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.



O N the 5th of February 1845, Dr. Begg, in the Presbytery of Edinburgh, moved an overture to the General Assembly on the subject of the refusal of sites. He supported his motion in a speech which his seconder, Dr. Guthrie, characterised as "calm and temperate." This subject will come under our notice ere long. In the meantime I would only say that in all history it would be difficult to find anything that bears more apparently the aspect of judicial blindness than the action of some of the enemies of the Free Church at this time. They might have known that such action as theirs would stir up all the best, and all the worst, and all the intermediate feelings in the hearts of Free Churchmen to stand fast by a cause which was thus persecuted. And the strangest thing about it was that some of the site-refusers were men of high character for integrity and kindness. And then a considerable number of them were themselves dissenters, standing in precisely the same relation to the Established Church which the Free Church maintained towards it. There was, for example, the late Duke of Buccleuch, at once a conscientious dissenter, a model of integrity and kindliness in all the relations of life, and for many years a most resolute site-refuser. What makes the anomaly still more unaccountable is that the persecution seems to have been confined to the one point of the refusal of sites. Dr. Guthrie, on seconding Dr. Begg's motion, made the following statement, which quite agrees with what I have learned otherwise: "It may seem a little strange that I should take the part of the Duke of Buccleuch so far; but let justice be done to all; and I think it right and fair to state that though His Grace has in these instances refused to grant sites, yet there has been no persecution, so far as I have learned - no persecution of the tenants, cottars, or servants, at Canonbie. I believe that the Duke of Buccleuch's own servants attend the Free Church without suffering in the least by doing so." As Free Churchmen, we have no reason to regret the course that was adopted by these men, for it manifestly tended to the furtherance of our cause: but as patriotic Scotsmen we deeply deplore the suicidal policy which did much to widen the breach, already far too wide, betwixt the different classes of our countrymen, and to accelerate the progress of that revolutionary spirit which threatens sooner or later to bring dire calamities on our land. It is more than insinuated by Dr. Guthrie that the chief instigators of site-refusing were among the clergy of the Established Church; - not, however, the consistent Moderates, some of whom did their best to obtain justice for the Free Church, but men who were among the most strenuous advocates of Free Church views until the hour of trial came. It is no new thing to find that the fiercest enemy is the false friend, that the most virulent persecutor is the renegade.

In the March Commission of this year the subject of the endowment of Maynooth was one of the most important subjects for discussion. It was introduced by Dr Candlish, seconded by Dr. Begg. In Sir Robert Peel's exposition of the Queen's Speech at the opening of Parliament it had been announced that the Government were to propose an increase in the Maynooth grant; and although it was admitted that it was on this account Mr. Gladstone had withdrawn from the ministry, yet no very decided stand was made in either House of Parliament against the proposal. There was also very great dissatisfaction felt by many of the friends of Protestantism throughout the country with the action of the Foreign Secretary (the Earl of Aberdeen) in the case of Dr. Kalley in Madeira. It was in these circumstances that the Commission took up the subject. Dr. Candlish frankly admitted that he had no great hope of success in petitioning against the proposed increase of the grant, but held that the Church, as a matter of duty, should make an earnest effort to stay the advance of Romanism and Jesuitism. Dr. Begg took the ground which all through his life he invariably occupied, exposing the folly of those who imagine that Rome has changed, that her persecuting spirit was merely the spirit of a persecuting age, and that she was now actuated by more liberal and enlightened principles. " It used (he said) to be a fashionable thing on the part of many professing Christians to maintain that those persons were alarmists who foretold that Popery was likely again to obtain ascendancy in this country. It was a favourite idea with some of the best and most intelligent men in this country, that Popery was likely to obtain the ascendancy; but this was scouted at the time and I believe is scouted still, by many Christians in the land. Surely the facts which we see around us in regard to Popery and the great apathy with which its advances are met, are sufficient to alarm, silence, and shut the mouths of such individuals as those to whom I allude." The same subject was brought before the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and again Dr. Candlish, Dr. Cunningham, and Dr. Begg spoke in the same strain. "We ought never to forget," Dr. Begg said, "that the proposed grant is avowedly to be given, not on the ground of principle, but merely for the purpose of satisfying what they believe to be an influential though noisy party in the country. It is, in fact, a mere concession to the turbulence of Ireland; and it occurs to me that if the Government saw a sufficient amount of popular agitation on the other side, they would be disposed to give way after all." At a great public meeting held in Edinburgh a few days later to protest against the grant, Dr. Begg was the first speaker. His speech was long and very powerful; but of course the agitation was all in vain. Sir Robert Peel proposed the grant, and by the help of Lord John Russell, carried the first reading in the House of Commons by a majority of 102 (216-114).

Notwithstanding the most energetic opposition, the bill passed through the other stages, the second reading being carried by a majority of 147 (323-176). Dr. Begg was again the first speaker in a public meeting held in Edinburgh for the purpose of petitioning Parliament for the abolition of University tests. This was a question of special delicacy for him to handle. It may be freely admitted that three years earlier, while he was still a minister of the Established Church, he would not have spoken as he did now; and I think I am safe in saying that he would have spoken otherwise thirty or forty years later. The principal speakers were pronounced Voluntaries; and Begg began by disclaiming any desire for the total abolition of religious tests, and so far as I understand, intimating that he only desired the abolition of the test by which every professor on his admission was required to promise "to conform himself in practice to the worship, doctrine, and discipline of the Church as established by law." It was the suicidal policy of the Established Church, - in insisting not only on the expulsion of the theological professors, such as Chalmers and Welsh, for which there were at least plausible grounds, but also of lay professors, and especially Sir David Brewster, - that arrayed such men as Begg in opposition to them, and that ultimately led to the abolition of all religious tests, so far as the lay chairs are concerned. This matter also was brought before the Presbytery, and Dr. Begg again expressed his views regarding it.

At the meeting of the General Assembly in May, Dr. Begg made a long and interesting statement on the subject of site-refusing. It consisted mainly of documentary evidence - letters written by the site-refusers themselves in answer to applications made to them. There is not a single word of vituperation or abuse from beginning to end; but a sustained and vigorous statement of a determination to persevere in agitation till a flagrant wrong should be redressed. The following portion of a paragraph may suffice as a specimen:-

"Now, having laid before you these details, the grand question now arises, What are we to do? It appears to me that two things must be done. I submit that we, as members of the Assembly, might perhaps have made a more direct application to those individuals who withhold sites, offering them money, or whatever is the value of the parcels of land thus needed. 9 But should we wait the result of this we may lose the present session of Parliament; and I think it is our duty to go at once to the legislature, and urge upon them their duty to protect the landlords of Scotland from the fruit of their own folly. We can go to Parliament with a good grace, and urge that no man has a right to forbid his fellow-man to worship God according to his conscience. God, to whom the earth and its fulness belongs, never gave any man such a right. And, apart from this, we shall insist that no man in Great Britain is entitled to violate the law of toleration - that law which forms a fundamental part of our constitution. What, let me ask, would the result be if all the proprietors of land in this country were to unite and resolve that their religion should become the religion of the people; or more strange still, that the religion of the people should not be their religion, but something different from that which both they and the people prefer and believe in? The result would be that the country would be plunged into the horrors of a revolution. There is a species of chartism in the conduct of some of the landlords of Scotland. They are not acting in accordance with the law, but in defiance of it; and I hurl back to them the injunction, 'Obey the law;' for it is you only who are violating the law."

[Footnote 9: It should be noted, however, that in no case was there any dispute about prices. The Duke of Buccleuch would certainly have refused to give a site at Canonbie though pounds had been offered for every shilling of the market value of the land. - T. S.]

Dr. Candlish, with reference to the speech, said, "He had endeavoured to frame a motion which would embody the suggestion laid down by Mr. Begg. I cannot," he observed, "but take this opportunity of saying that, many and invaluable as are the services which Mr. Begg has rendered to the Church, I conceive that none have exceeded that which he has now rendered, in bringing before us with so much fulness, and with so much temper, without any exaggeration, or any violence of language, strong facts without unnecessarily strong words."

In the same Assembly the subject of the Maynooth grant was introduced by Dr. Robert Buchanan in an admirable speech. His motion to petition the House of Lords (the bill having already passed the House of Commons), and to memorialise the Queen, was seconded by Dr. Begg, in a characteristic speech, and unanimously agreed to. Of course it was well understood that the case was hopeless; but none the less did the Assembly resolve to do their duty, however others might fail to do theirs.

Dr. Begg also in this Assembly moved the adoption of a report presented by Mr. Murray Dunlop, condemnatory of new Poor-Law Bill for Scotland, which was then before Parliament, and which, in an evil hour, eventually became law. Two days before he had proposed the first resolution at a public meeting in the Waterloo Rooms, "of persons friendly to the formation of an association for protecting the interests of the poor, and for preventing or lessening, chiefly by moral influence, the ejectment of numbers of small tenants, especially in the Highlands, and for mitigating the distress consequent on such ejectments." Events long subsequent, and even now in course of occurrence, give special interest to his speech on this occasion. I therefore reproduce a considerable portion of the report of it:-

"In reference to the clearances in the Highlands, nothing could be more deeply painful than the facts which had from time to time been brought under their notice. He thought if these matters were pressed to the uttermost it might give rise to the very painful question - a question which, for the advantage of all parties, ought to be allowed to sleep - as to how far public opinion would allow a man to trample on the rights and interests of the inhabitants of the country. He wished that question might not be raised, and that the landlords would take this hint, and not press further on the sensibilities, on the outraged feelings, of a great mass of the inhabitants of the three kingdoms, so as to be the cause of such a spectacle as driving the inhabitants of whole glens from the homes of their fathers. He did not think the cause of this was to be found in the insufficiency of the land to maintain the population of the Highlands, or that this painful measure was one of absolute necessity. He did not sympathise with such an idea as that. He believed that the land, properly managed, would not only maintain its present inhabitants, but a far greater number. The present measures were dictated, he also believed, by hatred of religious liberty. Formerly, when a clearance took place, the people were driven down to the sea-shore, and there allowed to remain in poverty; but the great drift now was to drive them out of the country and to substitute for them cattle and sheep. So long as the people of the north of Scotland were as quiet as sheep, the landlords allowed them to remain; but now, for the first time in three centuries, the people had stood on the right of manhood, and asserted the right of thinking for themselves and therefore it was proposed to extirpate them. They would not be as quiet as sheep, and sheep were preferred to them. In such circumstances, the great engine to be wielded was the engine of public opinion; and in this respect the Times newspaper had laid the people of the country under a deep debt of obligation. If this Association was formed, it would bring into play public opinion in a variety of ways. It would make the people of Scotland aware of their rights, and temperately claim and maintain them. From what he had seen of the character and disposition of the people of the Highlands, he could assert that, instead of being a clamorous people, urging their wrongs on the notice of the people of the South, the one half of what they suffered was not yet told, and would perhaps never be told.... They might not be able to secure for the people of Glencalvie the restoration of their farms, but they might be able to prevent another Glencalvie affair from arising. He held this to be a matter of the greatest importance. They would send a voice across the hills; a voice which would be understood by every Highlander; a voice which would declare that the people of this country would never allow their fellow-countrymen to be treated as slaves, or their rights and privileges to be trodden under foot."

I can testify that it was to Dr. Begg a matter of the deepest regret that the action of a portion of the landowners of Scotland in the matters of site-refusing and Highland clearings, compelled him to occupy a position, which, in the eye of the wilful partizan, and in that of the superficial observer, could be represented as identical with that of those who deny the right of property, and hold "equality" to be essential to "liberty and fraternity." All through his life his ideal was that of a contented, industrious, and religious peasantry living in happy concord with a genial and kindly aristocracy. But the more he recognised the privileges of property, the more strenuously did he feel himself compelled to insist on its responsibilities; and at this time, and at several other times, he conscientiously believed that, by some, the privileges were being abused, and the responsibilities disregarded. All his instincts were conservative; but no radical was ever more strenuous in maintaining that the neglect or contravention of duty must be met by a curtailment of privilege. Perhaps I should also explain further that Dr. Begg was not opposed to emigration in itself. On the contrary, he was its persistent advocate, believing that the colonies afford greater scope for the energies of a young man than the mother country. What he objected to was compulsory emigration, especially as he rightly or wrongly believed the motive of the compulsion to be the desire to weaken the Free Church, by diminishing the number of its adherents in the country. It is difficult for us now to think it possible that this belief could be well founded; but it is impossible to assign limits to the evils which men may consider themselves warranted in perpetrating towards their opponents in times of special excitement.

It was strongly impressed on the Assembly of 1845 that the interests of the Free Church in the Highlands, through the refusal of sites, the sparseness of the population, and other causes, required fuller consideration than the Assembly was able to give it. It was therefore resolved that an adjourned meeting of the Assembly 10 should be held at Inverness in the month of August following. In preparation for this important meeting, it was considered advisable that some men should make short tours in the Highlands, and be able to report with some measure of authority on the condition of matters. These deputations were accordingly appointed to visit different districts. Of the proceedings of one of these deputations we have an interesting and amusing account by one of its members, Dr. Beith of Stirling, 11 now the father, or oldest minister, of the Free Church, indeed the oldest minister of any denomination in Scotland. The members of that deputation were Dr. M'Kellar, Dr. Candlish, and Dr Beith. The members of the second were Dr. Macintosh Mackay, Dr. Begg, and Mr. Glass of Musselburgh. 12 On one occasion these two deputations casually met. Of this meeting Dr. Beith gives the following notice: "The morning which followed our evening services at Lochgilphead saw Dr. Candlish and myself at Ardrishaig, two miles to the south of Lochgilphead, at the inlet to the Crinan Canal, awaiting the swift steamer from Glasgow. By her came Dr. Begg, member of another deputation - one of those which been commissioned on similar work to ours, by the late Assembly, though in a different region. His colleagues were Dr. Mackay, late of Harris, and Mr. Glass, late of Musselburgh. Dr. Mackay joined him at Oban, Mr. Glass at a more advanced point in our tour. Dr. Begg was the companion of Dr. Candlish and myself for the day. The romantic pass from Lochfine, on the east shore of the vast peninsula of Kintyre, to Crinan on the west, never looked more beautiful than on this day, and never was looked on by more admiring eyes. My two associates were in their happiest moods - Dr. Candlish as joyous as a boy on vacation from school; Dr. Begg overflowing with humour and anecdote; of the latter it seemed as if there could be no end. As for myself, I was in the district in which I had been brought up. Every point in the landscape was familiar to me, and I was able to communicate to my fellow-travellers incidents of interest, bearing date for fifty years previous to the time of our journey, connected with this district."

[Footnote 10: The distinction ought to be noted between this and the Glasgow Assembly of 1843. That was a separate Assembly from the first Assembly in Edinburgh, new commissioners being chosen by the Presbyteries to represent them in it alone. This was simply an adjourned meeting of the Assembly of 1845. In no year save 1843 have there been two General Assemblies of the Free Church. - T.S.]

[Footnote 11: "Three Weeks with Dr. Candlish: A Highland Tour. " by Alex. Beith, D.D., Stirling. Second Edition. Edinburgh, 1874.]

[Footnote 12: I have not been able to ascertain the names and members of the third deputation. - T.S. ]

The party arrived at Oban, and held a meeting in the evening. In connection with this visit was originated a movement for the erection of a Free Church. Every visitor to that most beautiful of all our Scottish places of resort is aware of the success with which the object was accomplished - in good part by the munificent aid of the late Marquis of Breadalbane. The following day was occupied with a trip to Iona and Staffa. On the return voyage, the party was broken up at Tobermory. "Dr. Begg, accompanied by the minister of Tobermory and an elder from Oban, took his route for Ardnamurchan proper and the adjoining districts."

At the Inverness Assembly, Dr. Begg gave a most interesting account of his tour, and of the state of matters in the Highlands, speaking strongly, but "more in sorrow than in anger," of the sufferings inflicted on the people by site-refusing proprietors. I shall give some extracts from this speech, not apologising for their length, but rather regretting that I cannot transfer it in its entirety to my pages. It is happily not requisite now to reproduce the statements regarding the refusal of sites, and therefore I shall only extract such passages as refer to the country and the people:-

"I crossed from Tobermory to the district of Ardnamurchan, at a point called Laga. It was mid-day, but the people had nevertheless assembled to hear sermon. I there saw for the first time what I had often read of before - I saw a light burning on the hill as I advanced to the place, and, on inquiry, was told that it was a light to intimate to the people on the opposite side that there was to be sermon; and I saw the boats coming from the opposite shore with people to attend the service. Here was the fiery cross that used to bring out the Celts to war, now used to bring them out to hear the gospel of peace. Another man present began the services of the day; and I heard the solemn sound of the psalmody die away in the distant hills. I went to Strontian, where public worship was to take place, and it was requisite that means should be taken for summoning the people. As we sailed along the shore, I was much struck with the primitive way in which the intimation was made. A catechist was seated in the boat, and as she brushed along the shore, he cried out in Gaelic, 'Searmon aig sea nairean,' which means "service at six o'clock." 13 This flew from hamlet to hamlet, and a large audience, when worship commenced, was assembled on the hill.... I could not understand the Gaelic sermon; but one thing I could not fail to observe, that a more effective sermon could scarcely have been preached. Not only did the people hang on the lips of the speaker, but they exhibited the deepest emotion. The audience was dissolved in tears, and deep sobs were heard throughout.... I shortly spoke to the people of the district; and a venerable patriarch afterwards came forward, and made an address to me in his native tongue. That address was interpreted, and the meaning of it was, that he blessed God that he had lived to see the day when the Church of Scotland was taking so deep an interest in her scattered children, and was sending men to witness the trials to which they were subjected; with a prayer that all blessings might descend upon the Church, and upon us....

[Footnote 13: Dr. Begg had to bear a good deal of good-natured banter - which he took with equal good nature - on the subject of this intimation. It was said that as he gave it the intimation did not, as he explained, mean service at six o'clock but a sermon of six hours (long). In the Assembly of 1846, when giving an account of his visit to Canada, he jocularly alluded to the matter. "Sorry I was, indeed, that I had not the Gaelic tongue of some of my friends here though it will astonish my friend Mr. Guthrie to learn that the single mouthful that I pronounced at Inverness - and whether right or wrong is still, I believe, to some extent a question of casuistry - still he will be astonished to learn, that it gained for me across the Atlantic such a character for proficiency in Gaelic, that when in Canada I received a letter proposing that I should preach two sermons in English during the day; and as the writer understood that I 'had the Gaelic,' he invited me also to preach in that tongue in the evening." - T. S.]

"We came to Lochcarron, on the Applecross estate; and, to give you an idea of the intense interest that prevails among the Highlanders as to the preaching of the Gospel, I may state that we had not gone many miles on the road to this place before we saw individuals who were on the highway accosting in a most earnest manner the person who carried our luggage. We afterwards learned that they were inquiring if we were Free Church ministers, and if we were to preach. Our arrival was spread far and wide over the neighbourhood, with an intimation that we were to preach, and though it was seven o'clock when we arrived, by eight o'clock about 800 people were assembled to hear us, and they remained till eleven o'clock to hear the Word of God preached to them....

"We at length came down upon Applecross, with the Atlantic lying before it. It was a cold evening, but we found a large number of people assembled, and we were shocked to see them gathered together in a place almost inaccessible on the seashore. We had to sit on stones, literally amid the tangle of the seashore; 14 and there were to be seen amiable matrons, and old men and maidens, sitting to hear the Gospel preached, while the waves of the Atlantic dashed at their feet.... When I left Applecross to reach another district, accompanied by a brother minister, we had to pass over a mountain where there was no road. It was a wild hill, requiring considerable effort to reach the top. I looked from the top of that hill, and when I saw the house of Applecross sending up its smoke among the trees, I thought of the singular change that had taken place in the old feudal system. I could see a beauty in that old system when it was a patriarchal system, in which the people looked up to their landlord as their friend and protector; but when, instead of this, we see mutual dislike, and on the part of the landlord persecution and oppression, then, I say, not only is this entire system in danger, but these men are just doing what the worst enemy of the institutions of the country would wish them to do. If I had been desirous to lay the axe to the root of the institutions of this country, I would have entreated these men just to act as Applecross has done. Why, they are taking the very steps that are calculated to loosen the bonds of society.... Do I rejoice at this? No, I regret it. But I throw the entire blame on those men who by their cruel oppressions, are bringing about results so disastrous....

[Footnote 14: It is difficult to believe, but yet it is true, that a Christian congregation, in a district where there were thousands of acres of rough pasture land, could find no place to assemble for worship but between low and high water mark. - T.S.]

"I was anxious to find out the real ground on which the Secession in the Highlands rested. I think I may explain shortly to our south country friends, that it was entirely and exclusively, in general, on Christian and Scriptural grounds that the Highlanders left the Established Church. I found in every instance in which I have made inquiry that it was because in previous times, and at the present day, they had been blessed with the preaching of the Word of God, that the Highlanders had left the Establishment. One great good of our coming to Inverness has been to mingle not only our sympathies with our northern friends - which I anticipated as the result of the Assembly's coming - but to make known to us the eminent men who laboured here, of whom we had never heard before. For example, at Lochcarron, I found that an eminent servant of God had long been there, of whom it may be said, 'This man has laboured, and you are entering into his labours.' I heard all the people speaking of Mr. Lachlan Mackenzie; and when I asked who he was, I was told that he was one of the most eminent ministers that was ever in Scotland. I was shown his pulpit, which was kept as a sort of relic, and they said that many a great word had been spoken from that pulpit. I went to the churchyard, and wrote down the inscription on his grave-stone, and I am persuaded that I am addressing some of those who will remember the man himself. The inscription struck me as peculiarly beautiful, I will read it to you. 'Here are deposited the mortal remains of the Rev. Lachlan Mackenzie, late minister of Lochcarron, who died on the 20th of April 1813, in the 37th year of his ministry. A man whose simplicity of manners presented a picture of apostolic times; whose heavenliness of mind still spurned the vain objects of time and sense; whose broad imagination shed a bright lustre on every subject which he handled; and whose holy unction in all his ministrations endeared him to the people of God, and embalmed his memory in their hearts. His praise is in the Churches! His parish mourns.' Now, I say that there were a number of men of a kindred spirit scattered over the north of Scotland, and they are even there still. You had the Calders and the Robertsons, there was that great and holy man Kennedy of Redcastle, individuals lately gone; and you have your own Dr. Macdonald still living to preside over this Assembly. These men had sown broadcast the living bread among, the people of the north of Scotland; and when they saw these men not only leave the walls of the Establishment, but when they saw them carrying it were, the Word of God away with them, these Highlanders, as one man, followed their footsteps....

"Let us not fear what man can do. We know that man cannot go farther than God permits him, and we see that even the opposition which men have been permitted to raise has been the means of forcing our cause on the notice of individuals in the three kingdoms, and in distant lands. If we had been always sailing on smooth waters, if everything had gone on well with us, could we have had it to tell of our cause being so triumphant as we see it to-day? Let us therefore thank God and take courage."

"As to the character of the discussion of which this speech of Dr. Begg was, perhaps, the most important part, Dr. Beith, a most competent judge, makes the following statement: "The Monday evening services were very brilliant. Dr. Buchanan of Glasgow, Mr. Begg, and Dr. Candlish made three of the best continuous speeches I ever heard spoken in any Assembly." The Inverness Assembly may be regarded as an epoch in Dr. Begg's life. It was in connexion with it that he was first brought into intimate relations with the Highlands and the Highlanders. In the later years of his life it was regarded by many as an unaccountable anomaly that he - a Sassenach, utterly ignorant of the language and the traditions of the people - should be one of the most trusted counsellors of a people who are generally regarded as distinguished by no characteristic more than their clannishness. Yet so it was. No chief of other days, no godly Gaelic minister of later times, had a more influential place in the great Highland heart than that which was occupied by this Lowlander; nor ever did feudal chief or godly pastor return with more devotedness the confidence or affection of clan or flock. This was no doubt due in part to the intimate friendship which was ere long formed between him and such representative leaders of the great Highland host as the late Drs. Macintosh Mackay, Kennedy of Dingwall, and the happily surviving Drs. George Mackay of Inverness 15 and Gustavus Aird of Creich, and other ministers and laymen of distinction and influence. But the friendship itself seems to have originated in the Inverness Assembly, and in that three weeks tour which was undertaken in preparation for it. 16

[Footnote 15: Dr. Mackay died, full of years and honours, since this was written. - T.S.]

[Footnote 16: Dr Begg contributed to the Free Church Magazine an interesting account of this visit to the Highlands. It is published in the Nos. of the magazine for September, October and November 1845. - T.S.]

It may seem an anti-climactic descent to pass from a notice of what exercised an important influence on the whole of Dr Begg's subsequent life and action, to an indication in this speech of a feature which afterwards became characteristic in his manner of speaking. Previously to this I have not noticed in his speeches the introduction of those illustrative anecdotes which afterwards made his speeches so telling. The stories were not much in themselves, and he had not a great variety of them. But he did not object - and his hearers did not object - to a repetition of them. They were always short - generally little more than a sentence. They were almost all descriptive of the shrewd "pawkiness" of the preceding generation, or of those of that generation who lived down to his own time; and he told them so happily and with so manifest relish that they never failed to please the audience, even when the audience was not a very friendly one. I find two examples in the Inverness speech. The Duke of Buccleuch had been reported as resting his vindication as a site-refuser on the statement that in the course of communion services at Canonbie he had been spoken of as a godless tyrant. This was, of course, denied. Then His Grace explained that he had been misunderstood, and that he had not made the statement as reported. Dr Begg treated the matter thus: "I should like to know where his argument is now for refusing sites to his tenantry. It seems to me that the only argument which was supposed to have been used by His Grace never having been used, His Grace has no argument at all on which now to stand. It reminds me much of what once took place in the old Assembly of the Established Church. A vigorous old minister from the West made a speech at the bar, and an advocate, who shall be nameless, was his opponent. The advocate made a statement, partly true, but partly incorrect, and on the incorrect part of the statement he founded an argument which raised a loud laugh at the expense of the venerable minister. The latter rose and disclaimed the statement, on which the advocate replied, 'Very well, then, of course, it is not true.' 'Aye! but (rejoined the minister) it spoils your joke.'

"The story is thus introduced. Lord Cawdor, another site-refuser, had expressed indignation that any one should interfere betwIxt him and his tenantry. "This reminds me of what is told of a man who came from a slave-holding district in America to this country, and brought one of his slaves with him. He began to treat his slave here as he did in the country from which he came, when the law interposed for his protection. 'Call you this,' he said, 'a free country where a man cannot punish his own negro?' " 17 Many men would have made far less account of far better stories.

[Footnote 17: "Wallop his own nigger" is the more approved reading. - T. S.]

Our pages have contained few references to the private or family life of Dr. Begg. With the exception of the throat affection from which he suffered in 1841, that might hitherto have been comprehended under the benediction which one pronounced on a nation, "Blessed are the people whose annals are a blank." But it were not good for any Christian man that it should be so with him always. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth ever son whom He receiveth;" and to Dr. Begg it was a sore, yet I doubt not, a salutary chastening, when suddenly "the desire of his eyes was cut down with a stroke." Within a month after the meeting of the Inverness Assembly, and just a fortnight after its close, the Edinburgh newspapers contain the following notice:-

"At 15 Minto Street, Newington, on the 13th instant Margaret Campbell, wife of the Rev. James Begg."

Mrs. Begg's death was very sudden. A few months before she had given birth to a still-born child, and had not, I believe, recovered her wonted strength, but her last illness was only of a few hours' duration. The following notice from Hugh Miller's pen, appears in the Witness of September 20:-

"Our obituary this week records an event of a painful nature. The wife of the Rev. James Begg - a name endeared to thousands of his countrymen - has been taken, on a few hours warning, from the bosom of her family and the society of her friends. 'Her sun has gone down while it was yet day.' It is not our purpose to portray the character of the deceased, though it would exhibit much that is worthy of admiration and imitation. Her manners were of that quiet, unassuming, courteous, and yet dignified kind which never fail to make a powerful impression on all who come within the circle of their influence. Sincere piety presided over the graces which encircled her life, and amidst the ardour of her affection for fellow-creatures it was always evident that she loved her Saviour. She died in peace, 'looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.' The decease of Mrs Begg has excited a wide, deep, and unmingled feeling of sorrow. Human sympathy, indeed, can do little to assuage the grief of the bereaved; but to them the consolations of religion are abundant."

Those who knew Dr. Begg but slightly, and who looked on him as he showed in the atmosphere of the public meeting or the Church court, will fail to realise the depth of his feeling under this sore trial. Those who were intimate with him knew otherwise. It might be that his strength made him less sensitive than weaker men to small sufferings, but that same strength made him suffer the more when great trials were laid on him. The largest eyes, in great sorrows, shed the largest tears. The time of his sorrow was to him a time of blessing; and as his beloved flock shared with him his sorrow, he would have them partakers of his blessing. With this view he presented each of them with a copy of a sermon which he had sent to a periodical for publication, to which he now prefixed, as a preface, a pastoral address to his congregation. 18 As this preface was never published, in the ordinary sense of the word, and as probably few copies are still in existence, I venture to reproduce a portion of it, both as an autobiographical fragment, and as indicative of the earnestness with which its author watched over the souls of his flock, "as one that must give account":-

[Footnote 18: "Are you Prepared to Die? An Address and Sermon to his dear Flock - September 1845. By the Rev. James Begg, Newington, Edinburgh, 1845."]

"MY DEAR PEOPLE, for whose salvation I earnestly long and pray, the following Sermon was sent to the Christian Treasury for publication 19 , when I little dreamt of what was about to take place - before it pleased God, in His adorable sovereignty, to remove so suddenly from this vale of tears one dear to me as my own soul, the sweet companion of all my struggles, the blessed mother of my children. The Lord's hand has been very heavy upon me, and I have been bowed down to the earth. But what shall I say? A Father's hand has done it; and done it, I trust, in love.

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

"It has been, indeed, a very solemn lesson to me. Oh that it may be a sanctified lesson. 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.' In calmly looking back to this sore bereavement, I desire to record my deep sense of the faithfulness and love of our Heavenly Father in mingling so much comfort with a trial otherwise overwhelming, - unspeakable comfort in regard to the beloved dead; great comfort in the kind sympathy and prayers of so many of you and others of God's dear people; comfort especially in access to Him who is a merciful as well as a faithful high priest, and who can be touched with a feeling of all our infirmities. I can humbly set to my seal that God is true, who saith, 'As thy day is, so shall thy strength be;' and oh for grace to be enabled to say, 'Not my will, but Thine, be done.' God doth all things well, and what we know not now we shall know hereafter. Oh for grace to 'know the rod, and Him who hath appointed it,' and to 'work while it is day, before the night cometh when no man can work.'....

[Footnote 19: The Sermon was published in the Christian Treasury, then a weekly publication, of 26th February. - T. S.]

"ARE YOU PREPARED TO DIE? Were God as suddenly to summon you to His judgment-seat, how would you appear? Oh, my dear friends, ponder on this. The answer to this question depends entirely on another: Have you 'fled for to lay hold on the hope set before you in the Gospel?' All out of Christ are condemned; but there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. Observe the expression - 'in Christ Jesus,' that is, united to Him by faith, in Him, as their peace, their surety, their intercessor; - in him, as in the ark of eternal safety. Out of Christ 'God is consuming fire.' This is the fearful state of all careless, prayerless sinners; they are on the brink of destruction, and are ready continually to be driven away in their wickedness. Oh my hearers, ought not this to be a time of great heart-searching to you all; for I fear that many of you are still far from God, and far from righteousness. God has not yet cut you off: There is room yet for you in the heart of God, in the love of Jesus and of His angels and people, in that house in which there are many mansions. And the precious blessings of the Gospel are still freely offered to all. I protest before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and kingdom, that I again, in circumstances of peculiar solemnity; urge upon your acceptance this free salvation, and beseech you, even with tears, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God; and if ye still reject the precious offer, the wrath of God shall not only abide on you for ever, but your blood shall be entirely on your own souls.

"I dare not trust myself to speak in public of what has taken place; but the following sermon, of which I desire each of you to accept a copy, with my most heartfelt prayers to God for your everlasting salvation, contains a statement, however imperfect, of some of the most vital truths of the Word of God, and truths also wonderfully applicable to the recent solemn events; for the principles and truths of this sermon were strikingly illustrated in the life and death of her who is now with Jesus. The grand matter, beloved brethren, is our being born again, washed in the blood of sprinkling, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, having passed from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Until this great, this blessed change is accomplished in us, nothing is done, all is mere dead formality and hypocritical pretence.... But what abundant encouragement, when we look up to the great "cloud of witnesses," by nature as guilty and as weak as we, but by grace triumphant now over every difficulty and every foe, and remember that Jesus, in whose blood they washed, in whose strength they triumphed, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Amidst all temptations and in the discharge of all duties, let the question ever recur: 'What would we think of this if we were about to die? and let us commit our souls in well-doing to Jesus as unto a faithful Creator, a merciful Redeemer, who knows our frame, who remembers that we are dust, who will make His grace sufficient for us, and perfect His strength in our weakness.' No one can tell to whom the messenger of death shall next come. It will soon come to all. Pastor and people shall soon stand at the judgment-seat. Oh to be prepared to go out and meet the Bridegroom! - to be enabled through abounding grace, to live and die in the humble but cheering confidence that 'when this earthly house of our tabernacle is dissolved, we shall have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!' A few short years, and all the family of God shall be collected and death shall be swallowed up in an everlasting victory 'Be thou faithful unto death; I will give thee a crown of life.' 'What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.' 'Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.'

"Your unworthy but affectionate Pastor,


This will give a fair idea - though of course a very imperfect one - of Dr. Begg's faithfulness and tenderness in dealing with his people. Funeral Sermons were preached in Newington Church by Dr. Candlish and Dr. Cunningham. They are thus noticed in the Witness of September 24:-

"THE LATE MRS. BEGG. - On Sabbath last, services were held in Newington Church, in connection with the sudden and lamented death of Mrs. Begg. Dr. Candlish preached in the morning from John x. 9, 'I am the good shepherd' and in a discourse of great eloquence and power unfolded the nature and blessedness of the relation which the statement implies, and the peace and comfort which in all circumstances it is fitted to convey to the believer. Dr Cunningham preached in the afternoon from John ix. 4, 'I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh in which no man can work.' At the conclusion of his discourse, Dr. Cunningham adverted to the striking and solemn circumstances in which he had been called to address them. After speaking of the singularly amiable character of the deceased, of the heaviness of the stroke which, in her removal, had fallen on their pastor, he urged on the congregation that 'they should learn the lesson which the event was so well fitted to teach them. She had died rejoicing in the faith. Though a little startled when first told that her end was near - as who would not have been in similar circumstances? - she immediately resigned herself into the Lord's hands, was enabled to place an unwavering and joyful confidence on her Saviour, and died in the full hope of the glory that excelleth. Their bereaved pastor, though sorely cast down, was yet bearing his affliction - as he expected he would - with the resignation and composure of a Christian man. It became them to sympathise deeply with him, and to be much in prayer for him, that his heart might be comforted, and his hands strengthened, for the work upon which he must again enter. Let them also improve the event to the good of their own souls. They did not know how suddenly they too might be called away. Let them see to it that they were ready for the coming of the Son of Man; for He would come to them all some day, - it might be in an hour when they expected Him not:' The congregation - of the intensity of whose attachment to their pastor and his departed wife we need not speak - were deeply affected during the services. Indeed, seldom has a similar event occurred, which has produced on a neighbourhood so deep and solemnising an impression."