Erskine, John, Dd
Erskine, John, D.D
an eminent Scotch divine, was born in Edinburgh, June 2, 1721, and was educated at the University of Edinburgh. His father (author of the Institutes of the Laws of Scotland) wished him to devote himself to law, but finally yielded to his son's desire that he should study theology. At twenty he published an essay on The Law of Nature sufficiently propagated to the Heathen World, aiming to show that the ignorance and unbelief of the heathen is not due to want of evidence (Ro 1:29). In 1743 he was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Dunblane, and in 1744 he became minister of Kirkintillock. In 1748, Mr. Erskine, and other evangelical clergymen of the Established Church, invited Whitefield into their pulpits. An animated discussion took place, in which Mr. Erskine triumphantly defended himself. Such a course required courage at a time when the character and doctrines of Whitefield, as well as his open-air preaching, were looked upon by many with suspicion or dislike. In the following year Mr. Erskine published An Essay intended to promote the more frequent dispensation of the Lord's Supper. In 1753 he was translated to Culross, and in 1758 to New Greyfriars' church, Edinburgh. Here he prepared his Theological Dissertations (Lond. 1765, 12mo), including the two essays above mentioned: one on the Covenant of Sinai, one on Saving Faith, and one on the Apostolic Churches. He also edited a new edition of Hervey's Theron and Aspasio, with a preface against John Wesley, written with some bitterness, which gave rise to some letters between Erskine and Wesley, in which the latter appears to decided advantage (Wesley, Works, N. York ed. 6:125 sq., 744). In 1769 he published anonymously a pamphlet under the title ''Shall I go to war with my American brethren?" to expose the impolicy of such a contest. On the outbreak of hostilities he republished it with his name, following it up with another, entitled Reflections .on the Rise, Progress, and probable Consequences of the present Contentions with the Colonies, in which he urged the duty of the mother country resorting to conciliatory measures. In 1776 he issued a third pamphlet, under the title The Equity and Wisdom of the Government in the Measures that have occasioned the American Revolt tried by the sacred Oracles. On this subject Erskine was one of the few clear-sighted men of the time in Great Britain. When nearly sixty he studied Dutch and German in order to read the Continental divines; the fruit of these studies appeared in Sketches and Hints of Church History and theological Controcersy, translated or abridged from foreign Writers (Edinburgh; 1790-97, 2 volumes, 12mo). He died January 19, 1803. After his death appeared his Discourses (Edinburgh, 1818, 2 vols. 12mo). — Jamieson, Religious Biography, page 139; Jones, Christian Biography, page 191; Wellwood, Life of Erskine.