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Life Sketches from Scottish History of Brief Biographies of the Scottish Presbyterian Worthies
Walter Mill


The death of this martyr is said to have contributed most effectually to the downfall of Popery in Scotland. He was born about the year 1476. He had been a parish priest, but having embraced the reformed religion, and left off the saying of Mass, he was, so early as the year 1538, arrested and condemned by Cardinal Beaton. He escaped, however, for his life into Germany, where he remained about twenty years. He then returned home, and having attempted to render himself useful, by instructing his neighbours in the Protestant faith, he was again taken and condemned as a heretic. His conduct, while on trial, powerfully evinced the sincerity of his faith, and made a deep conviction on all who witnessed it.

He appeared before the court, so worn out with age and hardships, that it was not expected he would be able to answer the questions put to him; but to the surprise of all, he managed his defence with great spirit. lie was condemned to the flames; but such was the horror now felt at this punishment, and such the general conviction of the innocence of the victim, that the clergy could not prevail on a secular judge to ratify the sentence, nor an individual in the town, so much as to give or sell a rope to bind the martyr to the stake, so that the archbishop had to furnish them with a cord from his own pavilion.

All things being prepared, he was led forth, with a guard of armed men, to execution. On reaching the place, some called on him to recant; he answered, “I marvel at your rage, ye hypocrites, who do so cruelly pursue the servants of God; as for me, I am now eighty two years old, and cannot live long by course of nature; but an hundred shall rise out of my ashes, who shall scatter you, ye hypocrites and persecutors of God’s people. I trust I shall be the last who shall suffer death in this fashion, for this cause in this land.” Being ordered by Oliphant, one of the persecutors, to go up to the stake, he refused, and said, ‘’No, I will not go except thou put me up with thy hand, for by the law of God I am forbidden to put hands to myself; but if thou wilt put to thy hand, and take part of my death, then shalt thou see me go up gladly.” Then Oliphant putting him forward, he went up with a cheerful countenance, saying, “I will go unto the altar of God.” Having then asked permission to speak to the people, he was answered by Oliphant, that lie had spoken too much already", and that the bishops were exceedingly displeased with what he had said. But some youth having taken his part, and called him to say on what he pleased, he first went to his knees and prayer, then arose; and, standing upon the coals, he said, ‘'Dear friends, the cause why I suffer this day not for any crime laid to my charge, though I acknowledge myself a miserable sinner before God; but only for the defence of the truths of Jesus Christ, set forth in the Old and New Testaments, for which, as many faithful martyrs have offered their lives most gladly, so this day I praise God that he hath called me, among the rest of his servants, to seal his truth with my life, which as 1 have received it of him, so I willingly offer it up for his glory.” During this speech, loud murmurs and lamentations were heard among the multitude : some admiring the patience, boldness, and constancy of the martyr; others complaining of the hard measures and cruelty of the persecutors. Having spoken as above, he again prayed a little while, and was then drawn up and bound to the stake. The fire being kindled, he cried, “Lord have mercy on me; pray, pray, good people, while there is time,—and thus cheerfully yielded up his spirit into the hands of God.

The citizens of St. Andrews marked the spot on which the martyr died, by rearing over it an immense heap of stones; and as often as the priests caused it to be removed, the sullen and ominous memorial was restored by the next morning. The knell of Popery had rung; and Scotland was prepared to start up, as one man, and shake itself free of the monster which had for so many centuries prostrated its strength and preyed upon its vitals.


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