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*1 BEFORE the affair was brought into the fynod, Mr. Abernethy, who was always - looked upon as at the head of the Nonfubferibers, had, by his uncommon abilities, and as uncommon eminency as a chriss
tian, acquired a moft establithed reputa- tion. He was, indeed, esteemed by many Ha a degree, which could hardly be due to any man: This gave him great advantage in these controversies; no man had more, or as much authority. The other members of the Belfaft-society, as the Reader will form fome notion of their abilities, from what has been fäid above, so were men of anblameable lives; and indeed nothing without remarkable purity of manners, would have fupported them against the torrent of prejudice, which they had, at forft especially, to wreftle with; their fade of the question was most unpopular, and the clamor raised against them almost universal s And the reader will, without being particularly informed, readily imagine many perfonal inconveniencies which those, who upon such occasions are on the unpopular fide, muft fuffer.
MR. ABERNETH rhad the greatest thare, both in conducting the counsels of the Non-fubfcriber's, and managing their pub
die debates, and he, with fome others of that fociety, acquired extraordinary reputätion for found judgment and eloquence. He was particularly distinguifhed by an evenness and conftaney of temper, which nce
thing could ruffle or discompose: He was always himself, and free from those tumutts cand agitations of spirit, which are often Seen to deprive men of the use of Inent abilities ; let the spirit of strife and tcontention rage ever so much in the fynod, he seemed to catch nothing of the infection: His mind always ready and clear in - judging, and his utterance, eafy and free:
He has often spoken extempore for a long time together, in the greatest warmth of debate, with such pertinency, temper and : Fuency of expreffion, as, while it surprized the hearers, commanded their respect and attention. A great vivacity and quickness of apprehenfion; a perfect presence of mind, with a penetrating judgment, happily qualified him for the part he had to act in thefe afsemblies, which was fo much the
easier to him, that he had a clear, strong, and agreeable voice: If his cause was difliked, the person that pleaded it with such advantage, could not but be admired; and, as he acted from a thorough persuasion of the righteousness and great importance of the cause of liberty, so he proceeded in the defence of it, with a resolution and boldness which became one who had nothing but truth and right in his aim.
THÉ truth is, he and his friends of the Belfast-fociety found themselves involved in great difficulties; many, who set themfelves to oppose them with violence, were men much, and justly celebrated for learning and great piety; and, without doubt, acted from a principle of zeal for God: And, in assemblies constituted as the fynod is, there will always be a considerable part, which cannot enter deeply into the merits of such a cause, but will be swayed by great names, and follow them in all their measures, especially when religion is apprehended to be at stake, and the foundations of it undermined, which notion greatly prevailed upon this occasion amongst the less discerning ; so that it is not to be won
dered at that the Non-fubscribers! Were looked upon with great jealousy, and that prejudices, quite invincible by reason, were laid in against all that they could say. The populace, in most places, conceived a great didike to them and their ministrations, and to this the authority of the fynod (however fincere their aims and intentions might be, which I do not at all call in question) very much contributed. Popular reproaches fell as heavily upon Mr. Abernethy, as any man; and he was by many as much disliked and evil spoken of, as he had been formerly celebrated and admired; but fo did he conduct himself through the whole of this ontroversy, that, neither in the synod, nor out of it, did he give his adversaries any advantage against him, or the least occasion of enmity. His character for discretion, candor, and greatness of mind, amongst all that knew him, and could judge, he still inaintained: And, for himself, it was enough to him, that he did justice to his cause and his own conscience; the personal inconveniencies which followed upon his attachment to the cause of liberty, did not move him: And he can hardly appear to the reader in a more amiable light, than by VOL. I.
imagining him in a few years, from the most“ admired character, and celebrated preacher in the north, become the object of jealousy and reproach, forsaken by <a considerable number, even of the people of his own congregation, and all the while preserving an equal temper, without doing any thing which spoke resentment against others, or disquietude in his own mind.
vis And his brethren of the Belfast-fociety, or presbytry of Antrim (for having been formerly of different presbytries, they were, by an act of the fynod, some time before the rupture, joined together in one) had not only great satisfaction in him as a member, but, when things came to a crisis, and some ministers were like to suffer deeply for being of this party, his presence and converfation were a most powerful support to their minds; he did not only preserve an easy cheerful spirit himself, but had a very peculiar faculty of infusing it into others; and, as he always maintained an even tem"per, so he was most patient of labour and application; not at all hasty in his spirit, or discouraged from renewing his attempts þy frequent disappointments; for, while