The James Begg Society

The James Begg Society

Publishers of Protestant, Reformed Christian Literature

Memoirs of Rev James Begg, D.D., by Rev. Thomas Smith, D.D.

CHAPTER III.

MY LICENSE, ORDINATION, AND EXPERIENCE AS AN ASSISTANT AT NORTH LEITH, AND A MINISTER OF CHAPELS AT DUMFRIES AND EDINBURGH.

THE date of my license by the Presbytery of Hamilton is June 10th 1829. An excellent practice prevailed in those days, and I presume had been handed down from early date, of requiring all those who were about to be licensed, not only to pass through the ordinary examinations in the Presbytery, but to call on all the ministers separately at their own manses. The object of this was, that the ministers might have an opportunity of satisfying themselves, by personal examination, in regard to the spirit and attainments of those who were about to become licentiates of the Church. Like many of the other excellent rules of Presbyterianism, it implied that presbyteries should have only a limited number of members, and that the districts should be limited in extent. Whilst for the purpose of concentrating influence and producing popular effect, the larger presbyteries of the present day may be defended, it is certain that, for all the practical purposes of thorough oversight and mutual conference, the smaller presbyteries were much more efficient. Indeed, the true theory of Presbyterian oversight has been to a large extent forgotten in recent times, and the practical business of presbyteries either neglected, or conducted by means of boards and other exotic arrangements imported into the Presbyterian system, but which have marred its beauty and diminished its efficiency. Nothing could have been better than the now almost obsolete arrangement to which I have referred, by which the gifts and motives of aspirants to the ministry were submitted to the quiet scrutiny of such a variety of minds as were found in an average presbytery, This also gave the young men the great advantage of the paternal counsel and prayers of many ministers of Christ, before starting in public life. A friend of mine, of decided eminence, tells me that some of the best advice he ever received in life, was during the round of calls which he thus made. Being the son of one of the ministers, and knowing most of the members of Presbytery intimately, as well as residing for the time at a considerable distance, I fear I did not get the full advantage of this private ordeal; although I was subjected in public to a kind and painstaking scrutiny, through some parts of which in the hands of such men as Dr. Russel and Dr. Hodgson, I passed with some little trepidation.

There was another laudable practice which prevailed in the Presbytery of Hamilton at, that time, and which, for anything I know, was once common in Scotland generally. By the ordinary method a preacher never faces anything like a living congregation until he is actually licensed. Unlike young doctors or lawyers, or any other professional men, he is at once launched from a mere round of studies into the actual business of his life-work, without guide or counsellor. In theory this is manifestly unsound, and I have no doubt it works most mischievously in practice. A system of clinical studies, actual preaching in public under a good preacher and successful minister, would be very beneficial. It would not only be sound in theory, but a totally different thing from the loose talking sometimes at present practised by students at mission stations without the slightest supervision or advice, and which only teaches young men the dangerous secret of keeping their mouths open without saying anything worthy of being listened to. This I regard as one of the most dangerous ordeals to which a young man intending to be a minister can be subjected. Out of it, it is scarcely possible for a young man to rise to the higher altitude of a good speaker or a vigorous preacher. The system to which I refer at Hamilton did not come up to the full requirements of the case. But it was an approximation to it. It seemed to acknowledge the principle for which I contend, and it was better than nothing. Perhaps it might be a relic of more sensible times. After a young man had preached all his other discourses before the Presbytery, and was about to give his "popular sermon" just previous to license, the bell of the church was rung to assemble the congregation. A number of worthy people seemed to be in the habit of coming together on such occasions to get the first hearing of the forthcoming preacher, The young man was required to go to the pulpit, and in the presence of a congregation, as well as of the Presbytery, to give a final proof of his gifts and aptitude to teach. I have the most vivid recollection of passing through this ordeal. The faces of the worthy old people who had come together to hear are still vividly before me. My "popular sermon" was on the text, "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us," and I felt that it had a solemnising as well as stimulating effect to be brought thus face to face with an actual living congregation.

Previous to this I had only made one address to anything like a congregation - the general idea at that time being that a man should not preach till he was licensed, although I had acted as family chaplain, and in several other ways spoken in public. This address was made at a mission station in the Canongate. But now being licensed, I began my work at once; and it so happened that I was now carried away permanently from my native district, from the Presbytery of Hamilton and its associations, although my father's people, at a subsequent period, were anxious that I should become his assistant and successor. On a day of the same week in which I was licensed, I preached what was properly my first sermon in public, to a small audience in what was called the Old Church, Edinburgh, as a very unworthy substitute for Dr. Andrew Thomson. On the following Sabbath, instead of Mr. Bruce Cunningham, now of Prestonpans, I preached twice for Mr. Thomson in the parish church of Duddingston. Mr. Thomson is better known as having been an eminent painter than as a minister. His parish was small at that time, there being a chapel of ease in Portobello, where the mass of the population of the parish existed. I never heard Mr. Thomson himself preach, and I suspect that preaching was not his forte, but he was a singularly shrewd, genial, and accomplished man. He had such a remarkable genius for painting, that it is said, that from the snuffing of a candle applied by his thumb, he could make a tolerably good picture. Some of his landscapes are certainly very marvellous productions. He was not at home on the day that I preached, but at his own request I afterwards visited him at his manse. Mrs. Thomson conducted the psalmody on the day of my preaching, and being an excellent musician, and having trained a number to sing with her, the result was very pleasing and successful.

I determined from the first not to read my sermons. I knew, however, from what I had seen amongst the older ministers, and especially from what I had heard from my father, that to succeed in this a good deal of labour must be incurred. He was in the habit of saying, that he took ten days to commit his first sermon to memory, although his memory was certainly one of the best that I have ever heard of. This labour, however, I had reason to believe, would be well repaid in the long run, and I was determined, if spared, to face it. The truth is, one great mistake which many young men make, is in confounding wire-drawn talk with effective speaking, and in supposing that a sermon is committed to memory when they can only grope their way through it with much hesitation and difficulty, the eye being continually introverted on the MS. To commit a sermon properly to memory, a man should be so thoroughly master of it, as to speak it with the most perfect ease. The old preachers were in the habit of saying, that a preacher should be able to begin at any part of his sermon at a moment's notice, though wakened for the purpose out of his sleep. Some may call this mechanical and slavish, but it is the only way to success. It was only thus that Demosthenes, Cicero, and the great orators of old, succeeded; and it is thus, as a general rule, that great speakers in all departments succeed still. It is only when such a thorough mastery is obtained, that the preacher can be easy and natural, and that there can be real and effective speaking. By and by, of course, this can be done with much less elaborate preparation. A copious vocabulary is mastered, perfect self-possession is gained, and the art of speaking, in those endowed with proper gifts, comes to be as natural as the art of walking. But, in both cases, if we would ever succeed, we must "creep before we walk." We must never forget that God, both in nature and grace, works by means. Unless a man is willing to submit to great drudgery, both to secure present qualifications and for an ulterior end of the highest importance, he will never, as a general rule, be an effective preacher or speaker. Of course, after all, the most necessary thing is, to be entirely absorbed in our great work as ambassadors for Christ, to have always something of importance to say, and an earnest desire to say it with effect, for the glory of God and the good of souls. I succeeded tolerably well in my first two sermons at Duddingston, although my impressions of the great difficulty and importance of the work which I had taken in hand, and of my own unworthiness to perform it, were greatly deepened.

I preached again in the evening in the Canongate Chapel. The commencement of a preacher's life is generally a matter of special interest to his immediate friends and companions, and some of mine were present at the evening worship. It so happened that the people of North Leith were anxious to obtain an assistant to their able and eloquent minister, Mr. (afterwards Dr.) James Buchanan. Somehow or other, they got word of this new preacher, and I had an application next morning to take the place. No man could be more comfortable than I was in Mrs. Neilson's family at Millbank. In a pecuniary point of view, I was asked to make a sacrifice, and I was under a strong temptation to continue in my quiet retreat, as we had an excellent theological library, and as I really had few sermons prepared except those that I had prepared for the Hall and the Presbytery. To take a few months of leisure and quiet study, before passing into actual work, seemed therefore very desirable, especially as I was very young. The offer, on the other hand, had some very favourable aspects. To obey what appeared to be a Providential call; to be associated with an eminent minister in the great work of the gospel; to have only partial duty, so as to have some reasonable time for preparation at first, were considerations with me of no small importance. I had always been taught to follow the leadings of Providence. Matthew Henry in his Exposition of the Shorter Catechism says, "Is man his own maker? No. Is he then his own master? No. Should he be his own carver? No." This must ever be regarded as of vital importance. The paramount consideration with me was, that as the Christian ministry was to be the object end work of my life, the sooner I threw myself into it the better, although I felt that it must be done with deep humility and earnest prayer. I therefore agreed to undertake the proposed duty, on the condition that the people were satisfied after hearing me preach in the afternoon of the following Sabbath. The new ordeal of preaching in such circumstances to such a vast congregation; consisting of nearly two thousand people, and a people accustomed to hear so eloquent a preacher as Dr. Buchanan, was a very trying one. It was very different from preaching in the little school-house in the Canongate, the little church of Duddingston, or even in the considerably larger Canongate Chapel. I remember well the full gaze of the vast congregation, as the new stranger mounted the pulpit stair and began the service; but I was graciously carried through with some measure of success. It was intimated to me that the arrangement was concluded, and an old elder gave me a few private words of special encouragement. I immediately left my kind friends and removed to a lodging on the road from Bonnington to Newhaven, at which I still look up in passing with special interest. Many an earnest day of study and prayer in that humble lodging! My duty was to preach every Sabbath afternoon. Besides this, I conducted a class of young people, which turned out very successful, and I visited and held meetings at Newhaven on the one hand, where, at that time, there was no place of worship; and on the other, at a place in Leith called the Peat Neuk, which had a very unsavoury reputation, and which gave me a tolerable insight, almost for the first time, into what have since been called the "lapsed masses" of our towns. Many of the houses which I visited there were very degraded, and some of the people, who even attended my meetings with tolerable regularity, were strange samples of the race. The work upon the whole was not encouraging, but I did not shrink from it. One extraordinary character, I remember, who lived by begging, had a great black patch over one of his eyes, as if he had lost the use of it. It never occurred to me that this could be a device to create sympathy and extort coppers. But some one gave me the hint that thus the case actually stood, and one night after the service I went quietly up to the man, and lifting the patch I saw his eye shining below as clear as a diamond. Of course, I admonished him in as kind and faithful a way as I could to adopt a more upright course for the future; but I was certainly a good deal taken aback by finding that I had such characters amongst my hearers. The Newhaven portion of my charge consisted of very different elements. It was altogether pleasant to work amongst the people there. There are no more respectable people in their own rank of life than the Newhaven fishermen, their wives and families. They are admirable attenders on public worship; they listened most earnestly, sang with great beauty and fervour, and their moral position stood exceptionally high. I found them extremely friendly, and I remember well an innocent but kind woman, when I was called away to Dumfries, earnestly asking, how far away Dumfries was, and whether it was possible for her still to attend in the new congregation.

I was only about six months at North Leith, and the Session were good enough to give me a beautiful quarto pulpit Bible when I left, with the following inscription:-

"NORTH LEITH SESSION HOUSE, 29th April 1830.

"Sederunt - The Rev. James Buchanan, Moderator, &c., &c.

"Inter alia, -

"The Kirk-session, considering that the Rev. James Begg is about to leave the parish of North Leith with the view of being settled in Troqueer Chapel, - Resolved to return him their best thanks for his acceptable and useful labours as assistant to the Rev. Mr. Buchanan, and requested the Moderator to present Mr. Begg with a Bible, as a small token of their esteem for his character, and of their interest in his usefulness and prosperity as a Minister of Christ.

"extracted from the Minutes of the Kirk-session.

"JAMES BUCHANAN, Moderator."

My transference to Troqueer or Maxwelltown, in the suburbs of Dumfries, was accompanied with some rather singular features. The first time that I entered the General Assembly as an auditor, that venerable Court met in a very small and confined place in St. Giles's, where there was scarcely any room for the general public. I forced my way, however, as a student, up into the little gallery available for strangers, and looking over to the area below, I saw the massive form of Dr. Chalmers, and the figures of many with whom I was afterwards brought into closer contact. This was the Assembly 1828. My old Professor, Dr. Stevenson Macgill, occupied the Moderator's chair. Dr. Chalmers sat as elder for the burgh of Anstruther Easter, and his influence, as well as that of the worthy Moderator, had evidently begun to be felt, for the subject of Church Extension was brought before this Assembly, and a committee was appointed, "to take such measures as to them may seem best calculated, by bringing the subject under the notice of the Government or otherwise, to procure ultimately a remedy for so alarming an evil." Still too much of the old spirit remained even in this Assembly. The subject being discussed was the propriety of erecting a chapel of ease in Maxwelltown, an important suburb of Dumfries, separated from that town only by the river Nith, there a considerable and important stream. The discussion about whether this chapel at Maxwelltown was to be sanctioned or not was long and keen, and from the papers of the Assembly for that year the merits of the debate come clearly out. All must now look back with astonishment at the violent resistance offered to this effort to extend the Established Church by the freewill offerings of the people.

From the statements made in the Assembly, it appears that the population of the district was 4301; the parish church contained 704 persons, and was somewhat distant from Maxwelltown. The people had raised £1,250 to erect a chapel, but the Presbytery, by a majority, evaded their application, by declaring that a new parish church should be built to hold 1500 people. This, of course, would not have met the case, and besides it was stoutly opposed by some of the heritors. The matter in this form came before the Assembly, and a committee, of which Dr. Chalmers was a member, was appointed to consider it.

There was considerable difference of opinion in the committee, but by a majority they found that the Presbytery "ought not to have delayed in this case, and remit to them to proceed in terms of the Acts of Assembly," &c. The record of the Assembly bears that "after long reasoning," the reasoning to which I had listened, a motion to the same effect was adopted. The chapel was accordingly erected, and it was of this chapel that I was afterwards the first minister. The coincidence was curious. As this brought me into the very heart of one of the great centres and strongholds of what was called the "Moderate" system of Church government in Scotland, initiated by Principal Robertson, and beginning to give way before the rising power of Dr. Chalmers, it may be of importance to enter into some detail regarding it. This system has been fruitful of sad results, which the country is only beginning now to discover, and in the south of Scotland it was at that time in almost unbroken strength.

(Take in sketch of Moderatism.) 7

[Footnote 7: This was either never written, or has fallen aside. - T. S.]

Such is an outline of the history. For a long time what was called the Moderate party had offered the most extraordinary and violent opposition to the erection of chapels of ease. They did not seem to have the slightest idea that, by first driving the people out of the Church by the forced settlements, and then keeping them out by refusing to sanction chapels, they were necessarily weakening their own position; they were, in fact, pursuing the very policy of the man in Hogarth, who was unconsciously sawing through the branch on which he was sitting. The people, in fact, their feelings, interests, and ultimate influence, scarcely seemed to enter into their calculations. My father stated, that in his young days to be a popular preacher was rather a matter of reproach and suspicion than otherwise; and Witherspoon lays it down as one of the maxims of Moderatism, that a minister must never on any account be popular. He supposes a case, that a sermon has passed the ordeal of the Presbytery with high approbation, and that afterwards it is approved of by the people; and he declares that in such a case there must be some hidden fault in the sermon, for the Presbyteries are never so uniform in judging right as the people are in judging wrong! This disregard to the interests and feelings of the people is one of the obvious causes which have now brought the Church of Scotland to the verge of ruin. But this ruin, as connected with the separation of the people from the Church, had proceeded rapidly during the old days of Moderatism, after the accession of Principal Robertson to power. It is said that upwards of 100,000 people were driven out of the Church of Scotland in a comparatively short time by the violent settlements, and the number of Dissenters was greatly augmented by the refusal to allow the erection of chapels. It will scarcely be credited that the large chapel in the Cowgate, which now belongs to the Romanists, was offered to the Church of Scotland and refused, and that in all parts of the country the Moderate clergy greatly preferred the erection of Dissenting meeting houses to the erection of chapels of ease in connection with their own Church. It seems never to have occurred to them, that the carrying out of this policy must ultimately lead to the overthrow of the Establishment. They seem only to have thought of this, that there was no immediate danger to themselves, and that wherever the popular power was admitted their influence was endangered, inasmuch as the people generally preferred evangelical ministers; and their current exclamation was, "Better Dissenters out of the Church than Dissenters in the Church." To us now it may seem almost incredible that the propriety of erecting a chapel at Maxwelltown, for example, should have ever been debated. Here was a large population of several thousands attached to the Established Church, which was removed by some considerable distance, and in which they had no accommodation. What more natural than that they should propose to erect a place of worship for themselves, especially as there were amongst them a number of men both able and willing to support ordinances at their own expense? But this was stoutly resisted, and the first debate that I ever heard in the General Assembly was a debate on this subject. Here was the old parish minister stoutly opposing the erection of the chapel. The tide, however, in favour of more reasonable counsels had begun to turn. The Maxwelltown chapel was sanctioned, and although never dreaming of anything of the kind at the time, I afterwards became its first minister.

In those days the openings into the Established Church for young men who had no patrons, were very few indeed. They were chiefly confined to the seventy chapels of ease which then existed, and to a few other places where popular influence happened to prevail. Although there were several candidates for the Maxwelltown Chapel, the election turned out to be ultimately unanimous. I had now, of course, to pass a new course of examinations, with a view to being ordained by the Presbytery of Dumfries; a body, many of whose members had no special liking for the new arrangement. All, however, passed on well and harmoniously, and I was ordained on the 18th of May 1830. Almost simultaneously with my ordination occurred the death of the Rev. Dr. Scott of St. Michael's Church, Dumfries. Although belonging to the Moderate school in the Church, he had been a very popular minister, and his death produced a profound impression in the town. The Rev. Mr. Wallace, who was assistant to Dr. Lamont of Kirkpatrick Durham, an eminent Moderate minister of those days officiated at my ordination, and really preached with remarkable power and effect. People said that he had never preached so well before. In the anxiety of the Dumfries congregation lest an unacceptable minister should be appointed to succeed Dr. Scott, a petition was immediately got up in favour of Mr. Wallace. As popular influence had begun to prevail, he was accordingly appointed, and continued for many years a minister of that parish. I was introduced to my new charge on the following Sabbath by Dr. Buchanan of North Leith, whose assistant I had previously been. He preached a very eloquent and powerful sermon on the occasion. I preached of course in the afternoon, and immediately set to work with all my might to build up a congregation in the new and empty church. It is scarcely possible to convey a full impression of the state of ecclesiastical matters, as they at that time existed in the South of Scotland. They were certainly in a very unsatisfactory state. The great and almost paramount influence of the nobility and leading families of the South of Scotland had long been in favour of Moderatism. It was even said that all the great patrons sent the lists of preachers from whom they intended to select the future ministers, to be revised by the Moderate conclave in Edinburgh, lest any single evangelical man should by any means get a pulpit. Notwithstanding this, however, although Moderatism certainly presented an almost unbroken front, there were a few excellent evangelical ministers. Mr. Brydone of Dunscore was an excellent man and most faithful pastor; Mr. M'Whirr of Urr was truly devoted to his great work, and was a good preacher, although with a terrific voice, which he seemed to delight to exert to the uttermost. He sometimes apparently set his back against the pulpit, and shouted as if he would have driven down the opposite wall. It is alleged that Dr. Bruce once said of a preacher about to emigrate, that if he went to Canada he would not require to take any wedges with him, as his voice would serve effectually to split the trees there. I remember that when I was afterwards in Paisley, Mr. Telfer of Johnstone, which is about two miles to the west, had a remarkably strong voice. One day the Presbytery appointed him to preach in the High Church, Paisley, and when he asked what he was to do with his own congregation on that day, one of the ministers, who was rather a wag, quietly said, that if he would only instruct the church-officer to throw open the west door of the Paisley High Church, he would require no substitute, as the people of Johnstone would hear him well enough. Mr. M'Whirr, an excellent man, was certainly most remarkable for power of voice. Mr. Kirkwood of Holywood was an earnest, genial, and popular minister. Crowds attended his communion, dispensed in the open air. But he devoted himself considerably to the practice of medicine, people sometimes coming from great distances to receive his advice, to the considerable annoyance of some of the regular practitioners. Mr. Burnside of Terregles was a man of decided talent, and acted as evening lecturer in Dumfries. Dr. Duncan of Dumfries was a good and worthy man, but certainly no great preacher. His eminent brother at Ruthwell - the inventor of Savings' Banks, and a man of great general philanthropy and intelligence - was a thoroughly evangelical minister. I preached for several of these men during my short ministry at Dumfries, and, in particular, I delivered a charity sermon at Ruthwell on a fine Sabbath evening. There was a large congregation, more than the church would hold, and we conducted the worship in the open air. The grounds about the manse, which had been reclaimed and beautified by Dr. Duncan, afforded an admirable illustration of what an active and skilful minister may accomplish even with a most unpromising subject. For another reason, and at a subsequent period, his excellent son, the late minister of Peebles, sent me the following account of his operations in the way of glebe improvement. It is a beautiful illustration of the way in which things temporal and spiritual were simultaneously promoted by the better class of Scotch ministers:-

"PEEBLES, Feb. 23, 1849.

"MY DEAR SIR, - YOU ask me for an account of the means whereby my father, the late Dr. Henry Duncan of Ruthwell, brought his glebe and pleasure grounds to the state of fertility and loveliness in which you remember to have seen them. This I shall accordingly endeavour, as briefly as possible, to do.

"When my father became incumbent of the parish of Ruthwell, he found the glebe, extending, as it does, over nearly fifty acres, in a deplorably neglected state. The soil consisted for the most part of moor, and the whole was either overgrown with whins, or soaking and sour with a marshy moisture, which little or nothing had been done to drain away. To remedy this state of things, he lost no time in subdividing the land, so as to adapt it to the then new mode of cropping, dug ditches of sufficient depth, planted fences here, threw up dykes there, and drew drains from year to year across the worst parts of the sullen fields, till they became everywhere capable of culture by the plough. The turf, when necessary, he caused to be shaved off to a considerable depth, and after a number of square enclosures had been erected, by means of the most solid of the sods thus obtained, in different parts of the field, the lighter ones, accompanied by masses of thick clay, which abounded in some parts of the glebe, were cast in, and the whole was consumed by means of fire introduced at the openings from below. Never shall I forget the peculiar, and to me now delicious perfume, exhaled from these smoking heaps over the whole district for miles around. The ashes thus formed were afterwards spread over the land, and ploughed in along with lime. I well remember vast accumulations of compost which were also turned to good account, nor were there wanting, of course; in the spring season, the ordinary appliances of dunghill manure. Recourse was had to all sorts of experiments in agriculture, the results of which were successively recorded in the Dumfries Courier. For ornamental grounds, about five acres were reserved immediately around the manse. These, I have always understood, formed the most unsightly portion of the glebe when my father took possession of the living. Yet, by dint of planting, trenching, top-dressing, tasteful arrangement, and incessant labour, to say nothing of expense, it became at last what you, perhaps somewhat hyperbolically; styled it the other day, 'a perfect paradise.' The garden, covering a space of two English acres, intersected by numerous nicely trimmed beech hedges, abounding with shady walks and odoriferous bowers, and skirted here and there by clumps of flowery shrubs - such as the lilac, laburnum, and rhododendron - was at first little better than a cold marsh. The smooth lawn, now dotted with umbrageous trees, was then a wilderness of stones and gigantic weeds; and the mimic lake, with its promontories and receding bays, adorned with rustic bridges and weeping willows, &c., covers what was once a stagnant and offensive moss-hag. The gravel walks, which traversed the pleasure grounds, extended at one time to upwards of a mile. So much labour as all these improvements implied, enabled my father for a considerable period to give constant employment to not a few of his parishioners, who otherwise would have been a burden on the poor's funds; and by this, along with other means, he contrived to stave off an assessment much longer than, but for this, could have been done. On the other hand, he was more than rewarded by the satisfaction of watching the gradual development of his plans, and the increasing luxuriance and fertility of his fields and gardens, and still more by the assurance that, in seeking his own advancement and amusement he was contributing very materially at the same time to the economic well-being of a poverty-stricken and much. neglected population.

"Warmly sympathising with you in your views for the amelioration of the miserable condition of so large a portion of our fellow-countrymen, and earnestly desiring for you complete success, I remain, my dear Sir, yours very truly,

"W. W. DUNCAN.

"Rev. James Begg, D.D."

There was also, in addition to these thinly-scattered evangelical ministers, who were as lights shining in a comparatively dark place, the Rev. Mr. Hastie, a probationer who was tutor to a Dr. Laing, and afterwards became a zealous minister at Kirkpatrick Fleming. Mr. Anderson, who afterwards became so zealous and distinguished a missionary at Madras, lived also at that time as a tutor in the family of a Mr. Taylor, one of those who, along with Mr. Stothert of Cargen, founded the Maxwelltown Chapel. Mr. Anderson regularly attended ordinances in the chapel at that time. He was then a most enthusiastic and excellent young man, but scarcely gave promise of the very high eminence to which he afterwards attained. With these excellent ministers and people, however, there was, as we shall immediately see, an overwhelming preponderance of influence on the other side.

I may here remark in passing, that the mode of travelling to Dumfries at that time was very different from what it is now; and as I had occasion to travel frequently when going to Dumfries as a candidate, and afterwards in attending Presbytery, and otherwise during my short residence there, the tedious conveyance of former times has left a deep impression on my memory. The mail-coach started from Edinburgh in the evening from what was then the Black Bull Inn at the top of Leith Walk, but is now a large draper's establishment. We went by Penicuick, Broughton, Tweedsmuir, and Moffat, occupying the whole night, sometimes a cold and stormy night, and arriving in Dumfries next morning in time for breakfast. The people of the present day have in this respect a very great advantage.

The great mass of the ministers of the South of Scotland, and that for a great range, from Berwick to Portpatrick, were at that time decidedly Moderate, having a great horror at anything like stir or energy in religion, which they regarded as fanaticism or righteousness overmuch. They abjured prayer-meetings, classes for the young, and everything distinctively evangelical. But they were again divided into different classes. Some were, upon the whole, respectable men in their own way, and I have reason to believe better preachers and ministers than some in the present day who make much higher pretensions. Others were extremely frivolous and inefficient, card-players, and half-scoffers. Some of them were openly wicked, if reports were true, and anything but an ensample to their flocks. The effect may easily be anticipated. Religion was at a low ebb. The general estimation in which ministers were held was widely different from that to which I had been accustomed in my younger days, and the general tone of religion and morality in the district was very unsatisfactory. There were numerous and frequent proofs of this in the prevailing carelessness and immorality of many of the people. Much debate has lately arisen in regard to the amount of illegitimacy in the north eastern and southern districts of Scotland, and whilst there are other causes, I am convinced that it has a close connection with the style of preaching which prevailed. At that time I heard some statements in regard to the immorality of the district, which, till then, I could scarcely have believed credible. But the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and where there is no powerful preaching of the Gospel, the whole tone of morality as well as of religion must necessarily sink. The result was not only thus sad and disheartening in as far as the Established Church was concerned, but had a most depressing effect apparently even upon Dissent. A coarse orthodoxy coupled with a servile spirit, seemed to mark some whose ministrations were loudly called for, and who had come to teach higher lessons to the ministers and people of the Established Church. My experience of life has been, that if the Established Church falls low, Dissent does not always compensate for the want, or rise in proportion, and this was at that time strikingly true at Dumfries. Dissent succeeds best where there has been a stirring and evangelical ministry succeeded by one cold and unpopular. Men require a certain measure of life and grace to be prepared for the sacrifices implied in Dissent, but even in that case Dissent does not always maintain the high tone with which it commences. At the time to which I refer, the great mass of the people of the South of Scotland adhered nominally to the Established Church, but they were ready to welcome eagerly evangelical preaching; and if the influential men of the country in Church and State had been prepared to reform and extend the Church of Scotland, according to the advice of Dr. Chalmers and the principles of the Reformation, that Church would probably now have been one of the strongest in the world, a great pillar of the constitution, and of all that is honest, lovely, and of good report. As yet Voluntaryism was mainly a thing of the future.

I lodged during my sojourn at Dumfries with a worthy, quiet bachelor, Mr. John Hair, a draper in the town, and one of the managers of the congregation. His house was situated near what was then "The Windmill," but which is now converted into "The Observatory." The dwelling was quiet and comfortable, and surrounded by an excellent garden and orchard, where I walked and partly studied. My whole time was occupied from week to week in my various duties, in which I delighted. My plan was to spend the whole of Monday and Tuesday in visiting the people, including the sick. Everywhere I met with the greatest kindness. I had in addition two classes, for young men and women respectively, on the Tuesday evenings. On Wednesday and Thursday I wrote my sermons, and on Friday and Saturday I committed them to memory, and again in retirement prepared myself for my Sabbath work. Knowing that the people would very likely, in the circumstances, be specially deficient in the systematic knowledge of theology, I preached a short course of sermons containing a system of theology, beginning with man's state of innocence, and ending with the judgment and its eternal results. At that time I sometimes preached for not less than an hour each end of the day. Some may think this was unreasonably long, but everything depends on circumstances. Length and tediousness are very different things. It is said of a minister that he once said to his beadle, "John, I'm afraid I have been rather long today" John answered, "Sir, ye hae been verra teydious." But it is not necessarily so. At other meetings, and dealing with other topics, men are not so easily satisfied if they are only interested; and my Dumfries congregation, I am happy to say, were very far indeed from making any complaint. I believe that this plan of systematic preaching was blessed at the time, and I am sure it has been of advantage to myself during all my subsequent ministry. My work at Dumfries was hard and constant, and in as far as the outward prosperity of the congregation was concerned, I succeeded beyond all my expectations. The church was soon completely filled, although containing upwards of 1000 people - indeed it was crowded - and in the course of six months we had nearly 600 communicants. Upon a scrutiny I discovered that these had previously belonged to various Protestant denominations, and that they came from all the parishes round, within a radius of from eight to twelve miles. This was mainly the result of the comparatively cold and neglected state of things which had previously existed. Everything seemed most prosperous, although one circumstance occurred which tended to damp my enthusiasm, although I afterwards understood the meaning of it more perfectly. Dr. Chalmers visited Dumfries during my ministry there, and was as usual most kind and friendly; but instead of expressing the kind of satisfaction which I felt in this miscellaneous congregation, he rather expressed a regret that the district had not been worked exclusively upon the territorial system. This would have been very well if the circumstances had been different. The best of theories requires to be worked in accordance with what is actually practicable. In the first place, our chapel was not endowed, nor at first free from debt, and therefore had to depend upon the hearers for support. To have turned out all but those in the immediate neighbourhood would have been an act of injustice. Secondly, we had no territorial district in the sense of having a parish, and might have been pulled up by the Presbytery if we had meddled with hearers who did not belong to us or came to us of their own accord. And, thirdly, in the dearth of the Gospel which then prevailed in the district, it would have been found impossible to shut out people who had helped to build the chapel, and who spontaneously attended, so long as the room was not otherwise occupied. Admitting the great value of Dr. Chalmers' territorial theory, it can only be carried into thorough effect in connection with an endowed system, and with public authorised parochial arrangements. Yet I am convinced that nothing else will ever meet the heathenism of our land or of any land, and that the parochial system is at the same time as cheap as it is efficient.

One of the most interesting incidents connected with my residence at Dumfries was my acquaintance with Mrs. Jean Armour or Burns, otherwise called "Bonnie Jean," the widow of the great poet. The grandchildren of Burns were connected with my congregation, and I frequently went to visit his widow in the house near the place where his monument is erected, and in which I presume he died. Mrs. Burns, or "Jean," at the time when I saw her, could not be called "bonnie," although her appearance was well enough. She was rather old and frail in appearance, but extremely interesting and pleasant in conversation. I can quite well imagine that when young she may have been very engaging to an intellectual man. She had beside her always on the table the large family Bible, in which the names of her children were written in the poet's hand. I have not seen this Bible since, although, I presume it is in safe custody somewhere. There were many of the poems of Burns about Dumfries at that time in the bold and marked handwriting of the poet himself, as well as other relics. There were also painful traditions with regard to the latter period of the life of the great poet. It is sad to think of this in the case of a genius so wonderful; but it is a great lesson to all. It was interesting to see the widow of Burns, and I believe she was an excellent Christian woman.

My stay at Dumfries, however, was comparatively short. I received in a few months a call to be colleague and successor to Dr. Jones in Lady Glenorchy's Church, Edinburgh. Taking the whole circumstances into consideration, that I was hardly equal to the heavy and constant work to which I was subjected, and especially that I should have an opportunity as a collegiate minister for more study in consequence of having only one sermon a week, a thing which I felt to be quite necessary, and also that I could have fuller access to men and books, I resolved to accept the new position. I was inducted to Lady Glenorchy's Chapel on the 23d December 1830 being yet scarcely twenty-two years of age. Dr. Jones, to whom I thus became a colleague, was certainly a most able and remarkable man. Originally a Welshman, and with all the characteristic enthusiasm and discrimination in preaching for which the Welsh are distinguished, he had at the same time a powerful and fertile imagination, and to those accustomed to follow him - which certainly required habit - he was a most eloquent and fascinating preacher. Lady Glenorchy's Chapel had long been a centre of evangelical light in Edinburgh. That worthy lady certainly manifested great zeal and discrimination in the efforts and sacrifices which she made for the diffusion of Gospel truth both in England and in Scotland. Dr. Jones himself was a remarkable illustration of the wisdom of her selections, and, as the writer of her biography, he has delineated an admirable model of female sanctified wisdom and zeal in the higher walks of life, without one particle of ostentation or undue forwardness. The volume of sermons which Dr. Jones published, although remarkable in many ways, gives little real idea of the man as we heard him from Sabbath to Sabbath. They are mere skeletons, and it is necessary to have the warm and brilliant filling up by which he made them so attractive, in order to comprehend the real extent of his pulpit power. The semi-prophetic picture which he drew of the probable career of Dr. Chalmers at the very dawn of that great man's popularity, affords an admirable illustration of his discriminating wisdom. He was an extremely agreeable man, and a most profitable and instructive colleague. He preached in the forenoon, and I in the afternoon, and I regularly spent the Sabbath evenings with him in his own house in Hanover Street, at the corner of Thistle Street. My own lodgings were then in Leopold Place. Although a chapel minister, and never admitted to a Presbytery, Dr. Jones was a man in good circumstances, and on intimate terms with all the distinguished ministers of Edinburgh. He was especially intimate with Dr. Andrew Thomson, for whom he cherished a strong affection, and in whose public discussions he took the deepest interest, although not always agreeing with him in his views. He especially differed from him, as I have already said, in regard to Roman Catholic Emancipation, to which Dr. Jones had a rooted aversion. When Dr. Andrew Thomson's sudden death convulsed all Edinburgh, and thousands flocked to manifest their sense of the great loss the Church and country had sustained by his death, no man felt this more keenly than Dr. Jones. His grief, however, was of a deeply solemn and undemonstrative kind. He shut himself up in his room to mourn in solitude over what he believed to be a great public as well as private calamity, and did not reappear in public until we saw him on the following Sabbath forenoon in his own pulpit, where he gave out with the deepest solemnity the psalm:-

''Dumb was I, opening not my mouth, Because this work was Thine."

Dr. Jones had a peculiar admiration for the Psalms, and had a knowledge of them probably seldom equalled, and much more seldom surpassed. He cut out even the paraphrases from the pulpit Psalm-book, but he never was at a loss to find an appropriate psalm. He made slight alterations in the psalms; as, for example, in the twenty-fourth, instead of "O Jacob who do seek," he made "O Jacob's God who seek."

His sermon on the occasion of Dr. Andrew Thomson's death was an admirable sample of his close textual and yet brilliant style of preaching. It was on the text, "He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." He considered, first, "he was a light," that is, he was a minister of truth; this as opposed to the darkness of ignorance or to the distortions of error; second, he was a "burning light," that is, he was a powerful minister, fitted rightly to struggle against error and sin; third, he was a "shining light," that is, he was a brilliant minister, arresting attention and drawing around him all eyes; fourth, "ye rejoiced in his light," that is, the existence of such a minister was the occasion of much gratitude and joy to the people of God; fifth, ye "were willing'' to rejoice; it was not mere prejudice or misapprehension, or a hasty or doubtful conclusion. It was a wise and intelligent conviction, founded on the strongest reasons, of what a great blessing God had conferred upon the country by raising up such a man. But, sixth, ye were permitted to do it only "for a season." Andrew Thomson was dead, and a mighty blank created. The sermon was wound up by a very brilliant and effective application. Like most great men, Dr. Jones had a good deal of humour, and a strong apprehension of the ludicrous. Dr. Colquhoun of Leith was a very excellent man. His books are still highly valued. During the comparative dearth of the Gospel many flocked to hear him, and there is reason to believe that his ministry was much blessed. Dr. Jones had been his great ally in the earlier times of his ministry, and he was asked to preach his funeral sermon. It was alleged that if Dr. Colquhoun had a fault, it was that he was a little narrow in dealing with money. We do not know whether there was any truth in this, and people are apt most unjustly to blame ministers for that ordinary prudence which is often with them a necessary virtue. They of all men are bound to do what is sufficient to rescue them from the condemnation of the Apostle, who says, " If any will not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

Every one knows that no class of men are blamed more unscrupulously than ministers if they cannot pay their just and lawful debts, although the means placed at their disposal are often scandalously inadequate. The treatment which they receive is, in this respect, often like the Scriptural complaint of the children sitting in the market-place, and from either alternative being sure to extort a ground of unreasonable complaint. Still, true or false, such an allegation had been made in regard to worthy Dr. Colquhoun; and it occurred to Dr. Jones after he entered the pulpit to preach his funeral sermon that he had chosen rather an awkward text. The text was, "And the beggar died." Whether it was noticed by others we cannot tell. We have reason to know that the sermon was a very eloquent and appropriate one. Notes of it were preserved and published not very long ago by one who formed part of the audience.

An eminent minister of Edinburgh was anxious to secure the promotion to one of the city churches of Edinburgh of a friend whose talents were more solid than brilliant. With this view he was peculiarly desirous to secure the influence of Dr. Jones, whose congregation was wealthy and influential. The Doctor, however, was a strong Presbyterian, and thoroughly opposed to the use of any undue influence in the appointment of ministers. This eminent man, who called for him, however, was very urgent, and pleaded that if he were to select a minister for himself, his heavy friend would be the very person he would choose. Dr. Jones listened attentively to all he had to say, and then he answered with his usual vivacity, "I have only one remark to make, Dr. So-and-So. What you say may be all very true, but your friend has been weighed in the popular scales and he has been found wanting."

My connection, however, with Dr. Jones as his colleague was very speedily terminated. It lasted only for about a year, although to me it was a time of much enjoyment and advantage, and although, to all outward appearance, the congregation greatly prospered and increased. Indeed, we spoke of enlarging the church, although it was a very capacious building. A number of very excellent men were connected with the congregation, and no congregation could be more united. The great mass of those who formed the membership of Lady Glenorchy's at that time have, however now passed away, and the church itself, with its schoolhouse and teacher's house standing alongside of it, have been entirely removed to make way for the terminus of the North British Railway. I have a picture both of the exterior and interior of the venerable church, which I greatly value. It was, I have no doubt, the birthplace of many souls. Many ministers and Christian people long regarded it as a place of special Christian privilege. It is hallowed in the recollections of some of the best of the present generation. When I mention the names of such men as Dr. Horatius and Mr. Andrew Bonar, both of whom were brought up under the ministry of Dr. Jones, many will understand what I mean.