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.



T HE chapel of Lady Glenorchy, to the joint-pastorate of which Dr. Begg was now removed, had a constitution which, so far as I know, was unique in Scotland. Its relation to the Church of Scotland was not very clearly defined. That relation was closely connected with its history, and in order to make the former intelligible, some attention must be given to the latter - a history which in itself is deeply interesting. The facts of that history I gather from the Life of Lady Glenorchy by the Rev. Dr. Jones. 22

[Footnote 22: "The Life of the Right Honourable Willielma, Viscountess Glenorchy, containing Extracts from her Diary and
Correspondence. By T. S. Jones, D.D., Minister of her Chapel, Edinburgh. Second edition. Edinburgh, 1824."]

Willielma Maxwell was one of the two daughters of William Maxwell, Esq. of Preston in Kirkcudbrightshire. She was a posthumous child, and was born on the 2nd of September 1741. Mrs. Maxwell, twelve years after the death of her husband, became the wife of Lord Alva, one of the Judges of the Court of Session, who afterwards became Lord Justice-Clerk; and the two young ladies grew to womanhood as members of the family of their stepfather. "The Misses Maxwell," says Lady Glenorchy's biographer, "were in their day celebrated for their beauty, accomplishments, and amiable manners, as well as for their fortune. Their mother, lofty and ambitious, had from their infancy destined them, in her own mind, to the attainment, by marriage, of high rank." The ambitious mamma was more successful than matchmaking mammas sometimes are. The elder daughter became Countess of Sutherland, and the second, in 1761, became Viscountess Glenorchy, her husband being the only son and heir-apparent of the proud title and immense estates of the Earl of Breadalbane. In the year following the marriage Lord Glenorchy became, through the death of his mother, the actual owner of a good estate in Staffordshire. A year after Lord Glenorchy's marriage, from the time of Lady Breadalbane's death, the Earl virtually made over to his son and daughter-in-law his house in Edinburgh and his noble castle of Taymouth, and for the remainder of his son's life lived with them as their guest rather than their host.

At the time of her marriage Lady Glenorchy was entirely a woman of the world, a lover of pleasure more than of God; but feeble health and a severe illness led her to reflection, and occasional residence in Staffordshire brought her into intimate association with the family of Sir Rowland Hill. Her intercourse with this family, and especially with Miss Hill, a young lady of her own age, was the means of her conversion to God. From this time she lived a life of much devotedness, setting herself very strenuously in opposition to the vanities of the world, and especially to the gaieties of the fashionable portion of it, exercising a constant, painful jealousy over her own heart, and striving to relieve the sufferings and promote the temporal and spiritual welfare of all around her. Her diaries, of which large portions are given in her biography, are full of bitter self-condemnation, and of lamentation over her lack of joy, and even of peace, in believing. It must be confessed that these diaries do not give the idea of Christian healthfulness. The want of it was probably due, in some measure, to constitutional physical causes, and partly also to a particular abiding sorrow, to which there are none but the vaguest allusions, but whose nature it is not difficult to perceive. Probably, however, her Ladyship was far more cheerful through all the hours of the day than she was during the hour or half-hour which she spent in self-censorious introspection, and in recording her estimate of the result. It is to state the matter very mildly to say that her husband had no sympathy with the mode of life to which she was led by her religious views; and it is quite conceivable that, without any unfaithfulness or sinful compromise, she might have been somewhat more conciliatory, with a better hope that he might be "won by the conversation of the wife." This, however, is manifest, that he ever regarded her with great respect, and seldom or never attempted to oppose her efforts to do good in her own way, although he made no secret of it that that way was not his. It would appear, however, that he gradually came to take some interest in these efforts, and ultimately was willing to render them an aid as little strenuous as had been his original opposition. This would appear, at all events, from his will, to which I shall have to refer ere long. It should be mentioned, too, that the fine old chieftain, Lord Breadalbane, uniformly treated his daughter-in-law, not only with the noblest and highest-toned courtesy, but also with fatherly tenderness. All through Lord Glenorchy's life, and perhaps still more after his death, the Earl took care in countless ways to make Lady Glenorchy feel that she was his own beloved daughter, and none the less although she was not destined to prevent the extinction of his noble line.

In various works of well-doing, in unceasing endeavours to induce her relatives, her dependents, and her neighbours of every class to give heed to the things belonging to their peace, and in the exercise of bountiful but judicious liberality to the poor - but frequently in bitterness of spirit, from a sense of unworthiness and a morbid jealousy of her motives and affections, - Lady Glenorchy spent some six years from the time of her conversion (1765-71). In November of the latter year Lord Glenorchy died. "His last days and hours," says her biographer, "showed that the religious sentiments with which Lady Glenorchy had endeavoured to impress his mind were not altogether lost." The biographer goes on to say:-

"Lady Glenorchy's feelings on this trying occasion may be better conceived than expressed. In the prime of her life and noonday of her prosperity, to be deprived of one who, with all his failings, stood in the near relation of her husband, to whom she had been united for a period of ten years, who undoubtedly had a high esteem and ardent affection for her, and with whose life was connected the continuance and increase of her wealth and honours, must to any woman have been a very great and afflicting bereavement. And although Lady Glenorchy, as became an exemplary Christian, summoned up all her religious principles to her support on this occasion, she felt deeply her loss, and, as is usual in such cases, forgot the failings of her deceased lord while the instances of his kindness and affection were recalled to memory with peculiar interest. There were seasons, indeed, when these recollections came more forcibly into her mind than others; but even on such occasions, when her heart was under the overwhelming influence of grief, she became gradually calm and serene by the mild and consoling influences of true religion. In short, it is to her pure and elevated piety that we are to attribute that firmness and composure which she endeavoured to exhibit in circumstances which, even taking everything into account, would have overset the mind of a person in her situation, under so painful and unexpected a bereavement, who was a stranger to the views and principles and feelings which Christianity alone can inspire and maintain. This stroke was unquestionably the severest which Lady Glenorchy ever felt."

It may not be out of place to remark in passing, by way of annotation to this extract, that it seems to be in questionable taste to represent the climax of the widow's grief as consisting in the consideration that her husband's death put an end to her prospect of becoming Countess of Breadalbane. But let that pass.

I have already referred to Lord Glenorchy's will. It was entirely in favour of his wife. He bequeathed to her unreservedly the estate of Barnton, near Edinburgh, having previously sold his Staffordshire property, and invested the proceeds, and a good deal more, in the purchase of this estate. Besides this he assigned to her, "for the favour and affection which he bore to her, all his plate, furniture, linen, pictures, prints and books, and everything over which he had a disposing power, making her his sole executrix and legatee." It is specially interesting to note, as indicating the sympathy with which he had begun to regard her evangelistic zeal, that he gave "full power to the said Willielma, Viscountess Glenorchy, upon [his] decease, to convert the whole of [his] said estate, means, and effects hereby conveyed into money, and to employ or bestow the whole, or such part thereof as she shall see cause, for encouraging the preaching of the gospel, and promoting the knowledge of the Protestant religion, erecting schools, and civilising the inhabitants of Breadalbane, Glenorchy, Nether Lorn and other parts of the Highlands of Scotland, in such a way and manner as she shall judge proper and expedient."

Lady Glenorchy had thus become a rich woman. Dr. Jones speaks of the "fortune" of Miss Maxwell as contributing, with her "beauty, accomplishments, and amiable manners," to make her an eligible bride for a man of "high rank." What the amount of this fortune was I do not know. It may be presumed that it would be "settled on herself" by a marriage contract. Then I find an incidental reference to a jointure of £1,000 a year, which would, I suppose, be a burden on the Breadalbane estates. Lastly, Barnton was sold for £28,000, which, invested at 4 per cent., would yield her £1,120 a year. Thus she must have had an annual income of about £3,000, which was a large income in those days. Then her personal expenditure must have been but small, as the old Earl more and more, with advancing years, clung to her, and almost demanded that she should be with him in one or other of his splendid mansions.

Before this time, while her income was smaller and less under her own control, Lady Glenorchy had already spent considerable sums of money in providing church accommodation and the supply of Christian ordinances to the poor of Edinburgh. Thus in 1770 she had rented Mary's Chapel - once a Romish place of worship - in Niddry's Wynd, and had arranged for services - apparently daily - to be conducted by ministers of all evangelical denominations. From this she was dissuaded by some of her chiefest friends, ministers of the Established Church, but was as warmly supported by others. Of the former class, the most strenuous was Mr. Walker, her own pastor and her most valued friend. On the other hand was Dr. Webster, who was all for "Evangelical Alliance," and who frequently conducted the services, while Mr. Walker decidedly refused to have aught to do with them. His objection, and that of other friends, was to co-operation with Wesleyans. Lady Glenorchy herself was strongly Calvinistic; but Lady Maxwell - probably a relative - her lifelong friend and chief coadjutrix, was herself a Wesleyan; and for a time Lady Glenorchy consented to admit "Mr. Wesley's preachers" into the pulpit of Mary's Chapel.

In the course of 1772, only a few months after the death of her husband, Lady Glenorchy resolved to erect a church in Edinburgh, which should be in connection with the Established Church, but which should not, like the chapels of ease previously referred to, be connected with, or subordinate to, the church of the parish within whose bounds it might be situated. She set about the execution of her resolution with great energy. A site was purchased in what was then called the Orphan Park, overlooked by the North Bridge, and now forming part of the Waverley Station of the North British Railway. On the 11th of August 1772 she was able to give orders that the work should be proceeded with, and on the 8th of May 1774 the church was opened for public worship. It was a plain substantial structure, void of ornament, but comfortably seated for 2,000 people, while it could, without any great pressure, hold some 500 more. It is necessary that I should dwell at some little length on the relation in which the chapel was to stand towards the Established Church.

When the building was nearly completed, as Lady Glenorchy had intended that her chapel should be in full communion with the Established Church, she wrote to the Presbytery of Edinburgh in the following terms:-

"To the Rev. the Moderator of the Presbytery of Edinburgh.

"REV. SIR, - It is a general complaint that the churches of this city that belong to the Establishment are not proportionate to the number of its inhabitants. Many who are willing to pay rent for seats cannot obtain them, and no space is left for the poor but the remoter areas, where few of those who find room to stand can get within hearing of an ordinary voice. I have thought it my duty to employ part of that substance with which God has been pleased to intrust me in building a chapel within the Orphan House Park, in which a considerable number of our communion, who at present are altogether unprovided, may enjoy the comfort and benefit of the same ordinances that are dispensed in their parish churches, and where I hope to have the pleasure of accommodating some hundreds of poor people who have long been shut out from one of the best, and to some of them the only, means of being instructed in the principles of our holy religion. The chapel will soon be ready to receive a congregation, and it is my intention to have it supplied with a minister of approved character and abilities, who shall give security for his soundness in the faith and his loyalty to Government. It will give me pleasure to be informed that the Presbytery approve of my general design, and that it will be agreeable to them that I ask occasional supply from such ministers and probationers as I am acquainted with till a congregation be formed and supplied with a stated minister; and I beg you will do me the favour to present this letter, with my respectful compliments, to the Rev. Presbytery of Edinburgh at their first meeting. - I am, Rev. Sir, your most humble servant, W. GLENORCHY."

The answer of the Presbytery, through their clerk, was as follows:-

"The Presbytery unanimously approved of Lady Glenorchy's general design, and desired that she might be informed that her asking occasional supply from such ministers and probationers as her Ladyship is acquainted with till a congregation is formed and supplied with a stated minister will be agreeable to the Presbytery."

The opening services were conducted by Dr. John Erskine and Mr. Walker, who preached respectively from Prov. viii. 33, 34, and from Gal. vi. 15. "The few persons who survive," says Dr. Jones, "speak of this day with much satisfaction and delight. Fervent prayers for the usefulness of this institution were offered up to Almighty God, which we have every reason to hope and believe have already been heard and answered, and will be answered for ages and generations yet to come."

At this time there was serene weather and plain sailing, but a storm was brewing, and there were rocks ahead. While the Presbytery had, after a sort, accepted the chapel as a gift to the Church, and were proverbially precluded from a critical examination of the gift-horse's mouth, it was natural that they should inquire whether it were really a gift at all, or, if a gift it were, on what terms or with what conditions it was given. There was nothing determined as yet respecting the constitution which was to be given to the chapel, or the relation which it, its ministers, and its people, were to sustain to the Established Church. Looking back, after the lapse of more than a century, I cannot but think that the controversy which was soon to ensue between Lady Glenorchy and the Presbytery of Edinburgh was the natural and inevitable result of the indefiniteness of the proposal which her Ladyship made, and which the Presbytery accepted. Lady Glenorchy's letter, which I have quoted, gives really no information on these points. The chapel was to supply ordinances to a considerable number of our "communion," and the Presbytery was asked to "approve of the general design," and did express approbation of it. But the "general design" might be carried out in many ways, and the Presbytery did not ask, and, if they had asked, I doubt if Lady Glenorchy could have given, any information as to the details; for I do not think she had as yet formed any very distinct conception of the constitution and character of the chapel. It might be Presbyterian, or it might be Congregationalist, or it might be Episcopal. Probably her ideal was a mixture of the three. Well, that may be the very highest and the very best ideal of Christian unity; but it was not an ideal that could be grafted on the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. It might have been foreseen that "the little rift within the lute" would widen and become manifest under the vibration which must ensue in connection with the appointment of a minister; and so it did. Mr. Groves, an English Nonconformist, officiated in the chapel, at Lady Glenorchy's request, for the last three months of 1774, and again for the last three of 1775. The congregation generally were very desirous that he should be their permanent minister, and Lady Glenorchy did not think it right to oppose their wish. But when she intimated his nomination to the Presbytery, they desired to have some better security than was actually forthcoming for his doctrinal and ecclesiastical soundness. Mr. Groves, who held strongly anti-Establishment views, and who knew that these would not pass muster with the Presbytery, proposed that the connection, such as it was, between the chapel and the Established Church should be broken, and that he should enter upon its ministry as an Independent. To this Lady Glenorchy would not assent, and Mr. Groves returned to England.

Lady Glenorchy next attempted to obtain the services of a minister of the Church of Scotland, apparently in the expectation that the Presbytery would recognise him simply as a minister of the Church, over whom they could exercise control as living within their bounds, without seeking to define the power which they should have over him as minister of the chapel, or over the chapel itself. Amongst the ministers of the Established Church, or of any other Church, a happier choice could not have been made than of Mr. Robert Balfour, who was then minister of the parish of Lecropt, in the Presbytery of Dunblane. Mr. Balfour agreed to resign his charge and to accept Lady Glenorchy's nomination to her chapel. Lady Glenorchy intimated this to the Presbytery, and requested them to "countenance his admission to the chapel by appointing, one of their number to preach on the occasion." The Presbytery expressed their hearty approbation of the choice of Mr. Balfour, but requested further information respecting several matters. On the report of a committee appointed to confer with Lady Glenorchy on these matters, a majority of the Presbytery agreed that as soon as they should be certified of Mr. Balfour's resignation of his charge of Lecropt having been accepted, they would appoint Dr. Webster to preach on the occasion of his admission to Lady Glenorchy's Chapel. A minority, however, dissented and complained to the Synod. As this involved delay and suspense to both the congregations, Mr. Balfour thought it best to withdraw his acceptance of the nomination, and withdrew it accordingly. Shortly after he accepted a call to one of the churches in Glasgow, where he soon became, and long, continued, one of the most noted and the most influential ministers of his day.

It might have been expected that in these new circumstances the dissentients would have fallen from their complaint. But they did not do so; and on the motion of the celebrated Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk, the Synod sustained the dissent and complaint, reversed the judgment of the Presbytery, and further discharged all the ministers and probationers within their bounds from officiating in the said chapel, and further discharged the ministers of the Church from employing the minister of the said chapel to officiate for them. The reversal of the Presbytery's resolution to appoint Dr. Webster to preach at the admission of Mr. Balfour was, of course, of no consequence, as it had become a dead letter through Mr. Balfour's having declined to be admitted; but the gratuitous addition to the reversal of the judgment was felt to be intolerable, and an appeal was taken to the General Assembly. After two days' discussion, in which the leading men on both sides of the Church took part - for it had become really a party question - the Assembly pronounced the following judgment:-

"The Assembly, waiving the consideration of the first part of the Synod's sentence, disapproving of the Presbytery's appointing Dr. Webster to introduce Mr. Balfour to the chapel by preaching on that occasion, agreed, without a vote, to reverse, and hereby do reverse, the second part of the Synod's sentence, prohibiting all the ministers and probationers within their bounds to officiate in the said chapel, and discharging the ministers of this Church to employ any minister of the said chapel to officiate for them; and in case the matter shall again be brought before the Presbytery, the Assembly recommend to them to take proper care that the person to be admitted to the said chapel conform himself to the standards of the Church."

Thus the storm had spent itself, and a blink of fair weather supervened. But it did not last. Lady Glenorchy's attention had been directed to Mr. Sheriff, who had been licensed by the Presbytery of Haddington, and ordained by them to the chaplaincy of a Scottish regiment. The regiment was on active service in Holland, and Mr. Sheriff's physical strength was not adequate to the roughing of a campaign. He was therefore invalided, and accepted the offer which Lady Glenorchy made him of temporary or probational service in her chapel. It was evident that he was unfit for the two services in so large a church; but so favourable was the impression which he made, that it was earnestly desired to obtain so much service as he was able to render. Lady Glenorchy therefore proposed that he should accept the appointment, and that she should provide him with an assistant. He did accept. But his race was run. He preached only twice in the chapel after his appointment, and the commandment came, "Go up higher."

After a somewhat protracted and eventually unsuccessful negotiation with Mr. Hodgson, minister of Carmunnock, Lady Glenorchy's eyes were again turned southward. One of the trustees of the chapel, Mr. Dickie, went at her request to London to confer with Mr. Clayton, who had just begun a ministry in one of the Nonconformist congregations in the metropolis, - a ministry destined to be a long and an eminent one. Lady Glenorchy also wrote to Mr. Jones, with whom she had become acquainted in England, and of whom she had formed a very favourable opinion, requesting him to co-operate with Mr. Dickie in endeavouring to persuade Mr. Clayton to come to Edinburgh. Mr. Clayton declined the invitation, but Lady Glenorchy's correspondence with Mr. Jones suggested her addressing the same invitation to him, and he accepted it. Mr. Jones was a Congregational minister in Devonshire; but he received Presbyterial ordination in London, and entered upon the ministry of the chapel, apparently without any recognition on the part of the Presbytery. But a year after he presented himself before the Presbytery of Edinburgh, signed the formula in their presence, and "expressed, in proper terms, that though he did not enjoy the emoluments of the Establishment, it would always give him the highest satisfaction to be in communion with the ministers and members of this Church." Thus endeth this Iliad.

I do not anticipate a consensus of judgment on the part of readers and critics as to the propriety of introducing this long statement, as preliminary to a very brief account of Dr. Begg's very brief ministry in Lady Glenorchy's Chapel. I can only say that without some knowledge of the previous history of the constitution of the chapel, and its anomalous and indefinite relation to the Established Church, it would be impossible to form a right estimate of Dr. Begg's action, either in coming to it or so soon leaving it.

The ministry of Dr. Jones was long and successful. During a period when in many - indeed, in most - of the Edinburgh churches there was a "famine of the word," many of the most earnest Christians in the city found in Lady Glenorchy's a supply of that "pure milk of the word " which was denied them elsewhere. The result was that there was probably no congregation in Scotland which contained so large a number of intelligent and zealous Christians; while it may be freely admitted that the position of semi-antagonism and of virtual protest which they were constrained to occupy was unfavourable to the development of large-heartedness or catholicity of spirit. So far as I can judge from Dr. Jones's published sermons, 23 he was a man of more than average ability, with much power of clear exposition of Christian doctrine, and of earnest inculcation of Christian duty. The preface or dedication of this volume appears to me to be an exceptionally elegant and excellent specimen of a peculiarly difficult department of literature; and on this account, rather than on account of any germaneness to the matter in hand, beyond the desirableness of casting some measure of light on the position occupied by his assistant, I take the liberty of transferring it bodily to these pages. It is as follows:-

[Footnote 23: "Sermons by Thomas Snell Jones, D.D., Minister Of Lady Glenorchy's Chapel, Edinburgh. Printed at the desire Of the Congregation, to whom they were originally preached. Edinburgh, 1816."]

"TO THE TRUSTEES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE VESTRY, AND TO THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION OF LADY GLENORCHY'S CHAPEL, EDINBURGH. - Thirty-seven years ago by the instrumentality of the foundress of your chapel, the good providence of the Almighty brought me to minister in your place of worship; and, having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day. In the prospect, however, of the period when my ministry among you must cease, you have requested me to put a volume of my sermons into your hands, that you may give them to your children, as a memorial of what you have heard. Take, then, this volume, and let it be the memorial you desire. When the records of eternity shall be revealed, it will appear that these sermons were composed and delivered with a sincere and ardent desire to speak, and to speak only, the truth of Christ, and by that truth to promote your edification and salvation. If I shall obtain this important object with respect to you, and if you, by presenting these to your children, shall obtain a similar object with respect to them, I shall, on this head, have but one desire more, which is, that if any copies of this book shall find their way beyond the limits of your congregation, the same design may also be accomplished in those who shall thus receive them. In this event, I shall certainly be more disposed to say, at my departure, that I go in peace.


"EDINBURGH, July 25, 1816."

Dr. Jones lived for many years after this, and for ten of these years he discharged unaided the laborious duties of his large and important congregation. But while his eye was not dim, and his mental and bodily strength was little abated, I have learned from those who in those now distant years were juvenile attendants in the chapel, that his enunciation became very indistinct, and that it was with difficulty that they were able to follow him, while their seniors with sadness missed the ring of the voice which they loved so well to hear. Not too soon, therefore, did he give ear to the warning voice -

"Solve senescentem mature sanus equum, ne
Peccet ad extremum ridendus, et ilia ducat.

In 1826 he consented to the appointment of an assistant and successor. Mr. John Purves was accordingly appointed, and laboured with much acceptance until he was removed to Jedburgh, where he died a few years ago, after a distinguished ministry in the Established and the Free Church of more than half a century's duration.

Mr. Begg was elected to succeed Mr. Purves in Lady Glenorchy's, and was inducted by the Presbytery on the 24th of December 1830. The following brief paragraph must have been "communicated" to the newspapers, as I find it verbatim in the Courant and the Scotsman of the following day:-

"Thursday, the Presbytery of Edinburgh met in Lady Glenorchy's Chapel for the purpose of inducting the Rev. Mr. Begg, of Maxwelltown Chapel of Ease, as assistant and successor to the Rev. Dr. Jones, in room of the Rev. J. Purves, removed to Jedburgh. The Rev. Dr. Lee, of Lady Yester's Church, presided on the occasion, and preached an excellent and appropriate discourse from Romans i. 14, 15, 16."

From this it appears that the Presbytery had now no scruple in recognising the chapel as having some sort of connection with the Church of Scotland, and their interest in it was manifested by their appointing Dr. Lee, one of the most eminent of their members, to conduct the service. But I believe that the precise nature of the relation between the chapel and its ministers on the one hand, and the Presbytery and the Church of Scotland on the other, had never been properly defined, and that, indefinite as it was, it was unsatisfactory to both parties. It may have been noticed, for exampIe, that in the dedication which I have quoted. Dr. Jones designates a certain class of men in the congregation by the un-Scottish and un-Presbyterian term, "gentlemen of the vestry." I presume that this was because it might have given offence to the High Church section of the Presbytery had he called them "elders," or represented them as unitedly constituting a "kirk-session"!

Thus Dr. Begg's ministry in Lady Glenorchy's began with the year 1831, and with this, it may be said, began his life as a public man. From this time onward, to the close of his life in 1883, he occupied a prominent position in the public view, exercising a potent influence over the sentiments of his countrymen, and taking a considerable part in the discussions and in the events of that most notable half-century. It was well for him that at the outset of his career he had no temptation to turn aside from pastoral work into the devious paths of ecclesiasticism. We have seen that as a chapel minister, first at Maxwelltown, and now in Edinburgh, he had no proper ecclesiastical standing, and so was for the time excluded from a department which would certainly have had a seductive attraction for him, while yet he was not prepared to take part in it with safety to himself. He was all the better ecclesiastic in due time, because he was at first constrained to give his mind without distraction to his work as a preacher and a pastor. His experience gained in the study and the pulpit, and in the sick-rooms and by the death-beds of his people, shielded him from the dangers which beset the path of the mere ecclesiastic, habituating him to the consideration that the ecclesiastical department is of importance, mainly or solely, as subordinate and subsidiary to the pastoral and the spiritual. I do not say that this conviction abode always with him, or that it can be expected to abide always with any man who is much occupied with the discussion of ecclesiastical questions, or the making or regulating of ecclesiastical arrangements. But I can testify of him, more than of many "Church leaders" with whom I have been brought into contact, that in the thick of many an ecclesiastical fray, the paramount consideration with him was as to the bearing of this or that decision on the spiritual interests of our people. I may be permitted to say in passing that the principle which I have ventured to lay down with reference to this matter is capable of indefinite extension, and of application to all the legitimate pursuits of ministers of the gospel. The most laborious researches, historical or critical, or the most extensive acquaintance with science, literature, history, poetry, or whatever else, are right or wrong, safe or unsafe, for our ministers, according as they are, or are not, kept in subordination to the great work of the ministry, the converting of sinners to God, the edifying of the body of Christ. It were well, let me say, that our ministers, in the earlier years of their ministry, should give themselves undividedly and undistractedly to this work. When once their minds and their hearts have been thoroughly imbued with the pastoral habit, and experience has shown them at once the responsibility and the blessedness of the pastoral work, then that which would else have been a snare will be a help, and all acquisitions in whatever field will contribute to their efficiency in their proper work.

"Quo semel est imbuta recens, servabit odorem
Testa diu.

And not only does the jar retain the flavour of its first contents; it imparts it also to what is afterwards put into it.

It is therefore chiefly, or almost exclusively, as a preacher that we have to do with Dr. Begg at this stage of his career. And as at previous stages, so at this, we find among surviving members of the congregation little more than a general impression of great earnestness, and of remarkable fecundity of scriptural quotation. In the Autobiography reference is made to the Bonars as having been worshippers in the chapel during his incumbency. On application to Drs. Horatius and Andrew A. Bonar, I have received the following notes. Dr. Andrew writes from his holiday retreat as follows:-

"ISLE OF MULL, 28th August 1884.

"MY DEAR DR. SMITH, - I remember the days when I sat in Lady Glenorchy's listening to Dr. Begg pouring out Scripture upon Scripture in full flood. But there is nothing definite to tell beyond the fact that he kept his hearers interested, young as well as old, throughout the whole service. My brother Horatius may probably recall those days better than I can. At that time we scarcely knew him in private, and little did we think what his influence was to be in after days. How strange to be obliged to remember that he is no more with us!"

Dr. Horatius writes somewhat more at length:-


"MY DEAR DR. SMITH, - YOU ask me for some reminiscences of Dr. Begg during the short period of his Edinburgh ministry in Lady Glenorchy's Chapel as assistant to Dr. Jones, who was then my minister, and under whom for many years my father was an elder.

"Fifty-four years have elapsed since that time, and my impressions are not very vivid now; not only because of this intervening half-century, but because I had almost no private acquaintance with him. It was chiefly in the pulpit that I saw and heard him. Once or twice I met him at a friend's house; as, for instance, when I breakfasted with him at Dr. Chalmers's some short time after Edward Irving had lectured in town and had published his work on baptism, which I remember formed the subject of conversation at the breakfast-table. I had read the volume; Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Begg had not, and so the burden of stating some of its views fell on me. Dr. Chalmers wanted to know its drift and contents. He was, as usual, singularly candid and fair in listening and judging. Dr. Begg inclined to summary condemnation of the man and his book. I do not remember the details or the issue of the conversation, nor the parts taken by the different speakers, but I carried away the deep impression of Dr. Chalmers's remarkable fairness in dealing with controversial subjects, as also of his affection for Irving, and his desire to know exactly what he held: and what he did not hold. I was but a student then, but I learned a lesson of candour in judging of men and books which a young man was not likely to forget when thus exemplified by his Professor.

"Dr. Begg's ministry at that time proved very attractive. His manner in the pulpit was impressive and his style clear. He did not overshoot his audience, so that 'the common people heard him gladly.' I cannot speak as to spiritual results, but the crowded church, Sabbath after Sabbath, showed how he was appreciated by the public. His 'popularity' at that time was great in Edinburgh, and 'calls,' or intimations of calls, from several places reached him. His utterance was energetic, though his tones were not musical, and his gestures not elegant or oratorical. His power lay in direct Scriptural appeal. His sermons and prayers were filled - some thought overfilled - with texts which flowed out from a retentive memory, stored in youth with Bible knowledge and language.

"He and his venerable colleague Dr. Jones worked well together, and the old minister found a congenial friend in his young assistant. One of the secrets of Dr. Begg's attractiveness was his freedom of delivery. He used no notes, many or few, but spoke with that apparently extemporaneous fluency which carries the hearer along with the speaker in full sympathy. He was the only one of Dr. Jones's assistants who did not 'read.' The aged pastor himself only used brief notes, jotted down in shorthand. The free delivery of Dr. Begg told all the more upon the Edinburgh public because the other ministers, such as Dr. Grey, Dr. Thomson, Dr. Gordon, and others, all 'read.' The novelty of non-reading produced a most favourable effect, though I do not know that it was at all followed for some years after.

"I cannot recall any special incidents in the Edinburgh ministry of Dr. Begg which might illustrate his life and assist you in delineating his character. The 'Apocrypha' controversy was just over, the 'Row' movement was just beginning. In neither did Dr. Begg take part; and the 'Voluntary' controversy had not begun."

I need not point out that, by dwelling upon the extreme candour of Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Bonar implies that Dr. Begg exhibited some measure of dogmatism. It needs not be said that it is no disparagement to so young a man that he was found-wanting when weighed in the balance with Dr. Chalmers, especially when the holder of the scales was one of Dr. Chalmers's best students and most enthusiastic admirers; and then we are to take into account the strong personal attachment between Chalmers and Irving, which must have made the former unconsciously more lenient towards the vagaries of the latter than he would have been towards those of a man whom he did not know. I know not whether it will be regarded as an extenuation or an aggravation of Dr. Begg's dogmatism if I point out that the meeting in question must have taken place, not in 1831, when Dr. Begg was minister of Lady Glenorchy's, but in 1829, when he was still unlicensed, and when he was tutor in Mrs. Neilson's family. It was, as we have seen, during Dr. Begg's residence there that Irving lectured in Edinburgh; and I find by reference to a library catalogue that his book on baptism was published in 1828. Moreover, the "Row movement" could not be said to be "just beginning" in 1831. Rather it was just ending then, for Mr. Campbell was deposed by the General Assembly of that year.

I have said that I leave undetermined the question whether dogmatism is more culpable in the inexperienced student, or in the minister with more age and with some measure of experience. It is one of those questions to which the Addisonian maxim is applicable, that "much may be said on both sides." On the one hand, it may be argued that consciousness of ignorance and inexperience ought to inculcate modesty and caution; on the other hand, that dogmatism being the result of ignorance, he is the more to blame in whom a larger experience has operated ineffectually. At the same time, I ought frankly to admit that all through his life the character of Dr. Begg's mind and his habit of thought imparted to him a dogmatic tendency. He had little or no power of nice analysis, or of appreciating minute distinctions. With him a view was either simply right or simply wrong; and the rightness or wrongness he judged with reference to its general character; while a subtler intellect with equal honesty might have seen some good in that which was on the whole worthy of condemnation, and some defect or positive evil in that which was worthy of commendation in its totality. In controversy the strength and sterling honesty of his mind secured that he was generally right in condemning what he did condemn, and approving what he did approve. But an opponent could generally point out that there was something good in what he condemned, or something not good in what he approved, and so could produce the impression that Dr. Begg was condemning the good or approving the evil. Dr. Begg had no eye to see thorns upon rose-trees, or roses upon thorny bushes.

From two correspondents I have accounts of an incident which seems to have made much impression on them. On one occasion whilst preaching in Lady Glenorchy's, Dr. Begg was seized with a violent bleeding at the nose. Dr. Jones was in the church, and he mounted the pulpit and continued the service. The matter would not be worthy of record were it not that it indicates the intensity of Dr. Begg's earnestness in preaching. To those who heard him he appeared to be perfectly cool, and to be speaking without any considerable effort. In reality he was "nervous" - sometimes to an almost feverish degree. When he occasionally preached for me, I noticed that when he came from the pulpit his clothes were literally soaked with sweat, while he had certainly made no extraordinary physical exertion, nor had seemed to tax, to any great extent, his mental powers. I have seen the same in the case of others who appeared to speak as easily as he did. I have no doubt that the nose-bleeding in Lady Glenorchy's was just an extreme instance of the same overstraining of the mental energy. Without being a Materialist, I believe that every mental effort is accompanied by an expenditure of material energy - call it brain-power, or nerve-force, or vital energy, or what you will - and that there can be no effective oratory without such expenditure.

I conclude this chapter with a note from the wife of an eminent man, whose name I do not give, as she marked her note "private:"-

"11th August 1884.

"REV. AND DEAR SIR, - My sister and I have been thinking over what might be interesting to you respecting Dr. Begg's short connection with Lady Glenorchy's chapel; but I regret that we recollect but little that can be of any value for his Biography. We well remember that he was very rapid in his utterances; that his prayers were full of Scripture references; that he was very popular; that the church was always crowded when he preached; and that steps were taken for enlarging the chapel to accommodate the increasing number of worshippers. But we do not remember any salient fact likely to illustrate his character or mode of preaching at the time. All we can say is, that he left a deep impression of his powers and capacity. From the record of a member of the church we find that on Saturday, November 5, 1831, before a communion service, he preached in the afternoon from I Cor. xi. 26; that on the following Sunday he was prevented through indisposition from attending the duties of the day; and that on Sabbath, November 13, he took leave of Lady Glenorchy's, to become pastor of the Middle Church, Paisley, the text on that occasion being Daniel xii. 3. Hoping these few particulars may be of some use to you, I remain," &c.