The Scots Worthies
The Scots Worthies is a revision by Rev. Andrew Bonar, D.D. of John Howie’s famous Biographia Scoticana : A Brief Historical Account of the Lives, Characters, and Memorable Transactions of the Most Eminent Scots Worthies. John Howie’s book is one of the most important early books on the Covenanting Movement. His second edition, corrected and enlarged, was published in 1781.
Andrew Bonar (1810-1892) was a Scottish preacher and author who founded the New Free Church where he exercised a fine ministry until his death in 1892. His revision of Howie’s book includes explanatory notes, supplementary matter, a full index of persons and places, and an appendix of sermons. It was p ublished in Glasgow by McGready, Thomson & Niven, 1879.
The book deals with John Knox, Cardinal Beaton, George Wishart, and Regent Moray. The chapter on George Wishart is as follows:
This gentleman was a brother of the Laird of Pitarrow, in the county of Mearns, and was educated at the university of Cambridge, where his diligence and progress in useful learning soon made him to be respected. From an ardent desire to promote the truth in his own country, he returned to it in the summer of 1544, and began teaching a school in the town of Montrose, which he kept for some time with great applause. He was particularly celebrated for his uncommon eloquence, and agreeable manner of communication. The sequel of this narrative will inform the reader that he possessed the spirit of prophecy to an extraordinary degree, and was at the same time humble, modest, charitable, and patient, even to admiration. One of his own scholars gives the following picture of him: “He was a man of a tall stature, black-haired, long-bearded, of a graceful personage, eloquent, courteous, ready to teach, and desirous to learn. He ordinarily wore a French cap, a frieze gown, plain black hose, and white bands, and hand-cuffs. He frequently gave away several parts of his apparel to the poor. In his diet he was very moderate, eating only twice a-day, and fasting every fourth day; his lodgings, bedding, and such other circumstances, were correspondent to the things already mentioned.” But as these particulars are rather curious than instructive, we shall say no more of them.
After he left Montrose, he came to Dundee, where he acquired still greater fame in public lectures on the Epistle to the Romans; insomuch that the Romish clergy began to think seriously on the consequences which they saw would inevitably ensue, if he were suffered to go on pulling down that fabric of superstition and idolatry, which they with so much pains had reared. They were particularly disgusted at the reception which he met with in Dundee, and immediately set about projecting his ruin.
From the time that Mr Patrick Hamilton suffered, until this period, papal tyranny reigned by fire and faggot, without control. In the year 1539, Cardinal David Beaton succeeded his uncle in the See of St Andrews, and carefully trod the path his uncle had marked out. To show his own greatness, and to recommend himself to his superior at Rome, he accused Sir John Borthwick of heresy, whose goods were confiscated, and himself burnt in effigy – for, being forewarned of his danger, he had escaped out of the country. After this, he suborned a priest to forge a will of King James V., who died about this time, declaring himself, with the Earls of Huntly, Argyle, and Moray, to be regents of the kingdom. The cheat being discovered, the Earl of Arran was elected Governor, and the Cardinal was committed prisoner to the Castle of Dalkeith; but he soon found means to escape from his confinement, and prevailed with the Regent to break all his promises to the party who had elected him to that office, and to join with him in imbruing his hands in the blood of the saints. Accordingly, several professors of the Reformed religion in the town of Perth were arraigned, condemned, hanged, and drowned, others were sent into banishment, and some were strangled in private. We have departed thus far from the course of our narrative, to show the reader that the vacancies betwixt the respective lives in this collection were as remarkable for persecution, as the particular instances which are here set before him.
It was this Cardinal who, incensed at Mr Wishart’s success in Dundee, prevailed with Robert Mill (formerly a professor of the truth, and who had been a sufferer on that account, but who was now a man of considerable influence in Dundee), to give Mr Wishart a charge in the Queen’s and Governor’s name, to trouble them no more with his preaching in that place. This commission was executed by Mill one day in public, just as Mr Wishart had ended his sermon. Upon hearing it, he kept silence for a little with his eyes turned towards heaven, and then casting them on the speaker with a sorrowful countenance, he said, “God is my witness that I never minded your trouble, but your comfort; yea, your trouble is more grievous unto me than it is unto yourselves; but sure I am, to reject the Word of God, and drive away His messengers, is not the way to save you from trouble, but to bring you into it. When I am gone, God will send you messengers who will not be afraid either for burning or banishment. I have, at the hazard of my life, remained among you preaching the word of salvation; and now, since you yourselves refuse me, I must leave my innocence to be declared by God. If it be long well with you, I am not led by the Spirit of Truth; and if unexpected trouble come upon you, remember this is the cause, and turn to God by repentance, for He is merciful.” These words being pronounced, he came down from the pulpit or preaching-place. The Earl Marischal, and some other noblemen who were present at the sermon, entreated him earnestly to go to the North with them; but he excused himself, and took journey for the West country, where he was gladly received by many.
Being come to the town of Ayr, he began to preach the Gospel with great freedom and faithfulness. But Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, being informed of the great concourse of people who crowded to his sermons, at the instigation of Cardinal Beaton went to Ayr with the resolution to apprehend him, and took possession of the church to prevent him from preaching in it. The news of this brought Alexander, Earl of Glencairn, and some gentlemen of the neighbourhood, immediately to the town. They offered to put Mr Wishart into the church, but he would not consent, saying, “The Bishop’s sermon would not do much hurt, and that, if they pleased, he would go to the market-cross,” which he did, and preached with such success that several of his hearers, formerly enemies to the truth, were converted on that occasion. During the time Mr Wishart was thus employed, the Archbishop was haranguing some of his underlings and parasites in the church; having no sermon to give them, he promised to be better provided against a future occasion, and speedily left the town.
Mr Wishart continued with the gentlemen of Kyle after the Archbishop’s departure, and being desired to preach next Lord’s day, in the church of Mauchline, he went thither with that design; but the Sheriff of Ayr had, in the night-time, put a garrison of soldiers in the church to keep him out. Hugh Campbell of Kinzeancleugh, and others of the parish, were exceedingly offended at such impiety, and would have entered the church by force, but Mr Wishart would not suffer it, saying, “Brethren, it is the word of peace which I preach unto you; the blood of no man shall be shed for it this day. Jesus Christ is as mighty in the fields as in the church; and He Himself, while He lived in the flesh, preached oftener in the desert and upon the seaside, than in the Temple of Jerusalem.” Upon this, the people were appeased, and went with him to the edge of a muir on the south-west side of Mauchline; where, having placed himself upon a ditch-dyke, he preached to a great multitude who resorted to him. He continued speaking for more than three hours, God working wondrously by him, insomuch that Laurence Rankin, the laird of Shield, a very profane person, was converted by his means. The tears ran from his eyes, to the astonishment of all present, and the whole of his after-life witnessed that his profession was without hypocrisy. While in this country, Mr Wishart often preached with most remarkable success at the church of Galston and other places. At this time and in this part of the country, it might be truly said, that “The harvest was great, but the labourers were few.”
After he had been about a month thus employed in Kyle, he was informed that the plague had broken out in Dundee the fourth day after he had left it, and that it still continued to rage in such a manner that great numbers were swept off every day. This affected him so much, that he resolved to return unto them. Accordingly he took leave of his friends in the West, who were filled with sorrow at his departure. The next day after his arrival at Dundee, he caused intimation to be made that he would preach; and for that purpose chose his station upon the head of the Eastgate, the infected persons standing without, and those that were whole within. His text was Psalm 107:20: “He sent his Word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” By this discourse he so comforted the people, that they thought themselves happy in having such a preacher, and entreated him to remain with them while the plague continued, which he complied with, preaching often, and taking care that the poor should not want necessaries more than the rich; in doing which, he exposed himself to the infection, even where it was most malignant, without reserve.
During all this time, his sworn adversary, the Cardinal, had his eye upon him, and bribed a priest called Sir John Wightman to assassinate him. He was to make the attempt as Wishart came down from the preaching place, with the expectation of escaping among the crowd after the deed was done. To effect this, he posted himself at the foot of the steps with his gown loose, and a dagger under it in his hand. Upon Mr Wishart’s approach, he looked sternly upon the priest, asking him what he intended to do; and instantly clapped his hand upon the hand of the priest that held the dagger, and took it from him. Upon this, having openly confessed his design, a tumult immediately ensued, and the sick without the gate rushed in, crying to have the assassin delivered to them; but Wishart interposed, and defended him from their violence, telling them that he had done him no harm, and that such as injured the one injured the other likewise. So the priest escaped without any harm.
The plague being now considerably abated, he determined to pay a visit to the town of Montrose, intending to go from thence to Edinburgh, to meet the gentlemen of the West. While he was at Montrose, he administered the sacrament of our Lord’s Supper in both elements, and preached with success. Here 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 requesting 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 travelled 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 (pointing 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 time he had appointed for meeting the West-country gentlemen at Edinburgh drawing near, he undertook that journey, much against the inclination and advice of John Erskine, laird of Dun. The first night after leaving Montrose he lodged at Invergowrie, about two miles from Dundee, with James Watson, a faithful friend; where, being laid in bed, he was observed to rise a little after midnight, and to go out into an adjacent garden, that he might give vent to his sighs and groans without being observed; but being followed by two men, William Spalding and John Watson, at a distance, in order that they might observe his motions, they saw him prostrate himself upon the ground, weeping and making supplication for nearly an hour, and then return to his rest. As they lay in the same apartment with him, they took care to return before him; and upon his coming into the room, they asked him (as if ignorant of all that had passed) where he had been. But he made no answer, and they ceased their interrogations. In the morning they asked him again, why he rose in the night, and what was the cause of such sorrow (for they told him all that they had seen him do), when he answered with a dejected countenance, “I wish you had been in your beds, which had been more for your ease, for I was scarcely well occupied.” But they praying him to satisfy their minds further, and communicate some comfort unto them, he said, “I will tell you: I assuredly know my travail is nigh an end, therefore pray to God for me, that I may not shrink when the battle waxeth most hot.” Hearing these words, they burst into tears, saying, “That was but small comfort to them.” He replied, “God will send you comfort after me; this realm shall be illuminated with the light of Christ’s Gospel, as clearly as any realm ever was since the days of the apostles; the house of God shall be built in it; yea, it shall not lack (whatsoever the enemies shall devise to the contrary) the very copestone; neither shall this be long in doing, for there shall not many suffer after me. The glory of God shall appear, and truth shall once more triumph in despite of the devil; but, alas! if the people become unthankful, the plagues and punishments which shall follow will be fearful and terrible.”
After this prediction, which was accomplished in such a remarkable manner afterwards, he proceeded on his journey, and arrived at Leith about the 10th of December, where, being disappointed of a meeting with the West-country gentlemen, he kept himself retired for some days, and then, becoming very uneasy and discouraged, and being asked the reason, he replied, “I have laboured to bring people out of darkness, but now I lurk as a man ashamed to show himself before men.” By this they understood that he desired to preach, and told him that they would gladly hear him, but the danger into which he would throw himself thereby prevented them from advising him to it. He answered, “If you and others will hear me next Sabbath, I will preach in Leith, let God provide for me as best pleaseth Him,” which he did upon the parable of the sower (Matt. 13). After sermon his friends advised him to leave Leith, because the Regent and Cardinal were soon to be in Edinburgh, and his situation would be dangerous on that account. He complied with this advice, and resided with the lairds of Brunston, Longniddry, and Ormiston, by turns.
The following Sabbath he preached at Inveresk, both fore and after noon, to a crowded audience, among whom was Sir George Douglas, who, after the sermon, publicly said, “I know that the Governor and Cardinal shall hear that I have been at this preaching (for they were now come to Edinburgh); say unto them, that I will avow it, and will not only maintain the doctrine which I have heard, but also the person of the teacher, to the uttermost of my power;” which open and candid declaration was very grateful to the whole congregation. During the time of this sermon, Wishart perceived two grey friars standing in the entry of the church, and whispering to every person that entered the door. He called out to the people to make room for them, because, said he, “perhaps they come to learn;” and then addressed them, requesting them to come forward and hear the word of truth. When they still continued to trouble the people, he reproved them in the following manner: “O! ye servants of Satan, and deceivers of the souls of men, will ye neither hear God’s truth, nor suffer others to hear it? Depart, and take this for your portion, God shall shortly confound and disclose your hypocrisy within this realm; ye shall be abominable unto men, and your places and habitations shall be desolate.”
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 at was Haddington, where his congregation was at first very large, but the following day very few attended him, which was thought to be owing to the influence of the Earl of Bothwell, who, at the instigation of the Cardinal, had inhibited the people from attending; for his authority was very considerable in that part of the country. At this time he received a letter from the gentlemen of the West, declaring that they could not keep the diet appointed at Edinburgh. This, with the reflection that so few attended his ministrations at Haddington, grieved him exceedingly. He called upon John Knox, who then attended him, and told him that he was weary of the world, since he perceived that men were become weary of God. Notwithstanding 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 plagues that should ensue; that fire and sword should 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; and after it was over, he bade his acquaintances farewell, as if it had been for ever. 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.”
Being come to Ormiston, he entered into some spiritual conversation in the family, particularly concerning the happy state of God’s children; appointed the 51st psalm, according to an old version then in use, to be sung; and then recommended the company to God, going to bed some time sooner than ordinary. About midnight the Earl of Bothwell beset the house, so as none could escape, and then called upon the laird, declaring the design to him, and entreating him not to hold out, for it would be to no purpose, because the Cardinal and Governor were coming with all their train; but if he would deliver Mr Wishart up, Bothwell promised upon his honour that no evil should befall him. Being inveigled with this, and consulting with Mr Wishart, who requested that the gates should be opened, saying, “God’s will be done,” the laird complied. The Earl of Bothwell entered with some gentlemen, who solemnly protested that Mr Wishart should receive no harm, but that he would either carry him to his own house, or return him again to Ormiston in safety. Upon this promise hands were stricken, and Mr Wishart went along with him to Elphinstone, where the Cardinal was; after which he was first carried to Edinburgh, then to the house of Hailes, the Earl of Bothwell’s principle residence in East Lothian, – perhaps upon pretence of fulfilling the engagement which Bothwell had come under to him, – after which he was reconducted to Edinburgh, where the Cardinal had now assembled a convocation of prelates, for reforming some abuses, but without effect. Buchanan says that he was apprehended by a party of horse, detached by the Cardinal for that purpose; that at first the laird of Ormiston refused to deliver him up; upon which the Cardinal and Regent both posted thither, but could not prevail, until the Earl of Bothwell was sent for, who succeeded by flattery and fair promises, not one of which was fulfilled.
Wishart remained at Edinburgh only a few days, until the bloodthirsty Cardinal prevailed with the Governor to deliver up this faithful servant of Jesus Christ to his tyranny. He was accordingly sent to St Andrews; and, being advised to it by the Archbishop of Glasgow, he would have got a civil judge appointed to try him, if David Hamilton of Preston, a kinsman to the Regent, had not remonstrated against it, and represented the danger of attacking the servants of God, who had no other crime laid to their charge, but that of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. This speech, which Buchanan gives at large, affected the Governor in such a manner, that he absolutely refused the Cardinal’s request; upon which he replied in anger, “That he had only sent to him out of mere civility without any need for it; for that he, with his clergy, had power sufficient to bring Mr Wishart to condign punishment.” Thus was this servant of God left in the hands of that proud and merciless tyrant, the religious part of the nation loudly complaining of the Governor’s weakness.
Wishart being now in St Andrews, the Cardinal without delay summoned the bishops and superior clergy to meet at that place on the 27th of February 1546, to deliberate upon a question about which he was already resolved. The next day after this convocation, Mr Wishart received a summons in prison, by the dean of the town, to answer on the morrow for his heretical doctrine before the judges. The next day the Cardinal went to the place of judgment in the Abbey church, with a train of armed men, marching in warlike order; immediately Mr Wishart was sent for from the sea-tower, which was his prison, and being about to enter the door of the church, a poor man asked alms of him, to whom he threw his purse.
When he came before the Cardinal, John Winram, the sub-prior, went up into the pulpit by appointment, and made a discourse upon the nature of heresy, from Matthew 13; which he did with great caution, and yet in such a way as applied more justly to the accusers than the accused, for he was a secret favourer of the truth. After him rose up one John Lauder, a most virulent enemy of religion, who acted the part of Mr Wishart’s accuser. He pulled out a long roll of maledictory charges against Mr Wishart, and dealt out the Romish thunder so liberally, as terrified the ignorant bystanders, but did not in the least discompose this meek servant of Christ. He was accused of disobedience to the Governor’s authority, for teaching that man had no free will, and for contemning fasting (all which charges he absolutely refused); for denying that there are seven sacraments, and that auricular confession, extreme unction, and the sacrament of the altar, so called, are sacraments, and that we should pray to saints; for saying that it was necessary for every man to know and understand his baptism; that the Pope had no more power than another man; that it is as lawful to eat flesh upon Friday as upon Sunday; that there is no purgatory; and that it is in vain to build costly churches to the honour of God; also for condemning conjuration, the vows of single life, the cursings of the Holy Church, etc.
While Lauder was reading these accusations, he had put himself into a most violent sweat – frothing at the mouth, calling Mr Wishart a runagate traitor, and demanding an answer. This Wishart gave in a short and modest oration, at which they cried out with one consent in a most tumultuous manner. Perceiving that they were resolved to proceed against him to the utmost extremity, he appealed to a more equitable and impartial judge; upon which Lauder, repeating the several titles of the Cardinal, asked him, “If my Lord Cardinal was not an equitable judge?” Mr Wishart replied, “I do not refuse him, but I desire the Word of God to be my judge, the Temporal Estates, with some of your Lordships, because I am my Lord Governor’s prisoner.” After some scornful language thrown out both against him and the Governor, they proceeded to read the articles against him a second time, and hear his answers, which he made with great solidity of judgment; after which they condemned him to be burned as a heretic, paying no regard to his defences, nor to the emotions of their own consciences, but thinking that by killing him they should do God good service. Upon this resolution (for their final sentence was not yet pronounced), Mr Wishart kneeled down and prayed in the following manner:
O Immortal God, how long wilt Thou suffer the rage of the ungodly? how long shall they exercise their fury upon Thy servants who further Thy Word in this world, seeing they desire to choke and destroy Thy true doctrine and verity, by which Thou hast showed Thyself unto the world, which was drowned in blindness and ignorance of Thy name? O Lord, we know surely that Thy true servants must suffer, for Thy name’s sake, both persecution, afffiction, and troubles in this present life, which is but a shadow, as Thy prophets and apostles have shown us; but yet we desire Thee, merciful Father, that Thou wouldst preserve, defend, and help Thy congregation, which Thou hast chosen from before the foundation of the world, and give them Thy grace to hear Thy word, and to be Thy true servants in this present life.
After this, the common people were removed until the definitive sentence should be pronounced, which, being so similar to Mr Hamilton’s, need not here be inserted. This being done, he was re-committed to the castle for that night. In his way thither, two friars came to him, requesting him to make his confession to them, which he refused, but desired them to bring Mr Winram, who had preached that day; who being come, after some discourse with Mr Wishart, he asked him if he would receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Mr Wishart answered, “Most willingly, if I may have it administered according to Christ’s institution, under both kinds of bread and wine.” Hereupon the sub-prior went to the bishops, and asked if they would permit the sacrament to be given to the prisoner. But the Cardinal, in all their names, answered, “That it was not reasonable to give any spiritual benefit to an obstinate heretic, condemned by the Church.”
All this night Mr Wishart spent in prayer, and next morning the captain of the castle gave him notice that they had denied him the sacrament, and at the same time invited him to breakfast with him; which Mr Wishart accepted, saying, “I will do that very willingly, and so much the rather, because I perceive you to be a good Christian, and a man fearing God.” All things being ready, and the family assembled to breakfast, Mr Wishart, turning himself to the captain, said, “I beseech you, in the name of God, and for the love you bear to our Saviour Jesus Christ, to be silent a little while, till I have made a short exhortation, and blessed this bread which we are to eat, so that I may bid you farewell.” The table being covered, and bread being set upon it, he spake about the space of half-an-hour, of the institution of the Supper, and of our Saviour’s death and passion, exhorting those who were present to mutual love and holiness of life. Then, giving thanks, he break the bread, distributing a part to those about him who were disposed to communicate, entreating them to remember that Christ died for them, and to feed on it spiritually; then, taking the cup, he bade them remember that Christ’s blood was shed for them, and having tasted it himself, he delivered it unto them, and then, concluding with thanksgiving and prayer, he told them “that he would neither eat nor drink more in this life,” and retired to his chamber.
Soon after, by the appointment of the Cardinal, two executioners came to him, and, arraying him in a black linen coat, they fastened some bags of gunpowder about him, put a rope about his neck, a chain about his waist, and bound his hands behind his back, and in this dress they led him to the stake, near the Cardinal’s palace. Opposite to the stake they had placed the great guns of the castle, lest any should attempt to rescue him. The fore-tower, which was immediately opposite to the fire, was hung with tapestry, and rich cushions were laid in the windows, for the ease of the Cardinal and prelates, while they beheld the sad spectacle. As he was going to the stake, it is said that two beggars asked alms of him, and that he replied: “I want my hands wherewith I used to give you alms; but the merciful Lord vouchsafe to give you all necessaries, both for soul and body.” After this the friars came about him, urging him to pray to our Lady, to whom he answered, “Cease; tempt me not, I entreat you.”
Having mounted a scaffold prepared on purpose, he turned towards the people and declared that he felt much joy within himself in offering up his life for the name of Christ, and told them, that they ought not to be offended with the good Word of God, because of the afflictions he had endured, or the torments which they now saw prepared for him; “but I entreat you,” said he, “that you love the Word of God for your salvation, and suffer patiently and with a comfortable heart for the Word’s sake, which is your everlasting comfort; but for the true Gospel, which was given me by the Grace of God, I suffer this day with a glad heart. Behold and consider my visage; ye shall not see me change my colour. I fear not this fire, and I pray that you may not fear them that slay the body, but have no power to slay the soul. Some have said that I taught, that the soul shall sleep till the last day; but I know surely, and my faith is such, that my soul shall sup with my Saviour this night.” Then he prayed for his accusers, that they might be forgiven, if, through ignorance or evil design, they had forged lies upon him. After this, the executioner asked his forgiveness, to whom he replied, “Come hither to me;” and when he came, he kissed his cheek, and said, “Lo, here is a token that I forgive thee; do thine office.” Being raised up from his knees, he was bound to the stake, crying with a loud voice, “O Saviour of the world, have mercy upon me! Father of heaven, I commend my spirit into Thy holy hands!” The executioner having kindled the fire, the powder fastened to his body blew up. The captain of the castle, perceiving that he was still alive, drew near, and bid him be of good courage; whereupon Mr Wishart said, “This flame hath scorched my body, yet it hath not daunted my spirit; but he who, from yonder place, beholdeth us with such pride, shall within a few days lie in the same, as ignominiously as he is now seen proudly to rest himself.” As he was thus speaking, the executioner drew the cord that was about his neck so strait that he spoke no more; and thus, like another Elijah, he took his flight by a fiery chariot into heaven, and obtained the martyr’s crown on the 1st of March 1546.
Thus lived, and thus died, this faithful witness of Jesus Christ. He was early marked out as a sacrifice to Papal tyranny. Being delated to the Bishop of Brechin for an heretic, because he taught the Greek New Testament to his scholars, while he kept school at Montrose, he was summoned by him, to appear before him, but escaped into England, and at the University of Cambridge completed his education, and was himself an instructor of others. During the whole time he was in his own country, he was hunted as a partridge on the mountains, until the Cardinal got him brought to the stake. Through the whole of his sufferings, his meekness and patience were very remarkable, as was that uncommon measure of the spirit of prophecy which he possessed. Witness the circumstances relative to Dundee, Haddington, the reformation from Popery, and the Cardinal’s death – all of which were foretold by him, and soon after accomplished.
The Popish clergy rejoiced at his death, and extolled the Cardinal’s courage, for proceeding in it against the Governor’s order; but the people very justly looked upon Wishart as both a prophet and a martyr. It was also said that, abstractly from the grounds of his suffering, his death was no less than murder, in regard no writ was obtained for it, and the clergy could not burn any without a warrant from the secular power.
This stirred up Norman and John Leslie, of the family of Rothes, William Kircaldy of Grange, James Melvill of the family of Carnbee, Peter Carmichael, and others, to avenge Mr Wishart’s death. Accordingly, upon the 28th of May 1546, (not three months after Mr Wishart suffered), they surprised the castle early in the morning, and either secured or turned out the persons that were lodged in it. On coming to the Cardinal’s door, he was by this time alarmed, and had secured it; but upon their threatening to force the door, he opened it (relying partly upon the sanctity of his office, and partly on his acquaintance with some of them), crying, “I am a priest, I am a priest.” But this had no effect upon them; for James Melvill having exhorted him in a solemn manner to repentance, and having apprised him that he was now to avenge Mr Wishart’s death, stabbed him twice or thrice, which ended his wretched days. These persons, with some others who came in to them, held the castle for nearly two years, being assisted by England. They had the Governor’s eldest son with them, for he had been put under the Cardinal’s care, and was in the castle at the time they surprised it. The castle was at length besieged by the French, and surrendered upon having the lives of all that were in it secured.
The original name of Wishart was “Guiscard,” a name common in France, from which country the family of Pitarrow originally came. Assuming Wishart to have been thirty years of age at his martyrdom, he was born about the year 1516.
Wishart was probably first educated at King’s College, Aberdeen, the only university in Scotland where, at that time, he could have acquired a knowledge of the Greek language. This he certainly had done before he became a student at Cambridge, which was subsequent to his having opening a school at Montrose about the year 1538, in which he taught Greek – the first Greek grammer school in Scotland.
In 1538, the Bishop of Brechin threatened him with the severest penalties because of his zeal in teaching the Greek New Testament. This led him to retire for a short time to England, where he preached the truth in Worcester and Bristol. It used to be supposed that in those earlier days of his ministry his doctrine was not altogether sound in regard to the atoning work of Christ. But of late it has been successfully shown that this imputation arose from a misprint in the narrative of a dispute he held at Bristol with the dean. He argued that “Christ’s Mother could not merit anything for any one ;” but he made to say “that Christ could not merit ought, for Himself nor another” (see Rogers’ “Life of Wishart,” pp. 11, 12) which can be found here.