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 XVI.

THE YEAR 1834.

T HE references to Dr. Begg in the Scottish Guardian throughout the year 1834 are as numerous as those in the preceding year, and are very similar in character. Of these I shall present some specimens.

But first I would remark, that nothing could show more clearly how prominent a position he occupied in the Church, than the frequency of these references. And this, I have occasion to know, was not due to any special connection between him and that important journal, or any special intimacy subsisting between him and its conductors. Some of them, no doubt, are in the form of extracts from a local paper, and I know not what may have been the relations between him and that paper - very probably its editor may have been a member of the Middle Church. But the Guardian contains abundant extracts from other local papers published all over the country; and yet, on looking over its file, I do not find the name of any minister occurring so frequently as that of Dr. Begg. My first extract is as follows:-

"PAISLEY, - On Monday night a numerous and respectable meeting took place in the Old Low Church, of those friendly to the formation of a society, similar to one recently formed in Glasgow, for the reformation and defence of the Church of Scotland.... Every one of the speakers spoke in strong terms of the evils of the disgraceful system of patronage, and of the imperious necessity of its instant abolition, which was warmly responded to by the meeting; and it was pointed out as one of the chief objects of the intended society to arouse the country to send petitions to the General Assembly, the Parliament, and the King, for this purpose. A committee, of which the Rev. Mr. Begg of the Middle Church is to act as secretary, were appointed to carry the resolution for forming the society into effect, and a resolution was passed calling on the ministers and elders of the town to attend a meeting on the 31st inst. in furtherance of the cause." 42

[Footnote 42: Scottish Guardian, January 24, 1834.]

The meeting was accordingly held on the 31st of January, and its proceedings are reported in theGuardian of the 4th of February. The report is evidently by no means a full one; and Dr. Begg's speech is so compressed that it may be reproduced as it is given. I need not say that my design in transferring it to these pages is not to revive the controversy which was then waged, nor is it my part to justify or to condemn the strong language in which Dr. Begg characterises the views of his opponents. At a later time it was frequently said, by some who had used as strong language as he ever did, that they had misapprehended these views. I am not aware that Dr. Begg was ever convinced of this; and therefore I have not thought myself entitled to soften or modify the terms in which he reprobated these views. At all events my duty is to represent fairly his sentiments in the several stages of his public career. The report of his speech is as follows:-

"The Rev. Mr. Begg, in rising to second the resolution, said it was unnecessary, and would be unpardonable, in him to detain the meeting by his remarks, after the very able and eloquent addresses to which they had just listened. Referring to the slight opposition manifested, he would say that though it had been greater, it would not have astonished him; for, said he - It must gall the enemies of our Church to see this immense crowded assembly, voluntarily congregated for her defence; to hear the loud shouts of applause with which every honourable mention of her has been accompanied; to know that there are so many now fully determined to resist, even to the death, every attempt to wrest from us privileges which were purchased by our fathers' blood. They know that when it shall be told all over Scotland that 3,000 this night assembled together, and carried, amidst acclamation, such resolutions as have been submitted to you, it will fill our enemies with terror, and the hearts of all churchmen with joy, and that, could they have upset our proceedings, the victory would have been great. But they cannot do it, and the attempt will only teach us what manner of spirit animates them, and will only, I trust, make us more determined, come what will, to defend with our whole might what I believe to be the cause of everlasting truth. - The rev. speaker then alluded to similar opposition to all measures for the improvement of the Church - to the building of chapels, the appointment of missionaries, to every manifestation of voluntary benevolence within the establishment; and said his opinion had always been that the people of the establishment, now that she was rousing herself so mightily from her slumbers, were not jealous or afraid of the Dissenters, that the Dissenters were rather afraid of them. On no other principle could he account for their inconsistencies. He referred to a statement made by one of the councillors, who professed himself an enemy to the Established Church, that the three ministers of the town, if they would only trust to their seat-rents, would, instead of £300 a year, get £600. This, perhaps, was true, and he took advantage of the admission to prove that every statement he made at that meeting proceeded at least from one disinterested; for in this view, his arguments lay directly in the face of his worldly interests. But he begged once for all to say that it was not for money they were contending, but for everlasting indestructible principles; and he hoped that he expressed the sentiments of both his fellow-labourers, when he declared that he would rather receive only a tithe of his present income than maintain the detestable opinions which have lately been avowed; rather live by the labour of his hands than be instrumental in depriving the poor inhabitants of the glens and the hills of his native land of that dear-bought inheritance of glorious blessings conferred upon them by our Church, in time and throughout eternity. He referred to the case of America, especially to the fact that there were in it 2,500,000 slaves, besides much infidelity and profligacy; as many slaves as the whole inhabitants of Scotland, kept in the most grinding bondage, by those very Voluntary Christians whom we are called upon to imitate! - A voice comes, said he, from this new association, 'Only look across the sea, and you will behold that there is no necessity for an Established Church; see what a moral Paradise, what a land of universal Christianity is there!' I look, but the picture of iniquity which shocks me here, is there heightened into greater enormity, and 'behold the tears of such as are oppressed, and they have no comforter, and on the side of their oppressor there is power, but there is no comforter.' I turn again with joy to my native land, and I see it spread out into its peaceful parishes, and sending forth its educated sons to climb to the highest places of rank and influence in every nation under heaven, and I trust that the glorious machinery by which these results have been effected, may not merely be preserved, but strengthened and extended, that generations yet unborn may rejoice, and Scotland maintain her high moral position amongst the nations of the earth. - Mr. Begg referred to the great body of the inhabitants of Scotland as those by whom the Church of Scotland was established at first, as those by whom her standard has been 'kept flying upon the mountains' in the might of every persecution. And now that enemies had started, assailing the citadel, when he looked round on that large assembly, and especially on that platform, he saw that it was the same class of men that were springing forward to the rescue, seizing the glorious blood-stained banner of our Church with strong hands, that they, may bear it aloft in triumph above all her foes, - who were bringing out the old weapons of war from the Church's armoury, now that the days of peace have passed away, pointing the eyes of their children to the noble device upon her shield, and, above all, to her imperishable motto - burning, persecuted, but never, never consumed. The speaker proceeded to recommend union, activity, determination amongst all the members of the Church, declared that he regarded it as the highest honour under heaven to be a minister of our venerable establishment, and trusted that every year would see her extend her limits, and increase in the purity and vigour of her ministrations. The rev. gentleman sat down amidst loud and long-continued cheering, by seconding the second resolution."

Our next extract is of great interest, as showing what a strong hold the chapel question had taken of Dr. Begg's mind, He shrank not from grappling with a man for whom he, and all good men, had the profoundest respect and veneration, a man with whom he generally agreed, and whom he regarded as his leader on most questions, Dr. Patrick Macfarlane of Greenock. 43 A committee of the General Assembly had sent down to Presbyteries a schedule of queries respecting the chapels within their respective bounds. When these queries came to be considered by the Paisley Presbytery, the following discussion took place:-

[Footnoote 43: It should be explained that there was at that time no separate Presbytery of Greenock. That Presbytery was formed by the disjunction of certain charges from the Presbytery of Paisley, and certain others from the Presbytery of Irvine. - T. S.]

"Dr. Macfarlane moved, in answer to the twelfth query circulated by the Assembly Committee on chapels of ease, that it should be suggested to the committee to use their utmost efforts to obtain for the chapels of ease such a permanent endowment as would warrant the said chapels being erected into parish churches. The rev. doctor expressed his conviction that it would be altogether improper to give the privileges of parish ministers, unless the permanence of their situations could be secured.

"Mr. Begg reckoned it of great importance in settling this question, that, as ordained ministers of our Church, having a cure of souls, the ministers of chapels ought to have a seat in our Presbytery, and in all Church courts. His opinion was, that the grand fundamental principle of Presbyterian parity was flagrantly violated by keeping these ministers for one instant in their present condition, and he would defy any man to prove that it was not. If you have two orders of ordained clergymen, why not twenty? He was sorry that the queries of the Assembly referred merely to temporal matters; holding, as he did, that the first duty of a Church was to act consistently, and at all hazards, to fill the land with ministers; the second, and a far inferior one, was to make these ministers secure and comfortable. He feared that the Assembly were disposed to place the last before the first, and to reckon it of so much importance as for its sake to violate justice and Presbyterian consistency. His opinion was, that the Assembly ought immediately to admit to all ecclesiastical privileges all the ministers of chapels of ease, and then endeavour to secure their comfort. After some further discussion -

"Dr. Macfarlane did not understand the doctrine which had been maintained in regard to Presbyterian parity. Was it meant that every ordained minister, every chaplain of a regiment, for example, was entitled, simply in consequence of ordination, to sit in Church courts? He hoped, as his friend was only a young man, he would examine the subject more fully. He knew his candour, and was persuaded that he would then think as he did.

"Mr. Begg was not in the least moved by all that had been said. He was not ashamed of his youth. He was old enough to have read a little of the history of Presbyterianism, and to have discovered that the doctrines which he had maintained were those of the purest days of our Church, those which every minister present had bound himself by a solemn oath to maintain, and which it was wholly impossible for any consistent Presbyterian to upset. The case of chaplains was not in point; though Dr. Macfarlane would find that the first free Presbytery held in Ulster was composed of ordained chaplains of Scottish regiments, who, upon receiving congregations there, instantly proceeded to exercise all the power that ordination had conferred upon them. There was no such insecurity in chapels as was imagined. It was all very well to speak of endowments. No one admired them more than he did; but there was not the slightest prospect of securing these for the chapels within our bounds, and if there was, it would not be diminished by admitting these ministers. He was sorry to differ from so many of his brethren, but he would move as an amendment, 'That the committee be instructed to recommend that the General Assembly shall immediately admit all the ministers of chapels of ease to all the ecclesiastical power and privileges of parish ministers, and at the same time adopt every means by which to secure their comfort and the permanence of their charges.' "

Dr. Macfarlane's motion was carried against the amendment by a majority of 9: 12 to 3. But we shall see in a little that the General Assembly took the opposite view, and legislated substantially on the line of Dr. Begg's amendment - legislation from which, as I had occasion to hint before, issues accrued which probably no one anticipated.

The Scottish Guardian of the 18th February contains the following brief statement, extracted from thePaisley Advertiser :-

"The following inscription is to be placed on the front of the new chapel in Love Street. 'NEW NORTH CHURCH. - This church was erected by voluntary contributions, in the year 1834, during the ministry of the Rev. James Begg, and will remain in perpetual connection with the Established Church of Scotland.' "

On the 7th of March we find two statements with reference to this church extension movement, the one to the effect that "a powerful sermon was preached in the parish church of Dumbarton, to a numerous and attentive audience, by the Rev. Mr. Dow of Largs, on behalf of the Paisley Middle Parish Church Accommodation Society."

The other statement is the following:-

"On the 4th inst. a most harmonious and almost unanimous call was given to Mr. J. Steel to be minister to the North Church, erecting in Love Street, Paisley, in connection with the Church of Scotland. The subscribers towards its erection most honourably extended the right of voting to seatholders in general, and the votes were, for one candidate 7, for another 2, and for Mr. Steel 128, exclusive of numerous votes by proxies. We understand Mr. Steel is a pious and highly talented preacher, and the circumstance of his collecting, in a very short period, when employed as one of the Rev. Mr. Begg's assistants, a large congregation in the Old Low Church, some time occupied by Dissenters, affords satisfactory evidence of his well-merited popularity. - From a Correspondent."

We next find our friend taking part in a large and enthusiastic soiree, held in the Assembly Rooms, Glasgow, "to testify attachment to our National Church, and to the parochial system of Scotland." Many of the speeches are very fully reported, but of Dr. Begg's - I presume because he spoke late in the evening - only the following summary is given:-

"The Rev. Mr. Begg of Paisley rose, and was greeted with deafening applause. In an eloquent and energetic address he urged the great importance of extending the Church, so as to embrace the entire population, as the only means by which it can be made efficient and enduring as the island on which it stands. He exposed the gross hypocrisy of the Voluntary party, and of some of the heritors, in their recent outcry against Mr. Colquhoun's Bill, and with great effect pressed upon the friends of the Church the necessity of determination, union, and activity. The rev. gentleman was enthusiastically applauded throughout his address."

Again, -

"At the close of the meeting the Rev. Mr. Begg rose, and said that the General Assembly of our National Church had from time immemorial, 44 closed its sederunts by all the members rising and singing the 122d Psalm. He would now propose that this interesting meeting should be closed by all present rising and joining in singing the last four verses of that psalm, beginning, 'Pray that Jerusalem may have peace and felicity.' The whole audience joined with one voice and one heart. The Rev. Mr. Begg then concluded with a short prayer."

[Footonote 44: This is a mistake. From the older records it appears that, till a comparatively recent date, various psalms were sung, selected, I presume, by the Moderator. I trust that the present practice of always singing Psalm cxxii. shall never be departed from. - T. S.]

It is interesting to note how thoroughly Dr. Begg, at this comparatively early stage of his career, was the same man that he continued to be till its close. A few years ago the expression was frequent, in the mouths alike of sympathising friends and of kindly opponents, that "Begg has got" this or that subject "on the brain." I do not know whether the phrase was in vogue in the earlier time; but it is manifest that at that time he was wholly engrossed with the idea of church extension, and that he regarded that as the means best fitted, with God's blessing, to remedy the "thousand numerous ills" which he saw and deplored. For this he laboured, he gave, he spoke, he prayed, "instant in season, out of season."

Hitherto the Voluntary controversy had been conducted with decency, each party holding their own meetings, and claiming that all truth was on their side, and all error on the side of their opponents. But at last they came into open and violent collision. A meeting was held at Dundee in defence of the Church of Scotland. Two representatives attended from Paisley, Messrs. Begg and MacNaughton. An organised opposition was determined on by "certain lewd fellows of the baser sort." The proceedings of the meeting were interrupted by profane and blasphemous shouts. Cries of "Burn the Bible!" and of the most obscene ribaldry, were mingled with cheers for some - especially one - of the clerical advocates of Voluntaryism, and a scene ensued which is described as "a picture of pandemonium." It cannot be necessary to say that no Christian men had any part in, or any responsibility for, these riotous and blasphemous proceedings; and Christian Voluntaries lamented and reprobated them quite as much as Christian advocates of the Established Church. It could scarcely have been expected, however, that these advocates, when they met on the following evening, should not have made something of the fact, which was made patent at the abortive meeting, that the atheistic and the lewd parties were on the side of the enemies of the Establishment. To a certain extent, doubtless, this fact had an argumentative value; but it was scarcely in human nature to refrain from deducing from it more than it would legitimately yield. Thus we read in the same issue of the Scottish Guardian which contains the account of the "Demoniacal Exhibition of Blasphemy and Voluntaryism:-

"On Thursday evening, at seven o'clock, we understand that a second large meeting of churchmen was held - one of the magistrates in the chair. After prayer by the Rev. Mr. Prodie of Monimail, the Rev. Mr. Roxburgh spoke in strong and eloquent terms of the diabolical spirit displayed on the previous evening by the enemies of the Church, and of the absolute necessity for union and vigour among her friends. His address was much cheered. He was followed, in the same style, amidst much applause, by the Rev. Messrs. MacNaughton and Begg, from Paisley, who both with great emphasis expressed their disgust and surprise at such an exhibition on the part of the professed friends of liberty, as also their conviction of the utter wretchedness of the Voluntary cause, when such means were employed for its defence, now that all their arguments had been torn to pieces and given to the winds; and, above all, the necessity of banding together in a solemn covenant to defend our dear-bought privileges against clamour and violence, blasphemers and Voluntaries, if necessary, to the death. The rev. gentlemen said they were determined not to be driven from the town until their object was secured, and announced their resolution to preach thrice on Sabbath, and to address any other meetings that might be held on the important subjects in which they were all so deeply interested."

A full report of the speeches is given in a subsequent issue of the Guardian.

The following paragraph (Scottish Guardian, 20th May) shows him still doing with his might what his hand found to do; this time in his own Paisley:-

"THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH. - On Thursday evening, the Rev. Mr, Begg delivered a long address on the great principles upon which the Established Church rests, in the High Church, to a large audience. The Church, he said, was rousing in every direction, and the zeal would spread and fill all the land. Mighty interests were at stake - interests committed to us by a thousand martyrs; and he hoped that multitudes would stand forward in the glorious cause, saying, 'For my brethren and companions' sake I will still pray that peace may be in thee; for the house of God our Lord I will always seek thy good.' We have heard that such lectures will be continued, and we have no doubt they will be attended with the best results. - Paisley Advertiser."

We have already seen the success that attended Dr. Begg's efforts for the erection of an additional church in Paisley. On the 26th of August it is announced that the church was to be opened on the following Friday, and after a statement of the need of additional church accommodation, it is added, "We hope the exertions of Mr. Begg in the erection of this church will be crowned by a very substantial proof of public favour at its opening." On the 7th September we find that "the Rev. Mr. Begg delivered three sermons here (Glasgow), in which he eloquently pleaded the cause of the Paisley Middle Parish Church Accommodation Society. The churches were all crowded, and in the evening many were unable to gain admittance." In a subsequent issue we find that the collections at these services amounted to more than thirty guineas, which was raised to above forty guineas by subscriptions, "two gentlemen on the list of subscribers to the church fund being members of the Roman Catholic faith!"

It may be remembered that Mr. George Henderson (chap. X) refers to a visit paid by Dr. Begg to Dumfries after he had ceased to be minister at Maxwelltown. I presume that the reference is to a visit paid in September 1834, as described in the following extract from the Dumfries Times, which I give at length, because it affords an insight into the progress of Dr. Begg's mind, and into the order in which he took up the various subjects to whose discussion he contributed:-

"A meeting of fifty or sixty gentlemen, called by special notice, took place in the Academy on Thursday evening. Mr Stothert of Cargen having taken the chair, the Rev. Mr. Begg of Paisley opened the meeting with an impressive prayer. The rev. gentleman afterwards described the purpose for which it had been summoned. It had been called in order to form a society for promoting the interests of the Established Church of Scotland, a resolution as to which it was not necessary for him to say much to secure its adoption. He would therefore only make a few remarks in support of it. There were three things which demanded their attention. 1st. The indifference of the members of the Church to her interests; 2nd. The removal of the errors which had crept into the Church; 3rd. The attacks of her enemies. It was a matter of exceeding regret to see the members of the Church so heedless of the interests of the Church which our forefathers had shed their blood to establish, which was not only an ornament to our land, but which was of such vast importance to the spiritual welfare of the people. He earnestly entreated them to throw off their indifference, to be up and doing in support of the Church of their fathers, and not to treat it with silent neglect, as had been done at a late dinner. 45 Even the proceedings of Parliament argued ill for the Church. Almost all the Irish members were opposed to it; and of our own representatives also, who were returned on what was called the pure system, forty, if they did not oppose, were at least heedless and indifferent to the interests of the Church. He had said that errors had crept into the Church. They certainly had, but they were trivial; indeed, he might say they were almost entirely comprehended in the matter of patronage, the evils of which had, by the late Act of the General Assembly, been removed for ever. 46 The last point to which he begged to draw their attention was the attacks of the enemies of their Church; but these attacks were of little importance were the members of the Church true to themselves, and zealous in its support. The troops of the enemy were hardly worthy of notice; and as for their arguments, they were as threadbare as they were idle and useless.

[Footnote 45: I presume that the reference is to a great demonstration held at Edinburgh, a few weeks before, in honour of Earl Grey. - T. S.]

[Footnote 46: At a public meeting held a few days later, Dr. Begg repudiated this statement. He said: "While on this point, I beg to correct a misstatement which has been put forth in a newspaper.... That paper, in a notice of a meeting which I attended, sets me down as saying that the evils of patronage had been cured by the Act of the last General Assembly. Now, it so happens that what I stated was exactly the reverse. I then stated as my opinion that the evil would not be cured till it was cut up by the roots." - T. S.]

"The Rev. gentleman then went on to consider the evils of a legal poor assessment, which he denounced as one of the greatest curses that had ever afflicted Dumfries. He maintained that that evil might be mitigated, if not altogether removed, were it not for the large sums drawn by Dissenting congregations for the support of their ministers. 47 After some statistical details, he concluded by moving that the meeting do form themselves into a 'Society for the Support of the Church of Scotland.' "

[Footnote 47: By all that is said in this speech, Dr. Begg would, I believe, have stood to the last of his days, with the exception of this last statement. He never ceased to deplore the introduction into Scotland of a compulsory assessment for the poor; but he would certainly have seen and acknowledged that no portion of the blame was attributable to the Dissenters, who applied their weekly offerings in whole or in part to their congregational purposes, and not to providing for the poor. - T. S.]

As intimated in a footnote, a public meeting was held, at which Dr. Begg was one of the chief speakers, and also replied to some objections which were offered by a professed Voluntary, and supported by a member of the Established Church, who seems to have argued that the Church ought not to be extended till she were reformed by the abolition of patronage. With reference to this meeting we find the following short paragraph:-

"We understand that £36, 10s. will be added to the funds of the North Church, in consequence of the visit of the Rev. Messrs. Begg and Macmorland to Dumfries. A meeting was also held in one of the churches there on Tuesday evening last week, which was crowded to excess, the Provost in the chair, when it was unanimously resolved to form a society for giving increased extension and energy to the Established Church, and especially to appoint immediately two additional preachers for Dumfries and the neighbourhood, with a view to building more places of worship."

At no period of his life did Dr. Begg take any prominent part in secular politics, but at this time the question of the day - the great question of "practical politics" - was the question of Disestablishment, and almost all earnest ministers, established and non-established, exerted their influence in favour of politicians according as they were unfavourable or favourable to the Voluntary movement. The ecclesiastical and the political lines which separated parties were not indeed coincident. It may be taken for granted that the Conservative party were almost, if not absolutely, unanimous in desiring the continuance of the Establishment. But there were many Liberal politicians who were equally zealous in its advocacy. Two men of this class in the west of Scotland were especially prominent - Sir Daniel Sandford, member for Paisley, and Mr. Campbell Colquhoun of Killermont, member for Dumbartonshire. The latter was a special friend of Dr. Begg, although he ultimately adopted a course with respect to ecclesiastical matters which Dr. Begg and his earlier friends regarded with disapproval and regret. At this time, at all events, he was a powerful champion of the Church, and had introduced a bill into Parliament which would have been a great boon to her if it had become law. The Paisley Church Society agreed to present him with an address of thanks "for his talented and indefatigable exertions in behalf of the parochial churches and schools of Scotland." Dr. Begg took a leading part in promoting this movement, and was one of three who were appointed to proceed to Killermont and present the address.

About this time a matter of great moment was beginning to take practical shape. I refer to the return to the Church of Scotland of some of the representatives of those who had left it, or rather had been driven out of it, a century before. Even if I knew much more accurately and minutely than I do the details of the separations and reunions of the seceding communities, I should probably deem it suitable in this place to confine myself to a very general outline. I would say, then, that the followers of the founders of the Secession divided into two parties, under the designations of Burghers and Anti-burghers. The main bodies of these were reunited under the title of the United Associate Synod. But there was a residuum of each of the parties who remained apart, and were designated respectively the Original Burghers and the Original Anti-burghers. The "United Associates" had very largely adopted Voluntary sentiments, but both the "Originals" held fast by the Establishment principle. The object of the movement to which I am now referring was to reunite these two "Original" bodies to the Established Church. It may be convenient to anticipate the chronological order so far as to state that the movement was successful so far as the Original Burghers were concerned, but the Anti-burghers remained apart until a large portion of them were united to the Free Church after the Disruption, and after the passing away of their most distinguished representative, Dr. Thomas M'Crie, a man whom all the branches of the Scottish Church would have felt it a high privilege to be able to call specially their own.

This movement was introduced into the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr at their autumn meeting, when Mr. MacNaughton moved the following overture:-

"It is humbly overtured to the very reverend the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, that they transmit to the venerable the General Assembly the following overture: Whereas it is a matter of deep importance, in aiming at the extension of our Church, to promote the return to her bosom of all who have conscientiously left her communion; it is humbly overtured that the General Assembly do forthwith hold communication with those bodies who may be anxious to return to the Church of their fathers; 48 adopting such means as shall invite and facilitate their honourable and early return to the bosom of our Church on sound and constitutional principles."

[Footnote 48: I presume that it wasper incuriam that this expression was introduced. Certainly the first Seceders did not consider that they had ever left "the Church of their fathers." Of course the Established Church held that they had; but it does seem offensive to put this assumption so prominently forward on this occasion. - T. S.]

Dr. Begg's speech, as reported, as follows:-

"Mr. Begg rejoiced that they were to have no opposition from the rev. doctor who had now spoken, 49 which he accepted as a token that neither would they be opposed in the General: Assembly, where he hoped the subject would be received not only without opposition but with cordiality. He would now only express his own decided desire to have a union with these most admirable and estimable men. With regard to what the rev. doctor had said about the Assembly being left to itself, he held that it was alike the duty and the privilege of the inferior courts to record their opinions to the Assembly on all important questions; and if ever there was a subject more than another in behalf of which the table of the General Assembly should be loaded with overtures and petitions poured in from all quarters of the land, this was one. Besides, it was to be remembered that many of them would not be present in the Assembly to speak for themselves, and this was the only method which they could adopt for making it acquainted with the sentiments they held on this important subject. But the rev. doctor had deprecated the application of strong language to those who had set themselves in array against the Church. 50 Now, he confessed that he had himself frequently spoken strongly of the conduct of these individuals. He had characterised it as impious and unscriptural. He had openly charged them with attempting to rob the people of Scotland of their birthright; and he was glad to hear such strong expressions of disapprobation of the conduct of these parties by his fathers and brethren of this Synod. If it was the duty of the magistrate to exercise his influence in every possible way for the support and dissemination of religion, were they to remain silent when a class of men calling themselves churchmen, but who were in reality doing the work of Satan, threw themselves forward to intercept him in the performance of that high duty? Hard language we found employed in Scripture in the reprobation of wickedness, for there things were called by their right names. Even the Saviour Himself was accustomed to rebuke the enemies of religion in strong language, 51 and, much as I love charity, added the rev. gentleman, I love truth more. The rev. doctor had also referred to the possibility of their brethren in the Secession being exacting in their demands; but were he (Mr. Begg) a Seceder, he would not consent, for instance, to return to the Church under such disabilities as had too long been allowed to obtain in the chapel of ease system. He held that they had a most perfect right to exact, as a condition of their returning to the communion of the Establishment, that their ministers, elders, and congregations should be admitted, as the members of a sister Church, to an equal participation in all the rights and privileges of the ministers, elders, and congregations of the Establishment. And, moreover, he trusted to see the day when they would receive accessions from the United Secession and the Relief also, the effect of which upon our venerable Church would be, to use the language of Scripture, as life from the dead."

[Footnote 49: Dr. Hill of Dailly, afterwards Dr. M'Gill's successor in the Glasgow Theological Chair, who, along with Principal Macfarlane, led the Moderate party in the west. - T. S.]

[Footnote 50: It seems to have been especially Dr. Begg of New Monkland that Dr. Hill referred to as applying language of undue severity to the Voluntaries. - T. S.]

[Footnote 51: However reluctantly, I am constrained to state my disapproval of this citation of our Lord's example. He, who knew what was in man, pronounced terrible woes upon those scribes and Pharisees, whom He certainly knew to be hypocrites, who devoured widows' houses, and for a pretence made long prayers. His terrible denunciations might be very fairly applicable to the section of Voluntaries represented by the Bible-burning rioters of Dundee, but certainly not to the Heughs and the Wardlaws, and others, who sincerely, however erroneously, believed that Voluntaryism was fitted to promote God's glory and man's good. As an honest chronicler I record these statements, but I cannot vindicate them. - T. S.]

Further on in the discussion there occurred a scene which afforded intense amusement to the Synod. Dr. Patrick Macfarlane, after expressing his cordial approbation of the overture, felt it his duty to warn the brethren not to commit themselves to any promises as to the conditions on which the proposed union might be effected. "If the members of the Synod allowed themselves to be carried away by their feelings, and pledged themselves in the meantime to a particular course, they would only find at last that they had been cutting before the point. Without committing themselves at all to any one point, let them stand calmly aside and ascertain what is to be solicited on the one hand, and what can consistently be granted on the other. What he would deprecate was the excitement of any such agitation on this subject as had been raised on some others before the meeting of the Assembly, thus leading members to prejudge the case, and defeating the object for the present. ... He thought it would be highly proper and becoming in them to leave to the Assembly the grounds of their union, and to say nothing to prejudge the matter. Send up the overture without conditions, and leave the question wholly in their hands."

"Mr. Begg rose to explain. He had stated that the ministers, elders, and congregations of the Seceders should be admitted to all the rights and privileges of the ministers, elders, and members of the Established Church, and that they should come in upon no other terms. Dr. Macfarlane perhaps thought an endowment a pre-requisite, and one minister in the Presbytery of Perth had wished them to come in on the footing on which the ministers of chapels formerly stood - a most shameful proposal as he thought He stated his opinion in this Synod, because he would have no opportunity of doing so in the General Assembly.

"Dr. Macfarlane admired the straightforwardness and honesty of his young friend. Few men admired him so much, and he wished that all the ministers of the Church were in many respects like him; but he wished the members of the Synod not to commit themselves respecting the particular terms on which the Seceders were to be re-admitted. Whilst they approved generally of the measure, his young friend went rather too fast. (Loud laughter.)

"Mr. BEGG. - And I, with all respect and reverence for the rev. doctor, think that he moves rather too slow - (continued laughter) - and it so happens, that when we last differed about the admission of chapel ministers, though I was left in a minority in the Paisley Presbytery, the General Assembly, by a majority of fifty, confirmed the view of the question I then took, and not that of the rev. doctor. (Continued laughter.)"

On Friday the 7th of November a great meeting was held in Edinburgh in connection with "the Edinburgh Young Men's Association for Promoting the Interests of the Church of Scotland." Dr. Cunningham was chairman, and Dr. Begg was one of the speakers. In a long and eloquent speech he moved: "That this meeting resolve that, notwithstanding all the endeavours of the enemies of the Church of Scotland, there are many encouraging circumstances in the present day, warranting the confident hope that this Church will not only retain its stability, but soon become purer and more efficient than ever."

I content myself with extracting a single passage from his speech: -

"It seems plausible to say, Oh! you are not such spiritual men as we are. You are fighting for churches and manses, and not for the spiritualities of Christianity. But let us suppose that attempts were made to collect together and destroy all the Bibles throughout the land, and that there was to be a vast conflagration of them, and that many had already collected together to assist in consuming them, and in raising a shout of triumph over their ashes, would not hundreds issue forth in haste, with anxious looks, from every street of every city and village, to arrest the progress of this fearful calamity? And yet might not some wise head be found saying, 'Citizens, what means all this zeal and anxiety? You are fighting only for pasteboard, and paper, and printing. These are not the spiritualities of religion. Religion will last though all the Bibles in the world were consumed.' The cases are precisely the same. Both are only means for advancing Christianity, but as such they must be defended with all our might."

Dr. Cunningham, in acknowledging the usual vote of thanks to the chairman, referred to the strangers who had come from a distance to address them. These were Dr. Willis of Glasgow, a minister of one of the bodies whose union with the Church of Scotland was in contemplation, and Dr. Begg. Referring to the latter, he said - "Of Mr. Begg he would merely say that, young at he was, he might well be designated, in reference to the cause of the Church of Scotland 'the hero of many a fight;' and he was sure, therefore, it would be the pleasure of the meeting to express their warmest acknowledgments to these gentlemen." It needs not be said that such was the pleasure of the meeting.

The following short paragraph is important as containing, so far as I know, the first indication of that interest in the Highlands and the Highlanders, which ultimately attained the potency of a passion, and which was destined to be productive of important consequences. "The Rev. Mr. Begg, of Paisley, preached an eloquent sermon in Hope Street Church (Glasgow) on Sabbath evening last, when a handsome collection was made in aid of the funds of the 'Highland Strangers' Society.' The church was filled, 52 and many went away disappointed at not getting admittance." The same paper states that in the Presbytery of Paisley "Mr. Begg read a petition from the sitters in the North Church, praying that measures might be taken to have it duly constituted, which was laid on the table, and ordered to be taken into consideration at next meeting. Mr. Begg stated that this church was in a prosperous condition. It contained 1,000 sittings, more than 800 of which had been let. There were 200 communicants last Sunday; and he had no doubt that the erection of this church would tend greatly to the increase of sound religious knowledge."

[Footnote 52: And it is a very large one. - T. S.]

We have had many specimens of Dr. Begg's eloquence in the pulpit, the public meeting, and the Church court. But we have not yet heard his voice attuned to post-prandial oratory. And indeed, all through his life he avoided attendance at public dinners. But at the close of 1834, a banquet was held in Paisley in honour of Sir Daniel Sandford, who had been elected member of Parliament for the burgh, mainly as a defender of the Church, and who was compelled to resign his seat on account of the failure of his health. Dr. Begg was present, and proposed the toast, "The cause of Protestantism in Ireland." Not merely as the first specimen of the species of oratory to which I have referred, but as being his earliest statement of views which he retained to the last, and which he often propounded in the midst of much obloquy, I feel that I ought to give his speech entire.

"The Rev. Mr. BEGG. - I believe the only reason why my name has been coupled with this toast is, that, whatever I may be in myself, I have the honour to be immediately descended from a good old stock - the Covenanters of Scotland; and I am persuaded that somewhat of the iron nerve, the brazen energy of purpose, by which these noble men were characterised, will be necessary for us, who are, I fear, about to live in times not dissimilar to theirs - men whose characters, ignorantly and foully slandered, have this evening been nobly vindicated by our most eloquent and admirable representative. The reunion of seceders with the Established Church places the present controversy with the Dissenters in a most striking light. The old walls of the citadel are still strong as adamant. Not a stone, not a turret has been moved; and the men of war are all still at their posts, more prepared than ever for the fight, not to be taken by surprise, not to be beaten off by violence, whilst all the guns of the enemy have been spiked, or turned round upon themselves. Their last arguments, the American argument, the Constantine argument, and many more, have been all found to be in favour of a church establishment, and their troops are in wild confusion, falling back into at once to whom they perhaps looked at first as their best troops, are in full march to join the old citadel. Even now their advanced guard is knocking for admission at the gate below. Let us all be down to meet them with joy on the threshold, to grasp them with a warm and friendly hand, and let all Scotland re-echo the shout of exultation. For more than a hundred years they have been absent, but still their love is unchanged. More than two whole generations have gone down to their graves, and still their children are staunch to ancient principles. Let us welcome them back with joy, and perhaps the example will become infectious, and the old Covenanters may seize the banner of the Covenant, and march to join us also and we may yet, before we die, have the satisfaction of seeing Dr. Symington and Dr. M'Crie presiding over the highest ecclesiastical deliberations of a nation again unanimous in religion. 53 I have said that the controversy in regard to our Scottish Church appears to be nearly settled. Till all the present generation are in their graves, men will scarcely venture to insult us by producing the miserable threadbare arguments which have been torn into a thousand tatters, and scattered to all the winds of heaven. But to Ireland they are now directing their designs, and the dark cloud for whose elements of mischief we found a safe conductor here, is beginning to settle, and is threatening to discharge its destructive contents on the Protestant institutions of that unhappy island. But you will say, 'Oh! you are a Presbyterian, and you are about to stand up for Episcopacy; and especially such an Episcopacy as exists in Ireland! I am not afraid to meet the challenge, I stand up for no abuses. But I am, and I trust ever will be, a Protestant, and the question in Ireland is not between Presbytery and Episcopacy, but between Protestantism and Popery. It is the device of the enemy to perpetuate divisions among Protestants, that he may destroy us both; but I will not be deceived by names. I can discover sound principle and admire it under an Episcopalian dress, and I can discover and detect false principle under a Presbyterian dress. And when Popery comes forth with all its horrors claiming the ascendancy, all these inferior questions appear to me to sink into nothing. 'But would you really,' it may be asked, 'establish the religion of a minority?' Most undoubtedly, I answer, if it be true in itself. Truth can never be determined by majorities. If it can, let us bring in all the inhabitants of the world to the vote, the unnumbered millions of pagans, and they will vote all Christianity false, Popish as well as Protestant. Would it be false on that account? Nay, though only one man stood up under the whole canopy of heaven, with the Word of God in his hand, and professed himself a Christian, all the rest of the world having gone away to idols, that man would be right, and all the millions wrong. The religion to be supported by our Government in Ireland must not therefore be tried by numbers, but by Scripture and history. And Popery is condemned by both. Even civil liberty was never known till it was abolished. It drew a mighty gloom over the world, and in the midst of that it maintained its dark dominion, the chained millions of Europe bowing before its shrine. Protestantism came forth at the Reformation, dispelling the awful darkness, making the scales fall from men's eyes, and the fetters from their arms. The millions of Europe were free. But Ireland still remained partly under the dark cruel bondage, under more than half an eclipse; and beneath the darkness every form of superstition is practised, and more than seven hundred murders are annually committed. And what I most earnestly wish is, not that the cloud should be drawn over the entire surface of the island, but that the light which gilds its northern regions should be made to penetrate and pervade the whole, that Ireland may emerge before our eyes 'great and glorious,' because morally and spiritually 'free.' Our gracious king has been pleased to say that he will stand by this noble cause, and aim at the destruction of Popish domination throughout all his kingdom. 'I heard his speech to the bishops,' said one of these prelates lately in Bath. His Majesty's words were, If I desert the cause of Protestantism, may God desert me.' Let the enlightened sentiment be reechoed by millions of voices, let it ring from shore to shore, and to the latest generation."

[Footnote 53: Dr. Symington and Dr. M'Crie had both passed away before the unions hinted at took place. But Dr Begg did "before he die have the satisfaction of seeing" Dr. Thomas M'Crie, the son of the latter, in1856, and Dr. W. H. Goold, the son-in-law of the former, in 1877, "presiding over the highest ecclesiastical deliberations" of that branch of the Church which he regarded as the proper representative of the National Church of Scotland. The expectation of a religiously unanimous nation has not yet been realised. - T. S.]

Dr. Begg was not a member of either of the Assemblies of 1833 or 1834. It seems necessary, therefore, to state, in the briefest compass possible, the chief of the important proceedings of these two Assemblies.

It has been already seen that in the Assembly of 1832 a motion for the appointment of a committee to consider certain overtures designed to give validity to the call of the congregation in order to the settlement of a minister over them was defeated by a not very large majority. In 1833 the VETO law was proposed by Dr. Chalmers. His motion was as follows:- "That the General Assembly, having maturely weighed and considered the various overtures now before them, 54 do find and declare that it is and has ever been since the Reformation, a fixed principle in the law of this Church that no minister shall be intruded into any pastoral charge contrary to the will of the congregation; and considering that doubts and misapprehensions have existed on this important subject, whereby the great and salutary operation of the said principle has been impeded, and in many cases defeated, the General Assembly further declare it to be their opinion that the dissent of a majority of the male heads of families, resident within the parish, being members of the congregation, and in communion with the church at least two years previous to the day of moderation of the call whether such dissent shall be expressed with or without the assignment of reasons, ought to be of conclusive effect in setting aside the presentee under the patron's nomination, save and except where it is clearly established by the patron, presentee, or any of the minority, that the said dissent is founded in corrupt and malicious combination, or not truly founded on any objection personal to the presentee in regard to his ministerial gifts and qualifications, either in general or with reference to that particular parish; and in order that this declaration may be carried into full effect, that a committee shall be appointed to propose the best measure for carrying, it into effect, and to report to next Assembly." This motion was opposed by Dr. Cook, the main difference between his motion and that of Dr. Chalmers being that the former allowed a veto with reasons whose validity was to be judged of by the Presbytery, whereas the latter admitted a veto with or without the assignment of reasons. Much is very properly made by the historian of the "Ten Years' Conflict" of the fact that Dr. Cook's motion was as liable as that of Dr. Chalmers to the objections on the ground of which the Veto Law was afterwards disallowed by the civil courts. Dr. Cook's amendment was carried against Dr. Chalmers' motion by the narrow majority of 12 - the vote being, for the motion 137, and for the amendment 149.

[Footnote 54: They were forty-two in number. - T. S.]

By the still smaller majority of 4, Dr. Cook carried a motion with reference to the applications of chapel ministers in the following terms:- "The General Assembly, taking a deep interest in whatever can promote more effectually the spiritual instruction of the people, and increase the comfort of members of chapels of ease, and approving of the overture, appoint a committee to consider by what means these may be most extensively obtained." This may seem to be substantially all that Dr. Begg and others contended for, and Dr. Cook contended against, in 1832.

But it is to be noticed that this motion of Dr. Cook was in opposition to one by Dr Robert Brown, which founded on an essential right of all ministers to an equal place in the government of the Church.

Both these decisions were reversed by the Assembly of 1834, the Veto Act, proposed by Lord Moncreiff, being carried against a motion proposed by Dr. Mearns of Aberdeen, by a majority of 184 to 138; and the motion of Dr. Robert Brown for the admission of the chapel ministers being carried against Dr. Cook by 152 to 103. The former was sent through the Barrier Act, but was made an Interim Act. Although in the judgment of some who were decidedly in favour of the latter - notably Dr. Patrick Macfarlane - it also ought to have been subjected to the operation of the Barrier Act, the Assembly decided otherwise, and passed it at once into a standing law.

This Assembly, as already stated, separated the parishes in the lower part of Renfrewshire from the Presbytery of Paisley, and constituted them, with the addition of certain presbyteries in Ayrshire, into the new Presbytery of Greenock.