Erskine, Ebenezer an eminent and pious Scotch divine, founder of the "Secession Church." He was born in the prison of the Bass Rock, June 22, 1680, and educated at the University of Edinburgh. He acted for some time as tutor and chaplain in the family of the earl of Rothes, and became a licentiate in divinity in 1702. In 1703 he was chosen minister of Portmoak, in the shire of Kinross, and became a very popular preacher. He accepted a charge in Stirling in 1731. "Mr. Erskine's first difference with his colleagues of the Church of Scotland was in his support of the principles of 'the Marrow of Modern Divinity,' a subject of great contention during the early part of the 18th century. He was one of several clergymen who, in connection with this subject, were 'rebuked and admonished' by the General Assembly. The 'secession of the body, headed by Mr. Erskine, was occasioned by the operation of the act of queen Anne's reign restoring lay patronage in the Church of Scotland, and, though not in all respects technically the same, it was virtually on the same ground as the late secession of 'The Free Church.' The presbytery of Kinross, led by Erskine's brother Ralph, had refused to induct a presentee forced on an objecting congregation by the law of patronage. In 1732, the General Assembly enjoined the presbytery to receive the presentee. At the same time they passed an act of Assembly regulating inductions, which, as it tended to enforce the law of patronage, was offensive to Mr. Erskine, and he preached against it. After some discussion, the General Assembly decided that he should be 'rebuked and admonished,' confirming a decision of the inferior ecclesiastical courts.
Against this decision Mr. Erskine entered a 'protest,' in which he was joined by several of his brethren. He was afterwards suspended from his functions. The Assembly subsequently endeavored to smooth the way for his restoration, but he declined to take advantage of it, and he and his friends, including his brother Ralph, formally seceded in 1736. When the Secession was divided into the two sects of Burghers and anti-Burghers, Mr. Erskine and his brother were of the Burgher party. He died on the 2d of June, 1756. The Secession Church, reunited by the junction of the Burghers and antiBurghers in 1820, remained a distinct body till 1847, when a union being effected with the Relief Synod (a body which arose from Mr. Gillespie's secession from the Established Church of Scotland in 1752), the aggregate body assumed the name of the United Presbyterian Church" (English Cyclopedia). Erskine bore a very high reputation as a scholar. His writings are collected in The whole Works of Ebenezer Erskine, consisting of sermons and discourses on the most important and interesting subjects (Lond. 1799, 3 volumes, 8vo). See Hetherington, Church of Scotland, 2:297 sq. SEE SECEDERS; SEE SCOTLAND, CHURCH OF; SEE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.