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Scottish Religious Figures

Ebenezer Erskine

Ebenezer Erskine / Religious Figures

  • Name  : Erskine
  • Born  : 1680
  • Died  : 1744
  • Category  : Religious Figures
  • Finest Moment : Formation of the Associate Presbytery, 1740.

'Split the Church of Scotland into two, when he spoke up for the common man'

Erskine was born at Dryborough in 1680, and was educated at Edinburgh University. He became chaplain to the Earl of Rothes before ordination to Portmoak, in Kinross-shire, in 1703. In 1712 the Patronage Act came into being, by which the rights of lay persons to appoint ministers was reasserted, having ceased in 1690. Landowners in Scotland were by now wanting their man in the manse to be friendly, and to share the landowner's general outlook.

Ebenezer Erskine was an evangelical, opposed to this Act. 'I can find no warrant from the word of God to confer the spiritual privileges of His house upon the rich beyond the poor: whereas by this Act the man with the gold ring and the gay clothing is preferred unto the man with the vile raiment and poor attire'. So rang the sermons of Erskine from the pulpit, and the poor in their 'vile raiments' must have warmed to this.

In 1731 he transferred to Stirling. Two years later he was suspended for his views, but was allowed to preach until 1740, when he led four ministers including himself to form an Associate Presbytery. This secession led ultimately to the emergence of four new dissenting Presbyterian churches: the Old Licht Burghers and the New Licht Burghers, the Old Licht nti-Burghers and the New Licht Anti-Burghers. They all held stubbornly held differences about the lawfulness of taking oaths to the civil authorities, and about whether the historic covenants were binding, or could be departed from in time.

All of these changes split the Church of Scotland, eventually leading to the major Disruption of 1843,when yet again the argument was over patronage. Erskine died in 1754, having being the father of both the Secession Church, and of fifteen children.

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