May 1: Death of George Wishart (1546)

One is Sufficient for a Sacrifice
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was at a Scot-Irish day of games in Central Pennsylvania that this author found a booth selling items from “across the pond.” I had gone there to get some Scot items which reflected my ancestry.  But at the first booth, there was displayed a claymore. For our readers who may not be familiar with this term, it is a sharp two-edged sword which was the perfect weapon for close fighting in earlier days.  Even though I thought I was of sufficient strength of arm (after all, I have moved theology books from shelves to shelves all my years!), I couldn’t even hold steady this sword. Then I remembered it was the weapon of choice for John Knox as he cleared the way through hostile crowds for George Wishart, our subject for this post.

wishartGeorgeIt is true that George Wishart was an early Protestant reformer in Scotland, and not a Presbyterian. Yet he was instrumental in preparing the way for John Knox, who was the father of Scotland’s Presbyterians. Wishart was younger than Knox by a full eight years, if the reader takes the early date of the birth of John Knox.  The former was born around 1513 in Pitarrow, Scotland.  Studying at Kings College in Aberdeen, Scotland, Wishart became one of the best Greek scholars in the realm, teaching both adults as well as children in that biblical language. He also began to preach Protestant theology to the citizens of Scotland and England, and soon found it necessary to travel to Switzerland. He would be influenced by the Swiss Reformation instead of the German Reformation. Returning to the British Isles, he became a popular preacher of Reformation truths in Dundee, Scotland. Even when a plague hit the city, he remained steadfast, giving gospel comfort and consolation to sick people everywhere.

By this time, the authorities became aware of his gospel preaching, and death threats started rolling in. That is when John Knox began to carry the claymore for Wishart’s safety. Facing arrest, Knox wanted to accompany him to his eventual trial, but George Wishart wouldn’t let him, saying the words of our title, “return to your bairns (pupils). God bless you. One is sufficient for a sacrifice.” They would not see one another on this earth.

Arrested and charged with eighteen offenses, George Wishart was sentenced to death. His execution was carried out on this day, March 1, 1546, at St. Andrews Castle. It was a brutal death in that not only was he to be burned to death at the stake, but bags of gun powder were placed about his body. Still, he witnessed to the crowds attending the martyrdom with the precious words of Jesus Christ, forgiving even the executioner who was lighting the pile.

On one of the cobblestones outside St. Andrews castle today, can be found the initials GW, indicating the site where George Wishart  was killed for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Words to Live By: It was said by several Reformation authors that John Knox would not have entered into the gospel ministry had it not been for the influence of the life and death of George Wishart. God has often used His people to disciple others for the eventual service of Christ. If our readers are parents this day, then you are called to be ones who disciple your children for work in the kingdom.  But God may also call you to disciple still others outside the family, in the faith. Think and pray about this challenge. Then go and do it for God’s glory, for the spiritual good of that one whom you disciple in the faith.


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