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ed that he gave much -of his time to his people. . . %r
It is likewise known, that he had, very early in life, a large mare in the management of the public affairs and business of the diflenters, and was obliged to be frequently abroad upon that account. His constant attendance at the stated meetings of his brethren took up much time; and, if any thing happened extraordinary that concerned the public interest, he was always called upon as one, upon whose discretion in counsel, and diligence in execution, his brethren had an intire depen-r dance. And it will appear, from the acr eount to be given immediately, that his engagements and business of this kind must be supposed greatly to increase, when the debates concerning the power of the church, and christian liberty, were brought into the synod. He was always looked upon as at the head of that party, which espoused the cause of liberty, and had a principal share in conducting the counsels of his friends, with respect to the public debates: In the business of their private societi«s, he laboured with great diligence, wrote many c ^ papers
papers himsel f upon the controverted points, several of which were published, and aslisted in those which were published by hi* friends.
But besides all this, he made very great progress in learning: The reader will perceive, from the account of his education already given, that he was too much hastened in it j but he laboured afterwards with such application, that there were sew branches of learning, to which he could be called a stranger. Pie had a taste for the classics, and understood them j and used to recommend the study of them very warmly to young candidates. He had carefully read the best systematical writers in divinity, and was skilful in their controversies. He was well acquainted with church history; understood the modern improvements in philosophy, and was not a stranger to the various hypotheses of the antients. He was thoroughly versed in the principles of natural religion and morality, and had made the principal authors, both antient and modern, upon these arguments, perfectly familiar to him: Hjs knowledge in these matters best appears, from the sermons he pub* Iflhed upon the divine attributes, which have been so well received in the learned world, that it is unnecestary io fay any thing concerning them.
But above all things, he applied himself to the study of the holy scriptures ^ his thorough acqaintance with • which, the reader will fee in the perusal of his sermons: No man could be more happy in pertinent quotations from them; or ia explaining the more difficult and controverted passages, comparing texts together, and casting light upon them, by reasoning from the undoubted principles of religion, in which he had a great dexterity.
But while he was thus employed in the north, and had acquired a very high repudiation, he was, in the year 1717, invited by the congregation of protestant dissenters at Usher's Quay in Dublin, to be their pastor, in conjunction with the late reverend Mr. Arbuckle, then their sole pastor. This affair gave him much trouble. He had contracted a very great affection for his people an Antrim, and had seen his labours among Ahem successful. He highly esteemed the i £ 4. society
society of ministers in that neighbourhood, arid was inexpressibly dear to them: It was his own opinion, that he was capable of serving the great purposes of christianity, and of the dissenting interest in Antrim, as effectually as he could in any other situation j and thought it extremely hard, that any minister mould be removed by mere dint of the authority of a synod, contrary the judgment of his own mind. The affair was long depending, and took several turns,'! but at the last came to a decision by the general synod, in 1718. i-;
A T that time the congregation in Bel-" fast, usually called the Old Congregation, wanted a minister; the reverend Mr. John Macbride, their pastor, was then in a declining state, and unable to go through the ministerial services j so that congregation, * while the affair of Ujher's Quay was depending, invited Mr. Abernethy: And many '\ imagined, that, if he was obliged to leave" Antrim, it would be more agreeable to him to fix in Belfast than Dublin; and some thought it would be more serviceable to thex common interest. The general synod, afT
ter a long debate among the parties^ one 4©r his going to Dublin, another for Belfast, and a third for his remaining at Antrim* came to a determination in favour of th« first.
Mr. AB ERNE THT now found himself in a good deal of perplexity; he was exceedingly dear to the congregation of Antrim, and they to him: His own judgment was, that his removal was like to be hurtful, rather than serviceable to the public interest of the dissenters: At the fame time a great regard had been always fliown to, synodical decisions; and there was apparent danger of incurring great inconveniencies, by acting in direct contradiction to them. The synod had appointed his removal to Dublin in three months; during this time, he had frequent consultations with his friends: Many urged him to comply with the synod, and had frightful apprehensions of the consequences of such an/ act of disobedience to their authority, as his continuing at Antrim must be. That authority had been generally esteemed indisputable, and any thing that was like to weaken, much more to bring it info contempt,