1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Erskine, Ebenezer

ERSKINE, EBENEZER (1680–1754), Scottish divine, the chief founder of the Secession Church (formed of dissenters from the Church of Scotland), was born on the 22nd of June 1680, most probably at Dryburgh, Berwickshire. His father, Henry Erskine, who was at one time minister at Cornhill, Durham, was ejected in 1662 by the Act of Uniformity, and, after suffering some years’ imprisonment, was after the Revolution appointed to the parish of Chirnside, Berwickshire. After studying at the university of Edinburgh, Ebenezer became minister of Portmoak, Kinross-shire. There he remained for twenty-eight years, after which, in the autumn of 1731, he was translated to the West Church, Stirling. Some time before this, he, along with some other ministers, was “rebuked and admonished,” by the general assembly, for defending the doctrines contained in the Marrow of Modern Divinity (see Boston, Thomas). A sermon which he preached on lay patronage before the synod of Perth in 1733 furnished new grounds of accusation, and he was compelled to shield himself from rebuke by appealing to the general assembly. Here, however, the sentence of the synod was confirmed, and after many fruitless attempts to obtain a hearing, he, along with William Wilson of Perth, Alexander Moncrieff of Abernethy and James Fisher of Kinclaven, was suspended from the ministry by the commission in November of that year. Against this sentence they protested, and constituted themselves into a separate church court, under the name of the associate presbytery. In 1739 they were again summoned before the assembly, and in their corporate capacity declined to acknowledge the authority of the church, and were deposed in the following year. They received numerous accessions to their communion, and remained in harmony with each other till 1747, when a division took place in regard to the nature of the oath administered to burgesses. Erskine joined with the “burgher” section, and became their professor of theology. He continued also to preach to a numerous congregation in Stirling till his death, which took place on the 2nd of June 1754. Erskine was a very popular preacher, and a man of considerable force of character; he acted throughout on principle with honesty and courage. The burgher and anti-burgher sections of the Secession Church were reunited in 1820, and in 1847 they united with the relief synod in forming the United Presbyterian Church.

Erskine’s published works consist chiefly of sermons. His Life and Diary, edited by the Rev. Donald Fraser, was published in 1840. His Works were published in 1785.