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Significant Scots
Ebenezer Erskine


ERSKINE, REV. EBENEZER, a celebrated divine, and founder of the secession church in Scotland, was son to the Rev. Henry Erskine, who was settled minister at Cornhill, in Northumberland, about the year 1649; whence he was ejected by the Bartholomew act in the year 1662, and, after suffering many hardships for his attachment to the cause of presbytery, was, shortly after the revolution, 1688, settled pastor of the parish of Chirnside, Berwickshire, where he finished his course, in the month of August, 1696, in the seventy-second year of his age. The Rev. Henry Erskine was of the ancient family of Shielfield, in the Merse, descended from the noble family of Marr, and Ebenezer was one of his younger sons by his second wife, Margaret Halcro, a native of Orkney, the founder of whose family was Halcro, prince of Denmark, and whose great-grandmother was the lady Barbara Stuart, daughter to Robert earl of Orkney, son to James V. of Scotland; so that his parentage was, in every respect, what the world calls highly respectable. The place of his birth has been variously stated. One account says it was the village of Dryburgh, where the house occupied by his father is still pointed out, and has been carefully preserved, as a relic of the family; another says it was the Bass, where his father was at the time a prisoner for nonconformity. Be the place of his birth as it may, the date has been ascertained to have been the 22nd day of June, 1680; and the name Ebenezer, "a stone of assistance," was given him by his pious parents in testimony of their gratitude for that goodness and mercy with which, amidst all their persecutions, they had been unceasingly preserved. Of his early youth nothing particular has been recorded. The elements of literature he received at Chirnside, under the immediate superintendence of his father, after which he went through a regular course of study at the university of Edinburgh. During the most part of the time that he was a student, he acted as tutor and chaplain to the earl of Rothes, at Leslie-house, within the presbytery of Kirkaldy, by which court he was taken upon trials, and licensed to preach the gospel in the year 1702.

The abilities and the excellent character of Mr Erskine soon brought him into notice; and in the month of May, 1703, he received a unanimous call to the parish of Portmoak, to the pastoral care of which he was ordained in the month of September following. In this pleasantly sequestered situation, devoting himself wholly to the duties of his office, he laid the foundation of that excellence for which, in his after-life, he was so remarkably distinguished. Anxious to attain accurate and extensive views of divine truth, he spent a great proportion of his time in the study of the scriptures, along with some of the most eminent expositors, Turretine, Witsius, Owen, &c.; embracing, besides, every opportunity of conversing on theological subjects with persons of intelligence and piety. By these means he soon came to great clearness both of conception and expression of the leading truths of the gospel, of which, at first, like many other pious ministers of the church of Scotland at that period, his views were clouded with no inconsiderable portion of legalism. During the year succeeding his settlement, he was united in marriage to Alison Turpie, a young woman of more than ordinary talents, and of undoubted piety. To the experience of this excellent woman he was accustomed to acknowledge to his friends, that he was indebted for much of that accuracy of view by which he was so greatly distinguished, and to which much of that success which attended his ministry is, doubtless, to be ascribed; and, more especially, he used to mention a confidential conversation, on the subject of their religious experiences, between her and his brother Ralph, which he accidentally overheard from the window of his study, which overlooked the bower in the garden, where they were sitting, and unconscious of any person overhearing them. Struck with the simplicity of their views, and the extent of their attainments, as so very superior to his own, he was led to a more close examination of the vital principle of Christianity, which issued in a measure of light and a degree of comfort to which he had previously been a stranger. In the discharge of his ministerial duties, he had always been most exemplary. Besides the usual services of the Sabbath, he had, as was a very general practice in the church of Scotland at that period, a weekly lecture on the Thursdays; but now his diligence seemed to be doubled, and his object much more pointedly to preach Christ in his person, offices, and grace, as at once wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to all who truly receive and rest upon him. Even in his external manners there appeared, from this time forward, a great and important improvement. In public speaking he had felt considerable embarrassment, and in venturing to change his attitude was in danger of losing his ideas; but now he was at once master of his mind, his voice, and his gestures, and by a manner most dignified and engaging, as well as by the weight and the importance of his matter, commanded deep and reverential attention. At the same time that Mr Erskine was thus attentive to his public appearances, he was equally so to those duties of a more private kind, which are no less important for promoting the growth of piety and genuine holiness among a people, but which, having less of the pomp of external circumstance to recommend their exercise, are more apt to be sometimes overlooked. In the duties of public catechising and exhorting from house to house, as well as in visiting the sick, he was most indefatigable. In catechising he generally brought forward the subject of his discourses, that by the repetition of them he might make the more lasting impression on the manners and hearts of his people. For the purposes of necessary recreation he was accustomed to perambulate the whole bounds of his parish, making frequent calls at the houses of his parishioners, partaking of their humble meals, and talking over their every day affairs, without any thing like ceremony. By this means he became intimately acquainted with the tempers and the characters of all his hearers, and was able most effectively to administer the word of instruction, correction, encouragement, or reproof, as the circumstances of the case might require. Though Mr Erskine was thus free and familiar with his people on ordinary and every day occasions, he was perfectly aware of the necessity of maintaining true ministerial dignity and deportment; and when he appeared among them in the way of performing official duty, was careful to preserve that serious and commanding demeanour which a situation so important, and services so solemn, naturally tend to inspire. When visiting ministerially, it was his custom to enter every habitation with the same gravity with which he entered the pulpit, pronouncing the salutation, "Peace be to this house;" after which he examined all the members of the family, tendered to each such exhortations as their circumstances seemed to require, concluded with prayer, fervent, particular, and affectionate. In visiting the sick, he studied the same serious solemnity, and few had the gift of more effectually speaking to the comfort of the dejected christian, or of pointing out the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, to the sinner alarmed with a sense of guilt and the view of the approaching judgment.

We cannot forbear mentioning another part of his ministerial conduct, in which it were to be wished that he were more imitated. Not satisfied with addressing to the children of his charge frequent admonitions from the pulpit, and conversing with them in their fathers’ houses, he regularly superintended their instruction in the parish school, where it was his practice to visit every Saturday to hear them repeat the catechism, to tender them suitable advice, and affectionately to pray with them. When such was his care of the children, the reader will scarcely need to be told that he was watchful over the conduct of their teachers; and for the preservation of order and good government in his parish, he took care to have in every corner of it a sufficient number of active and intelligent ruling elders, an order of men of divine appointment, and fitted for preserving and promoting the public morals beyond any other that have yet been thought upon, but in subsequent times, especially in the established church, till of late years, greatly neglected. The effect of all this diligence in the discharge of his pastoral duties, was a general attention to the interests of religion among his people, all of whom seemed to regard their pastor with the strongest degree of respect and confidence. Not only was the church crowded on Sabbaths, but even on the Thursdays, and his diets of examination drew together large audiences. Prayer meetings were also established in every part of his parish, for the management of which, he drew up a set of rules, and he encouraged them by his presence, visiting them in rotation as often as his other avocations would admit. Nor was it this external regard to the practice of piety alone that distinguished them, the triumphant deaths of many of them bore the still more decisive testimony to the good seed sown among them having been watered by the dews of Divine influence. It has been affirmed, that the parish of Portmoak was long after distinguished above all the parishes around it for the attainments of the people in religious knowledge, and for their marked attention to the rules of godliness and honesty.

But it was not to his parish alone that Mr Erskine’s labours were made a blessing. Serious christians from all quarters of the country, attracted by the celebrity of his character, were eager to enjoy occasionally the benefits of his ministry, and on sacramental occasions he had frequently attendants from the distance of sixty or seventy miles. So great was the concourse of people on these occasions, that it was necessary to form two separate assemblies besides that which met in the church, for the proper business of the day; and so remarkable was the success attending the word, that many eminent christians on their death-beds spoke of Portmoak as a Bethel where they had enjoyed renewed manifestations of God’s love, and the inviolability of his covenant. In the midst of his labours, on the death of his dear brother Mr Macgill of Kinross, an attempt was made to remove Mr Erskine from Portmoak to that burgh. Though the call, however, was unanimous and urgent, the affectionate efforts of the people of Portmoak were successful in preventing the desired translation. Shortly after this, Mr Erskine received an equally unanimous call to the parish of Kirkaldy, which he also refused, but a third minister being wanted at Stirling, the Rev. Mr Alexander Hamilton, with the whole population, gave him a pressing and unanimous call, of which, after having maturely deliberated on the circumstances attending it, he felt it his duty to accept. He was accordingly, with the concurrence of the courts, translated to Stirling, in the autumn of the year 1731, having discharged the pastoral office in Portmoak for twenty-eight years. The farewell sermon which he preached at Portmoak, from Acts xx. 22, "And now behold I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there," had in it something particularly ominous, and as such seems to have been received by the people. "This," says an eye and ear witness of the scene, "was a sorrowful day to both minister and people. The retrospect of twenty-eight years of great felicity which were for ever gone, and the uncertainty of what might follow, bathed their faces with tears, and awoke the voice of mourning throughout the congregation, for the loss of a pastor, the constant object of whose ministry was to recommend to their souls the exalted Redeemer in his person, offices, and grace, who had laboured to rouse the inconsiderate to repentance and serious concern, and who had not failed, when religious impressions took place, to preserve and promote them with unwearied diligence. So much was the minister himself affected, that it was with difficulty he could proceed till he reached the end of the doctrinal part of his discourse, when he was obliged to pause, and, overcome with grief, concluded with these words, "My friends, I find that neither you nor I can bear the application of this subject." So strong was the affection of the people of Portmoak to Mr Erskine, that several individuals removed to Stirling along with him, that they might still enjoy the benefit of his ministry; he was also in the habit of visiting them and preaching to them occasionally, till, through the melancholy state of matters in the church, the pulpits of all the parishes in Scotland were shut against him.

In the new and enlarged sphere of action which Mr Erskine now occupied, he seemed to exert even more than his usual ability. His labours here met with singular acceptance, and appeared to be as singularly blessed; when an attempt was made, certainly little anticipated by his friends, and perhaps as little by himself, to paralyse his efforts, to narrow the sphere of his influence, and to circumscribe his expression of thought and feeling; an expression which had long been painful and was now thought to be dangerous to the party that had long been dominant in the Scottish church, and were charged with corrupting her doctrines and labouring to make a sacrifice of her liberties at the shrine of civil authority. That they were guilty of the first of these charges was alleged to be proved beyond the possibility of contradiction, by their conduct towards the presbytery of Auchterarder, with regard to what has since been denominated the Auchterarder creed, so far back as the year 1717; by their conduct towards the twelve brethren, known by the name of "Marrow men," along with their acts against the doctrines of the book entitled, "The Marrow of Modern Divinity," in the years 1720 and 1721; and, more recently still, by the leniency of their dealings with professor John Simpson of Glasgow, who, though found to have, in his prelections to the divinity students, taught a system of Deism rather than christian theology, met with no higher censure than simple suspension. The students, it was insisted, could be equally well instructed from their tamely submitting to take the abjuration oath, and to the re-imposition of lay patronages,—contrary to the act of union, by which the Scottish church was solemnly guaranteed in all her liberties and immunities so long as that treaty should be in existence. That this grinding yoke had been imposed upon her in an illegal and despotic manner by the tory ministry of the latter years of queen Anne was not denied; but it was contended, that those powers which the church still possessed, and which she could still legally employ, had never been called into action, but that patrons had been encouraged to make their sacrilegious encroachments upon the rights of the christian people even beyond what they appeared of themselves willing to do,—while the cause of the people was by the church trampled upon, and their complaints totally disregarded. In the contests occasioned by these different questions, Mr Erskine had been early engaged. He had refused the oath of abjuration, and it was owing to a charge preferred against him by the Rev. Mr Anderson of St Andrews, before the commission of the general assembly, for having spoken against such as had taken it, that his first printed sermon, "God’s little remnant keeping their garments clean," was, along with some others, given to the public in the year 1725, many years after it had been preached. In the defence of the doctrine of the Marrow of Modern Divinity, he had a principal hand in the representation and petition presented to the assembly on the subject, May the 11th, 1721; which, though originally composed by Mr Boston, was revised and perfected by him. He also drew up the original draught of the answers to the twelve queries that were put to the twelve brethren, which was afterwards perfected by Mr Gabriel Wilson of Maxton, one of the most luminous pieces of theology to be found in any language. Along with his brethren, for his share in this good work, he was by the general assembly solemnly rebuked and admonished, and was along with them reviled in many scurrilous publications of the day, as a man of wild antinomian principles, an innovator in religion, an impugner of the Confession of Faith and Catechisms, an enemy to Christian morality, a troubler of Israel, and puffed up with vanity on the pride and arrogancy of his heart, anxious to be exalted above his brethren. These charitable assumptions found their way even into the pulpits, and frequently figured in Synod sermons and other public discourses. Owing to the vehemence of Principal Haddow of St Andrews, who, from personal pique at Mr Hogg of Carnock, the original publisher of the Marrow in Scotland, took the lead in impugning the doctrines of that book, Mr Ebenezer Erskine and his four representing brethren in that quarter, James Hogg, James Bathgate, James Wardlaw, and Ralph Erskine, were treated with marked severity. At several meetings of Synod they were openly accused and subjected to the most inquisitorial examinations. Attempts were also repeatedly made to compel them to sign anew the Confession of Faith, not as it was originally received by the church of Scotland in the year 1647, but as it was explained by the obnoxious act of 1722. These attempts however, had utterly failed, and the publication of so many of Mr Erskine’s sermons had not only refuted the foolish calumnies that had been so industriously set afloat, but had prodigiously increased his reputation and his general usefulness. The same year in which Mr Erskine was removed to Stirling, a paper was given in to the general assembly, complaining of the violent settlements that were so generally taking place throughout the country, which was not so much as allowed a hearing. This induced upwards of fifty-two ministers, of whom the subject of this memoir was one, to draw up at large a representation of the almost innumerable evils under which the church of Scotland was groaning, and which threatened to subvert her very foundations. To prevent all objections on the formality of this representation, it was carefully signed and respectfully presented, according to the order pointed out in such cases; but neither could this obtain so much as a hearing. So far was the assembly from being in the least degree affected with the mournful state of the church, and listening to the groans of an afflicted but submissive people, that they sustained the settlement of Mr Stark at Kinross, one of the most palpable intrusions ever made upon a christian congregation, and they enjoined the presbytery who had refused to receive him as a brother, to enrol his name on their list, and to grant no church privileges to any individual of the parish of Kinross, but upon Mr Stark’s letter of recommendation requiring or allowing them so to do, and this in the face of the presbytery’s declaration, that Mr Stark had been imposed on the parish of Kinross, and upon them, by the simple fiat of the patron. Against this decision, protests and dissents were presented by many individuals, but by a previous law they had provided, that nothing of the kind should henceforth be entered upon the journals of the courts, whether supreme or subordinate, thus leaving no room for individuals to exonerate their own consciences, nor any legitimate record of the opposition that had been made to departures from established and fundamental laws, or innovations upon tacitly acknowledged rules of propriety and good order. This same assembly, as if anxious to extinguish the possibility of popular claims being at any future period revived, proceeded to enact into a standing law an overture of last assembly, for establishing a uniform method of planting vacant churches, when at any time the right of doing so should fall into the hands of presbyteries, tanquam jure devoluto, or by the consent of the parties interested in the settlement. This uniform method was simply the conferring the power of suffrage, in country parishes, on heritors being protestant, no matter though they were episcopalians, and elders, in burghs, on magistrates, town council,—and elders,—and in burghs with landward parishes joined, on magistrates, town council, heritors, and elders joined, and this to continue "till it should please God in his providence to relieve this church from the grievances arising from the act restoring patronages." This act was unquestionably planned by men to whom patronage presented no real grievances, and it was itself nothing but patronage modified very little for the better. But the authors of it had the art to pass it off upon many simple well-meaning men, as containing all that the constitution of the Scottish church had ever at any time allowed to the body of the people, and as so moderately worded that the government could not but be amply satisfied that no danger could arise from its exercise, and of course would give up its claims upon patronage without a murmur. In consequence of this, the act passed through the assembly with less opposition than even in the decayed state of the church might have been expected. In fact it passed through the court at the expense of its very constitution. By the barrier act, it has been wisely provided, that no law shall be enacted by the assembly, till in the shape of an overture, it has been transmitted to every presbytery in the church, a majority of whose views in its favour must be obtained before it be made the subject of deliberation. In this case it had been transmitted; but eighteen presbyteries had not made the required return, eighteen approved of it with material alterations, and thirty-one were absolutely against it; so that the conduct of the party who pushed this act into law, was barefaced in the extreme. Nor was the attempt to persuade the people, that it contained the true meaning and spirit of the standards of the church less so. The first book of discipline compiled in the year 1560, and ratified by act of parliament in the year 1567, says expressly, "No man should enter in the ministry, without a lawful vocation: the lawful vocation standeth in the election of the people, examination of the ministry, and admission by both." And as if the above were not plain enough, it is added, "No minister should be intruded upon any particular kirk, without their consent." The second book of discipline agreed upon in the general assembly, 1578, inserted in their registers, 1581, sworn to in the national covenant the same year revived, and ratified by the famous assembly at Glasgow, in the year 1638, and according to which the government of the church, was established first in the year 1592, and again in the year 1640, is equally explicit on this head. "Vocation or calling is common to all that should bear office within the kirk, which is a lawful way by the which qualified persons are promoted to spiritual office within the kirk of God. Without this lawful calling, it was never leisome to any to meddle with any function ecclesiastical." After speaking of vocation as extraordinary and ordinary, the compilers state "this ordinary and outward calling," to consist of two parts, election, and ordination." Election they state to be "the choosing out of a person or persons most able to the office that vakes, by the judgment of the eldership, (the presbytery), and consent of the congregation to which the person or persons shall be appointed. In the order of election is to be eschewed, that any person be intruded in any office of the kirk, contrary to the will of the congregation to which they are appointed, or without the voice of the eldership," not the eldership or session of the congregation to which the person is to be appointed, as has been often ignorantly assumed; but the eldership or presbytery in whose bounds the vacant congregation lies, and under whose charge it is necessarily placed in a peculiar manner, by its being vacant, or without a public teacher. In perfect unison with the above, when the articles to be reformed are enumerated in a following chapter, patronage is one of the most prominent, is declared to have "flowed from the pope and corruption of the canon law, in so far as thereby any person was intruded or placed over kirks having carum animarum; and forasmuch as that manner of proceeding hath no ground in the word of God, but is contrary to the same, and to the said liberty of election, they ought not now to have place in this light of reformation; and, therefore, whosoever will embrace God’s word, and desire the kingdom of his son Christ Jesus to be advanced, they will also embrace and receive that policy and order, which the word of God and upright state of this kirk crave; otherwise it is in vain that they have professed the same." Though the church had thus clearly delivered her opinion with regard to patronages, she had never been able to shake herself perfectly free from them, excepting for a few years previous to the restoration of Charles II., when they were restored in all their mischievous power and tendencies; and the revolution church being set down, not upon the attainments of the second, but upon the less clear and determinate ones of the first reformation, patronage somewhat modified, with other evils, was entailed on the country. Something of the light and heat of the more recent, as well as more brilliant period, still, however, remained; and in the settlement of the church made by the parliament in the year 1690, patronage in its direct form was set aside, not as an antichristian abomination, and incompatible with christian liberty, as it ought to have been, but as "inconvenient and subject to abuse." Though this act, however, was the act only of a civil court, it was less remote from scripture and common sense, than this act of the highest ecclesiastical court in the nation. By that act "upon a vacancy, the heritors, being protestants," (by a subsequent act it was provided, that they should be qualified protestants,) "and the elders, are to name and propose the person to the whole congregation, to be either approven, or disapproven by them; and if they disapprove, the disapprovers to give in their reasons to the effect the affair may be cognosced by the presbytery of the bounds, at whose judgment, and by whose determination the calling and entry of a particular minister is to be ordered and concluded." By this act, which we by no means admire, the heritors it would appear might have proposed one candidate to the congregation, and the elders another; nor, whether there was but one candidate or two, had the election been completed till the congregation had given their voice. But by the assembly’s act, the heritors and the elders elected as one body; the work was by them completed; and, however much the congregation might be dissatisfied, except they could prove the elected person immoral in conduct, or erroneous in doctrine, they had no resource but to submit quietly to the choice of their superiors, the heritors and the elders.

The act of 1690 was liable to great abuse; yet, by the prudent conduct of presbyteries, complaints were for many years comparatively few, and but for the restoration of patrons to their antichristian power, might have continued to be so long enough. For ten or twelve years previous to this period, 1732, patrons had been gaining ground every year, and this act was unquestionably intended to accommodate any little appearance of liberty which remained in the Scottish church to the genius of patronage, which was now by the leaders of the dominant party declared the only sure if not legitimate door of entrance to the benefice, whatever it might be to the affections and the spiritual edification of the people. The measure, however, was incautious and premature. There was a spirit abroad which the ruling faction wanted the means to break, and which their frequent attempts to bend ought to have taught them was already far beyond their strength. As an overture and an interim act, it had been almost universally condemned; and, now that it was made a standing law, without having gone through the usual forms, and neither protest; dissent, nor remonstrance allowed to be entered against it, nothing remained for its opponents but, as occasion offered, to testify against it from the pulpit or the press, which many embraced the earliest opportunity of doing. Scarcely, indeed, had the members of assembly reached their respective homes with the report of their proceedings, when, in the evening of the Sabbath, June 4th, in a sermon from Isaiah ix. 6, the subject of this memoir attacked the obnoxious act with such force of argument as was highly gratifying to its opponents, but peculiarly galling to its abettors, who were everywhere, in the course of a few days, by the loud voice of general report, informed of the circumstance, with manifold exaggerations. Public, however, as this condemnation of the act of assembly was, Mr Erskine did not think it enough. Having occasion, as late moderator, to open the synod of Perth on the 10th day of October, the same year, taking for his text, Psalm cxviii. 22, "The Stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the Head Stone of the Corner," he delivered himself, on the disputed points, more at large, and with still greater freedom. In this sermon, Mr Erskine asserted, in its full breadth, the doctrine which we have above proved, from her standards, to have all along been the doctrine of the church of Scotland—that the election of a minister belonged to the whole body of the people. "The promise," said he, keeping up the figure in the text, "of conduct and counsel in the choice of men that are to build, is not made to patrons and heritors, or any other set of men, but to the church, the body of Christ, to whom apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are given. As it is a natural privilege of every house or society of men, to have the choice of their own servants or officer; so it is the privilege of the house of God in a particular manner. What a miserable bondage would it be reckoned, for any family to have stewards, or servants, imposed on them by strangers, who might give the children a stone for bread, or a scorpion instead of a fish, poison instead of medicine; and shall we suppose that our God granted a power to any set of men, patrons, heritors, or whatever they be, a power to impose servants on his family, they being the purest society in the world?" This very plain and homely passage, which, for the truth it contains, and the noble spirit of liberty which it breathes, deserves to be written with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever, gave great offence to many members of synod, and particularly to Mr Mercer of Aberdalgie, who moved that Mr Erskine should be rebuked for his freedom of speech, and admonished to be more circumspect for the future. This produced the appointment of a committee, to draw out the passages complained of; which being done, and Mr Erskine refusing to retract any thing he had said, the whole was laid before the synod. The synod, after a debate of three days, found, by a plurality of six voices, Mr Erskine censurable, and ordered him to be rebuked and admonished at their bar accordingly. The presbytery of Stirling was also instructed to notice his behaviour in time coming, at their privy censures, and report to the next meeting of synod. Against this sentence Mr Erskine entered his protest, and appealed to the general assembly. Mr Alexander Moncrief of Abernethy also protested against this sentence, in which he was joined by a number of his brethren, only two of whom, Mr William Wilson of Perth, and Mr Fisher of Kinclaven, Mr Erskine’s son-in-law, became eventually seceders, Firm to their purpose, the synod, on the last sederunt of their meeting, called Mr Erskine up to be rebuked; and he not appearing, it was resolved that he should be rebuked at their next meeting in April. Personal pique against Mr Erskine, and envy of his extensive popularity, were unfortunately at the bottom of this procedure, which, as it increased that popularity in a tenfold degree, heightened proportionally the angry feelings of his opponents, and rendered them incapable of improving the few months that elapsed between the meetings of synod, for taking a more cool and dispassionate view of the subject. The synod met in April, under the same excitation of feeling; and though the presbytery and the kirk session of Stirling exerted themselves to the utmost in order to bring about an accommodation, it was in vain: the representations of the first were disregarded., and the petition of the other was not so much as read. Mr Erskine being called, and compearing, simply told them that he adhered to his appeal. There cannot be a doubt but that the synod was encouraged to persevere in its wayward course by the leaders of the assembly, who were now resolved to lay prostrate every shadow of opposition to their measures. Accordingly, when the assembly met, in the month of May following, 1733, they commenced proceedings by taking up the case of Mr Stark, the intruder into the parish of Kinross, and the presbytery of Dunfermline, which they finished in the highest style of authority; probably, in part, for the very purpose of intimidating such as might be disposed to befriend Mr Erskine on this momentous occasion. Multitudes, it was well known, approvedof every word Mr Erskine had said; but when it was made apparent with what a high hand they were to be treated, if they took any part in the matter, even those who wished him a safe deliverance might be afraid to take his part. Probably he himself was not without painful misgivings when he beheld the tide of authority thus rolling resistlessly along, but he had committed himself, and neither honour nor conscience would allow him to desert the prominence on which, in the exercise of his duty, he had come to be placed, though, for the time, it was covered with darkness, and seemed to be surrounded with danger. His appeal to the assembly he supported by reasons alike admirable, whether we consider their pointed bearing on the subject, the piety that runs through them, or the noble spirit of independence which they breathe. The reasons of his appeal were five, of which we can only give a feeble outline. 1st, The imbittered spirit of the greater part of the synod, by which they were evidently incapable of giving an impartial judgment. 2nd, The tendency of such procedure to gag the mouths of those, who, by their commission, must use all boldness and freedom in dealing with the consciences of men. 3d, Because, though the synod had found him censurable, they had condescended on no one part of the truth of God’s word, or the standards of this church, from which he had receded. 4th, The censured expressions, viewed abstractly from the committee’s remarks, which the synod disowned, are not only inoffensive but either scriptural or natively founded on scripture. The fifth reason regarded the obnoxious act of assembly, against which he could not retract his testimony, and which the synod, by their procedure, had made a term of ministerial communion, which, for various reasons, he showed could not be so to him. On all these accounts, he claimed, "from the equity of the venerab1e assembly," a reversal of the sentence of the synod. To Mr Erskine’s appeal Mr James Fisher gave in his name as adhering. Reasons of protest were also given in by Mr Alexander Moncrief and a number of ministers and elders adhering to him, fraught with the most cogent arguments, though couched in the modest form of supplication rather than assertion. But they had all one fate, viz, were considered great aggravations of Mr Erskine’s original offence. The sentence of the synod was confirmed, and, to terminate the process, Mr Erskine appointed to be rebuked and admonished by the moderator, at the bar of the assembly, which was done accordingly. Mr Erskine, however, declared that he could not submit to the rebuke and admonition, and gave in a protest for himself, Mr Wilson, Mr Moncrief, and Mr Fisher, each of whom demanded to be heard on their reasons of appeal, but were refused,—Mr Moncrief and Mr Wilson, immediately by the assembly, and Mr Fisher, by the committee of bills refusing to transmit his reasons, which were, in consequence, left upon the table of the house. The paper was titled, "Protest by Mr Ebenezer Erskine and others, given in to the assembly, 1733." "Although I have a very great and dutiful regard to the judicatures of this church, to whom I own subjection in the lord, yet, in respect the assembly has found me censurable, and have tendered a rebuke and admonition to me for things I conceive agreeable to the word of God and our approven standards, I find myself obliged to protest against the foresaid censure, as importing that I have, in my doctrine, at the opening of the synod of Perth, in October last, departed from the word of God, and the foresaid standards, and that I shall be at liberty to preach the same truths of God, and to testify against the same or like detections of this church upon all proper occasions. And I do hereby adhere unto the testimonies I have formerly emitted against the act of assembly, 1732, whether in the protest entered against it in open assembly, or yet in my synodical sermon, Áraving this my protest and declaration be inserted in the records of assembly, and that I be allowed extracts thereof: Ebenezer Erskine." "We, undersigned subscribers, dissenters from the sentence of the synod of Perth and Stirling, do hereby adhere to the above protestation and declaration, containing a testimony against the act of assembly 1732, and asserting our privilege and duty to testify publicly against the same or like defections upon all proper occasions: William Wilson, Alexander Moncrief" "I Mr James Fisher, minister at Kinclaven, appellant against the synod of Perth in this question, although the committee of bills did not think fit to transmit my reasons of appeal, find myself obliged to adhere unto the foresaid protestation and declaration: James Fisher." This paper being referred to a committee, that committee returned it with the following overture, which by a great majority of the assembly, was instantly turned into an act :—"The general assembly ordains, that the four brethren aforesaid, appear before the commission in August next, and then show their sorrow for their conduct and misbehaviour in offering to protest, and in giving in to this assembly the paper by them subscribed, and that they then retract the same. And in case they do not appear before the said commission in August, and then show their sorrow, and retract as said is, the commission is hereby empowered and appointed to suspend the said brethren, or such of them as shall not obey, from the exercise of their ministry. And farther, in case the said brethren shall be suspended by the said commission, and that they shall act contrary to the said sentence of suspension, the commission is hereby empowered and appointed, at their meeting in November, or any subsequent meeting, to proceed to a higher censure against the said four brethren, or such of them as shall continue to offend by transgressing this act. And the general assembly do appoint the several presbyteries of which the said brethren are members, to report to the commission in August and subsequent meetings of it, their conduct and behaviour with respect to this act." The four brethren, on this sentence being intimated to them, offered to read the following as their joint speech :—"In regard the venerable assembly have come to a positive sentence without hearing our defence, and have appointed the commission to execute the sentence in Angust, in case we do not retract what we have done, we cannot but complain of this uncommon procedure, and declare that we are not at liberty to take this affair into avisandum." The assembly, however, would not hear them, and they left their paper on the table, under form of instrument.

This sentence excited a deep sensation in every corner of the country, and when the four brethren, as they were now called, appeared before the commission in the month of August, numerous representations were presented in their behalf stating the evils that were likely to result from persevering in the measures that had been adopted towards them, and recommending caution and delay as the only means whereby matters might be accommodated, and the peace of the church preserved. On Mr Erskine’s behalf, especially, the petitions were urgent, and the testimonials to his character strong. "Mr Erskine’s character," say the presbytery of Stirling in their representation to the Áommission, "is so established amongst the body of professors of this part of the church, that we believe even the authority of an assembly condemning him cannot lessen it, yea, the condemnation itself, in the present case will tend to heighten it, and in his case, should the sentence be executed, most lamentable consequences would ensue, and most melancholy divisions will be increased; the success of the gospel in our bounds hindered; reproach, clamour, and noise will take place; our congregations be torn in pieces; ministers of Christ will be deserted and misrepresented; and our enemies will rejoice over us. The same evils were apprehended by the kirk session of Stirling, and the observations of both presbytery and session were confirmed by the town council.—"We beg leave," say they, "briefly to represent that Mr Erskine was settled as an ordained minister amongst us for the greater edification of the place, and that with no small trouble and expense—that we have always lived in good friendship with him, after now two full years’ acquaintance—that we find him to be of a peaceable disposition of mind, and of a religious walk and conversation, and to be every way fitted and qualified for discharging the office of the ministry amongst us, and that he has accordingly discharged the same to our great satisfaction—that, therefore, our being deprived of his ministerial performances must undoubtedly be very moving and afflictive to us, and that the putting the foresaid act (the act of suspension) into execution, we are afraid, will in all likelihood be attended with very lamentable circumstances, confusions, and disorders, too numerous and tedious to be here rehearsed, and that not only in this place in particular, but also in the church in general." The kirk session and town council of Perth presented each a representation in favour of Mr Wilson, as did the presbyteries of Dunblane and Ellon, praying the commission to wait at least for the instructions of another assembly. Full of the spirit of the assembly which had appointed it, however, the commission was deaf to all admonitions, refusing to read, or even to allow any of these representations to be read, with the exception of a small portion of that from the presbytery of Stirling, which might be done as a mark of respect to Mr Erskine’s character, or it might be intended to awaken the envy and rage of his enemies. Mr Erskine prepared himself a pretty full representation, as an appellant from the sentence of the synod of Perth and Stirling, as did also Mr James Fisher. Messrs Wilson and Moncrief, as protesters against that sentence, gave in papers, under form of instrument, insisting upon it as their right to choose their own mode of defence, which was by writing. Mr Erskine was allowed, with some difficulty, to read his paper, but none of the others could obtain the like indulgence, so they delivered the substance of them in speeches at the bar. They did not differ in substance from those formerly given in, and of which we have already given the reader as liberal specimens as our limits will permit. "In regard they were not convicted of departing from any of the received principles of the church of Scotland, or of counteracting their ordination vows and engagements; they protested that it should be lawful and warrantable for them to exercise their ministry as heretofore they had done; and that they should not be chargeable with any of the lamentable effects that might follow upon the course taken with them." The commission, without any hesitation, suspended them from the exercise of the ministerial function in all its parts. Against this sentence they renewed their protestations, and paid no regard to it, as all of them confessed when brought before the commission in the month of November. Applications in their behalf were more numerous, at the meeting of the commission, in November, than they had been in August, and they had the advantage of those of August, in that they were read. The prayer of them all was delay; and it carried in the commission, to proceed to a higher censure only by the casting vote of Mr Goldie, (or Gowdie,) the moderator. The sentence was pronounced on the 16th day of November, 1733, to the following effect:—"The commission of the general assembly did, and hereby do, loose the pastoral relation of Mr Ebenezer Erskine, minister at Stirling, Mr William Wilson, minister at Perth, Mr Alexander Moncrief, minister at Abernethy, and Mr James Fisher, minister at Kinclaven, to their said respective charges; and do declare them no longer ministers of this church. And do hereby prohibit all ministers of this church to employ them, or any of them, in any ministerial function. And the commission do declare the churches of the said Messrs Erskine, Wilson, Moncrief, and Fisher, vacant from and after the date of this sentence." Extracts were also, by the sentence, ordered to be sent with letters to the several presbyteries in whose bounds the said ministers had their charges, ordering intimation of the sentence to be made in the several vacant churches. Letters, intimating the sentence, were also ordered to the magistrates of Perth and Stirling, to the sheriff principal of Perth, and baillie of the regality of Abernethy. Against this sentence, Mr Erskine and his brethren took the following protestation, which may be considered as the basis, or constitution, of the secession church. "We hereby adhere to the protestation formerly entered before this court, both at their last meeting in August, and when we appeared before this meeting. And, thither, we do protest, in our own name, and in the name of all and every one in our respective congregations adhering to us, that, notwithstanding of this sentence passed against us, our pastoral relation shall be held and reputed firm and valid. And, likewise, we protest, that, notwithstanding of our being cast out from ministerial communion with the established church of Scotland, we still hold communion with all and every one who desire, with us, to adhere to the principles of the true presbyterian church of Scotland, in her doctrine, worship, government, and discipline, and particularly with all who are groaning under the evils, and who are afflicted with the grievances we have been complaining of, and who are, in their several spheres, wrestling against the same. But in regard the prevailing party in this established church, who have now cast us out from ministerial communion with them, are carrying on a course of defection from our reformed and covenanted principles, and particularly are suppressing ministerial freedom and faithfulness in testifying against the present backslidings, and inflicting censures upon ministers for witnessing, by protestations and otherwise, against the same. Therefore we do, for these and many other weighty reasons, to be laid open in due time, protest that we are obliged to make a secession from them, and that we can hold no ministerial communion with them till they see their sins and mistakes, and amend them; and in like manner, we do protest that it shall be lawful and warrantable for us to exercise the keys of doctrine, discipline, and government, according to the word of God, and confession of faith, and the principles and constitution of the covenanted church of Scotland, as if no such censure had been passed upon us; upon all which we take instruments. And we do hereby appeal to the first free, faithful, and reforming general assembly of the church of Scotland." Mr Gabriel Wilson, of Maxton, one of the eleven brethren who, thirteen years before this, had been joined with Mr Erskine in the defence of the Marrow, took a protest against the sentence at the same time, which was adhered to by Ralph Erskine, Dunfermline; Thomas Muir, Orwell; John Maclaurin, Edinburgh; John Currie, Kinglassie, afterwards the most bitter enemy of the secession; James Wardlaw, Dunfermline, and Thomas Nairn, Abbotshall; the greater part of whom lived to advance the interests of the secession.

In this violent struggle for the church’s and the people’s liberties, Mr Erskine was ably supported by his three brethren, Messrs Wilson, Moncrief, and Fisher, and his popularity was extended beyond what might be supposed reasonable limits. His congregation clung to him with increasing fondness, and his worthy colleague, Mr Alexander Hamilton, during the short time he lived after the rise of the secession, ceased not to show him the warmest regard by praying publicly, both for him and the associate presbytery. This presbytery was constituted with solemn prayer, by Mr Ebenezer Erskine at Gairny Bridge, near Kinross, on the 6th day of December, 1733, the greater part of that, and the whole of the preceding day having been spent in prayer. The associate presbytery consisted at first only of the four brethren; for though Messrs Ralph Erskine and Thomas Muir were both present at its constituting, they were only spectators. Though they had thus put themselves in a posture to work, they did not proceed for some years to any judicative acts, further than publishing papers relating to the public cause in which they were engaged; these were a review of the narrative and state of the proceedings against them, issued by a committee of the commission of the general assembly, published in March, 1734; and a testimony to the doctrine, worship, and. government of the church of Scotland, or reasons for their protestation entered before the commission of the general assembly, in November, 1733, &c. This has been since known by the name of the extrajudicial testimony. In these papers Mr Erskine had his full share, and they had an effect upon the public mind, which alarmed the ruling faction in the church not a little, and drove them upon measures which could hardly have been anticipated. The friends of the seceders indeed made an extraordinary bustle, many of them from no sincere motives, some of them anxious to heal the breach, and others of them only anxious for a pretext to stand by and do nothing in the matter. The leaders of the assembly, too, fearful of the consequences of a system that was untried, were willing to concede something at the present time, to outraged orthodoxy, knowing well that though they could not recall the past, they might yet, by a semblance of moderation, preserve on their side a number of the more timid of the friends of the seceders who had not yet declared themselves, by which the schism, though not totally healed, might be greatly circumscribed. Accordingly, the next assembly when it met in the month of May, 1734, was found to be of a somewhat different complexion from a number that had preceded it. There was still, however, as one of its members and its great admirer has remarked, "the mighty opposition of great men, ruling elders, who had a strong party in the house to support them," and who took effectual care, that nothing should be done in the way of reformation, further than might be justified by a calculating worldly policy. In passing the commission book, sundry reservations were made of a rather novel kind, and among others, the sentence passed against Mr Erskine and his three brethren. The act of 1730, forbidding the registering of dissents, and the act of 1732, concerning the planting of vacant churches, were both declared to be no longer binding rules in the church. The synod of Perth and Stirling were also empowered to take up the case of Mr Erskine, and without inquiring into the legality or justice of any of the steps that had been taken on either side, restore the harmony and peace of the church, and for this purpose they were to meet on the first Tuesday of July next. Never had any synod before this such a task enjoined these. The preceding assembly had enjoined its commission to do all that had been done toward Mr Erskine and his friends. This assembly enjoins the synod to reverse all that had been done by the commission, but with the express promise, that they shall not take it upon them to judge either of the legality or the formality of the proceedings they were thus ordered to reverse. Upon what principle was the synod to proceed? If the sentence of the commission was pronounced on proper grounds, and the subjects of it had given no signs of repentance, the assembly itself could not warrantably nor consistently take it off. This, "the great men, the ruling elders, who had a strong party in the house to support them, were perfectly aware of; but there were a few men, such as Willison, Currie, and Macintosh, who they knew had a hankering after the seceders, and whom they wished to secure upon their own side, and they served them by an act more absurd than any of those that had occasioned the secession; an act requiring a synod to reverse a sentence, that either was or ought to have been pronounced in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, without inquiring into the validity, or presuming to give an opinion respecting it? The synod, however, hasted to perform the duty assigned them, and on the second of July, 1734, met at Perth, when, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, they took off the sentences from all the four brethren, restoring them to their standing in the church, ordered their names to be placed upon the presbytery and synod rolls, as if there had never been act, sentence, or impediment in their way. The seceders had too much penetration to be gulled by this invention, and too much honesty to accept of the seeming boon; but it answered the main purpose that it was intended to serve, it afforded a handle for reviving a popular clamour against them, and proved an excellent excuse for their summer friends to desert them. The reforming fit was past in the meeting. Of next assembly in 1736, which was as violent in its proceedings as any that had preceded it. Mr Erskine and his friends now despairing of any speedy reformations in the judicatories, published their reasons for not acceding to these judications, and proceeded to prepare the judicial act and testimony, which, after many diets of fasting and prayer, was enacted at their twenty-fourth presbyterial meeting, in the month of December, 1736. Mr Erskine continued all this time to occupy his own parish church, and was attended with the same respectful attention as ever. In the year 1738, the assembly began to persecute Mr Erskine and his friends, who were now considerably increased. In the year 1739, he, along with his brethren, was served with a libel to appear before the general assembly, where they appeared as a constituted presbytery, and by their moderator gave in a paper, declining the authority of the court. The assembly, however, delayed giving sentence against them till next year, 1740, when they were all deposed, and ordered to be ejected from their churches. On the sabbath after this, Mr Erskine retired with his congregation to a convenient place in the fields, where he continued to preach till a spacious meeting-house was prepared by his people, all of whom adhered to him, and in this house he continued to officiate when ability served till the day of his death. In the year 1742, Mr Erskine was employed, along with Mr Alexander Moncrief, to enlarge the secession testimony, which they did by that most excellent and well known little work, entitled an act anent the doctrine of grace. About this period he had also some correspondence with Mr George Whitefield, which terminated in a way that could not be pleasing to either party. Along with the doctrines of grace, the associate presbytery took into consideration the propriety of renewing the national covenants. An overture to this purpose was approved of by the presbytery on the twenty-first of October, 1742, the same day that they passed the act anent the doctrine of grace. That a work of so much solemnity might be gone about with all due deliberation, the presbytery agreed that there should be room left for all the members to state freely whatever difficulties they might have upon the subject, and it accordingly lay over till the twenty-third of December, 1743, when the overture, with sundry amendments and enlargements, was unanimously approved of and enacted. A solemn acknowledgment of sins being prepared for the occasion, and a solemn engagement to duties, on the twenty-eighth of December, Mr Erskine preached a sermon at Stirling, the day being observed as a day of solenm fasting and humiliation, after which the confession of sins was read, and the engagement to duties sworn to and subscribed by fifteen ministers, of whom Ebenezer Erskine was the first that subscribed. Shortly after, the same thing was done at Falkirk, where five ministers more subscribed. In this work no man of the body was more hearty than Mr Ebenezer Erskine; and it went through a number of congregations, till a stop was put to it by the question that arose respecting the religious clause of some burgess oaths, which it was alleged were utterly inconsistent with the oath of the covenants, and with the secession testimony. The associate presbytery had already determined the oaths of abjuration and allegiance to be sinful, as embracing the complex constitution, and was of course incompatible with the testimony which they had emitted against that complex constitution. At the last meeting of the associate presbytery, Mr Alexander Moncrief gave in a paper, stating his scruples with regard to the religious clause of some burgess oaths, which he apprehended, would be found when examined, to be equally sinful with those they had already condemned. The dissolution of the associate presbytery being determined on, the question was reserved for a first essay of the associate synod. Accordingly, when the synod met in the month of March, 1745, it was among the first motions that came before them; and after much discussion, the synod, in the month of April, 1746, found "that the swearing the religious clause in some burgess oaths,— ‘Here I protest before God and your lordships, that I profess and allow within my heart, the true religion presently professed within this realm, and authorized by the laws thereof; I shall abide thereat and defend the same to my life’s end, renouncing the Romish religion, called papistry,’—by any under their inspection, as the said clause comes necessarily in this period to be used and applied in a way that does not agree unto the present state and circumstances of the testimony for religion and reformation which this synod, with these under their inspection, are maintaining; particularly, that it does not agree unto nor consist with an entering into the bond for renewing our solemn covenants, and that, therefore, these seceding cannot farther, with safety of conscience and without sin, swear any burgess oath with the said religious clause, while matters, with reference to the profession and settlement of religion, continue in such circumstances as at present," &c. When this subject was first stated, it did not appear to be attended either with difficulty or danger. Questions of much more intricacy had been discussed at great length, and harmoniously disposed of by the associate presbytery; and the above decision, we are persuaded every unbiassed reader, when he reflects that it was intended to bind only those who had already acceded to the sederunt act and testimony, will think that it should have given entire satisfaction. This, however, was far from being the case. Some personal pique seems to have subsisted between two of the members of court, Mr Moncrief and Mr Fisher; in consequence of which, the latter regarded the conduct of the former with some suspicion. Being son-in-law to Mr Ebenezer Erskine, the latter, too, was supported by both the Erskines, who were the idols of the body, and on this occasion gave most humiliating evidence of the power of prejudice to darken the clearest intellects, and to pervert the purest and the warmest hearts. The question was simple—What was meant by those who framed and now imposed the oath? Was it the true religion abstractly considered, that was to be acknowledged by the swearer? or was it not rather the true religion embodied in a particular form, and guaranteed by particular laws, to insure the integrity of which, the oath was principally intended? Either this was the case, or the oath was superfluous and unmeaning, and of course could not be lawfully sworn by any one, whatever might be his opinions, as in that case it would have been a taking of the name of God in vain. True, however, it is, that volumes were written, of which no small portion came from the pens of the venerable Ralph Erskine and the worthy Mr James Fisher, to prove that nothing was sworn to in the oath but the true religion, abstracting from all the accompanying and qualifying clauses thereof. A protest against the above decision of synod was taken by Messrs Ralph Erskine, James Fisher, William Hutton, Henry Erskine, and John M’Cara, in which they were joined by two elders, and by the time of next meeting of synod, the whole body as in a flame, every individual having committed himself on the one side or the other.

When the synod met on the 7th of April, 1747, the subject was resumed with a warmth that indicated not ardour, but absolute frenzy. The protesters against the former decision of the question, instead of bringing up their reasons of protest, as order and decency requited, began by renewing the original question, Whether the act of synod was to be made a term of communion before it should be sent round in the form of an overture, to sessions and presbyteries for their judgment there-anent; the members of synod in the meantime praying and conferring with one another for light upon the subject. To this it was opposed as a previous question—Call for the reasons of protest, and the answers thereunto, that they may be read and considered. The question being put, which of the two questions should be voted, it carried for the first; from this Mr W. Campbell entered his dissent, to which Mr Thomas Moir and Mr Moncrief adhered. Next morning the protesters resumed the question with renewed ardour, or rather rage, Mr Moir again entered his protest, followed by eleven ministers, and ten elders. The protesters still insisting for their question, the whole day was wasted in shameful discussions; Mr Gibb protesting against the proposal of the protesters, in a new and somewhat startling form. Having adjourned one hour, the synod met again at eight, or between eight and nine o’clock, p. m., when the war of words was renewed for several hours, the protesters still insisting upon having the vote put; a protest against it was again entered by Mr Moncrief, which was adhered to by twelve ministers and ten elders. The moderator of course refused to put the vote, as did the clerk pro tempore; one of the party then called the roll, another marked the votes, the sum total of which, was nine ministers and eleven elders, and of these, six ministers and one elder were protesters, and of course, parties in the cause that had not the smallest right to vote on the subject. In this way, twenty voters, and of these twenty only thirteen legal voters, carried a deed against twenty-three, standing before them in solemn opposition under cover of all legal forms that, in time circumstances in which they stood, it was possible for them to employ. In this most extraordinary crisis, Mr Moir, the moderator of the former meeting of synod, considering the present moderator as having ceased to act, claimed that place for himself, and the powers of the associate synod for those who had stood firm under their protest against such disorderly procedure, whom he requested to meet in Mr Gibb’s house tomorrow, to transact the business of the associate synod. They did so, and thus one part of the associate synod was reconstituted. The other part met next day in the usual place, having the moderator, though he had deserted them the night before, along with them, and the clerk pro tempore; on which they returned themselves as being the true associate synod. Whatever superiority in point of order was between them, entirely belonged to the party that met in Mr Gibb’s house, and have since been known by the name of antiburghers and they showed some sense of shame by making open confession of the sad display which they had made of their own corruptions, in managing what they then and still considered to be the cause of God. The other party were certainly even in this respect the more culpable; but having the unfettered possession of their beloved oath, they seem to have been more at ease with themselves, than their brethren. A more deplorable circumstance certainly never took place in any regularly constituted church, nor one that more completely demonstrated how little the wisest and the best of men are to be depended on when they are left to the influence of their own spirits. The very individual persons who, in a long and painful dispute with the established judicature, upon points of the highest importance, had conducted themselves with singular judgment, prudence, and propriety, here, upon a very trifling question, and of easy solution, behaved in a manner not only disgraceful to the christian but to the human character; violating in their case, to carry a point of very little moment, the first principles of order, without preserving which it is impossible to carry on rationally the affairs of ordinary society. In all this unhappy business we blush to be obliged to acknowledge that Ebenezer Erskine had an active hand; he stood in front of the list of the burgher presbytery, and, if we may believe the report of some who boast of being his admirers, abated considerably after this of his zeal for the principles of the reformation. He certainly lost much of his respectability by the share he had in augmenting the storm which his age and his experience should have been employed to moderate, and it must have been but an unpleasant subject for his after meditations. He was after this engaged in nothing of public importance. He lived indeed only seven years after this, and the better half of them under considerable infirmity. He died on the twenty-second of June, 1756, aged seventy-four years, saving one month. He was buried by his own desire, in the middle of his meeting-house, where a large stone with a Latin inscription, recording the date of his death, his age, and the periods of his ministry at Portmoak and Stirling, still marks out the spot. Mr Erskine was twice married; first, as we have already mentioned, to that excellent woman, Alison Terpie, who died sometime in the year 1720. He married three years afterwards a daughter of the Rev. James Webster, Edinburgh, who also died before him. He left behind him several children, one of whom, a daughter, died so late as the year 1814. Of his character we have scarcely left ourselves room to speak. As a writer of sermons he is sound, savoury, and practical, abounding in clear views of the gospel, with its uses and influence in promoting holiness of life. As a preacher, he was distinguished among the greatest men of his day. In learning, and in compass of mind, he was inferior to the author of "The Trust," and, for keen and penetrating genius, to the author of "The Defence of the reformation principles of the church of Scotland;" but for straight forward good sense, incorruptible integrity, and dauntless intrepidity, he was equal to any man of the age in which he lived.


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