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He belonged to a younger branch of the Wisharts of Pitarrow near Montrose. He may have graduated M.A., probably at King's College, Aberdeen, and was certainly a student at the University of Leuven, from which he graduated in 1531. He taught the New Testament in Greek as schoolmaster at Montrose, until investigated for heresy by the Bishop of Brechin in 1538. He fled to England, where a similar charge was brought against him at Bristol in the following year by Thomas Cromwell. Under examination by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer he recanted some utterances. In 1539 or 1540 he may have visited Germany and Switzerland, but by 1542 he had entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he studied and taught.
In 1543 he returned to Scotland, in the train of a Scottish embassy which had come to London to consider the treaty of marriage between Prince Edward (later Edward VI of England) and the infant Mary I of Scotland. He returned to Montrose, where again he taught Scripture.
He may have been the "Scottish man called Wishart" implicated in a 1544 English plot against Cardinal David Beaton. Roman Catholic historians such as Alphons Bellesheim and Anglicans such as canon Dixon have accepted the identification; others are sceptical. There are plenty of other contenders for the designation, including George Wishart, Baillie of Dundee, who allied himself with Beaton's murderers; and Sir John Wishart (d. 1576), afterwards a Scottish judge.
His career as an itinerant preacher began in 1544, from when he travelled Scotland from east to west. The story has been told by his disciple John Knox. He went from place to place, in danger of his life, denouncing the errors of the Papacy and the abuses in the church at Montrose, Dundee (where he escaped an attempt on his life), Ayr, in Kyle, at Perth, Edinburgh, Leith, Haddington (where Knox accompanied him) and elsewhere.
At Ormiston in East Lothian, in December 1545, he was seized by the Earl of Bothwell on the orders of Cardinal Beaton, and transferred by order of the privy council to Edinburgh castle on 19 January 1546. Thence he was handed over to Beaton, who had a "show trial", with John Lauder prosecuting Wishart. Execution by burning at the stake followed at St Andrews on 1 March 1546. Foxe and Knox attribute to him a prophecy of the death of the Cardinal, who was assassinated on 29 May following, partly in revenge for Wishart's death.
Wishart's preaching in 1544–45 helped popularize the teachings of Calvin and Zwingli in Scotland. He translated into English the first Helvetic Confession of Faith in 1536. At his trial he refused to accept that confession was a sacrament, denied free will, recognized the priesthood of all believing Christians, and rejected the notion that the infinite God could be "comprehended in one place" between "the priest's hands". He proclaimed that the true Church was where the Word of God was faithfully preached and the two dominical sacraments rightly administered.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Foxe's Acts and Monuments; Hay Fleming's Martyrs and Confessors of St Andrews; Cramond's Truth about Wishart (1898); and Dict. of Nat. Biogr. vol. lxii. (248-251, 253-254).
- Cameron M, et al. (eds), Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993).
- Ryrie, Alec, The Origins of the Scottish Reformation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006)
- Stirnet Genealogy: 'Wishart1' (George is listed as son of Sir James Wyschart of Pittarrow and Elizabeth Learmont)ja:ジョージ・ウィシャート