An Account of the Life and Persecutions of John Bunyan
This great Puritan was born the same year that the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth. His home was Elstow, near Bedford, in England. His father was a tinker and he was brought up in the same trade. He was a lively, likeable boy with a serious and almost morbid side to his nature. All during his young manhood, he was repenting for the vices of his youth and yet he had never been either a drunkard or immoral. The particular acts that troubled his conscience were dancing, ringing the church bells, and playing cat. It was while playing the latter game one day that “a voice did suddenly dart from Heaven into my soul, which said, ‘Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to Heaven, or have thy sins and go to Hell?'” At about this time he overheard three or four poor women in Bedford talking, as they sat at the door in the sun. “Their talk was about the new birth, the work of God in the hearts. They were far above my reach.”
In his youth, he was a member of the parliamentary army for a year. The death of his comrade close beside him deepened his tendency to serious thoughts, and there were times when he seemed almost insane in his zeal and penitence. He was at one time quite assured that he had sinned the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. While he was still a young man he married a good woman who bought him a library of pious books which he read with assiduity, thus confirming his earnestness and increasing his love of religious controversies.
His conscience was still further awakened through the persecution of the religious body of Baptists to whom he had joined himself. Before he was thirty years old he had become a leading Baptist preacher.
Then came his turn for persecution. He was arrested for preaching without a license. “Before I went down to the justice, I begged of God that His will be done; for I was not without hopes that my imprisonment might be an awakening to the saints in the country. Only for that matter did I commit the thing to God. And verily at my return, I did meet my God sweetly in the prison.”
His hardships were genuine, on account of the wretched condition of the prisons of those days. To this confinement was added the personal grief of being parted from his young and second wife and four small children, and particularly, his little blind daughter. While he was in jail he was solaced by the two books which he had brought with him, the Bible and Fox’s “Book of Martyrs.”
Although he wrote some of his early books during this long imprisonment, it was not until his second and shorter one, three years after the first, that he composed his immortal “Pilgrim’s Progress,” which was published three years later. In an earlier tract he had thought briefly of the similarity between human life and a pilgrimage, and he now worked this theme out in fascinating detail, using the rural scenery of England for his background, the splendid city of London for his Vanity Fair, and the saints and villains of his own personal acquaintance for the finely drawn characters of his allegory.
The “Pilgrim’s Progress” is truly the rehearsal of Bunyan’s own spiritual experiences. He himself had been the ‘man clothed in Rags, with his Face from his own House, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his Back.’ After he had realized that Christ was his Righteousness and that this did not depend on “the good frame of his Heart”–or, as we should say, on his feelings–“now did the Chains fall off my legs indeed.” His had been Doubting Castle and Sloughs of Despond, with much of the Valley of Humiliation and the Shadow of Death. But, above all, it is a book of Victory. Once when he was leaving the doors of the courthouse where he himself had been defeated, he wrote: “As I was going forth of the doors, I had much ado to bear saying to them, that I carried the peace of God along with me.” In his vision was ever the Celestial City, with all its bells ringing. He had fought Apollyon constantly and often wounded, shamed and fallen, yet in the end “more than a conqueror through Him that loved us.”
His book was at first received with much criticism from his Puritan friends, who saw in it only an addition to the worldly literature of his day, but there was not much then for Puritans to read, and it was not long before it was devoutly laid beside their Bibles and perused with gladness and with profit. It was perhaps two centuries later before literary critics began to realize that this story, so full of human reality and interest and so marvellously modelled upon the English of the King James translation of the Bible, is one of the glories of English literature. In his later years, he wrote several other allegories, of which of one of them, “The Holy War,” it has been said that “If the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ had never been written it would be regarded as the finest allegory in the language.”
During the later years of his life, Bunyan remained in Bedford as a venerated local pastor and preacher. He was also a favourite speaker in the non-conformist pulpits of London. He became so national a leader and teacher that he was frequently called “Bishop Bunyan.”
In his helpful and unselfish personal life, he was apostolic. His last illness was due to exposure upon a journey in which he was endeavouring to reconcile a father with his son. His end came on the third of August, 1688. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, a churchyard in London.
There is no doubt but that the “Pilgrim’s Progress” has been more helpful than any other book but the Bible. It was timely, for they were still burning martyrs in Vanity Fair while he was writing. It is enduring, for while it tells little of living the Christian life in the family and community, it does interpret that life so far as it is an expression of the solitary soul, in homely language. Bunyan indeed “showed how to build a princely throne on humble truth.” He has been his own Greatheart, a dauntless guide to pilgrims, to many.
John Huss was born at Hussenitz, a village in Bohemia, about the year 1380. His parents gave him the best education their circumstances would admit; and having acquired a tolerable knowledge of the classics at a private school, he was removed to the University of Prague, where he soon gave strong proofs of his mental powers and was remarkable for his diligence and application to study.
In 1398, Huss commenced bachelor of divinity, and was after the successively chosen pastor of the Church of Bethlehem, in Prague, and dean and rector of the university. In these stations he discharged his duties with great fidelity; and became, at length, so conspicuous for his preaching, which was in conformity with the doctrines of Wickliffe, that it was not likely he could long escape the notice of the pope and his adherents, against whom he inveighed with no small degree of asperity.
The English reformist, Wickliffe, had so kindled the light of reformation, that it began to illumine the darkest corners of popery and ignorance. His doctrines spread into Bohemia and were well received by great numbers of people, but by none so particularly as John Huss, and his zealous friend and fellow martyr, Jerome of Prague.
The archbishop of Prague, finding the reformists daily increasing, issued a decree to suppress the further spreading of Wickliffe’s writings: but this had an effect quite different to what he expected, for it stimulated the friends of those doctrines to greater zeal, and almost the whole university united to propagate them.
Being strongly attached to the doctrines of Wickliffe, Huss opposed the decree of the archbishop, who, however, at length, obtained a bull from the pope, giving him commission to prevent the publishing of Wickliffe’s doctrines in his province. By virtue of this bull, the archbishop condemned the writings of Wickliffe: he also proceeded against four doctors, who had not delivered up the copies of that divine, and prohibited them, notwithstanding their privileges, to preach to any congregation. Dr Huss, with some other members of the university, protested against these proceedings and entered an appeal from the sentence of the archbishop.
The affair being made known to the pope, he granted a commission to Cardinal Colonna, to cite John Huss to appear personally at the court of Rome, to answer the accusations laid against him, of preaching both errors and heresies. Dr Huss desired to be excused from a personal appearance, and was so greatly favored in Bohemia, that King Wenceslaus, the queen, the nobility, and the university, desired the pope to dispense with such an appearance; as also that he would not suffer the kingdom of Bohemia to lie under the accusation of heresy, but permit them to preach the Gospel with freedom in their places of worship.
Three proctors appeared for Dr Huss before Cardinal Colonna. They endeavoured to excuse his absence and said they were ready to answer on his behalf. But the cardinal declared Huss contumacious and excommunicated him accordingly. The proctors appealed to the pope, and appointed four cardinals to examine the process: these commissioners confirmed the former sentence and extended the excommunication not only to Huss but to all his friends and followers.
From this unjust sentence Huss appealed to a future Council, but without success; and, notwithstanding so severe a decree, and an expulsion in consequence from his church in Prague, he retired to Hussenitz, his native place, where he continued to promulgate his new doctrine, both from the pulpit and with the pen.
The letters which he wrote at this time were very numerous; and he compiled a treatise in which he maintained, that reading the books of Protestants could not be absolutely forbidden. He wrote in defence of Wickliffe’s book on the Trinity; and boldly declared against the vices of the pope, the Cardinals, and clergy, of those corrupt times. He wrote also many other books, all of which were penned with a strength of the argument that greatly facilitated the spreading of his doctrines.
In the month of November 1414, a general Council was assembled at Constance, in Germany, in order, as was pretended, for the sole purpose of determining a dispute then pending between three persons who contended for the papacy; but the real motive was to crush the progress of the Reformation.
John Huss was summoned to appear at this Council; and, to encourage him, the emperor sent him a safe-conduct: the civilities and even reverence, which Huss met with on his journey were beyond imagination. The streets, and sometimes the very roads, were lined with people, whom respect, rather than curiosity, had brought together.
He was ushered into the town with great acclamations, and it may be said that he passed through Germany in a kind of triumph. He could not help expressing his surprise at the treatment he received: “I thought (said he) I had been an outcast. I now see my worst friends are in Bohemia.”
As soon as Huss arrived at Constance, he immediately took lodgings in a remote part of the city. A short time after his arrival, came one Stephen Paletz, who was employed by the clergy at Prague to manage the intended prosecution against him. Paletz was afterwards joined by Michael de Cassis, on the part of the court of Rome. These two declared themselves his accusers and drew up a set of articles against him, which they presented to the pope and the prelates of the Council.
When it was known that he was in the city he was immediately arrested and committed the prisoner to a chamber in the palace. This violation of common law and justice was particularly noticed by one of Huss’s friends, who urged the imperial safe-conduct; but the pope replied he never granted any safe-conduct, nor was he bound by that of the emperor.
While Huss was in confinement, the Council acted the part of inquisitors. They condemned the doctrines of Wickliffe, and even ordered his remains to be dug up and burned to ashes; which orders were strictly complied with. In the meantime, the nobility of Bohemia and Poland strongly interceded for Huss; and so far prevailed as to prevent his being condemned unheard, which had been resolved on by the commissioners appointed to try him.
When he was brought before the Council, the articles exhibited against him were read: they were upwards of forty in number, and chiefly extracted from his writings.
John Huss’s answer was this: “I did appeal unto the pope; who being dead, and the cause of my matter remaining undetermined, I appealed likewise unto his successor John XXIII: before whom when, by the space of two years, I could not be admitted by my advocates to defend my cause, I appealed unto the high judge Christ.”
When John Huss had spoken these words, it was demanded of him whether he had received absolution of the pope or no? He answered, “No.” Then again, whether it was lawful for him to appeal unto Christ or no? Whereunto John Huss answered: “Verily I do affirm here before you all, that there is no more just or effectual appeal, than that appeal which is made unto Christ, forasmuch as the law doth determine, that to appeal is no other thing than in a cause of grief or wrong done by an inferior judge, to implore and require aid at a higher Judge’s hand. Who is then a higher Judge than Christ? Who, I say, can know or judge the matter more justly, or with more equity? when in Him there is found no deceit, neither can He be deceived; or, who can better help the miserable and oppressed than He?” While John Huss, with a devout and sober countenance, was speaking and pronouncing those words, he was derided and mocked by all the whole Council.
These excellent sentences were esteemed as so many expressions of treason and tended to inflame his adversaries. Accordingly, the bishops appointed by the Council stripped him of his priestly garments, degraded him, put a paper mitre on his head, on which was painted devils, with this inscription, “A ringleader of heretics.” Which when he saw, he said: “My Lord Jesus Christ, for my sake, did wear a crown of thorns; why should not I then, for His sake, again wear this light crown, be it ever so ignominious? Truly I will do it, and that willingly.” When it was set upon his head, the bishop said: “Now we commit thy soul unto the devil.” “But I,” said John Huss, lifting his eyes towards the heaven, “do commend into Thy hands, O Lord Jesus Christ! my spirit which Thou hast redeemed.”
When the chain was put about him at the stake, he said, with a smiling countenance, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?”
When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the Duke of Bavaria was so officious as to desire him to abjure. “No, (said Huss;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” He then said to the executioner, “You are now going to burn a goose, (Huss signifying goose in the Bohemian language:) but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.” If he were prophetic, he must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after, and who had a swan for his arms.
The flames were now applied to the fagots when our martyr sang a hymn with so loud and cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings of the combustibles, and the noise of the multitude. At length, his voice was interrupted by the severity of the flames, which soon closed his existence.
Then, with great diligence, gathering the ashes together, they cast them into the river Rhine, that the last remnant of that man should not be left upon the earth, whose memory, notwithstanding, cannot be abolished out of the minds of the godly, neither by fire, neither by water, neither by any kind of torment.
It will not be inappropriate to devote a few pages of this work to a brief detail of the lives of some of those men who first stepped forward, regardless of the bigoted power which opposed all reformation, to stem the time of papal corruption, and to seal the pure doctrines of the Gospel with their blood. Among these, Great Britain has the honour of taking the lead, and first maintaining that freedom in religious controversy which astonished Europe, and demonstrated that political and religious liberty are equally the growth of that favoured island. Among the earliest of these eminent persons was
This celebrated reformer denominated the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” was born about the year 1324, in the reign of Edward II. Of his extraction, we have no certain account. His parents designing him for the Church, sent him to Queen’s College, Oxford, about that period founded by Robert Eaglesfield, confessor to Queen Philippi. But not meeting with the advantages of study in that newly established house which he expected, he removed to Merton College, which was then esteemed one of the most learned societies in Europe.
The first thing which drew him into public notice was his defence of the university against the begging friars, who about this time, from their settlement in Oxford in 1230, had been troublesome neighbours to the university. Feuds were continually fomented; the friars appealing to the pope, the scholars to the civil power; and sometimes one party, and sometimes, the other, prevailed. The friars became very fond of a notion that Christ was a common beggar; that his disciples were beggars also; and that begging was of Gospel institution. This doctrine they urged from the pulpit and wherever they had access.
Wickliffe had long held these religious friars in contempt for the laziness of their lives and had now a fair opportunity of exposing them. He published a treatise against able beggary, in which he lashed the friars, and proved that they were not only a reproach to religion, but also to human society. The university began to consider him one of their first champions, and he was soon promoted to the mastership of Baliol College.
About this time, Archbishop Islip founded Canterbury Hall, in Oxford, where he established a warden and eleven scholars. To this wardenship, Wickliffe was elected by the archbishop, but upon his demise, he was displaced by his successor, Stephen Langham, bishop of Ely. As there was a degree of flagrant injustice in the affair, Wickliffe appealed to the pope, who subsequently gave it against him from the following cause: Edward III, then king of England had withdrawn the tribune, which from the time of King John had been paid to the pope. The pope menaced; Edward called a parliament. The parliament resolved that King John had done an illegal thing, and given up the rights of the nation, and advised the king not to submit, whatever consequences might follow.
The clergy now began to write in favour of the pope, and a learned monk published a spirited and plausible treatise, which had many advocates. Wickliffe, irritated at seeing so bad a cause so well defended, opposed the monk and did it in so masterly a way that he was considered no longer as unanswerable. His suit at Rome was immediately determined against him; and nobody doubted but his opposition to the pope, at so critical a period, was the true cause of his being non-suited at Rome.
Wickliffe was afterwards elected to the chair of the divinity professor: and now fully convinced of the errors of the Romish Church, and the vileness of its monastic agents, he determined to expose them. In public lectures, he lashed their vices and opposed their follies. He unfolded a variety of abuses covered by the darkness of superstition. At first, he began to loosen the prejudices of the vulgar, and proceeded by slow advances; with the metaphysical disquisitions of the age, he mingled opinions in divinity apparently novel. The usurpations of the court of Rome was a favourite topic. On these, he expatiated with all the keenness of argument, joined to logical reasoning. This soon procured him the clamour of the clergy, who, with the archbishop of Canterbury, deprived him of his office.
At this time the administration of affairs was in the hands of the Duke of Lancaster, well known by the name of John of Gaunt. This prince had very free notions of religion and was at enmity with the clergy. The exactions of the court of Rome having become very burdensome, he determined to send the bishop of Bangor and Wickliffe to remonstrate against these abuses, and it was agreed that the pope should no longer dispose of any benefices belonging to the Church of England. In this embassy, Wickliffe’s observant mind penetrated into the constitution and policy of Rome, and he returned more strongly than ever determined to expose its avarice and ambition.
Having recovered his former situation, he inveighed, in his lectures, against the pope–his usurpation–his infallibility–his pride–his avarice– and his tyranny. He was the first who termed the pope Antichrist. From the pope, he would turn to the pomp, the luxury, and trappings of the bishops, and compared them with the simplicity of primitive bishops. Their superstitions and deceptions were topics that he urged with an energy of mind and logical precision.
From the patronage of the Duke of Lancaster, Wickliffe received a good benefice; but he was no sooner settled in his parish, than his enemies and the bishops began to persecute him with renewed vigour. The Duke of Lancaster was his friend in this persecution, and by his presence and that of Lord Percy, earl marshal of England, he so overawed the trial, that the whole ended in disorder.
After the death of Edward III his grandson Richard II succeeded, in the eleventh year of his age. The Duke of Lancaster not obtaining to be the sole regent, as he expected, his power began to decline, and the enemies of Wickliffe, taking advantage of the circumstance, renewed their articles of accusation against him. Five bulls were despatched in consequence by the pope to the king and certain bishops, but the regency and the people manifested a spirit of contempt at the haughty proceedings of the pontiff, and the former at that time wanting money to oppose an expected invasion of the French, proposed to apply a large sum, collected for the use of the pope, to that purpose. The question was submitted to the decision of Wickliffe. The bishops, however, supported by the papal authority, insisted upon bringing Wickliffe to trial, and he was actually undergoing examination at Lambeth, when, from the riotous behavior of the populace without, and awed by the command of Sir Lewis Clifford, a gentleman of the court, that they should not proceed to any definitive sentence, they terminated the whole affair in a prohibition to Wickliffe, not to preach those doctrines which were obnoxious to the pope; but this was laughed at by our reformer, who, going about barefoot, and in a long frieze gown, preached more vehemently than before.
In the year 1378, a contest arose between two popes, Urban VI and Clement VII which was the lawful pope, and true vicegerent of God. This was a favourable period for the exertion of Wicliffe’s talents: he soon produced a tract against popery, which was eagerly read by all sorts of people.
About the end of the year, Wickliffe was seized with a violent disorder, which it was feared might prove fatal. The begging friars, accompanied by four of the most eminent citizens of Oxford, gained admittance to his bed chamber and begged of him to retract, for his soul’s sake, the unjust things he had asserted of their order. Wickliffe, surprised at the solemn message, raised himself in his bed, and with a stern countenance replied, “I shall not die, but live to declare the evil deeds of the friars.”
When Wickliffe recovered, he set about a most important work, the translation of the Bible into English. Before this work appeared, he published a tract, wherein he showed the necessity of it. The zeal of the bishops to suppress the Scriptures greatly promoted its sale, and they who were not able to purchase copies, procured transcripts of particular Gospels or Epistles. Afterward, when Lollardy increased, and the flames kindled, it was a common practice to fasten about the neck of the condemned heretic such of these scraps of Scripture as were found in his possession, which generally shared his fate.
Immediately after this transaction, Wickliffe ventured a step further and affected the doctrine of transubstantiation. This strange opinion was invented by Paschade Radbert and asserted with amazing boldness. Wickliffe, in his lecture before the University of Oxford, 1381, attacked this doctrine and published a treatise on the subject. Dr Barton, at this time vice-chancellor of Oxford, calling together the heads of the university, condemned Wickliffe’s doctrines as heretical and threatened their author with excommunication. Wickliffe could now derive no support from the Duke of Lancaster, and being cited to appear before his former adversary, William Courteney, now made archbishop of Canterbury, he sheltered himself under the plea, that, as a member of the university, he was exempt from episcopal jurisdiction. This plea was admitted, as the university was determined to support their member.
The court met at the appointed time, determined, at least to sit in judgment upon his opinions, and some they condemned as erroneous, others as heretical. The publication on this subject was immediately answered by Wickliffe, who had become a subject of the archbishop’s determined malice. The king, solicited by the archbishop, granted a license to imprison the teacher of heresy, but the commons made the king revoke this act as illegal. The primate, however, obtained letters from the king, directing the head of the University of Oxford to search for all heresies and books published by Wickliffe; in consequence of which order, the university became a scene of tumult. Wickliffe is supposed to have retired from the storm, into an obscure part of the kingdom. The seeds, however, were scattered, and Wickliffe’s opinions were so prevalent that it was said if you met two persons upon the road, you might be sure that one was a Lollard. At this period, the disputes between the two popes continued. Urban published a bull, in which he earnestly called upon all who had any regard for religion, to exert themselves in its cause; and to take up arms against Clement and his adherents in defence of the holy see.
A war, in which the name of religion was so vilely prostituted, roused Wickliffe’s inclination, even in his declining years. He took up his pen once more and wrote against it with the greatest acrimony. He expostulated with the pope in a very free manner, and asks him boldly: ‘How he durst make the token of Christ on the cross (which is the token of peace, mercy and charity) a banner to lead us to slay Christian men, for the love of two false priests, and to oppress Christiandom worse than Christ and his apostles were oppressed by the Jews? ‘When,’ said he, ‘will the proud priest of Rome grant indulgences to mankind to live in peace and charity, as he now does to fight and slay one another?’
This severe piece drew upon him the resentment of Urban and was likely to have involved him in greater troubles than he had before experienced, but providentially he was delivered out of their hands. He was struck with the palsy, and though he lived some time, yet it was in such a way that his enemies considered him as a person below their resentment.
Wickliffe returning within short space, either from his banishment, or from some other place where he was secretly kept, repaired to his parish of Lutterworth, where he was parson; and there, quietly departing this mortal life, slept in peace in the Lord, in the end of the year 1384, upon Silvester’s day. It appeared that he was well aged before he departed, “and that the same thing pleased him in his old age, which did please him being young.”
Wickliffe had some cause to give them thanks, that they would at least spare him until he was dead, and also give him so long respite after his death, forty-one years to rest in his sepulchre before they ungraved him, and turned him from earth to ashes; which ashes they also took and threw into the river. And so was he resolved into three elements, earth, fire, and water, thinking thereby utterly to extinguish and abolish both the name and doctrine of Wickliffe forever. Not much unlike the example of the old Pharisees and sepulchre knights, who, when they had brought the Lord unto the grave, thought to make him sure never to rise again. But these and all others must know that, as there is no counsel against the Lord, so there is no keeping down of verity, but it will spring up and come out of dust and ashes, as appeared right well in this man; for though they dug up his body, burned his bones, and drowned his ashes, yet the Word of God and the truth of his doctrine, with the fruit and success thereof, they could not burn.
Popery having brought various innovations into the Church, and overspread the Christian world with darkness and superstition, some few, who plainly perceived the pernicious tendency of such errors, determined to show the light of the Gospel in its real purity, and to disperse those clouds which artful priests had raised about it, in order to blind the people, and obscure its real brightness.
The principal among these was Berengarius, who, about the year 1000, boldly preached Gospel truths, according to their primitive purity. Many, from conviction, assented to his doctrine, and were, on that account, called Berengarians. To Berengarius succeeded Peer Bruis, who preached at Toulouse, under the protection of an earl, named Hildephonsus; and the whole tenets of the reformers, with the reasons of their separation from the Church of Rome, were published in a book written by Bruis, under the title of “Antichrist.”
By the year of Christ 1140, the number of the reformed was very great, and the probability of its increasing alarmed the pope, who wrote to several princes to banish them from their dominions, and employed many learned men to write against their doctrines.
In A.D. 1147, because of Henry of Toulouse, deemed their most eminent preacher, they were called Henericians; and as they would not admit of any proofs relative to religion, but what could be deduced from the Scriptures themselves, the popish party gave them the name of apostolics. At length, Peter Waldo, or Valdo, a native of Lyons, eminent for his piety and learning, became a strenuous opposer of popery; and from him, the reformed, at that time, received the appellation of Waldenses or Waldoys.
Pope Alexander III being informed by the bishop of Lyons of these transactions, excommunicated Waldo and his adherents, and commanded the bishop to exterminate them, if possible, from the face of the earth; hence began the papal persecutions against the Waldenses.
The proceedings of Waldo and the reformed occasioned the first rise of the inquisitors; for Pope Innocent III authorized certain monks as inquisitors, to inquire for, and deliver over, the reformed to the secular power. The process was short, as an accusation was deemed adequate to guilt, and a candid trial was never granted to the accused.
The pope, finding that these cruel means had not the intended effect, sent several learned monks to preach among the Waldenses, and to endeavour to argue them out of their opinions. Among these monks was one Dominic, who appeared extremely zealous in the cause of popery. This Dominic instituted an order, which, from him, was called the order of Dominican friars; and the members of this order have ever since been the principal inquisitors in the various inquisitions in the world. The power of the inquisitors was unlimited; they proceeded against whom they pleased, without any consideration of age, sex, or rank. Let the accusers be ever so infamous, the accusation was deemed valid; and even anonymous pieces of information, sent by letter, were thought sufficient evidence. To be rich was a crime equal to heresy; therefore many who had money were accused of heresy, or of being favorers of heretics, that they might be obliged to pay for their opinions. The dearest friends or nearest kindred could not, without danger, serve anyone who was imprisoned on account of religion. To convey to those who were confined, a little straw, or give them a cup of water, was called favouring of the heretics, and they were prosecuted accordingly. No lawyer dared to plead for his own brother, and their malice even extended beyond the grave; hence the bones of many were dug up and burnt, as examples to the living. If a man on his deathbed was accused of being a follower of Waldo, his estates were confiscated, and the heir to them defrauded of his inheritance; and some were sent to the Holy Land, while the Dominicans took possession of their houses and properties, and, when the owners returned, would often pretend not to know them. These persecutions were continued for several centuries under different popes and other great dignitaries of the Catholic Church.
Like as there was no place, either of Germany, Italy, or France, wherein there were not some branches sprung out of that most fruitful root of Luther; so likewise was not this isle of Britain without his fruit and branches. Amongst whom was Patrick Hamilton, a Scotchman born of high and noble stock, and of the king’s blood, of excellent towardness, twenty-three years of age, called abbot of Ferne. Coming out of his country with three companions to seek godly learning, he went to the University of Marburg in Germany, which university was then newly erected by Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
During his residence here, he became intimately acquainted with those eminent lights of the Gospel, Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon; from whose writings and doctrines he strongly attached himself to the Protestant religion.
The archbishop of St. Andrews (who was a rigid papist) learning of Mr Hamilton’s proceedings, caused him to be seized, and being brought before him, after a short examination relative to his religious principles, he committed him a prisoner to the castle, at the same time ordering him to be confined in the most loathsome part of the prison.
The next morning Mr Hamilton was brought before the bishop, and several others, for examination, when the principal articles exhibited against him were, his publicly disapproving of pilgrimages, purgatory, prayers to saints, for the dead, etc.
These articles Mr Hamilton acknowledged to be true, in consequence of which he was immediately condemned to be burnt; and that his condemnation might have the greater authority, they caused it to be subscribed by all those of any note who were present, and to make the number as considerable as possible, even admitted the subscription of boys who were sons of the nobility.
So anxious was this bigoted and persecuting prelate for the destruction of Mr Hamilton, that he ordered his sentence to be put in execution on the afternoon of the very day it was pronounced. He was accordingly led to the place appointed for the horrid tragedy and was attended by a prodigious number of spectators. The greatest part of the multitude would not believe it was intended he should be put to death, but that it was only done to frighten him, and thereby bring him over to embrace the principles of the Romish religion.
When he arrived at the stake, he kneeled down, and, for some time prayed with great fervency. After this, he was fastened to the stake, and the fagots placed around him. A quantity of gunpowder having been placed under his arms was first set on fire which scorched his left hand and one side of his face, but did no material injury, neither did it communicate with the fagots. In consequence of this, more powder and combustible matter were brought, which being set on fire took effect, and the fagots being kindled, he called out, with an audible voice: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! How long shall darkness overwhelm this realm? And how long wilt Thou suffer the tyranny of these men?”
The fire burning slowly put him to great torment, but he bore it with Christian magnanimity. What gave him the greatest pain was, the clamour of some wicked men set on by the friars, who frequently cried, “Turn, thou heretic; call upon our Lady; say, Salve Regina, etc.” To whom he replied, “Depart from me, and trouble me not, ye messengers of Satan.” One Campbell, a friar, who was the ringleader, still continuing to interrupt him by opprobrious language; he said to him, “Wicked man, God forgive thee.” After which, being prevented from any further speech by the violence of the smoke, and the rapidity of the flames, he resigned up his soul into the hands of Him who gave it.
This steadfast believer in Christ suffered martyrdom in the year 1527.