1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Erskine, John (reformer)

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ERSKINE, JOHN, of Dun (1509–1591), Scottish reformer, the son of Sir John Erskine, laird of Dun, was born in 1509, and was educated at King’s College, Aberdeen. At the age of twenty-one Erskine was the cause—probably by accident—of a priest’s death, and was forced to go abroad, where he came under the influence of the new learning. It was through his agency that Greek was first taught in Scotland by Petrus de Marsiliers at Montrose. This fact counted for much in the progress of the Reformation. Erskine was also drawn towards the new faith, being a close friend of George Wishart, the reformer, from whose fate he was saved by his wealth and influence, and of John Knox, whose advice openly to discountenance the mass was given in the lodgings of the laird of Dun. In the stormy controversies of the time of Mary Stuart and James VI. Erskine was a conspicuous figure and a moderating influence. He was able to soothe the queen when her feelings had been outraged by Knox’s denunciations—being a man “most gentill of nature”—and frequently acted as mediator both between the catholic and reforming parties, and among the reformers themselves. In 1560 he was appointed—though a layman—superintendent of the reformed church of Scotland for Angus and Mearns, and in 1572 he gave his assent to the modified episcopacy proposed by Morton at the Leith convention. Though never himself ordained, he was held in such high esteem by the leaders of the church as to be more than once elected moderator of the general assembly (first in 1564), and he was amongst those who in 1578 drew up the Second Book of Discipline. From 1579 he was a member of the king’s council. He died in 1591. Erskine owed his peculiar influence among the Scottish reformers to the union—rare in those days—of steadfast convictions with a conciliatory manner; Queen Mary described him as “a mild and sweet-natured man, with true honesty and uprightness.”

See the “Dun Papers” in the Spalding Club Miscellany, vol. iv. (1849), and the article by T. F. Henderson in the Dict. Nat. Biog.