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 XX.

CHURCH EXTENSION MOVEMENT.

W HEN Dr. Begg became minister of Liberton it is evident that it was understood that he should render efficient aid to Dr. Chalmers in the great movement for Church Extension. It was a difficult problem in his experience, as it has been in that of many others, to apportion his time between the sedulous performance of his parochial duties, and taking an active and prominent part in the general work of the Church. That he always succeeded in this apportionment I will not assert. The love and esteem with which the people of Liberton regarded him acted in a twofold direction. The parishioners regretted his frequent absence all the more in consequence of their delight in his presence, and for the same reason acquiesced in it more cheerfully than they would otherwise have done. I am not aware that the minister of Liberton had any official relation to the Church Extension movement, but Dr. Chalmers evidently regarded him as his most efficient ally. Happily, through Dr. Chalmers' habit of preserving the letters addressed to him, I possess several in which the subaltern reports his proceedings to his noble commander-in-chief; and thus, with reference to this period more than any other, I have it in my power to make Dr. Begg, in the ordinary phrase, "his own biographer." Unhappily, a considerable number of the letters bear such dates as "Liberton, Monday," or " Liberton Manse, Tuesday;" but the more important ones are properly dated. In quoting the letters I shall omit names of private persons in all cases in which their publication might give pain to any.

The following refers to two matters; an attempt to interest in the cause of Church Extension an extremely rich old lady, who was one of Dr. Begg's parishioners, and a recommendation of a young minister with a view to Chalmers using his influence in order to his appointment to a vacant charge. With reference to the latter subject, I would call attention to the fact that Dr. Begg asks for nothing on behalf of his friend unless in the event of Dr. Chalmers being asked by the patron to recommend a man. This is a very different thing from the recommendation system against which Dr. Begg so persistently protested: -

"LIBERTON MANSE, December 3, 1835.

"MY DEAR SIR, - I have been anxious to see you for some time, but have not been able to call. I fear.... will, after all, do nothing. I spent two hours upon her, and, I fear, in vain. She speaks of waiting till the Assembly meets, but I fear she will die before that. She mentioned again her Cowgate plan, but when I proposed that she should consult with you she seemed to start. I fear it will end in talk, but I mean to be at her once more.

"I am very anxious that Mr .... should get Melrose. He has been long on the Duke of Buccleuch's list, and it would be of vast importance to get a man of his talent and energy placed in such a region. If you are applied to (which is very likely), I think you would greatly advance the best interests of the Church by recommending him. But I fear you will think it very forward in me to give an opinion on such a subject. Anything more of country associations? We must appeal away from individuals to the great mass of the Scottish people, and wealth may flow in from unexpected regions, whilst such people as .... may be courted and beset for ever in vain. They have not the root of the matter in them. - I am, with the deepest respect, my dear sir, yours

"most sincerely,
JAMES BEGG."

It may be stated in passing that Dr. Begg's friend was not the highly respectable minister who was actually appointed to Melrose. But his friend's subsequent career fully justified Dr. Begg's recommendation of him. The following letter relates to the same subject of forming associations in aid of Church Extension: -

"LIBERTON MANSE, May 7, 1836.

"MY DEAR SIR, - Mr. Cochrane 62 has no doubt informed you of the result of our two meetings in regard to the plan of sending agents to explain and advocate your important scheme. I fear that unless some decided measures are adopted, your object will not to any extent be promoted. A committee 63 has been appointed to recommend a plan of procedure, and to fix upon the persons best qualified to undertake the work. But there appears to be a want of interest in the matter, and an idea amongst some that you should only send to a few cases of peculiar destitution. My idea, and that of others, is that you should embrace all Scotland, and appoint agents to visit every Synod. They should act under your express authority, and with fixed instructions. Their object should be twofold: (1.) to collect money everywhere in behalf of your fund, and especially to form committees in aid of it, and receive the names of annual subscribers; (2.) to endeavour to set on foot new churches where these are required, or, where the people are not yet prepared for that, to induce them to appoint missionaries, for whom in due time, places of worship will be erected. They should keep these two objects ever in view, and in every proper way endeavour to promote them."

[Footnote 62: The Rev. James Cochrane, afterwards minister of Cupar, was at this time secretary of the Church Extension Committee. - T. S.]

[Footnote 63: I presume that Dr. Chalmers had written to the Assembly's committee recommending them to send deputations over the country; and that what Dr. Begg calls "a committee" was a sub-committee appointed by them. To me it is of special interest that the idea was suggested to Dr. Chalmers by the success of my late beloved and revered friend Dr. Duff in calling forth the energies of the people on behalf of Foreign Missions. The following is Dr. Hanna's account of the matter: - "Dr. Chalmers had been much struck by the effect of a tour made by Dr. Duff in 1835, through the towns and parishes of Scotland, which had awakened the Church and country to much greater missionary zeal, and had drawn forth an enlarged liberality. From this, as well as from the effects of political meetings held widely over the country, he became convinced that for many purposes the platform was more effective than the press - that the living voice had a power which the dead letter never can exert. This power lie resolved to employ on behalf of his favourite scheme; and having in 1836 obtained the General Assembly's sanction, a sub-committee on Church Extension was formed for the express purpose of organising a system of meetings to be held extensively over the country, at which well-instructed deputies were to appear and plead the cause in the most popular and effective manner. The issue was most encouraging" (Hanna's "Life of Chalmers," vol. iv., pp. 31, 32). - T. S.]

"May 10, 1836.

"This letter I had begun some days ago, but had not time then to finish it. I see that the committee meets on Monday first; and as I must be at my father's sacrament, I am very sorry that I shall not be able to be present. It would be of the greatest importance if you would send them a list of agents. I fear it will never do to let any one take the matter up who pleases; both because few will do it on such terms, and because it is most important that your new attack should be conducted, not at random, but with all the effect of regular well-governed troops. Old Carment, Mr. Macdonald, 64 and every man who, with a sufficient share of prudence, is able to produce an effect on the public mind, should be pressed into the service, and the result would undoubtedly be great.

[Footnote 64: Of Rosskeen and Ferintosh respectively. - T. S.]

"My main object in writing is merely to state that many (such as Dr .... &c.), though very good men, seem not at all aware of the vast power of the engine you are about to set to work; and that your word alone is able to carry the measure into effect, if you could either come over 65 - if it were only to one meeting - or send on Monday written instructions on both the points to which I have referred.

[Footnote 65: From Burntisland, whither this letter is addressed. - T. S.]

"I do not mean to say that no one is to act but these agents. But the whole responsibility of the movement should be vested in men receiving express instructions from your committee. - I am ever, dear Sir, with the utmost respect, yours, &c."

Those who knew Dr. Begg only in his latter years cannot fail to be struck, on the perusal of the above letter, with the earliness of his forming, and the persistency with which he held; his conviction of the potency of an appeal to the people of Scotland, by earnest agents, acting under express instructions, and exercising "a sufficient share of prudence."

Any one who was familiar with Dr. Begg a few years ago, especially any one who had occasion to co-operate with him in the conduct of any enterprise, might suppose that the letter should have borne the date of 1876 instead of 1836. From first to last it is manifest that his sheet-anchor in every storm was an appeal to "the people of Scotland," and especially to the Highland people, whom he knew and trusted, as they knew and trusted him.

The following letter intimates the opening of the campaign, and indicates the part in it which was assigned to him: -

"LIBERTON MANSE, September 20, 1836.

"MY DEAR SIR, - I have just returned from Falkirk, where we had a splendid meeting last night. Some of the Glasgow clergy were there, with myself and Mr. Hogg. 66 Mr. Candlish should have gone, but did not, owing, I suppose, to other business. Mr. Forbes of Callender took the chair. You will be pleased to learn that a letter was read to the meeting from Lord Dundas, 67 stating that he has resolved to erect and endow a church at Grangemouth at his own expense. Mr. Forbes subscribed £200 for another church in the parish of Falkirk, and before the meeting broke up, £300 were subscribed towards the object. I am sure that the whole sum required may easily be secured.

[Footnote 66: J. M. Hogg, Esq., of Newliston. - T. S.]

[Footnote 67: Who two years later (1838) was created Earl of Zetland. - T. S.]

"Mr. Paul would intimate to you that the arrangements are completed respecting your coming here. I am only anxious to know at what hour you will arrive at Newhaven on Saturday, that I may come down for you. If you can preach a very short sermon after my lecture, as well as baptize my child, it will be very gratifying to me and the people. But I leave this entirely to yourself.

"Dr. Aiton of Dolphinton has undertaken to accompany me to the north, at which I am very glad. We appear at Arbroath on the evening of Tuesday next. Therefore we must start by the north mail on the Monday afternoon. But I shall have time to go with you to Dalkeith.

"I intend to try the plan of annual subscriptions in the north, as well as local erections. I am sorry to give you so much trouble; but a single line in reply, stating by what boat you come, will be gratifying. I am ever, &c."

Dr. Aiton, who was Dr. Begg's associate on this occasion, was a co-presbyter of my father, and I knew him very well from my boyhood. He was a man of considerable ability, and of great eccentricity. He was the author of many books, some of which were not without value. As he was very thoroughly "Moderate," I remember that there were local pleasantries as to the unequal yoking of the pair, and sundry references to Deut. xxii. 10. Probably they were chosen to act together in order to make it manifest that the movement was no party one, but that the whole Church was interested in it. They seem to have pulled well together. The following letters give a chronicle of their proceedings: -

"BRECHIN, October 2, 1836.

"MY DEAR SIR, - AS I have got a frank from Mr. Chalmers, I beg to give you a short account of our proceedings. We came to Arbroath on Tuesday morning. We found a new church required there, and, by dint of many calls and much persuasion, we stirred up the people to resolve to have one built immediately. A large committee is appointed, and £105 are already raised. We called also on the great men in that neighbourhood, including Lord Northesk, Duncan of Parkhill, &c. &c., and I hope we shall carry from that place at least £30 (including collections, &c.) for the central fund. We thought this pretty well for a start.

"The next day we went to Forfar. We found Mr. Clugston most friendly; but whilst the new church was open, the little old church (formerly a meeting-house) was shut up and useless. We advised the people at once to erect a third church in a better situation; and as a churchyard is also required, we advised them to secure land around the new church for that purpose, which might be a sort of endowment in the meantime to aid the seat-rents. To all this they consented. We had a large public meeting; a large and zealous committee was appointed; one man promised £20, and a collection was also made on the spot for the central fund. I may mention that in all places we supplied the committee with subscription papers.

"Next day we went to call for a zealous man called Mr. Hawkins, at Dunnichen, and he has resolved to begin a church in a village called Letham. He gives ground, stones, wood, value at least £100, perhaps £200, and £50 to begin. We called on an old gentleman called Greenhill, from whom we received £6 to your fund. We saw another large proprietor called Mudie of Pitmuir, and he gave £5 to your fund. A Mr. Jardine of Middleton, who has chiefly built the Friockheim church, we saw also; and he is most knowing upon the whole question, and a zealous churchman. Dr. Aiton addressed the people of Letham in the evening, and I the people of Friockheim, and both subscribed a small sum, formed committees, and manifested deep interest. I gave the people of Friockheim a full explanation of the endowment question.

"Yesterday Dr. Aiton went to Carnoustie and Arbroath, and I came here. At Carnoustie a fourth church will be erected. We saw the minister, and he says there are 1,200 persons there, two meeting-houses, and no church. Many of the people are zealous churchmen; and £16 are there, which the minister is willing to devote in aid of the erection. Dr, Aiton took over subscription papers.

"After I came here I went out to call for .... I had a long discussion with him respecting the Church, and beat him off at every point. Not only so, but I told him and made him confess that the Church is becoming stronger every day, and that Voluntaries and Radicals, instead of overturning it, are only striking its roots deeper. He is a poor creature, and I completely defeated him upon the endowment question, made him change colour once and again, and left him much better informed about the Church than I found him. He would not subscribe to the Assembly's fund at present, though he was very good-humoured at last, and came to the door with me. I promised to send him Dr. Cooke's discussion, which I shall do with a kind note.

"I next called on Lord Panmure (for we are determined to see all these men, if possible, face to face); but his lordship was unwell with gout, and not to be seen by any one. I sent him up a message, stating who I was, whence I had come, and what my object was. Last night I addressed, for an hour and a half, a meeting here, and collected for your fund £2, 15s. I also preach here twice tomorrow, and collect for the same purpose, and I go to Forfar again in the evening. Dr. Aiton preaches twice at Arbroath and once at Montrose, where I join him tomorrow. 68 We are determined to spend Monday and Tuesday there, to have a meeting on Tuesday evening, and, if possible, to start a fifth church there.

[Footnote 68: Probably a mistake for "Monday." - T. S.]

"I am more than ever convinced of the vast importance of deputations, and I am sure that our way of conducting them is the best, viz., public meetings and sermons for the common people, and private meetings and conversations with the men of influence.

"There is another thing which must be done immediately. A cheap journal must be published at headquarters, to range with information through all Scotland. I saw Frazer, the publisher, before I left Edinburgh, and he seems willing at his own risk to undertake it. A penny for the stamp, and three-halfpence or twopence worth of information - news respecting the nature and progress of the Church - more matter than the Christian Herald contains. I am sure that 20,000 of such a publication would circulate in Scotland and cut up by the roots all the strongholds of Radicalism. If you are in Edinburgh, perhaps you would speak to Frazer. A word from you would secure the object....

"I saw an account of your splendid doings at Edinburgh with great delight. I am sure that you will soon see a great harvest as a reward of all your toils.

"We have had very hard work this week; but I am quite strong and well. I shall write you again from Aberdeen. You may meantime mark down those four churches to the account of this mission. I am, &c."

"ABERDEEN, October 10, 1836.

"MY DEAR SIR, - I think the last thing I mentioned in my former letter was the conversation I had with .... I was astonished to find him next day in the front of the gallery of the new church at Brechin, as he never enters the Presbyterian church. I gave him another lecture on the importance of the objects which the General Assembly's Extension Committee has in view. At Forfar, where I was in the evening, I found the people very zealous, and that they had collected more money. But, as they are generally poor, I left all the collections with them to aid in building their church. Dr. Aiton, on the same Sabbath, preached twice at Arbroath, and at Montrose in the evening. You will see all the collections in the paper which I sent. On Monday I called for Sir James Carnegie of Southesk, and met Dr. Aiton at Montrose. We had very hard work there, and I am sure that, had no deputation been sent to that town, the people would have slept for years yet. A half-filled chapel was the grand argument why thousands should be given over to perdition. We successfully argued down that idea; so much so that the leading man connected with that place of worship gave £20 for a new church. Two are to be built. But as there is not much zeal amongst the people of the place, we collected, before we left the town, as much as to make sure of the erection of both. I also had a meeting in the mill-yard of the people of a spinning-mill, and answered all their difficulties so completely that many of them are to have a public meeting on the subject, and are to give a week's wages each towards carrying the object into effect. The magistrates will perhaps give a site on which the church may be erected. On Thursday we lectured at Stonehaven, and got upwards of £35 for your fund, and on Friday we came here. We think we shall have two new churches started here. We have already got some money for each, and we hope to get more. On Tuesday we go to Banff, and on to Inverness. We have now started eight churches. You shall hear from us as we go on. Dr. Aiton is most zealous and useful. We have a public meeting here this evening. Perhaps it would be well to have the reports of our proceedings put into some of the Edinburgh papers. I have addressed large congregations here on the subject. I am ever, &c."

"FOCHABERS, October 13, 1836.

"MY DEAR SIR, - As I have got a frank from Col. Grant I write you an account of some more of our proceedings. I think I mentioned that we had started two new churches in Aberdeen, for which nearly £600 are raised. Ground for one of them, worth £15 a year, has besides been given by persons interested in the object, for £4 a year. Our meeting at Aberdeen was most splendid. Great crowds could not obtain admittance.

"We went on Tuesday to Banff, where the Synod of Aberdeen received us with great cordiality, and resolved to have a public meeting that evening in the church. The church was full, and the leading men of the Synod took part in the proceedings. They also passed some strong resolutions in regard to Church Extension within their own bounds, a copy of which they promised to transmit to you. There were between forty and fifty ministers present; and they said that any of them would go on a mission anywhere in aid of your cause. The minister of Banff is immediately to have a missionary; and two persons there who are anxious to have an additional church, put down their names for £5 each as soon as one shall be begun. Next day, when we started, the members of the Synod followed us with showers of thanks, and a great enthusiasm prevailed.

"We came yesterday to Cullen, the seat of Col. Grant, M.P. for Morayshire. The parish of Cullen requires to be divided, and a new church erected at a place called Portnocky, containing a population of 800 persons, nearly 69 miles from any church. We explained this to Col. Grant, and he said that he would give ground for the building - an acre - and a donation towards the object, and that he had no doubt that it could easily be accomplished if an endowment could be secured. Properly speaking, this is church the tenth that we have started into prospective existence.

[Footnot 69: Number illegible. - T. S.]

"We came to Fochabers an hour ago, and we have written to the Duke of Richmond requesting an interview, and I write this while we wait his grace's orders. We go on to Elgin tonight, where we hold a public meeting tomorrow, as well as at Forres. Mr. Macfarlane of Renfrew, whom we picked up at Aberdeen, goes to Keith this night to hold a meeting, and we all meet at Inverness on Saturday, where we hold a meeting on Saturday night. Upon the whole we have been most amazingly successful, and I am sure we have spared neither labour nor earnest anxiety. I shall conclude this when I see the Duke of Richmond....

"We have just returned from seeing the Duke of Richmond. He is most favourable to the whole scheme, and very well informed on the subject. He told us that he thought several churches more are required in this neighbourhood, and that he had given orders to his factor to inquire respecting them, and is resolved to have them built. From what he said I believe he will build two at least at his own expense. He promised to write us very soon on the subject; and when I requested him to write to you, he said he would do so with much pleasure. We told him that nothing would give so much pleasure to the Church of Scotland as his doing what he proposed. We came away greatly pleased with our visit, and I am convinced that you will hear something from his grace soon at which you will be delighted. We explained to him the central fund, and he seemed fully to understand its value, but said he would consider of it after the wants of his own neighbourhood were supplied. When I proposed to give him your address, he said that your name was enough without any address. Every nobleman in Scotland should be visited; and I am sure the result would be great. - I am ever, my dear sir, yours with great respect and affection,

"JAMES BEGG."

This very interesting series of letters suggests many reflections. The reader can scarcely fail to be struck with the low scale of the contributions which were given, and which are represented as almost magnificent. No doubt there is much more money in the country now than there was then. But the habit of giving has been acquired by multitudes of our people of all ranks to a degree then unthought of. This is one of the particulars in respect of which the former days were not better than these. Still, there has been only a beginning made; and few among us realise the great truth taught in the words of the Lord Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." As long as the people of Britain pay £150,000,000 a year for drink, and £950,000 for foreign missions, humiliation and amendment befit us better than boasting or self-gratulation. But we should err in the other direction if we despised the day of small things.

The letters indicate the perfectly confidential terms subsisting betwixt their writer and the noble man to whom they were addressed. Few men were better able to enlist in a good cause all the energies of ingenuous men. They felt it an honour and a privilege, over and above the blessedness of well-doing, to serve along with or under him. Few men were more sensible of this privilege than Dr. Begg. Hence the tone of deferential frankness which characterises the letters.

Although this northern tour was the most extensive that Dr. Begg made in the advocacy of Church Extension, it was not the only one of the two letters following the first intimates an intention of visiting West Lothian, and complains of the apathy of Dr. Simpson of Kirknewton, the convener of the Sub-Committee on Deputations. This visitation was probably not carried out, as the second letter, written ten days after the former, gives an account of a visit to Berwickshire, and an intention to visit Peeblesshire: -

"LIBERTON MANSE, August 16, 1837.

" MY DEAR SIR, - I have just received your kind letter, and am glad that no objection will be made by Dr. Simpson to our efforts. At the same time, I think he should do more than this. He should plan and arrange deputations for all parts of the country, and send them forth with express instructions. If he merely allows us to do what we please, what is the use of such a committee as his? Besides, the whole thing proceeds on the idea that there is enough of zeal, which only requires to be permitted to display itself, instead of which any zeal which did exist is almost cold in this part of the country, and requires to be powerfully stirred.

"At the same time, Dr. Aiton and I have resolved to start and do what we can in Linlithgowshire next week, after your meeting. I mentioned this to Dr. Simpson yesterday, to see whether he would give us the authority of his committee. He said he must first call a meeting for the purpose. Here then is another delay, and it prevents my writing to the places which we intended to visit. I rather think I shall write Dr. Simpson to say he may save himself the trouble of calling a meeting, and start upon our own authority as members of the Synod's Committee, which still is unpleasant.

"I saw Mr. Cuthbertson on Sabbath, and he looks forward with much pleasure to seeing you. Lord Wemyss also sent his regards to you, and expects you to lunch with him on Tuesday. My gig will be waiting for you on Monday evening next, at 7 o'clock. Mrs. Begg sends her best regards, and I am ever, &c.

"P.S. - I see nothing doing at Dumfries, Aberdeen, Inverness, or Perth. Dr. Simpson should send some one to stir them. - J. B."

It is the old story of the push of the actors and the vis inertiæ of the directors: Sir Arthur Wellesley in the Peninsula had his Sir Harry Burrard and his Sir Hew Dalrymple, Dr. Begg had his Dr. Simpson. But Dr. Begg had this advantage over the great hero, that he could always reckon with absolute confidence on the sympathy and aid of the director-in-chief of the movement. No man was ever more methodical than Dr. Chalmers; so long as method was essential to the furtherance of the end in view; but no man was less fettered by routine, or stood less upon forms, if the end could be better promoted without them. The second letter is as follows: -

"LIBERTON MANSE, August 26, 1837.

"MY DEAR SIR, - We had a most admirable meeting at Dunse on Thursday, Sir Hugh Campbell, M.P. for Berwickshire, in the chair. Many persons of importance in that region were present, and the collection amounted to £17, 14s. This, however, only convinced me of what might be done in that region. Sir Hugh was very kind, and urged us to come to his house. If we could have done so, much good might have resulted. The Countess Dowager of Breadalbane lives near that, Sir John Pringle, and many more, all of whom should be waited upon personally. Besides, there should be meetings at Greenlaw, Earlston, and Lauder; and indeed in every parish. You must, therefore, send down two men immediately to follow up what has been so well begun. They are sure of success. Fourteen clergymen were present, and all zealous. Some of them should be sent to other regions. In a word, your plan is the only one that will do the work. Mr. Goldie 70 is willing to spend two weeks in Fife immediately. He should be instructed to proceed forthwith, along with Messrs. Murray and Anderson.

[Footnote 70: Minister of Coldstream. - T. S.]

"I stupidly forgot to answer Mrs. Chalmers' truly kind letter; will you give her my best regards, and say that if I can promote her object I shall be truly glad. Mr. Cuthbertson promised to look out for a well-behaved boy, and I shall do the same; but Mrs. Chalmers must not depend upon our success.

"I may mention that Sir H. Campbell is in great spirits about the elections. I am, &c.

"P.S. - I go to Peebles and Innerleithen today. - J. B."

These letters, never designed for publication, indicate nothing more clearly than the intensity of the love which their writer bore to his Church. He truly took pleasure in her stones, and favoured her very dust. What must it have cost him and Dr. Chalmers, and hundreds of others, to whom those stones and that dust were equally dear, to be conscientiously constrained to abandon that Establishment of which they had been the chief defenders and extenders? It was as the cutting off of a hand or the plucking out of en eye. But I must not anticipate. In giving in to the General Assembly of 1837 the report of the Committee on Church Extension, Dr. Chalmers spoke warmly of the services of the deputies, and made special reference to the interview of Dr. Aiton and Dr. Begg with the Duke of Richmond, and to the meeting of the latter with the mill-workers at Montrose.

Not far from the beginning of this volume I stated that Dr. Begg's politics were what he regarded as Old Whiggism, the Whiggism of 1688. But he often deemed that that Whiggism was better represented by the Conservative party than by that party which, calling itself Whig, he regarded as having lapsed into Radicalism; and, demagogue as he was sometimes called, and advocate as he ever was of the people's rights, he had always a heart-horror of Radicalism. But in his political creed at this time the fundamental and almost the sole article was the Church of Scotland, its extension and its endowment. Now the Whigs, represented by Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne, had been in power from 1830 to the end of 1834, and had refused to consider the claims of the Church to a redistribution of her own endowments, or to a grant from the Treasury for the endowment of extension charges. The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel came into office on the last day of 1834, and in the speech from the throne stated that the attention of Parliament should be called to these claims. This was matter of great joy to Dr. Chalmers and to all his fellow-labourers in the Church Extension cause. But Sir Robert Peel failed to command a majority in the House of Commons, and in April 1835 Lord Melbourne returned to office, as little disposed as ever to do anything for the Church of Scotland. Comparing what the Conservatives had promised to do, and probably would have done had they been able, with what the Whigs had so persistently refused to do, the most prominent advocates of Church Extension regarded Conservatism and their cause as one. At this time a public dinner was given at Dalkeith to Sir George Clerk, M.P. for Midlothian; and I find from the newspapers of the day that Dr. Begg was the only clergyman present. He not only acted as chaplain, but in answer to the toast of "the Church of Scotland," made a powerful attack on the Government, and expressed a confident hope that Sir Robert Peel might soon displace them. But a time soon came when the question was more vital than any relating merely to the extension and endowment of the Church, and neither of the political parties would imperil its own party interests by introducing and carrying through a measure which might have preserved the unity of the Church; and Dr. Begg and others had to learn the lesson so hard to be learned by earnest and generous souls, "Put not your trust in princes." At this time the Edinburgh Annuity Tax was a burning question, which was once and again discussed in the Presbytery of Edinburgh. It is evident that it was considered seemly that the city clergy, whose interests were at stake, should not take a prominent part in the discussion, and therefore a large share of it fell to the lot of Dr. Begg, who, of the extra-city ministers, was the most capable of taking a leading part in a debate. He not only defended ably the interests of his brethren, but regarded the agitation in opposition to the tax as a phase of that Voluntaryism which he abhorred.

The delivery by Dr. Chalmers in London of a course of lectures on Church Establishments was, in its manifold bearings on the questions of the day, a most important event. The lectures were delivered in April and May 1838. In his visit to the metropolis the lecturer was accompanied by Dr. Begg, and it is from his pen that we have one of the fullest accounts of the impression that was made. I need therefore offer no apology for transferring that account, and a portion of the paragraph with which the biographer of Dr. Chalmers introduces it.

"Speaking of the opening lecture, the leading journal of the day said, 'If the interior of the structure correspond in any degree with the simple and massive grandeur of the porch, these lectures will doubtless challenge the admiration of after ages, scarcely more as an imperishable monument of the Doctor's genius than as an invaluable contribution to the permanent literature, and, above all, to the higher interests of the country. From the first word that escaped the lips of the lecturer till the concluding sentence, which died away amid the acclamations of the audience, the vivid interest was sustained with a deep and unflagging intensity.' At the second lecture, the seats reserved for peers and members of Parliament were at an early hour crowded to overflow, and so difficult was it to pack the room aright that for more than a quarter of an hour after the time fixed for opening, the lecturer could not proceed. The third lecture witnessed a still denser crowd, composed of a still higher grade, and manifesting a still higher enthusiasm. At the fourth and fifth lectures an American clergyman was present, who tells us: 'The hour at which the lecture was to commence was two o'clock. I thought it necessary to be beforehand in order to secure a seat. When I arrived I found the hall so perfectly crammed that at first it seemed impossible to gain admission; but by dint of perseverance I pushed my way onward through the dense crowd till I had nearly reached the centre of the hall. Though the crowd was so great it was very obvious that the assembly was made up principally of persons in the higher walks of life. Dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, barons, baronets, bishops, and members of Parliament, were to be seen in every direction. After some considerable delay and impatient waiting, the great charmer made his entrance, and was welcomed with clappings and shouts of applause, that grew more and more intense till the noise became almost deafening.' 71 The concluding lecture was graced by the presence of nine prelates of the Church of England. The tide that had been rising and swelling each succeeding day now burst all bounds. Carried away by the impassioned utterance of the speaker, long ere the close of some of his finest passages was reached, the voice of the lecturer was drowned in the applause, the audience rising from their seats, waving their hats above their heads, and breaking out into tumultuous approbation. Nor was the interest confined to the lecture-room. 'Nothing,' says Dr. Begg, 72 'could exceed the enthusiasm which prevailed in London. The great city seemed stirred to its very depths. The Doctor sat, when delivering his lectures, behind a small table, the hall in front being densely crowded with one of the most brilliant audiences that ever assembled in Britain. It was supposed that at least five hundred of those present were peers and members of the House of Commons. Sir James Graham was a very constant attender. The sitting attitude of Dr. Chalmers seemed at first irreconcilable with much energy or effect. But such an anticipation was at once dispelled by the enthusiasm of the speaker, responded to, if possible, by the more intense enthusiasm of the audience; and occasionally the effect was even greatly increased by the eloquent man springing unconsciously to his feet, and delivering with overwhelming power the more magnificent passages - a movement which, on one occasion at least, was imitated by the entire audience, when the words, the King cannot, the King dares not, were uttered in accents of prophetic vehemence, that must still ring in the ears of all who heard them, and were responded to by a whirlwind of enthusiasm, which was probably never exceeded in the history of eloquence. Some of us sat on the platform beside the Doctor, and near us were the reporters. One seemed to leave the room every five minutes with what he had written, so that by the time the lecture was finished, it was nearly all in print. On the day of the first lecture, which commenced at two o'clock, and terminated about half-past three, some of us went round by the city, and when we reached our dinner-table at five o'clock we were able to present to Dr. Chalmers a newspaper, I think the Sun or Globe, containing a full report of his lecture. Nothing was more striking, however, amidst all this excitement, than the childlike humility of the great man himself. All the flattery seemed to produce no effect whatever on him; his mind was entirely absorbed in his great object; and the same kind, playful, and truly Christian spirit that so endeared him to us all, was everywhere apparent in his conduct. I had the honour afterwards to be introduced to the Duke of Cambridge. He immediately introduced the subject of Dr. Chalmers. "What does he teach?" said His Royal Highness rapidly. I intimated that he taught theology. "Monstrous clever man!" said the Duke, "he could teach anything." I had heard Dr. Chalmers on many great occasions, but probably his London lectures afforded the most remarkable illustrations of his extraordinary power, and must be ranked amongst the most signal triumphs of oratory in any age.' " 73

[Footnote 71: "Glimpes of the Old World," by the late Rev. J. A. Clark, D.D. Vol. ii. pp. 96, 97. London, 1847.]

[Footnote 72: "Dr. Begg, along with other members of the Church Extension Committee, accompanied Dr. Chalmers, and, availing themselves of so favourable an opportunity, succeeded in obtaining about £5,000, in the metropolis."]

[Footnote 73: Hanna's "Life of Chalmers," vol. iv., pp. 37-40. ]

It may be noticed, in passing, that the historian of the "Ten Years' Conflict" very properly dwells upon the fact that these lectures, thus enthusiastically received by such an audience, contained an explicit statement of the claim of spiritual independence on the part of the Church of Scotland, the rejection of which by the Legislature caused the Disruption of the Church.