February 29, 2008

February 29 | Patrick Hamilton

1504 - February 29, 1528: Age 24

Patrick Hamilton came from good stock: he was the great-grandson of King James II of Scotland. He joined the clergy and set off for Paris to study, the first step on the way to a comfortable life in the Church, but it didn't work out that way. In Paris, the writings of Martin Luther were being discussed, and it was here that the young man first heard the Protestant doctrine. After Paris, he went to Leuven, Erasmus' hotbed of heresy.

When he returned to Scotland he attended the University of St. Andrews, where he began communicating these amazing new ideas to his peers. Soon he attracted the attention of the Archbishop of St. Andrews, who ordered his trial. Hamilton wisely fled the country, going first to Germany (visiting Luther there) and then to France.

After a few months in exile, however, he convinced himself that he should return to Scotland and enlighten his countrymen, and this he did. At first he was protected by his noble connections, but the Archbishop craftily invited him to a conference, purportedly to debate his ideas. Hamilton, however, knew his chances well enough, and went along with it because he felt that his martyrdom would do more for the true doctrine than anything else.

His prediction proved true. After letting Hamilton preach publicly for a month in order to gather evidence against him, the Archbishop had him seized and tried for heresy. He was burned at the stake: apparently it took him six hours to incinerate. His last words were "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." The spot where he was burned is marked with a monogram of cobblestones; this helps prevent the unwary from incurring bad luck by stepping on it.

It is uncertain whether it was his ideas or his death that did more for the Reformation in Scotland; it is certain they both did much. The Scottish people took readily to Protestantism. Little more than 30 years later, Scottish Parliament approved a Reformed Confession of Faith and repudiated Papal jurisdiction in the country.

Sources: Wikipedia, Protestant History

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