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was look'd upon with great jealousy: Others, convinced that the part the synod had acted, was an unjust stretch of power, were clear for his following his own judgment in the disposal of himself. The result of his counsels was, to determine nothing finally for the present, and to shew so much respect to the synodical decision, as to pay a visit to the congregation of Usher's ^uay, and stay three months with them, that he might have a full view of the state of things in Dublin, and come to a conclusion in his own mind, upon the best and most impartial inquiry he could make. In pursuance of this resolution he went to Dublin* and, after three months stay, returned to Antrim, with a fixed resolution of continuing there. As this was the most remarkable instance, in which the power of the general synod was resisted, so he saw it necessary, that he mould be thoroughly satis-" fied concerning the grounds upon which he went into a measure, to the generality so very unpopular, to many provoking, and, in the account of some, directly criminal. Many of his reasonings with himself upon this subject, are written in his diary, in which, after comparing the arguments" for
and against his removal, and balancing all things that could be suggested, he concludes thus: "I have all the encouragement I can well expect, in the present state of the "churches, to continue where I am; I la** bour among an affectionate people, and tc not without hope of success: I am per"fectly satisfied, God has blessed me in my "ministrations here: I have work enough, "and that of the most public nature; I can "attend any where: My much esteemed *' brethren in the neighbourhood, who have "the interest of the gospel, and the cause of "christian liberty at heart, press my continu"ance among them, to join in the happy "work in which they are engaged j and, I ct am convinced, that in this church parti*• cularly, and at this time, it both needs, ** and is worthy of all the assistance I can "give. These arguments prevail, and the "main force of the other (viz. for his re«* moval) depends upon servile notions of tc ecclesiastical power, which are attended "with confusion and fear, but without * c light, and they destroy a rational choice. "It is my present deliberate and full per*« suasion, that no synod has any such power, "as that of removing a minister from place
' "to place without his own consent and, "I believe, I ought to make a stand against "any such claim. But, O! that I may "carry with a becoming modesty, and dis"trust of my own judgment, such as may "keep me always open to conviction, *\ and the Lord reclaim me when I go "astray/'
The mention made in this passage of the cause of christian liberty, naturally leads • to some account of the part Mr. Arbernethy acted in the long continued debates concerning it in the north, which produced effects, at first not at all thought of by the contending patties.
He had very early in life discovered, and been very sensible of the pernicious tenden-. cies of a party spirit in matters of religion, and of the tyrannical exercise of ecclefiasti- > cal power, in what form or constitution soever it obtained: He had all along set himself against this; and was, when he had opportunity, either in the public ministra- -. tions, or in private, very zealous in recom-; mending christian charity: This evidently appeared to be a favourite subject of discourse
course with him- and he often lamented it, that, when the reformed churches departed from the communion of the church of Rome, they carried too much of her spirit along with them. He laboured to open and enlarge the minds of christians, by shewing, that the points, in which the sincere might be supposed to differ, were but of small moment, when compared to the weighty matters, in which all such must necestarily be of one mind.
Sometime before the attempt was made, to remove him to Dublin, Doctor Hoad/y's (the present worthy Bishop of Winchejler) Sermon, upon the kingdom of Christ, with several of the papers, written in the controversy, occasioned by it; particularly, the Bishop's defence against the representation of the committee, were got into the hands of many, and read with great attention, and much pleasure, by the friends of liberty: But by none of them, with more than Mr. Abernethy^ who used to say, that upon the perusal of these books, he thought he could foresee a glorious day coming, when christians should be joined together, not in the same opinions, but in one heart. As that controversy, by degrees opened, the friends
of of moderation and liberty, had reason to rejoice in the visible superiority the Bishop had over his antagonists, in point of argument; and many were set a thinking about these matters, who had not much minded them before. A spirit of christian liberty and charity, did very remarkably diffuse itself. And upon this occasion, a considerable number of ministers, and others in the north, formed themselves into a society, much of the same nature, and consisting for most part of the same persons, with that mentioned in the beginning of this preface. Their design was, improvement in useful knowledge) and, in order to that, to bring things to the test of reason and scripture, without a servile regard to any human authority j a design, which must be approved by all men of candor, as a good one, and which could not but be very friendly, both to the cause of truth and liberty. Mr. Abernethy went into this design with much zeal: He constantly attended the meetings of the society (which, as they were frequently in Belfast, it being the most centrical place, these gentlemen came to be called the Belfast-society) and no man* contributed more to the true ends of it.