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George Wishart was one of the early preachers of the doctrines of the Reformers, and suffered martyrdom in the days of Knox. His public exposition of the Epistle to the Romans especially excited the fears and hatred of the Romish ecclesiastics, who caused him to be silenced at Dundee. He went to Ayr, and began to preach the gospel with great freedom and faithfulness. But Dunbar, the then Archbishop of Glasgow, being informed of the great concourse of people who crowded[ to his sermons, at the instigation of Cardinal Beaten, went to Ayr, with the resolution to apprehend him; but first took possession of the church, to prevent him from preaching in it. The news of this brought Alexander, Earl of Gleneairn, and some gentlemen of the neighborhood immediately to town. They wished and offered to put Wishart into the church, but he would not consent, saying, ‘ that the Bishop’s sermon would not do much hurt, and that, if they pleased, he would go to the market cross/which he accordingly did, and preached[ with such success, that several of his hearers, formerly enemies to the truth, were converted on the occasion.
Wishart continued with the gentlemen of Kyle, after the archbishop’s departure; and being desired to preach next Lord’s-day at the church of Mauchline, he went thither with that design, but the sheriff of Ayr had, in the night time, put a garrison of soldiers into the church to keep him out. Hugh Campbell, of Kinzeaneleugh, with others in the parish, were exceedingly offended at this impiety, and would have entered the church by force; but Wishart would not suffer it, saying, ‘Brethren, it is the word of peace which I preach unto you; the blood of no man shall be shed for it this day: Jesus Christ is as mighty in the fields as in the church, and he, himself,
while he lived in the flesh, preached oftener in the desert and upon the sea side than in the temple of Jerusalem.’ Upon this the people were appeased, and went with him to the edge of the moor, on the southwest of Mauchline, where having placed himself upon a ditch-dike, he preached to a great multitude. He continued speaking for more than three hours, God working wondrously by him; insomuch that Laurence Ranken, the Laird of Shield, a very profane person, was converted by his means. About a month after the above circumstance, he was informed that the plague had broken out at Dundee, the fourth day after he had left it; and that it still continued
to rage in such a manner that great numbers were swept off daily. This affected him so much, that he resolved to return to them, and accordingly took leave of his friends in the west, who were filled with sorrow at ibis departure. The next day, after his arrival at Dundee, he caused intimation to be made that he would preach; and for that purpose chose his station at the head of the east gate, the infected persons standing without, and those that were whole, within. His text on this occasion was Psalm 112:20: ‘ He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.’ By this discourse he so comforted the people, that they thought themselves happy in having such a preacher, and en-treated him to remain with them while the plague continued.” What a scene must this have been? Seldom
has preacher had such an audience, and, I may add, seldom has audience had such a preacher. Then, to use the words of an old author, “Old time stood at the preacher’s side with his scythe, saying with hoarse voice, ‘Work While it is called to-day, for at night I will mow thee down.’ There, too, stood grim death hard by the pulpit, with his sharp arrows, saying, ‘ Do thou shoot God’s arrows and I will shoot mine.’
–From “Gillie’s Historical Collections”