Patrick Hamilton (1528)

Patrick Hamilton was born in 1504, the son of a brave knight. He was educated in Paris where he eagerly followed the teachings of Erasmus and Luther. He went to St Andrews University in 1524. The following year there was an Act passed at the insistence of the bishops which forbade the discussion of Luther?s ideas or the importation of any of his books. Traders ignored the act, bringing in Luther?s works and even William Tyndale?s New Testament. Hamilton began to speak out the truths he had been taught, but the Archbishop of St Andrews heard about it and summoned him to answer a charge of heresy. Hamilton fled to Europe, meeting up with Luther, Tyndale and others as he travelled from city to city. While with Tyndale he wrote and published a set of theses where he laid out the new doctrine; this was the first piece of Scottish Reformation literature.

He returned to Scotland, to his family home at Kincavel, in 1527, preaching his first sermon at Binny parish church. He preached the Gospel in all the districts around Linlithgow. After about three months of preaching the Archbishop heard him speak and laid out a trap for him. He invited him to come to a conference at St Andrews to discuss matters. Hamilton went, knowing full well the risks. He was allowed to discuss and speak in St Andrews for a month while the Archbishop got all his evidence together, because he knew that Hamilton had powerful friends, he had to get everything right; then he summoned him. Hamilton?s friends and family told him to escape, but he knew he had to stand for his faith and not appear to be afraid. He was tried, found guilty and executed the same day; it took six hours for the flames to consume him. His older brother had raised a force to rescue him, but there was a storm which prevented them from arriving in time.

The martyrdom of Hamilton did not have the effect that his persecutors hoped for. A companion of the Archbishop later said "If ye will burn them, let them be burnt in hollow cellars, for the smoke of Mr. Patrick Hamilton hath infected as many as it blew upon." People started to discuss why Hamilton had been burned and the justice of his preaching. Executing a man of noble birth, who was renowned for his learning, his spotless character, his gracious manners and his protracted sufferings, was clearly a mistake. The Church could not have done more to encourage people to investigate why such a man had to be burned. One of the Blackfriars of St Andrew, Alexander Seaton, began to preach against the traditions of the Church. The king?s favour protected him for a while, but in the end he had to escape to England where he became chaplain to the Duke of Suffolk. Henry Forrest, a Benedictine friar of Linlithgow was burned later for sympathising with his writings. There were then ten years of civil war, so there was a lull in persecution.

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