Sharp was educated at King's College, Aberdeen and became minister at Crail, a royal burgh in Fife, in 1649. During the Civil Wars he came to be seen as the leader of the more moderate and loyal wing of the Kirk. As a result he was briefly detained by Cromwell in the Tower of London. Following the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Sharp was appointed King's Chaplain and in 1661 consecrated Archbishop of St Andrews. Considered a traitor, he was detested by the Presbyterians. He survived one assassination attempt in 1668 but was ambushed on Magus Moor near St Andrews on 3 May 1679, dragged from his carriage and murdered.