June 2: Miracles in the Life of Ebenezer Erskine

There are two miracles associated with our Scottish subject today, Ebenezer Erskine [1680-1754].  One of the miracles was in the physical realm and the second was spiritual.

erskine_ebenezerFirst, for the physical miracle, Ebenezer Erskine was born after his mother died.  It may take a few minutes for that fact to sink in, but it is nevertheless true.  Let me explain.  Ebenezer’s father,  Henry, was a Presbyterian minister in Scotland.  He was married to Margaret.  One day, his wife died.  She had a very beautiful and expensive gold ring on her finger.  The family tried to get it off, but her finger was so swollen that it was impossible.  So she was laid in a coffin and taken to the graveyard near the church.  The sexton, who was officiating at the funeral, also saw the gold ring on her finger.  After the funeral, around midnight, he dug up the casket, opened it, and tried to remove the ring with a sharp knife.  Blood spurted out, and the “corpse” sat up.  Margaret climbed out of the casket and walked to the manse near the cemetery.  (We are not told in the true story what happened to the sexton!)  She knocked at the door. It was opened, and everyone was astonished, including her mourning husband.  Ebenezar, to say nothing of his younger brother, Ralph, was literally born of one who was raised from the dead.

The second miracles was spiritual in nature.  Ebenezer, who was born in 1680, went to the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1703.  Ordained by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, he began his ministry as the pastor of a church in Portmoak, Scotland, preaching a mixture of law and gospel, with an emphasis on good works.  His wife, Alison Turpie Erskine, being a solid believer, wept for her husband’s hard heart.  But God’s Spirit was going to move in that heart in a marvelous way.

In God’s providence, Ebenezer overheard his wife and her brother talking about the gospel.  What they said about it troubled his heart.  Then his wife became very ill, and in her delirium, spoke of the things of God to her caring husband.  Ebenezer continued to be troubled.  She became well, and both of them began to converse about the gospel and its message.  He in his own words, “got his head out of time and into eternity.”  His heart was converted.  He covenanted with God the following: “I offer myself up, soul and body, unto God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I flee for shelter to the blood of Jesus.  I will live to Him.  I will die to Him. I take heaven and earth to witness that all I am and all I have is His.”

From henceforth, his messages were all of grace.  He knew how, one said, to introduce Jesus Christ to a sinner.  People so flocked to his worship services that the building could not contain them.  He spent 28 years in his first pastorate before moving to Stirling, Scotland, where he stayed the rest of his life and ministry until 1754.

The first succession from the Church of Scotland came in 1740 under  his leadership.  It was over the old issue of patronage, discussed elsewhere in Today.  It also involved a doctrinal issue centered around the doctrine found in a book entitled “The Marrow of Modern Divinity.”  The church he began was first called the Associate Presbytery.  He died on June 2, 1754.

His name is immortalized today in the educational institutions of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, namely, Erskine College and Erskine Theological Seminary.

Words to Live By:
Reader, look back into your own life, spiritual and otherwise, for extraordinary evidences of God’s working in the past and present.  Then render thanksgiving for each one and share them with others, for either their conviction, if an unbeliever, or for their encouragement, if a fellow believer.

  1. David Henry Letro’s avatar

    Oh for believers like that today. With eternity stamped on our eyeballs.

  2. Philip Pockras’s avatar

    There’s a misspelling in the next-to-last paragraph. The word should be “secession”, not “succession”.

    Otherwise, great article on a great man. His _Life and Diary_ are available on archive.org and it’s worth reading!

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