Taken from “Customs and Fashions in Old New England.”
Chapter, Colonial Christmases
Written by, Alice Morse Earle
The first century of colonial life saw few set times and days for pleasure.
The holy days of the English Church were as a stench to the Puritan nostrils, and their public celebration was at once rigidly forbidden by the laws of New England. New holidays were not quickly evolved, and the sober gatherings for matters of Church and State for a time took their place. The hatred of “wanton Bacchanalian Christmasses” spent throughout England, as Cotton said, in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, mumming, consumed in compotation’s [heavy drinking], in interludes, in excess of wine, in mad mirth,” was the natural reaction of intelligent and thoughtful minds against the excesses of a festival which had ceased to be a Christian holiday, but was dominated by a lord of mis-rule who did not hesitate to invade the churches in time of service, in his noisy revels and sports.
English Churchmen long ago revolted also against such Christmas observance. Of the first Pilgrim Christmas we know but little, save that it was spent, as was many a later one, in work….
By 1659 the Puritans had grown to hate Christmas more and more; it was, to use Shakespeare’s words, “the bug that feared them all.” The very name smacked to them of incense, stole, and monkish jargon; any person who observed it as a holiday by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way was to pay five shillings fine, so desirous were they to “beate down every sprout of Episcopacie.”
Judge Sewall watched jealously the feeling of the people with regard to Christmas, and noted with pleasure on each succeeding year the continuance of common traffic throughout the day. Such entries as this show his attitude: “Dec. 25, 1685. Carts come to town and shops open as usual. Some somehow observe the day, but are vexed I believe that the Body of people profane it, and blessed be God no authority yet to compel them to keep it.”
When the Church of England established Christmas services in Boston a few years later, we find the Judge waging hopeless war against Governor Belcher over it, and hear him praising his son for not going with other friends to hear the novel and attractive services. He says: ” I dehort mine from Christmas keeping and charge them to forbear.”
Christmas could not be regarded until the 19th century as a New England holiday, though in certain localities, such as old Narragansett” an opulent community which was settled by Episcopalians” two weeks of Christmas visiting and Feasting were entered into with zest for many years previous to the revolution.
Written by William Drummond
Run, shepherds, run where Bethlehem blest appears.
We bring the best of news; be not dismayed:
A Savior there is born more old than years,
Amidst heaven’s rolling height this earth who stayed.
In a poor cottage inned, a virgin maid,
A weakling did him bear, though all he upbears;
There is he poorly swaddled, in manger laid.
To whom too narrow swaddlings are our spheres:
Run, shepherds, run, and solemnize his birth.
This is that night “no, day, grown great with bliss.
In which the power of Satan broken is:
In heaven be glory, peace unto the earth!
Thus singing, through the air the angels swarm.
And cope of stars re-echoed the same.
Or say, if this new Birth of ours Sleeps,
laid within some ark of flowers,
Spangled with dew-light; thou canst clear
All doubts, and manifest the where.
Declare to us, bright star, if we shall seek
Him in the morning’s blushing cheek,
Or search the beds of spices through.
To find him out?
Star: “No, this ye need not do;
But only come and see Him rest,
A princely babe, in’s mother’s breast.
[Sometime I think that we too often rush into the Christmas Season. For I find that we often do so with a sense of desperation, deep stresses, and even fatigue. Sometimes we come into it with feelings that we can’t even define, we only know in the pit of our stomach, that even the word “Christmas” makes us slightly queasy, with a need to work harder, clean our houses cleaner, make the spouse and children happier… and better. Often these emotions are a product of the stresses of family, work, income needs, perhaps even sickness, or the passing away of some close family member, –and I am just mentioning a few of the things that too often tend to haunt our thoughts.
And with all of these anxieties, I think that we often nurture a hidden guilt, a guilt reflective to us that somehow we know that we have not measured up; that we have not nearly come up to God’s standards, or our families, or even our own ideals, sometimes it is especially to our own ideals that we fall short. And so we rush on, wondering why we haven’t the feelings found now only in our memories.
I want you to take a break, a deep cleansing breath, take a moment and think about the one who came to bring you a present; the one who loves you, even when you don’t measure up to his standards, or anybody’s standards, especially your own. If I may, I would like to point you this Christmas season back to the place and to the person, where the story and the miracle all began on earth. For truly, Christ’s story; that is, His story as the babe in the manger, with the angels and shepherds and magi is eternal; The story of Jesus is as eternal as the blessing he gave us in Himself; the miracle to mankind. I will be posting something short and simple, something appropriate to the season, not usually heavy in theological prose, but light, reflective, pointing again to the light and joy of heaven. –MWP]
Written by Kate Douglas Wiggin
When the Child of Nazareth was born…
…the sun, according to the Bosnian legend, ” leaped in the heavens, and the stars around it danced. A peace came over mountain and forest. Even the rotten stump stood straight and healthy on the green hill-side. The grass was beflowered with open blossoms, incense sweet as myrrh pervaded upland and forest, birds sang on the mountain top, and all gave thanks to the great God.”
It is naught but an old folk-tale, but it has truth hidden at its heart, for a strange, subtle force, a spirit of genial good-will, a new-born kindness, seem to animate child and man alike when the world pays its tribute to the ” heaven-sent youngling,” as the poet Drummond calls the infant Christ.
When the Three Wise Men rode from the East into the West on that ” first, best Christmas night,” they bore on their saddle-bows three caskets filled with gold and frankincense and myrrh, to be laid at the feet of the manger cradled babe of Bethlehem. Beginning with this old, old journey,the spirit of giving crept into the world’s heart. As the Magi came bringing gifts, so do we also; gifts that relieve want, gifts that are sweet and fragrant with friendship, gifts that breathe love, gifts that mean service, gifts inspired still by the star that shone over the City of David two thousand years ago.
Then hang the green coronet of the Christmas tree with glittering baubles and jewels of flame; heap offerings on its emerald branches; bring the Yule log to the firing; deck the house with holly and mistletoe,
“And all the bells on earth shall ring
On Christmas day in the morning.”
Concealing his anger, and especially his dark design…
…the archbishop sent a message to Patrick, to the effect that he much wished to receive a visit from him at St. Andrews, in order to hold a conference on such points in the administration of the church as might seem to require reformation. The invitation reached the young reformer only a few days after his marriage. Hamilton perfectly understood its meaning, and the issue to which it was intended to lead. Indeed, he said to his friends that in a short time he would have to lay down his life.
His mother, his young wife, and the rest of his friends, gathering round him, besought him with tears not to go to St. Andrews. But be was steadfastly minded this time hot to flee. Who could tell whether the hour had not come when a great sacrifice would effect the liberation of his country. He set out for what Howie calls ” the metropolis of the kingdom of darkness.”
On arriving at St. Andrews he found the archbishop all smiles; in fact, he met a most gracious reception from the man who had inwardly resolved that he should never go hence. Lodgings were provided for him in the city. He was permitted to move freely about, to converse without restraint with all classes, and to avow his opinions without the least concealment: even the halls of the university he was permitted to enter, and discuss with doctors and students touching the rites, the sacraments, the dogmas, and the administration of the church. Thrown off his guard, the young evangelist made ample use of the freedom accorded him, and when he heard the echoes of his own sentiments coming back to him amid the halls and chairs of that proud seat of the Papacy, the ” Scottish Vatican,” he began to persuade himself that the day of his country’s deliverance was nearer than be had believed: he thought he could see rifts in the black canopy over the land. And in truth these labors were not in vain; for if they helped to conduct the reformer to a scaffold, they helped powerfully in their issue to conduct Scotland to the light of the gospel.
Among the canons of St. Andrews at that time was a young man of rare parts, already distinguished as a scholar, especially in scholastic learning; but be was all on the side of Rome. In fact,he had done battle with great applause against Lutheranism. On this young canon the priests built the greatest hopes; his name was Alane, or Alesius, a native of Edinburgh. The young canon, full of zeal for ” holy church,” and on fire to break a lance with the “heretic,” waited on Hamilton in the hope of confuting him. He returned converted: the sword of the Spirit had pierced, at almost the first stroke, through all the scholastic armour in which Alesius had encased himself, and he dropped his weapon to the man be had been so confident of vanquishing. The young convert afterwards became eminent as a reformer.
After Alesius there came another combatant to Hamilton, as eager to do battle for the old faith, and as confident of victory as the former. This new disputant was Alexander Campbell, prior of the Dominicans. He too was a person of parts, accomplished in the learning of those days, and kind and candid in disposition. He visited Patrick at the request of the archbishop, who, feeling strongly the hazards of bringing such a man as Hamilton to the stake, was not unwilling to avoid the hard necessity by bringing him back to the doctrine of Rome.
He ordered Prior Campbell to spare no effort to recover the young and noble heretic. Campbell had an interview with Hamilton, but soon found himself unable to sustain the argument on the side of Popery, and acknowledged the corruptions of the church and the need of reform. The conversion of Alesius seemed to have repeated itself in that of Campbell, and the two men, Hamilton and the prior, freely unbosomed their sentiments to one another.
After a few days the archbishop, scenting, it would seem, the leanings of Campbell, summoned the prior to report what progress he had made with Patrick. In the presence of the archbishop and his councilors the prior lost his courage. He revealed all that Hamilton had communicated to him: he acted in the archiepiscopal palace a different part from that which he had sustained in the chamber of the reformer. He was no longer the disciple, but the accuser. He consented to become one of Hamilton’s judges. He knew the truth, but when he came to make his choice between the favor of the hierarchy and the gospel, he was unwilling to surfer the loss of all things that he might win Christ.
Hamilton had now been a month at St. Andrews. He had all that time been busily employed discussing and arguing with doctors, priests, students, and townspeople; and not in vain. That this should be done at the very seat of the primate shows one of two things; that the hierarchy believed its power so firmly rooted in this city that nothing could shake it, or, and this is the more probable, that the priests hesitated to strike when the intended victim was so nearly related to the king. But the delay, if it furnished Hamilton’s enemies with the proof they sought against him, contributed much to the early triumph of the Reformation in Scotland.
In that little month there was scattered on this most important field a great amount of that incorruptible seed that liveth and abides for ever; and which watered, as it soon thereafter was, with the blood of him who sowed it, sprang up and brought forth much and good fruit.
But the matter would admit of no longer delay. Hamilton was summoned to the archiepiscopal palace to answer to a charge of heresy. This brought the matter to a bearing on both sides. That the charge would be proven there could not be a doubt; and the convicted heretic could in those days have no other doom than the stake. To all this length, then, had the archbishop resolved to go; and so too had the reformer; his friends, seeing death in the summons, exhorted him to flee. He was deaf to all their entreaties; he had returned from Germany steadfastly minded, if need were, to glorify God by his death. He obeyed the summons of the arch bishop,well knowing what would come after.
Before accompanying the young evangelist to the tribunal which were behold assembling in the archiepiscopal palace, let us glance at the precautions his persecutors have taken to enable them to proceed in their work without interruption. The side on which it behoved them first of all to guard themselves was the king. The frivolous James V. took a real interest in his relative,the young evangelist. The luster of his genius and the grace of his manners, in fact everything about him but his heresy, had attractions for the monarch; and knowing, most probably,how the priests meant to handle him, he counseled him to reconcile himself with the bishops. Priest-ridden though the king was, it was not safe for the bishops to conclude that he would stand by like an utter coward and see them burn the young Hamilton.
Means were found to send the young monarch, who was then only seventeen, out of the way. There was a famous shrine in Ross-shire, St. Duthac, to which James IV had often gone in pilgrimage. The king was told that his soul’s health required that he should, after his father’s example, do penance at that shrine. It was the depth of winter; but if the roads were rough and, it might lie, filled in some places with snow, the merit of the journey would be all the greater, and so too would the time spent upon it, and this last was of prime consideration to the Bishops. Obedient to this ghostly counsel the king started off on his distant pilgrimage. Another danger threatened in a quarter not so much at the command of the priests.
Tidings readied the manor-house of Kincavel of the perils which were closing round Patrick. The alarm and anxiety these tidings caused to his family may well be imagined. There was but one part which it became his brother, Sir James Hamilton, to act in the crisis, and he immediately set about it. He was sheriff of the county and governor of one of the king’s castles; and so, assembling without loss of time a body of men at-arms, he put himself at their head and set out for St. Andrews. Marching along the shores of the Forth the troops arrived at Queensferry, where they intended crossing the firth. But alas, it looked as if the elements were fighting on the side of the archbishop. A strong gale was blowing from the west, and the tumult of the waves in the narrow strait was so great that passage was impossible. Sir James, while the hours were gliding away, could only stand and gaze in despair on the tempest that continued to rage without sign of abating.
Meanwhile this assemblage of armed men on the southern shore of the firth was caught sight of by the friends of Beatoun in Fife, and their purpose guessed. This being told the archbishop,he gave orders that a troop of horse should be dispatched to meet them.
We return to St. Andrews. Patrick Hamilton rose early on the morning of that day on which he was to appear before the tribunal of the archbishop, –The first rays of the sun had just lighted up the waters of the bay and kindled the hills of Angus beyond, when the reformer was already seen traversing the streets on his way to the palace of the archbishop. It was between seven and eight o’clock when Beatoun was told that Patrick Hamilton was waiting admission. His thought was to see and converse with the archbishop before the council had met; the members of the council were already met, and’ consulting together how best to confute the reasonings of the man they had summoned to answer at their bar.
Beatoun immediately constituted the court; Hamilton was introduced, and the accusation was read. “You are charged,” said the commissioner, “with teaching false doctrines: First, that the corruption of sin remains in the child after baptism; second, that no man is able by mere force of free will to do any good thing; Third, that none continues without sins so long as he is in this life; fourth, that every true Christian must know that he is in a state of grace; Fifth, that a man is not justified by works, but by faith alone; sixth,that good works do not make a good man, but that a good man makes good works ; seventh, that faith, hope,and charity are so closely united, that he who hath one of these virtues hath also the others; eighth, that it may be held that God is the cause of sin in this sense, that when he withholds his grace from a man, the latter can not but sin; ninth, that it is a devilish doctrine to teach that remission of sin can be obtained by means of certain penances; tenth, that auricular confession is not necessary to salvation; eleventh, that there is no purgatory; twelfth,that the holy patriarchs were in heaven before the passion of Jesus Christ; and thirteenth, that the pope is antichrist, and that a priest has just as much power as a pope.”
Having heard this list of charges the reformer made answer thus: “–I declare that I look on the first seven articles as certainly true, and I am ready to attest them with a solemn oath. As for the other points,they are matter for discussion; but I cannot pronounce them false until strong reasons are given me for rejecting them than any I have yet heard.” There followed a conference between Hamilton and the members of council on each article.
Finally, the whole were referred to a committee selected by the archbishop, who were to give their judgment upon them in a few days. Pending their decision Hamilton was allowed to see his friends, to engage in discussion, in short, to enjoy in all respects his liberty. It was evidently the design of his enemies to veil what was coming till it was so near that no one should be able to prevent it.
Taken from, The Scots Worthies, Their Lives
Written by, J.A. Wylie
Spottiswood, History of the Church of Scotland
Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland,vol. 1.
Taken from, “The Existence and Attributes of God”
Written by, Stephen Charnock
All sin is founded in a secret atheism.
Atheism is the spirit of every sin;—all the floods of impieties in the world break in at the gate of a secret atheism, and though several sins may disagree with one another, yet, like Herod and Pilate against Christ, they join hand in hand against the interest of God.
Though lusts and pleasures be diverse, yet they are all united in disobedience to him. All the wicked inclinations in the heart, and struggling motions, secret repining, self-applauding confidences in our own wisdom, strength, &c., envy, ambition, revenge, are sparks from this latent fire; the language of every one of these is, I would be a Lord to myself, and would not have a God superior to me. The variety of sins against the first and second table, the neglects of God, and violence against man, are derived from this in the text; first, “The fool hath said in his heart,” and then follows a legion of devils. All licentiousness goes glib down where there is no sense of God. Abraham judged himself not secure from murder, nor his wife from defilement in Gerar, if there were no fear of God there. He that makes no conscience of sin has no regard to the honor, and, consequently, none to the being of God. “By the fear of God men depart from evil” (Prov. 16:6); by the non-regarding of God men rush into evil.
Pharaoh oppressed Israel because he “knew not the Lord.” If he did not deny the being of a Deity, yet he had such an unworthy notion of God as was inconsistent with the nature of a Deity; he, a poor creature, thought himself a mate for the Creator. In sins of omission we own not God, in neglecting to perform what he enjoins; in sins of commission we set up some lust in the place of God, and pay to that the homage which is due to our Maker. In both we disown him; in the one by not doing what he commands, in the other by doing what he forbids.
We deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws; we disgrace his holiness when we cast our filth before his face; we disparage his wisdom when we set up another rule as the guide of our actions than that law he hath fixed; we slight his sufficiency when we prefer a satisfaction in sin before a happiness in him alone; and his goodness, when we judge it not strong enough to attract us to him. Every sin invades the rights of God, and strips him of one or other of his perfections. It is such a vilifying of God as if he were not God; as if he were not the supreme Creator and Benefactor of the world; as if we had not our being from him; as if the air we breathed in, the food we lived by, were our own by right of supremacy, not of donation. For a subject to slight his sovereign, is to slight his royalty; or a servant his master, is to deny his superiority.
Taken and adapted from, “Representation of the Heart of Man
in its Depraved State by Nature.”
Written by, Paul D. Meyers.
Edited for thought and sense.
By the fall of man all the powers of nature were depraved, polluted, and corrupted.
First. The understanding was darkened. Eph. 4:18.
Second. The conscience was defiled. Heb. 10: 22.
Third. The will obstinate and rebellious. Is. 28:14; Rom. 8:7.
Fourth. The affections carnal and sensual. Eph. 2:3.
Fifth. All the thoughts uninterruptedly evil. Gen. 6:5.
Sixth. And the whole mind, or heart, a nest of abominations. Jer, 27:9; Matt. 15:19.
Original or birth sin is the corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually. Deformed as the picture is that is here drawn, it does not exceed in the darkness of its shades the original portrait, as delineated by the inspired writers in general. Moses, who informs that God created man in his own image, and after his likeness, soon casts a shade on his original dignity by giving us a sad account of his fall.
He represents him, after his defection from God, as a criminal under sentence of death,— a wretch filled with guilt and shame, and dreading the presence of his Creator,— and turned out of Paradise into a wilderness which bears the marks of desolation for his sake; and in consequence of this apostasy, he died, and all his posterity died in him.
The natural consequence of this is, that everyone descended from him, comes into the world spiritually dead, dead to God, wholly dead in sin: entirely void of the life of God, void of the image of God, of all that righteousness and holiness, wherein Adam was accredited. Instead of this,every man born into the world, now bears the image of the devil, in pride and self-will; the image of the beast, in sensual appetites and desires. While a man is in a mere natural state, before he is born of God, he has, in a spiritual sense, eyes and sees not: a thick veil lies upon them. He has ears, but hears not; he is utterly deaf to what he is most of all concerned to hear. His other spiritual senses are all locked up; he is in the same condition as if he had them not. Hence he has no knowledge of God, no intercourse with him; he is not at all acquainted with him. He has no true knowledge of the things of God, either spiritual or eternal. He says unto God, depart from us we desire not the knowledge of thy ways; we do not want to know much of God, nor what is our duty to him.
The state of nature is a state of utter darkness; a state wherein “darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people.” The poor unawakened sinner, how much knowledge soever he may have as to other things, has no knowledge of himself; in this respect” he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” He knows not that he is a fallen spirit, whose only business in the present world, is to recover from ms fall, to regain that image of God wherein he was created.
He sees no necessity for the one thing needful even that inward universal change, that “birth from above,” which is the beginning of that total renovation; that sanctification of spirit, soul, and body “without which no man shall see the Lord.” Full of all disease as he is, he fancies himself in perfect health: fast bound in misery and iron, he dreams that he is happy, and at liberty. He says “Peace! Peace!” while the devil, “as a strong man armed,” is in all possession of his soul. He sleeps on still, and takes his rest, though hell is moved from beneath to meet him; though the pit, from whence there is no return, hath opened its mouth to swallow him up; a fire is kindled around him, yet he knoweth it not; yea, it bums him, yet he lays it not to heart.
Fearful and impious work do the passions make when they are engaged on the side of the flesh, the world, and the devil. What bold contempt of God and all that is holy! What unruly violence of love to vanity and sensual pleasure! What mad delight in sin! What impetuous desires of forbidden objects! What malice boils in the heart against our neighbors, upon every supposed injury! What wicked envy frets and rages in the soul at the welfare of others! What wrath and indignation, and revenge, are continually ready to be in arms! and how do those hellish passions employ the tongue in slander and lies, and sometimes stain the hands in mischief and blood? These are some of the fruits of the carnal mind which is at enmity against God, and spring from the heart of man in his fallen state.
By the carnal mind we understand a mind that is “earthly, sensual, and devilish.” It is earthly, as all its tendency and propensities are to the earth, and to earthly attachments and pursuits. There is no Natural disposition in such a mind to “set its affections on things above.” It is sensual, as it leads to the gratification and indulgence of all the senses and bodily appetites; and neither desires nor relishes spiritual things. It is devilish, because it includes in itself a principle of pride and of hostility to God and his government.
My friend, is this the character and state of your soul? Are thou in the “gall of bitterness, and bonds of iniquity?”
Arise, call on the name of the Lord, that the grace of repentance may be given unto thee, and thou find mercy in the forgiveness of all thy sins, by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
What a glorious victory is it to have the vicious affections entirely subdued, and the powers of nature, which had been usurped by the devil, seized and restrained, and consecrated to the God of heaven, and become instruments of holiness and peace!
A youth of royal lineage was selected for this high honor. Patrick Hamilton, princely in mind as in birth, comes first in this saintly procession. He was the great-grandson of James II both by the father’s and the mother’s side. He was born in the year 1504. In 1517 he was appointed titular abbot of Feme, a Premonstratensian abbey in Ross-shire, and the same year he left Scotland to study in the University of Paris. There, it is probable, he formed his first acquaintance with the reformed doctrines, for at that time the opinions of Luther were the subject of keen discussion in both the city and university of Paris. He returned to his native country about the year 1522, taking up his abode for a short time at the family mansion of Kincavel, near Linlithgow. He soon removed to St. Andrews, then the first city of the kingdom, and whose colleges, schools, and learned men gave it special attractions in his eyes. He was at this time fully as much the disciple of Erasmus as of Luther; that is, he loved the ancient learning, he hated the monks, he earnestly longed for church reform; but the reform he aimed at was only transformation of the Roman Church. He never went to reside in his abbey; but in 1526 he had become less an Erasmian and more a Lutheran, for we find that early in 1527 rumors reached the archbishop of St. Andrews that Hamilton had openly espoused the cause of Luther ; and on inquiry into the truth of these rumors, the archbishop, finding that the young abbot was “inflamed with heresy, disputing, holding, and maintaining divers heresies of Martin Luther and his followers repugnant to the faith,” –summoned him before his tribunal at St. Andrews.
By this time James IV had fallen on the field of Flodden; around him, stretched out in death, lay the flower of the Scottish nobility. James V was a child, Margaret Tudor, the widow of the deceased monarch and sister of Henry VIII of England, held the regency; but the government of the kingdom had been grasped by the clergy, headed by the proud, profligate, and unscrupulous Beatoun, archbishop of St. Andrews and chancellor of the kingdom. The young Hamilton, whose rank and talents joined to his heresy made him so formidable a foe to the priesthood, Beatoun, beyond doubt, would have sent to perish at the stake, had not Hamilton, to avoid the danger, fled to Germany.
His purpose, when he left the Scottish shore, was to visit Wittenberg, then in the height of its fame, and make the acquaintance of Luther and Melanchthon; but Marburg lay in his way, and be repaired to it. Francis Lambert, the ex-monk of Avignon, who was altogether a remarkable man, was living there, Philip of Hesse having invited him to aid in the reformation of his dominions. Between the reformer and the young Scotchman a warm friendship speedily sprang up, and the simplicity and purity of Hamilton’s theological views, as afterwards disclosed in his teaching in Scotland, is to be accounted for by the indoctrination he now received from Lambert, whose opinions were entirely free from the mysticism, especially on the doctrine of the Supper, which continued to cloud Luther’s views to the very end of his life. “The large acquaintance with the Word of God which Hamilton possessed,’ says D’Aubigne, speaking of this visit to Marburg, “astonished Lambert; the freshness of his thoughts and of his imagination charmed him; the integrity of his character inspired a high esteem for him; his profound remarks on the gospel edified him. A short time after this the Frenchman, speaking to the Landgrave Philip, said,’ This young man of the illustrious family of the Hamiltons, which is closely allied by the ties of blood to the king and the kingdom of Scotland, who, although hardly twenty-three years of age, brings to the study of Scripture a very sound judgment, and has a vast store of knowledge, is come from the end of the world, from Scotland, to your academy, in order to be fully established in God’s truth. I have hardly ever met a man who expresses himself with so much spirituality and truth on the Word of the Lord.”
The college which the Landgrave Philip had founded at Marburg was opened during our countryman’s stay at that town. After the inaugural address, the rector, Montanus, opened the roll of the university to enter in it the names of its members. Among the first names to be inscribed was that of “P. Hamilton, of Linlithgow, a Scotchman, Master of Arts, Paris.” The name may be read in the registers at this day. When Hamilton set out for Germany his purpose was to visit Wittenberg, then at the height of its fame, and make the acquaintance of Luther and Melanchthon, those renowned teachers and champions of the reformed faith. Of his visit to Wittenberg no record exists, D’Aubigne’s Reform, in Europe, vol. 6, p. 40. and the probability is that it never was made. A rumor, which at this time was circulated throughout Germany, that Luther was dead, and that the plague was raging at Wittenberg, may have led to a change of purpose on the part of Hamilton. The plague had indeed visited Wittenberg; and so great were its ravages, that the university was closed, and the lectures were transferred to Jena. It was of no use therefore to go thither. The young Scotchman prolonged his stay a little while at Marburg, and employed his time in compiling certain theses known as Patrick’s Places, which he maintained in public debate in such fashion as to throw an eclat over the new university. The sum of his Places is that faith is the only door by which we can enter into a state of justification before God, and a life of good deeds before men. The doctrine of his theses was not more evangelical than the phraseology was clear, precise, and salient, qualities rarely found in the theological writers of Germany, Luther being the solitary exceptional most among his countrymen.
Hamilton’s preparation for his work “destined to be brief but brilliant” was now completed. He saw that the doctrine of “salvation by works” had covered Christendom with darkness, and that the opposite doctrine, “salvation by grace,” could alone cover it with light. He began to burn with a vehement desire to spread the knowledge of that doctrine in his native land. He could not hide from himself the danger of returning to Scotland, ruled over as it was by a vicious and tyrannical churchman, whose glory and pleasures the diffusion of the gospel would bring to an end. But he must and would brave the danger. He set out, and arriving on his native shore, he took up his abode at the family mansion of Kincavel. It was not to taste repose, much less to enjoy the revenues of his abbacy that he had returned to Scotland; but to engage in a great work, though that work had to be done with the sword of Beatoun hanging above his head.
He began, first of all, to communicate the good news of the recovered gospel to the members of his own family. His elder brother, Sir James Hamilton, who had succeeded to the titles and estates; his brother’s wife, Isabella Sempill, who belonged to an ancient Scottish family; his sister, who in decision and elevation of character resembled himself; and especially his mother, the widow of a knight who in his day had been the mirror of Scottish chivalry all opened their hearts to the truth now communicated to them by their young-relative, and in later life gave good proof of the sincerity of their conversion.
After his kinsfolk, his neighbors were his next care. He visited the houses of the gentry in the neighborhood, where his birth, the grace of his manners, and the fame of his learning made him at all times welcome, and he talked with the inmates on the things that belonged to their peace. He began to preach in the “churches of the surrounding villages, and among his audience might be seen priests from Linlithgow and ladies of noble birth. The common people liked to gather round him; nor did he wait till they came to him; he went forth into the field in quest of them, and joining himself to groups of laborers as they rested in the heat of the day, he would explain to them the mysteries of the kingdom, and exhort them to press into it.
Waxing yet bolder, he entered the church of St. Michael, Linlithgow, and there, amid its images and altars, preached the gospel. Linlithgow was then the Versailles of Scotland, although its palace boasts a much greater antiquity than that of Louis XIV, and members of the royal family would at times come to hear the young reformer. Avoiding declamation, he discoursed with that simplicity and chastity of speech which was best fitted to win its way with such an audience as was now before him; Knowest thou what this saying means,” would he say, “Christ died for thee? Verily that thou should have died perpetually, and Christ, to deliver thee from death, died for thee, and changed thy perpetual death into his own death, for thou made the fault and he suffered the pain. . . . He desires nothing of thee but that thou wilt acknowledge what he hath done for thee, and bear it in mind; and that thou would help others for his sake, even as he helped thee for nothing and without reward.”
Among his hearers was a maiden of noble birth, whose heart the gospel had touched. Won by her virtues and graces, and disobeying the commandment which the pope had laid on priests, “thou shalt not marry,” seeing in it, as Luther did, an affront to God’s institution, and a source of enormous pollution to society, he asked this lady to be his wife. The marriage was celebrated but a few weeks before his martyrdom.
On the other side of the Firth of Forth, its towers almost visible from the spot where the young reformer was daily engaged in evangelizing, was the archiepiscopal palace of Dunfermline, where Archbishop Beatoun was at that moment residing. Tidings of the young evangelist’s doings were wafted across to that watchful enemy of the gospel. Beatoun saw at a glance the necessity and yet the difficulty of taking steps to stop the work that was in progress.
Had Hamilton been an ordinary evangelist the case would have been a very simple one; but here was a preacher with royal blood in his veins, and “all the Hamiltons at his back,” throwing down the gage of combat to the hierarchy. What was the head of that hierarchy to do? He could not send men-at-arms to seize Patrick, and yet he could not suffer him to go on undermining the Papacy and preparing its fall: he in must in some way or other waylay him and dispatch him. The cruel and crafty Beatoun, after consulting with his fellow priests, hit on a device which succeeded but too well.
We will cover the final outcome in Patrick’s life in “The Proto-Martyr of Scotland, Patrick Hamilton. Part Two, His Martyrdom.
Taken from, The Scots Worthies, Their Lives
Written by, J.A. Wylie