Famous as the founder of the Secession Church in Scotland,
he was son of a minister ejected in 1662 for nonconformity. He graduated at
Edinburgh University in 1697, and in 1703 was ordained to Portmoak, where for
twenty-eight years he ministered faithfully and imaginatively.
His preaching was such that regular adjournment to the open air became necessary when the church could not contain the congregation.
He was one of those who protested his general assembly's condemnation of Edward Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity. Just after he moved to a Stirling charge in 1731, Erskine as synod moderator preached against assembly legislation on patronage, convinced that it took away the right of Christian people to elect and call their minister.
Rebuked by synod and assembly, Erskine with three others handed in a formal protest. This led in 1733 to the suspension of the four and to their constituting the "Associate Presbytery."
They nevertheless continued their parish work.
The 1734 assembly admitted that its 1732 predecessor had acted illegally, but the breach had widened too far. In 1740 Erskine and seven other ministers were deposed. Within five years the Seceders were ministering to more than forty congregations in Scotland. When they themselves split over a Burgess Oath imposed by the state, Erskine adhered to the Burgher majority. (J.D. Douglas)
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