Ebenezer Erskine, Contending for Truth

This is the day that … Ebenezer Erskine was born in Berwickshire, Scotland, in 1680.

His father was a Church of Scotland minister. Ebenezer, and his young brother Ralph, followed suit. But their respective ministries encountered stormy days.

The republishing of a volume that had first appeared 73 years earlier – The Marrow of Modern Divinity – was condemned as heretical by the General Assembly of the Scottish Church. Ebenezer Erskine, by this time a well-known preacher who oft-times resorted to open air meetings because his church could not accommodate the crowds, defended the Marrow volume. As a result he, and three other ministers, were suspended (August, 1733) and eventually deposed from the State Church.

Ebenezer Erskine became the leader of the Associate Presbytery, later known as the Secession Church, founded on 5 December, 1733 (The Cambaslung Revival, A. Fawcett, page 26). And he invited fellow open-air preacher, George Whitefield, to visit Scotland … on the condition that Whitefield would not align himself with the State Church. This Whitefield declined to do… “If the Pope himself were to lend me his pulpit,” he replied, “I would gladly proclaim the righteousness of Jesus Christ therein” (George Whitefield, by A. Belden, page 124). Thus the Secession Church began to denounce Whitefield – “and even called him an agent of the devil” (ibid, page 125).

Ralph and Ebenezer are counted among the great Puritan preachers and their published sermons display their engagement of the souls of men to command faith-filled holy living, such as in Ebenezer’s “The Wind of the Holy Ghost Blowing upon the Dry Bones in the Valley of Vision”. “What is the reason why many professors of religion have lost their wonted vigour in the way of the Lord, and are in such a languishing condition as to their soul-matters? The plain reason of it is this, they are glutting themselves with the pleasures of sense.”

Ebenezer Erskine died on 2 June, 1754, and within about 200 years “most of the ‘seceders’ had found their way back into the national church” (Who’s Who in Christian History? page 237).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

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