse, she sealed up
the truth by her death.
Being desirous of propagating the true Gospel in his own country
George Wishart 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 lede by the Spirit of truth; but if unlooked-for troubles
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 had broken 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 east gate
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," etc. 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
place. He went from thence to Montrose; where he sometimes preached, but
he 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 labors 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 to his knees, confessed his intention, and craved pardon. A noise
was 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 him as if it had been from his
familiar friend, the laird of Kennier, in which it was desired with all
possible speed to come to him, as he was taken with a sudden sickness.
In the meantime 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 came 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, 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
bloodthirsty 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
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 Ormistohn,
in East Lothian, applied to the regent to cause him to be apprehended;
with which, after great persuasion, and much against his will, he
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 endeavored 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 Savior 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, which blew
into a flame and smoke.
The governor of the castle, who stood so near that he was singed with
the flame, exhorted the 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 ignominiously
thrown down, as now he proudly lolls at his ease." Which prediction was
soon after fulfilled.
The hangman, that was his tormentor, sat down upon his knees, and
said, "Sir, I pray you to forgive me, for I am not guilty of your
death." To whom he answered, "Come hither to me." When that he was come
to him, he kissed his cheek, and said: "Lo, here is a token that I
forgive thee. My heart, do thine office." And then he was put upon the
gibbet and hanged, and burned to powder. When that the people beheld the
great tormenting, they might not withhold from piteous mourning and
complaining of this innocent lamb's slaughter.
It was not long after the martyrdom of this blessed man of God,
Master George Wishart, who was put to death by David Beaton, the bloody
archbishop and cardinal of Scotland, A.D. 1546, the first day of March,
that the said David Beaton, by the just revenge of God's mighty
judgment, was slain within his own castle of St. Andrews, by the hands
of one Leslie and other gentlemen, who, by the Lord stirred up, brake in
suddenly upon him, and in his bed murdered him the said year, the last
day of May, crying out, "Alas! alas! slay me not! I am a priest!" And
so, like a butcher he lived, and like a butcher he died, and lay seven
months and more unburied, and at last like a carrion was buried in a
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 in 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 that 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 believe in Christ was eighty-two years of age, and
exceedingly infirm; 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
partaker of his heavenly Kingdom.