29 February 2012

A blessed remembrance

Sent to me by my dear friend, Pr. Jerry Gernander.

Lutheran Martyr, February 29, 1528

On February 29, 1528, bystanders watched as a promising young professor, Sir Patrick Hamilton, was taken, bound, to a place in sight of his university, the prestigious St. Andrews University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Here he was to be burned at the stake as a “Lutheran heretic.” In a brief trial he had refused to deny the Lutheran doctrine which he had taught in his lectures and published.

He was only 24 years old, and a relative of the King of Scotland. He had come home from Wittenberg, where his teachers were Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. During his trial, in response to his Roman Catholic inquisitor, he said: “I believe not that there is anything that may purge the souls of men but the blood of Christ Jesus, which ransom stands only by repentance of sins, and faith in the blood of Jesus.” When threatened with death unless he denied “the Lutheran heresy,” Sir Patrick said: “I will not deny it. I will rather be content that my body burn in this fire for confession of my faith in Christ than my soul should burn in the fire of hell for denying [it].”

He prayed for mercy upon his enemies, and for courage. The flames were lit and he was tied to the stake. He spoke words of comfort to weeping bystanders (including his wife and his little daughter). While his enemies were shouting at him, he replied calmly: “You come forward and testify the truth of your religion by putting your little finger into this fire in which I am burning with my whole body.”

Patrick’s family members became Lutheran. His brother and sister both were banished from Scotland for their Lutheran faith. In his sister’s trial, she said: “Work here, work there, what is all this working? I know perfectly well that no works can save me but the works of Christ!” Even one of his opponents, Alexander Alane, became a Lutheran after witnessing the brave martyrdom of Sir Patrick Hamilton.

The memory of saints and martyrs such as Sir Patrick Hamilton “is set before us that we may follow their faith and good works” (Augsburg Confession, Article 21).

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