SHARP, JAMES (1618-1679), Scottish divine, the son of William Sharp, sheriff-clerk of Banffshire, was born in Banff Castle on May 4, 1618. In 1633 he went to King's College, Aber deen, where he graduated in 1637. On the outbreak of the Cove nanting War he visited Oxford, and perhaps Cambridge, becom ing acquainted with the principal English divines. On his return he was chosen (1643) one of the "regents" of philosophy in St. Leonard's College, St. Andrews, and in 1648 was appointed min ister of Crail in Fifeshire. In the great schism of Resolutioners and Protestors he took active part with the Resolutioners, and in March 1651 was taken prisoner by Cromwell, but subsequently liberated on parole. In 1657 he went to London to counteract the influence with the Protector of Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston. He was again sent to London in Feb. 1660, to watch over the interests of the Resolutioners at the time of Monk's march to London. He was favourably received by Monk, who sent him to the king at Breda. He certainly regarded himself equally as the emissary of the Scottish kirk; he was also the bearer of a secret letter from Lauderdale to the king. There can be little doubt that he was finally corrupted by Charles and Clarendon, and decided that the interests of the Kirk should not imperil his own chances. He returned to Scotland in May 166o, and, while successfully stopping all petitions from Scottish min isters to the king, parliament or council, was at pains to allay the suspicions of his loyalty to the Kirk which had been aroused by his attitude in London. A letter of his (preserved in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries, Edinburgh) dated May 21, 1661, from London, to Middleton the high commissioner, whose chap lain he now was, shows that he was in confidential communica tion with Clarendon and the English bishops ; that he was co operating in the restoration of Episcopacy in Scotland : that he was aware that Middleton, with whom he had held conferences, had all along intended it ; and that he drew up the quibbling proc lamation of June Io, whose sole purpose was "the disposing of minds to acquiesce in the king's pleasure." The mask at length dropped in August when Episcopacy was restored and Sharp was rewarded with the archbishopric of St. Andrews, Leighton, Fair f oul and Hamilton being consecrated bishops at the same time. On April 8 the new prelates entered Scotland, and on April 20 Sharp preached his first sermon at St. Andrews.
Sharp had kept on good terms with Lauderdale, and avoided acting against him on the occasion of the Billeting Plot concocted in Sept. 1662 by Middleton. When Lauderdale's supremacy was established he cooperated in passing the National Synod Act in 1663, the first step in the intended subjection of the church to the crown. In 1664 he obtained the grant of a new church com
mission. Gilbert Burnet made a written protest against the op pressive conduct of Sharp and other bishops, but Sharp failed to obtain a sentence of deprivation and excommunication against him. Sharp now placed himself in opposition to the influence of Lauderdale, in alliance with Rothes, Hamilton, Dalyell, and others but in 1665 he suffered, in London, a complete humiliation at the hands of Lauderdale, well described by Burnet. The re sult of their system of violence and extortion was the rising of the Covenanters, during which Sharp showed, according to Bellen den, the utmost fear, only equalled by his cruelty to the prisoners after the rout of Pentland. When the convention of estates met in January 1667 Hamilton was substituted for him as president, and he now wrote grovelling letters to Lauderdale, who extended him a careless reconciliation.
For a time he helped to restrain his brethren from complaining to London of Lauderdale's conciliation policy. On July i 0, 1668, an abortive attempt to shoot him was made by James Mitchell in Edinburgh. After a visit to London Sharp assisted in Decem ber to carry out Tweeddale's tolerant proposals for filling the vacant parishes with some of the "ousted" ministers. In the de bates on the Supremacy Act, by which Lauderdale destroyed the autonomy of the church, Sharp's reluctance gave way upon the first pressure, but he actively opposed Leighton's endeavour, as archbishop of Glasgow, to carry out a comprehensive scheme. From this time he was completely subservient to Lauderdale, who had now finally determined upon a career of oppression, and in 1674 he was again in London to support this policy. In this year Mitchell, who had shot at him six years before, was arrested, and Sharp obtained from him privately a full confession by a promise of pardon which he afterwards repudiated. It was, how ever, confirmed by the entry of the act in the records of the court. Mitchell was finally condemned, and Sharp refused to support the appeal for a reprieve. On May 3, 1679, while driving with his daughter Isabel to St. Andrews, he was set upon by nine men, and murdered in revenge. The place of the murder, on Magus Muir, now covered with fir trees, is marked by a monument erected by Dean Stanley, with a Latin inscription recording the deed.
Unless otherwise mentioned the proofs of the statements in this article will be found in vols. i. and ii. of the Lauderdale Papers (Camden Society) and in two articles in the Scottish Review (July 1884 and Jan. 2885).