“LORD, GIVE US SUCH A FAITH AS THIS!” The work and teaching of Martin Luther did not meet with universal appreciation. Indeed many rejected the teaching set forth in the Reformation, even as today. But Luther’s concern for the pure Gospel touched other hearts. Many were freed from the burden of seeking their salvation in their own efforts. Many were comforted in knowing and believing that Christ Jesus the Savior, the Son of God, bore the price of redemption. He bore it in His own body. It is amazing that to this day this simple truth meets with so much opposition. But we say thanks to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, and with Paul, “I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord” (Romans 7:25).
During and after the Reformation many were willing to give up their life to hold fast the teachings of Scripture and the pure Gospel. One who did was a man little known to us. His name was Patrick Hamilton. Born in 1504, he was of royal blood. He was acquainted with the writings of Luther as they were smuggled into Scotland. The introduction of Luther’s writings was so great that in 1525 Parliament forbid their distribution. But the acts of Parliament could not stop God’s Truth. Because Patrick was not bashful to confess the Scripture he was called a heretic by the archbishop. He fled to Wittenberg in 1527 and became a student of Luther.
Patrick Hamilton confessed that Jesus Christ was the only Savior of the world. Against advice of friends he returned to Scotland in 1527. There he proclaimed, ” To believe the Gospel is this: That Christ is the Savior of the world. Christ is our Savior. Christ bought us with His blood. Christ washed us with His blood. Christ offered Himself for us. Christ bore our sins on His back.” He set forth a preaching, which one said had never been heard in “the countryside before.”
The archbishop was determined to stop the “Lutheran heresy” promoted by Hamilton. On February 27, 1528, he was apprehended and made a prisoner in the castle. At his trial this verdict was given: ” We have found this same Patrick Hamilton, many ways inflamed(sic) with heresy, disputing, holding, and maintaining diverse heresies of Martin Luther and his followers, repugnant to our faith, and which are already condemned by general councils and most famous universities . . . and therefore do judge and pronounce him to delivered over to the secular power, to be punished, and his goods confiscated.”
The verdict was read in the church of St. Andrew in February 1528, not quite 11 years after the posting of the 95 theses in October of 1517.
Carrying the Bible, Patrick Hamilton, 24 years of age and recently married was led to a stake before the college of St. Salvator. He was burned to death, in a slow and agonizing death over the period of 6 hours. One who witnessed the death wrote, ” But in all his cruel pains (he) offended them never in word and sign; but continually prayed for them, and gave thanks again unto God which made him worthy to suffer for His name.” Thus ended the life of the first Lutheran preacher and martyr in Scotland.
“A final action in this life, was for Hamilton to raise three fingers of his burning hand and repeat: ‘How long, Lord shall darkness overwhelm this realm? How long wilt Thou suffer this tyranny of men?’ Then like Stephen, he cried out, ‘ Lord Jesus receive my spirit.’ On the footpath, just outside the gate of St. Salvator’s College, two letters ‘PH’ still signify the exact spot where Patrick died in the testimony of the Gospel.”
Aware of his impending death, Patrick Hamilton said to onlookers, “As to my confession I will not deny it for awe of your fire, for my confession and belief is in Jesus Christ … I will rather be content that my body burn in this fire for the confession of my faith in Christ than my soul should burn in the fire of Hell for denying the same.”
(Much of this article is taken from Patrick Hamilton- Luther’s Ambassador to the Scots. It was written by Rev. Bruce Adams and distributed through the Lutheran Laymen’s League of North Adelaide, South Australia.
Our hearts are stirred by the boldness of those of whom we are the heirs. Our hearts are thankful to the Lord for the blessed Gospel, and for the power of the Word to stir hearts to confess His name. At the same time we are profoundly troubled at the ease with which so many within Lutheranism are willing to deny Christ, and His Word, and who have so little respect for the sacrifices that were made so that we might enjoy the pure Gospel and rejoice in the joy of a full and free salvation in Jesus. We lament indifference within our own fellowship when it arises. We have not yet resisted unto blood, as did our fathers, and more importantly our Lord Jesus Christ. May God the Spirit give us a renewed love for the Truth, and strengthen us for the fight. Above all may the Holy Spirit give us a simple childlike faith in Jesus, the Word made flesh, so that we might be more ready to give up our life of ease than to barter away our salvation on the altar of indifference and a vapid religiousness.