Cloud of Witnesses

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George Wishart

This distinguished martyr was of the family of Pittarrow, in the county of Mearns. He was educated chiefly at the university of Cambridge, but returned to his native country in 1544; and from an ardent desire to promote the truth, became a zealous preacher of the Gospel. In this good work he was allowed to continue till the end of February 1546, when being apprehended, he was tried and condemned for heresy, and suffered in the flames at St. Andrews, the punishment awarded to the crime. The following may be regarded as a full and correct account of his last words:

When about to receive the sentence on which, notwithstanding his cogent and intrepid answers, his judges had decided, he poured forth the following pathetic prayer: 'O, Immortal God, how long wilt thou suffer the rage and great cruelty of the ungodly to exercise their fury upon thy servants which do further thy word in this world, seeing they desire to do the contrary - to choke and destroy thy true doctrine and verity, by which thou hast shown Thyself unto the world, which was all drowned in blindness and ignorance of Thy name! O Lord we know surely that thy true servants must needs suffer for thy name's sake, persecution, affliction, and trouble in the present life; which, is but a shadow, as thou hast shown to us by thy prophets and apostles. But yet we desire, merciful Father, that thou wouldst conserve, defend, and help thy congregation which thou hast chosen before the beginning of the world; and give them grace to hear thy word, and to be thy true servants in this present life.'

On the following day when led to the fire, he three times uttered these words: 'O thou Saviour of the world, have mercy on me: Father of heaven, I commend my spirit into thy hands.'

He then turned to the people, and spoke as follows: 'I beseech you, brethren and sisters, that ye be not offended at the word of God, for the affliction and torments which you see already prepared for me. But I exhort you 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 undoubted salvation and everlasting comfort.

Moreover, I pray you, show my brethren and sisters which have heard me often before, that they cease not, nor leave off to learn the word of God which I taught them, after the grace given to me, for any persecutions or troubles in this world, which last not. Show them that my doctrine was not old wives' fables after the constitutions made by men. But for the word's sake and true gospel which was given to me by the grace of God, I suffer this day by man, not sorrowfully, but with a glad heart and mind.

For this cause I was sent - that I should suffer this fire for Christ's sake. Consider and behold my visage: ye shall not see me change my colour. This grim fire I fear not: and so I pray you so do, if any persecution come to you for the word's sake, and not to fear them that slay the body, and have no power afterwards to slay the soul.

Some have said of me, I taught that the soul of man should sleep until the last day. But I know surely, and my faith is, that my soul shall sup with my Saviour this night, (within 6 hours), for whom I suffer this. I beseech the Father of heaven to forgive them that have condemned me to death this day, ignorantly. I beseech you, brethren and sisters, to exhort your children to the learning of the word of God, that they may be ashamed to do evil and learn to do good. And, if they will not turn themselves from their wicked error, there shall hastily come upon them the wrath of God, which they shall not eschew.'

Being tied to the stake and the fire kindled, he exclaimed, 'This fire torments my body, but no wise abates my spirit.' And then looking towards the cardinal, who witnessed his execution from the palace, he said: 'He who in such state from that high place feeds his eyes with my torments, within few days shall be hanged out at the same window, to be seen with such ignominy as he now leans there with pride.' Upon this the executioner, drawing the cord, stopped his breath, and he was forthwith consumed to powder.