Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

[The Life of Patrick Hamilton, by John Howie.]
taken from
Biographia Scoticana
John Howie.

HE was born about the year of our Lord 1503, and was nephew to the earl of Arran by his father, and to the duke of Albany by his mother; he was also related to king James V. of Scotland. He was early educated with a design for future high preferment, and had the abbey of Ferm given him, for the purpose of prosecuting his studies; which he did with great assiduity.

In order to complete this laudable design, he resolved to travel into Germany. The fame of the university of Wittemberg was then very great, and drew many to it from distant places, among which our Hamilton was one. He was the first who introduced public disputations upon faith and works, and such theological questions, into the university of Marpurg, in which he was assisted by Francis Lambert; by whose conversation he profited not a little.—Here he became acquainted with these eminent reformers, Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon, besides other learned men of their society. By these distinguished masters he was instructed in the knowledge of the true religion, which he had little opportunity to become acquainted with in his own country, because the small remains of it which were in Scotland at this time, were under the yoke of oppression which we have already shown in the close of the introduction.—He made an amazing proficiency in this most important study, and became soon as zealous in the profession of the true faith, as he had been diligent to attain the knowledge of it.—This {42} drew the eyes of many upon him, and while they were waiting with impatience to see what part he would act, he came to this resolution, to return into his own country, and there in the face of all dangers to communicate the light which he had received.

Accordingly, being as yet a youth, and not much past twenty-three years of age, he began, sowing the seed of God's word wherever he came, exposing the corruptions of the Romish church, and pointing out the errors which had crept into the Christian religion as professed in Scotland.—He was favourably received and followed by many, unto whom he readily showed the way of God more perfectly. His reputation as a scholar and courteous demeanor, contributed not a little to his usefulness in this good work.

The city of St. Andrews was at this time the grand rendezvous of the Romish clergy, and may, with no impropriety, be called the metropolis of the kingdom of darkness. James Beaton was arch-bishop, Hugh Spence dean of divinity, John Waddel rector, James Simson official, Thomas Ramsay canon and dean of the abbey, with the several superiors of the different orders of monks and friars.—It could not be expected, that Mr. Hamilton's conduct would be long concealed from such a body as this. Their resentment against him soon rose to the utmost heights of persecuting rage; particularly the arch-bishop, who was chancellor of the kingdom, and otherwise very powerful, became his inveterate enemy. But being not less politic than cruel, the arch-bishop concealed his wicked design against him, until he had drawn him into the ambush prepared for him, which he effected by prevailing on him to attend a conference at St. Andrews.—Being come thither, Alexander Campbel prior of the black friars, who had been appointed to exert his faculties in reclaiming him, had several private interviews with him, in which he seemed to acknowledge the force of Mr. Hamilton's objections against the prevailing conduct of the clergy and errors of the Romish church. Such persuasions as Campbel used to bring him back to popery, had rather the tendency to confirm him in the truth. The arch-bishop and inferior clergy appeared to make concessions to him, allowing that many things stood in need of reformation, which they could wish had been brought about. Whether they were sincere in these acknowledgements, or only intended to conceal their bloody designs, and render the innocent and unsuspecting victim of their rage more secure, is a question to which this answer may be returned, That had they been sincere, the consciousness that Mr. Hamilton spoke {43} truth, would perhaps have warded off the blow, for, at least some longer time, or divided their councils and measures against him. That neither of these was the case will now appear.—He was apprehended under night, and committed prisoner to the castle: at the same time, the young king was, at the earnest solicitation of the clergy, prevailed upon to undertake a pilgrimage to St. Dothess in Ross-shire, that he might be out of the way of any applications made to him for the life of Mr. Hamilton, which there was reason to believe would be granted. This measure affords full proof, that notwithstanding the friendly conferences which they kept up with him for some time, they had resolved on his ruin from the beginning: but such instances of Popish dissembling were not new even in Mr. Hamilton's time.

The next day after his imprisonment, he was brought before the arch-bishop and his convention, and there charged with maintaining and propagating sundry heretical opinions; and though articles of the utmost importance had been debated betwixt him and them, they restricted their charge to such trifles as pilgrimage, purgatory, praying to saints, and for the dead; perhaps because these were the grand pillars upon which Antichrist built his empire, being the most lucrative doctrines ever invented by men. We must, however, take notice that Spotswood afterwards arch-bishop of that see, assigns the following grounds for his sufferings, (1.) That the corruption of sin remains in children after their baptism. (2.) That no man by the power of his free-will can do any good. (3.) That no man is without sin so long as he liveth. (4.) That every true Christian may know himself to be in a state of grace. (5.) That a man is not justified by works but by faith only. (6.) That good works make not a man good, but that a good man doth good works, and that an ill man doth ill works, yet the same ill works, truly repented of, make not an ill man. (7.) That faith, hope, and charity are so linked together, that he who hath one of them hath all, and he that lacketh one lacketh all. (8.) That God is the cause of sin, in this sense, that he withdraweth his grace from man; and grace withdrawn, he cannot but sin. These articles with the following make up the whole charge, (1.) That auricular confession is not necessary to salvation. (2.) That actual penance cannot purchase the remission of sin. (3.) That there is no purgatory, and that the holy patriarchs were in heaven before Christ's passion. (4.) That the pope is Antichrist, and that every priest hath as much power as he.—For these articles, and because he refused to abjure them, he was condemned as an obstinate heretic, and {44} delivered to the secular power by the arch-bishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow, three bishops, and fourteen underlings, who all set their hands to the sentence, which, that it might have the greater authority, was likewise subscribed by every person of note in the university, among whom the earl of Cassils was one, then not exceeding thirteen years of age. The sentence follows as given by Mr. Fox, in his acts and monuments, vol. II. p. 1108.

"CHRISTI nomine invocato: We James, by the mercy of God, arch-bishop of St. Andrews, primate of Scotland, with the counsel, decree, and authority of the most reverend fathers in God, and lords, abbots, doctors of theology, professors of the holy scripture and masters of the university, assisting us for the time, sitting in judgment, within our metropolitan church of St. Andrews, in the cause of heretical pravity, against Mr. Patrick Hamilton, abbot or pensionary of Ferm, being summoned to appear before us, to answer to certain articles affirmed, taught, and preached by him, and so appearing before us, and accused, the merits of the cause being ripely weighed, discussed, and understood by faithful inquisition made in Lent last passed: We have found the same Mr. Hamilton, many ways infamed with heresy, disputing, holding, and maintaining divers heresies of Martin Luther and his followers, repugnant to our faith, and which is already condemned by general councils and most famous universities. And he being under the same infamy, we decerning before him to be summoned and accused upon the premises, he of evil mind, (as may be presumed) passed to other parts, forth of the realm, suspected and noted of heresy. And being lately returned, not being admitted, but of his own head, without license or privilege, hath presumed to preach wicked heresy.

"We have found also, that he hath affirmed, published, and taught divers opinions of Luther, and wicked heresies after that he was summoned to appear before us and our council: That man hath no free-will: That man is in sin so long as he liveth: That children, incontinent after their baptism, are sinners: All Christians that be worthy to be called Christians, do know that they are in grace: No man is justified by works, but by faith only: Good works make not a good man, but a good man doth make good works: That faith, hope, and charity are so knit, that he that hath the one hath the rest, and he that wanteth the one of them wanteth the rest, &c. with divers other heresies and detestable opinions; and hath persisted so obstinate in the same, {45} that by no counsel nor persuasion, he may be drawn therefrom, to the way of our right faith.

"All these premises being considered, we having God and the integrity of our faith before our eyes, and following the counsel and advice of the professors of the holy scripture, men of law and others assisting us for the time, do pronounce, determine, and declare the said Mr. Patrick Hamilton, for his affirming, confessing, and maintaining of the foresaid heresies, and his pertinacity (they being condemned already by the church, general councils, and most famous universities) to be an heretic, and to have an evil opinion of the faith, and therefore to be condemned and punished, like as we condemn, and define him to be punished, by this our sentence definitive, depriving and sentencing him, to be deprived of all dignities, honours, orders, offices, and benefices of the church; and therefore do judge and pronounce him to be delivered over to the secular power, to be punished, and his goods to be confiscated.

"This our sentence definitive, was given and read at our metropolitan church of St. Andrews, the last day of the month of February, anno 1527, being present, the most reverend fathers in Christ and lords, Gawand bishop of Glasgow, George bishop of Dunkelden, John bishop of Brecham, William bishop of Dunblane, Patrick, prior of St. Andrews, David abbot of Aberbrothock, George abbot of Dunfermline, Alexander abbot of Cambuskeneth, Henry abbot of Lendors, John prior of Pitterweeme, the dean and subdean of Glasgow, Mr. Hugh Spence, Thomas Ramsay, Allan Meldrum, &c. In the presence of the clergy and the people."

The same day that this doom was pronounced, he was also condemned by the secular power; and in the afternoon of that same day, (for they were afraid of an application to the king on his behalf) he was hurried to the stake, the fire being prepared, immediately after dinner, before the old college.—Being come to the place of martyrdom, he put off his clothes and gave them to a servant who had been with him of a long time, saying, "This stuff will not help me in the fire, yet will do thee some good; I have no more to leave thee, but the ensample of my death, which, I pray thee, keep in mind; for albeit the same be bitter and painful in man's judgment, yet it is the entrance to everlasting life, which none can inherit who deny Christ before this wicked generation." Having so said, he commended his soul into the hands of God, with his eyes fixed towards heaven, and being bound to {46} the stake in the midst of some coals, timber, and other combustibles, a train of powder was made, with a design to kindle the fire, but did not succeed, the explosion only scorching one of his hands and face. In this situation he remained until more powder was brought from the castle, during which time his comfortable and godly speeches were often interrupted, particularly by friar Campbel calling upon him "to recant, pray to our lady and say, Salve regina." Upon being repeatedly disturbed in this manner by Campbel, Mr. Hamilton said, "Thou wicked man, thou knowest that I am not an heretic, and that it is the truth of God, for which I now suffer; so much didst thou confess unto me in private, and thereupon I appeal thee to answer before the judgment-seat of Christ:" By this time the fire was kindled, and the noble martyr yielded his soul to God, crying out, "How long, O Lord, shall darkness overwhelm this realm? How long wilt thou suffer this tyranny of men?" And then ended his speech with Stephen, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Friar Campbel became soon after distracted, and died within a year after Mr. Hamilton's martyrdom, under the most awful apprehensions of the Lord's indignation against him.—The Popish clergy abroad congratulated their friends in Scotland, upon their zeal for the Romish faith discovered in the above tragedy.—But it rather served the cause of reformation than retarded it, especially when the people began to compare deliberately the behaviour of Mr. Hamilton and friar Campbel together, they were induced to inquire more narrowly into the truth before. The reader will find a very particular account of the doctrines maintained by Mr. Hamilton in Knox's history of the reformation of Scotland nigh the beginning.