Hamilton, Patrick

, usually reckoned the first Scotch reformer, is said by all the Scotch ecclesiastical writers to have been of royal descent, as by his father, he was nephew to James Hamilton, earl of Arran, and by his mother, nephew to John Stewart, duke of Albany: Mackenzie, however, who cannot be suspected of any wish to degrade his countryman, maintains that his father was only a bastard brother of the earl of Arran, and his mother a bastard sister of the duke of Albany. Whatever truth there may be in this, it appears that he had great family interest, and being possessed of uncommon abilities, was intended for the higher offices in the church, had he not become its decided enemy. He was born in 1503, and after completing the usual course of studies at the university of St. Andrew’s, went to Germany, where | he was, according to Dempster, made a professor in the university of Marpurg, which was newly erected by Philip, Landgrave of Hesse. During his residence abroad he imbibed the opinions of Luther, Melanchthon, and other reformers; and on his return to his own country, where he had been made abbot of Ferme, or Feme, in Ross-shire, he spared no pains in exposing what he considered as the corruptions of the Church of Rome, and the many errors, both in doctrine and practice, that had crept into the Christian religion.

In this employment he was both zealous and successful^ for he was a young man of great learning, of a courteous disposition, and unblameable in private life. This alarmed the clergy, who, under pretence of conferring with him, enticed him to St. Andrew’s, at that time the principal seat of the dignified clergy, where after repeated disputation, in which some of the clergy appeared to lean to his opinions, he was one night suddenly apprehended in his bed, and carried prisoner to the castle. The next day he was presented before the archbishop of St. Andrew’s, James Beton, assisted by the archbishop of Glasgow, the bishops of Brechin, Dunkeld, and Dumblaine, with a number of abbots, priors, and doctors, before whom he was accused of the following articles: 1. That the corruption of sin remains in children after baptism. 2. That no man by the power of his free-will can do any thing that is truly good. 3. That no man is without sin altogether, so long as he liveth. 4. That every true Christian may know himself to be in a state of grace. 5. That a man is not justified by works, but by faith only. 6. That good works make not a good man, but that a good man doeth good works, as it is the good tree which bringeth forth good fruit, not the fruit that maketh the tree good. 7. That faith, hope, and charity, are so linked together, that he who hath one hath all, and he who lacketh one lacketh all. 8, That remission of sin is not purchased by any actual penance.

9. That auricular confession is not necessary to salvation. 10. That there is no purgatory. H. That the holy patriarchs were in heaven before Christ’s passion. 12. That the pope is Antichrist, and that every priest has as much power as the pope.

In his defence he maintained the first seven of these articles to be undoubtedly true, and sound doctrine, and as such they appear to have been afterwards adopted by | Calvin, and, in substance, make part of that system known by his name, and incorporated in the national creed of Scotland. The rest of the articles, Mr. Hamilton allowed, were disputable points, but such as he could not condemn, unless he saw better reasons than had been offered. They were all condemned, however, as heretical, and on the 1st of March, 1527, sentence was pronounced against him, declaring him a heretic, and giving him over to the secular power, to suffer the punishment due to heretics, which was burning alive. On the same day the secular power pronounced its sentence, which was immediately executed with every circumstance of savage barbarity, which, all historians agree, he bore with firmness and invincible constancy to the principles he had professed. The place of execution was the gate of St. Salvador’s college.

A circumstance accompanied his execution which made a deep impression on the people. One friar Campbell, who had often conferred with him, and appeared to be convinced by his arguments, now molested him much when tied to the stake. Hamilton exclaimed “Wicked man, thou knowest that I am not an heretic, and that it is the truth of God for which I suffer. So much thou didst confess to me in private, and thereupon I appeal thee to answer before the judgment-seat of Christ.” This Campbell died raving mad a short time after, when the people began to compare his end with that of the martyr’s, and upon inquiring more closely into the cause of the latter’s death, became many of them converts to his doctrines. One Lindsay, an intimate friend of the archbishop, said, “My lord, if ye burn any more, except ye follow my counsel, ye will utterly destroy yourselves if ye will burn them, let them be burned in hollow cellars, for the smoke of Mr. Patrick Hamilton hath infected as many as it blew upon.” It is certain that his unjust and precipitate execution raised a general clamour against the churchmen, for condemning such a man because he maintained doctrines some of which they could not prove to be heretical, and others of them were proposed only as theological problems to be disputed among divines. He was only twenty-three years of age when he suffered, and his youth and excellent character undoubtedly weighed much with the people.

A treatise of his, entitled “Patrick’s Places,” or “Common Places,” was translated into English by John Firth,

| and is published in Fox’s “Acts and Monuments.” It is a very ingenious explanation and defence of the doctrines of justification, free-will, election, &c. and has not in closeness of reasoning and aptness of quotation been exceeded by any divines of the Calvinistic persuasion in later times. If we consider his extreme youth and the age in which he wrote, it will yet appear a more extraordinary composition. 1

Keith’s, Spottiswood’s, and Knox’s Histories. Cook’s Hist, of the Reformation. Mackenzie’s Scots Writers. Fox, &c.