“How long, O God, shall darkness cover this kingdom?”
Patrick Hamilton’s dying words haunted George Wishart, only son of distinguished James Wishart of Pitarrow, Scotland. George was tall, dark-haired, good-looking, pleasant, and eager to both learn and teach. He believed that God’s way of salvation was through the finished work of Christ alone. Those Reformation beliefs put him at risk. In 1544 he began preaching in Dundee from the book of Romans. Among his listeners was a young man named John Knox. Knox was struck with Wishart and began serving as his bodyguard, carrying a two-handed sword.
Archbishop David Beaton brutally sought to repress Protestants, and as Wishart’s arrest grew more certain, Knox asked to remain at his side. “No” said Wishart, embracing the younger man. “One is sufficient for a sacrifice at this time.” On the morning of March 1, 1546, Wishart was led to the stake, where he told the crowds, “I exhort you, love the Word of God and suffer patiently. I know surely that my soul shall sup with my Savior this night.” He was then strangled and his body burned to ashes.
His death enraged Knox and all of Scotland, and within two months Archbishop Beaton was assassinated. Knox wasn’t among the murderers, but he vowed not to rest till Scotland was Protestant. It proved a costly vow, for Knox was soon imprisoned on a galley ship, chained to the oars with a whip to his back. He labored to exhaustion with no hope of release.
He was eventually released, and in years to come Knox took Scotland by storm, provoking rulers, inciting riots, demanding change. He prayed down the wrath of heaven on his nemesis, Mary, Queen of Scots. He was called the “Thundering Scot,” and as he aged his visage darkened. The years took their toll on both his health and his patience. He died exhausted, perhaps embittered, in 1572.
But his efforts inspired Scots for years to come, and the Reformation triumphed in their land at last.
Elijah prayed: Our Lord, you are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Now, prove that you are the God of this nation,… Please answer me, so these people will know that you are the Lord God, and that you will turn their hearts back to you. (1 Kings 18:36,37)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Mar.1.