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.



H ITHERTO Dr. Begg had not taken any prominent part in the discussion of social questions, excepting as these were incidentally associated with religious or ecclesiastical movements. It will appear in the sequel how heartily he entered into the advocacy of all measures which he regarded as tending to the social and economic wellbeing of the people. To such an extent did he carry this that there were not wanting those who regarded him as descending from the evangelic to the philanthropic level, and failing to follow the apostolic example of knowing nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I shall have no difficulty at the proper time in vindicating him against this charge. In the meantime I shall only say that he never regarded religion as designed to be separate from the daily life of men, but as necessarily bearing upon all educational, economical, social, and moral relations. this, I may say that he differed toto coelo from those who consider that religion consists merely in the avoidance of social and economic evils and in the practice of philanthropic virtues. Never a man had less sympathy with the constantly quoted maxim

"For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,
His can't be Wrong whose life is in the right."

But never a man had a stronger conviction that the same godliness which is profitable for the life which is to come, is profitable also for the life which is now.

On the 5th of January 1847 a meeting was held in the Music Hall on behalf of early shop-shutting. Dr. Begg moved:-

"That .... the meeting are of opinion that the curtailment of the hours of business is quite practicable, and will never operate against the interests of the employer, nor cause inconvenience to the public."

In the course of his speech he read the following extract from a note which he had received that afternoon.

"I pray you to speak a word in favour of the poor shop-girls, who are often so fatigued with the late hours on Saturday night that we are hardly able to walk home, and cannot get up on the Sabbath morning to go to church. Such is the grasping disposition of many even among professing Christian shopkeepers. Do not suppose that we are free when the shop-doors are closed, as we are detained till all the odds and ends of the goods are made up; and much evil follows, and no good, from such a practice."

The Free Church Education Scheme originated in the necessity of providing maintenance and employment for numerous teachers who had been ejected from the parochial schools on account of their adherence to the Free Church. No Free Churchman ever dreamed of withdrawing his children from a parochial school on the ground that the teacher of it might be an Established Churchman. Neither did any one imagine that teachers who were Free Churchmen ought to inculcate the distinctive principles of the Free Church on their pupils. It would have been absurd to make such an attempt; and I do not think that in all the heat of the controversy the charge of making it was ever brought against any teacher. But when Free Churchmen were ruthlessly ejected from the schools, on no other ground than that of their being Free Churchmen, the Church was compelled to institute an educational scheme, not on sectarian grounds, but as a defence against a sectarian movement on the part of others. Nothing shows more clearly the hold that the Free Church had of the minds of the people than the marvellous success of her educational operations. In this connection I am very glad to have an opportunity of adding another to innumerable expressions, by all kinds and classes of men, of thankfulness to my co-presbyter, Dr. Macdonald of North Leith (then Mr. Macdonald of Blairgowrie), as the chief promoter of a scheme which conferred unspeakable blessings on a generation, and contributed largely to the preparation of the community for the national system which has superseded it. Before the time which we have now reached, Free Church schools were established all over the country. They had generally been erected in convenient localities, so as to present no hostile aspect to the previously existing schools, while a natural rivalry provided a stimulus which was salutary to both classes of teachers, and highly promotive of the educational interests of the several districts. I do not suppose that any one will deny that we have made great progress in elementary education in Scotland in recent times; and I do not think that any one can fairly deny that the institution of the Free Church Education Scheme had a chief part in originating and impelling that progress. Of course I am quite aware of the reciprocal action of times upon men, and of men on their times. And it is quite possible that the impulse would have come from some other quarter if it had not come from this. But, in point of fact, it was from this quarter that it came, and it came chiefly through the enlightened zeal and indefatigable energy of Robert Macdonald.

It has sometimes been said, and oftener hinted, that the Free Church Educational Scheme proved a failure, and that, in order to get rid of the responsibilities of it, the leading men in the Free Church brought their influence to bear upon the Government to induce them to introduce a national system. I do not believe that there is any truth in this statement. The Free Church scheme was not a failure; it was a success, educationally and financially. I have no reason to believe that Free Churchmen specially advocated the introduction of a national system; although, of course, they were willing to acquiesce in any arrangement which promised to improve the quality of the ordinary education, and to conserve the distinctive character of Scottish education in respect of religious instruction.

We shall have a good deal to say about this subject in the sequel. In the meantime we have only to notice the fact, that at the time which we have now reached (1847), the Church set itself earnestly to the consideration of the constitution of its own schools, in respect of their control by the Education Committee, and the election and dismissal of teachers. There was naturally considerable difference of opinion regarding these matters; and I notice that in the month of February Dr. Begg, in the Presbytery of Edinburgh, carried, by a majority of two, a motion against one by Dr. Candlish. But the difference was only respecting details. There was complete agreement with respect to all matters involving principle, and the general mode in which the schools were to be conducted. At a subsequent meeting (7th April) Dr. Candlish moved for a committee to consider and report on the proposed grants by the Privy Council for schools in England. The Voluntaries had organised a strenuous opposition to these grants, and had held a large public meeting in Edinburgh; and it was quite necessary that the Free Church should make up and express its mind on the subject. Dr. Begg, while not acquiescing in all the views stated by Dr. Candlish, very cordially supported his motion for the appointment of a committee.

There is a comparatively small, but not an unimportant, subject to which Dr. Begg seems to have been the first to direct the attention of his brethren. At the meeting of the Presbytery in March, "Mr. Begg brought under the notice of Presbytery the practice of drinking at funerals, stating that he and the other brethren had received circulars asking them to recommend their congregations from the pulpit to discontinue the practice, which he thought should be done." It is pleasant to think that this now seems a small matter, scarcely worthy of the attention of the Presbytery of Edinburgh. It does so simply because the practice has been so discontinued the Lowlands, and so diminished in the Highlands, that the present generation are incapable of estimating the evil of it as it was formerly in use over all the country.

On the 17th of April the committee appointed on the 7th gave in an elaborate report, which gave rise to an animated discussion. As a keen controversy afterwards arose, in the arse of which Free Churchmen - and notably Dr. Begg were charged with inconsistency, and with changing their views from motives of self or denominational interest, and as I shall be necessitated to take notice of this controversy in its proper place, it will be well now to extract the main portion of Dr. Begg's first public speech on the subject of national education. The report of the committee, given in Dr. Candlish, recommended the Presbytery to petition for delay, till the Government scheme could be more fully considered; and went on to assert certain principles which ought to be carried out in any national system. These principles I shall state in an abridged form.

(1) It is very strongly asserted that it is the duty of States and their rulers to advance and promote the education of the people, and that Christian Churches should be willing, as far as they conscientiously can, to concur with the civil government in forwarding this end.

(2) It is asserted equally strongly that any general system to be adopted ought to be based on religious truth, and pervaded by a religious spirit; and that "it is an imperative obligation lying on the Church at present to be peculiarly on the watch against any system which may seem to tend towards the giving of public countenance and encouragement to Popery, Socinianism, and infidelity, and other forms of error, as well as to the sound Protestantism of the Evangelical Churches of the country."

After the seconding by Dr. Duncan of the motion to adopt the report, and a powerful speech by Dr. Cunningham,-

"Mr. Begg said that the Presbytery must rejoice that the committee had been able so far to come to a unanimous report upon the very difficult subject which had occupied their attention. They did not see their way so clearly as some of their brethren 27 did, - they were not quite so far advanced. The substance of the report was that they wished for more time and more light. They had, however, certain decided principles which were announced in the report; but with regard to the scheme of the Government they were anxious for delay and for further information; and it was therefore recommended to the Presbytery to petition Parliament, praying for time to enable them to consider the subject in all its bearings. He did not intend to go over any of the ground already occupied; but these two questions - first, what was the duty of the Government, and second, what was their own duty - though quite distinct, and important to be discussed separately, were yet considerably mixed up together. He did not consider it desirable altogether to preclude the latter question, though there was at present perhaps more urgency with regard to the former - viz., with respect to the duty of Government in the matter of education.

[Footnote 27: The reference is to the English Voluntaries, who were for condemning the scheme on the ground that the Government ought not to support the teaching of any religion. - T. S.]

"In regard especially to England, that was a somewhat complicated�question in the present state of the country; not that he had any difficulty on the principle that Government was not entitled in any circumstances or state of the country to support what was flagrantly inconsistent with the Word of God. But even after that was admitted, there was great difficulty, in regard to England especially, arising from the immense number of sects that prevailed there, and the state of the Established Church. But in connection with that point, it had often occurred to him as very desirable that they should separate the case of Scotland altogether from that of England; that they should see their way to recommend something to Government wish regard to Scotland, substantially right in itself, and which would in reality be of national extent, because in the matter of education they were very far ahead of England. That subject had been discussed in Scotland many, many years, even centuries back - discussed and settled at a time when this country was not so divided and broken up into sections; they had the advantage of a system of education based upon principles of which they approved, with the exception that it had, in consequence of the Disruption, become exclusively attached to the Established Church a system which was based on a recognition of the Divine Word, the Confession of Faith, and the Shorter Catechism. It would be very important if they could recommend the reformation and extension of that system to the Government as the basis of a sound national system of education for Scotland.

"He had referred to this before; and he did not press it on the committee, simply because, from the communication that had been received by the Committee from the Lord Advocate, they had learnt that the present Government scheme would have no bearing upon the parochial schools; but he hoped before the meeting of the General Assembly that they would have other opportunities of considering the subject, for he saw great difficulty in carrying out the scheme in its present form, without the reformation of the parish schools. For example, if they would take a parish with a population of six or seven hundred people, one school and one teacher was sufficient. But if that school was of sectarian character, out of which the adherents of the Free Church had been driven, they must supply another school, and another teacher. Now if they applied for Government aid, one of two answers might be given. If the Government, without trying to reform the existing system, consented, it would be a plain waste of the public money to support two schools where one would be sufficient. Or Government might say, though they had no objection to support schools in connection with the Free Church, yet they would judge for themselves as to the localities of these schools, and in all such cases, and those the most necessitous, refuse money altogether, and thus clog and hamper our own educational scheme. This matter of the parish schools must, therefore, immediately be looked at, or it would be found a great obstacle in their way. On that ground, and as they occupied high vantage-ground with regard to Scotland, having a system in existence capable of reformation, he thought it worthy of consideration whether they should not immediately recommend to Government something satisfactory, not only to them, but to the whole evangelical dissenters of the country.

"With regard to the second question, that of their own duty, if they found Government persevering, notwithstanding the remonstrances addressed to them, in carrying through anything found to be objectionable in their scheme, he thought it was not unattended with difficulties. It was no doubt a difficult question, though not in regard to the principle. He was glad that Dr. Cunningham had spoken out. There was no ground of principle requiring them to refuse a grant for a good object, because, in spite of our remonstrances, one might be also given for a bad object. Such a principle was absurd and dangerous. But as a question of expediency, he thought it would be, in some of its bearings, and in our peculiar position, one of the most difficult that the Free Church had ever been called to grapple with, though they should not allow any one to suppose that they were committed at all, or that they would be prevented from accepting the money of Government for the purpose of doing what was good, although the Government should persist in applying a portion of the money in doing what was evil."

Before this time the Government scheme had been condemned by a majority of the Free Church Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, led by Dr. Robert Buchanan. TheScottish Guardian, in several articles, reprobated the action of the Edinburgh Presbytery, and of the minority of the Glasgow Synod, led by Sir Henry Moncreiff, then minister of East Kilbride. This led to letters addressed to the witness by Dr. Cunningham, Dr. Begg, and Sir Henry Moncreiff on the one side, and by Dr. Robert Buchanan on the other, as well as numerous correspondents on either side. The editor of the Witness strenuously vindicated the position of the unanimous presbytery and the minority of the Synod.

The subject was again discussed at great length in the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, an overture to the General Assembly being proposed by Dr. Candlish, seconded by Dr. Begg, and unanimously agreed to. Up till this time, then, there was no essential difference betwixt the views of these two men with respect to the subject of Christian national education.

At the meeting of the General Assembly in May, Dr. Begg gave in the report of the committee on quoad sacra churches. The following paragraph contains the gist of his speech:-

"This then was the state of the question as he (Mr. Begg) understood it. In interposing in the matter, the General Assembly did not intend to make a stand on the legal question. They left the litigants to urge their own case in the civil courts; but they took up the matter on higher grounds, and they said that, in the estimation of all fair and impartial men, whatever claim the Establishment might have in law - and that claim they did not admit - they had no claim in equity to take and keep the whole of their churches, and they held, moreover, that in every sense of the word it was most unrighteous to turn these congregations out of their churches. That being the case, the question was, what should be done? Now the committee recommended one or two points to the consideration of the Assembly. In the first place, it was most desirable to receive more perfect information, and for his purpose they proposed issuing schedules to the presbyteries of the Church, and if these were properly filled up, all the information required would be obtained. Then, again, it was the opinion of the committee that they were bound to go to Parliament to ask for its interference to put an end to the litigation, and to do them simple justice. He held that Parliament was bound to interfere to terminate the harassing ligation which at present existed, and to bring the matter to an equitable conclusion.

"But before going to Parliament, they considered that they ought to take up the question as a merely pecuniary, and not as an ecclesiastical matter. It was a dispute about buildings and temporalities, and in such a dispute they should act in the same way as they would act as private individuals; they ought not to relinquish their claims until they had exhausted every means of establishing them. And just as they held that private individuals, in matters of worldly interest, were bound to approach the individuals with whom they were at issue, and to say: 'We wish you to concede to us what are our rights, and no more,' in like manner the committee held that it was the duty of that Assembly to approach the Assembly of the Established Church, and to say to them - 'Gentlemen, here is a case in which we have already sustained injury, in which you threaten to inflict on us more injury. Our proposal is, that the matter shall be fairly and equitably adjusted - adjusted by the arbitration of persons mutually chosen, and being so adjusted, it shall be confirmed by Act of Parliament, and that Act shall be a final settlement of the whole question.' He therefore left this proposal with the Assembly, and asked them seriously to consider it."

Looking calmly back from this distance of time on the question as it then stood, I cannot but say that it appears to me that the proposal to go to Parliament at that time was an extremely injudicious and scarcely a constitutional one. The question as to the rightful ownership of their houses was one for the decision of the courts of law, if the claimants chose to have resource to these courts; and Parliamentary interposition at the stage which the matter had then reached would have been a virtual supersession of all law. It was otherwise with the proposed application to the Assembly of the Established Church. The Free Church honestly believed that a wrong was being attempted to be done. They were bound to believe that the Established Church was as unwilling to perpetrate wrong as the Free Church was unwilling to suffer it. It was altogether proper that the latter body should propose to the former to submit the whole matter to the arbitration of impartial men. We shall soon see the reception given by the Established Church Assembly to this application.

Dr. Begg took a prominent part in the proceedings of the Assembly of this year. He moved a resolution urging the Church to aid the Irish Presbyterian Church in their protestant missionary efforts. Also the motion for the approval of the report on Sabbath observance. In connection with this he recommended that a memorial should be sent to the Directors of the North British Railway on the subject; and at a subsequent diet he submitted such a memorial as prepared by a committee. He further made a statement regarding the "Cheap Publication Scheme," of one department of which - the publication of the Catechism - he seems to have had special charge, probably as convener of a sub-committee, Dr. Candlish being convener of the committee as a whole.

The Government Education Scheme was discussed at great length in this Assembly. It was essentially and confessedly a compromise. It required that religious instruction should be given in all schools aided by Government grants; but made no provision as to the character of the religion to be taught. It was argued by many excellent members of the Assembly that if the Free Church accepted grants for her schools on these terms, she would be held as acquiescing in the appropriation of national funds for the teaching of Romanism and Socinianism. Dr. Begg very happily, as I think, illustrated the position which he, and a vast majority of the Assembly (294 to 5), were prepared to occupy. The following is the conclusion of his speech:-

"I cannot see that, by accepting the aid of Government in promoting our schools, if it is accepted along with a firm and decided testimony in favour of right principles, and in opposition to wrong ones, we in the slightest degree compromise the position we occupy as the Free Church of our land. Undoubtedly, however, if there be anything like an uncertain sound in regard to essential matters of principle, if there is anything like a concealing of our testimony as to the position we occupy, for the purpose of being on good terms with my Lord John Russell and the members of Her Majesty's Government, if there be the slightest concealment of our principles in connection with the reception of the Government measure, then I could see great force indeed in the objection which has been urged. But if we continue to bear testimony against what is evil, I can see no more harm in accepting the aid of Government, than I can see evil in receiving my letters on Monday morning, because I know that they are conveyed by the Sabbath mail, if I do my duty in protesting against that Sabbath mail; or, as was remarked by another reverend friend, I can see no more evil in it than a member of a temperance society would see evil in making his coffee with water from the same well from which a neighbour took water to make his toddy. In point of fact, it appears to me to be the very same position as that in which we were placed before the Disruption happened at all. We took the support of Government, when, at the same time, we knew that the Government gave support to popery, and to other systems which we condemned. If by taking that money we had consented to bury our testimony, there would have been inconsistency; but as long as we bore our testimony, we never considered that, by accepting money for what was right, we necessarily countenanced the Government, or aided the Government in giving money for what was wrong, so long as we avoided temptation, and prevented it from injuring in the least our bold and uncompromising testimony against anything that might be wrong on the part of the Government."

By this Assembly Dr. Begg was appointed Convener of the Home Missions Committee, and we shall see that in this capacity he did good work for the Church and the people.

The application of the Free Church Assembly was forwarded to the Established Assembly. Its receipt was immediately acknowledged by the Moderator. It was referred to a committee, and in the course of a few days the Assembly intimated their peremptory rejection of the proposal made to them. When that answer was laid before the Free Church Assembly it was in its turn referred to Dr. Begg's committee, and on the following day he reported on it. Of course, nothing better than the refusal of the request had been anticipated; and therefore Dr. Begg's speech was little more than a repetition of the arguments which he and others had used before. It is therefore unnecessary to make further reference to these arguments. But I may be excused if I notice in passing one or two happy "bits," which indicate that Dr. Begg's speaking was gradually assuming the aspect which in after days became so familiar to supporters and opponents and gallery-occupants. The following was destined to do service on many subsequent occasions:-

"I remember once hearing of a worthy man - a good old minister of last century - that when he was told of such a person being a�very fine man, his general answer was, 'Have you ever had any money transactions with him?'"

The following is terribly severe, but not too severe if we postulate the rightness of the speaker's conviction as to the course of conduct pursued:-

"If these churches are taken from us by the Church Establishment, there is a text which will be found appropriate for the opening of them. It is Job xx. 19, 20: 'Because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not; surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired.'"

It was during the sitting of this Assembly that Scotland and the Free Church sustained the heaviest loss that could have befallen them, in the removal of the greatest man of our generation, Dr. Chalmers. It must have been a terrible shock when it was announced in the Assembly that that grand heart had ceased to beat, and that strong mind was no more to direct the counsels of the brethren, and that most eloquent voice was to be heard no more on earth. I well remember the effect produced by the tidings, when long afterwards - in those pre-telegraphic days - they reached us in India. It seemed to each of us as if he had lost his nearest relative or most intimate and beloved personal friend. And yet I may be pardoned for recording my first utterance after the blow descended an utterance of which I have often thought since, and which may not at once command the reader's sympathy. It was to this effect: "Well, I am very glad. It was a grand thing for the old hero, tired with a long day's noble work, to fold his arms and go to sleep. One could have borne - would almost have liked - to witness his enjoyment of his well-earned rest. But it had been a terrible thing to have had to think of Chalmers in the helplessness and dotage of a feeble old age. Yes! I am very glad."

All who are likely to be my readers are well aware that the last public appearance of Dr. Chalmers on behalf of his beloved Church was in the character of a witness before the Parliamentary Committee on the refusal of sites for churches. His evidence on that occasion is very memorable and very valuable. It not only exhibits no failure of his mental powers, but even shows an amount of readiness and rapidity of thought and utterance, which must, I should think, have surprised all his old students, and all who were aware of his comparative defect of the power of extemporaneous speech.

Dr. Begg was not examined by this committee; but he was more than once referred to in the questions put to witnesses. The object of a portion of the committee was to show that such violent language had been used by leading men of the Free Church in speeches, and by the editor of the Witness in articles, that proprietors were justified in refusing sites to a body who held such sentiments; in short, that the Free Church had put itself beyond the pale of legitimate toleration. Now it is quite true that strong language had been used. The friendly witnesses could not deny this. It would have been vain for them to attempt to convince the committee that the language, though strong, was not violent, but was justified by the facts of the case. They therefore endeavoured to show that the Church was not responsible for the sayings or the writings, even of its most prominent members. The examination of Sheriff Graham Spiers is amusing. The following is the portion of it relating to the matter in hand:-

Q.252. [Sir J. Graham.] - You mentioned the name of Mr. Begg; 28 he is an eminent clergyman of the Free Church, I believe? — A. He is a minister of the Free Church.

[Footnote 28: Merely with reference to the fact that Dr. Begg's congregation was removed to Newington, on account of the difficulty of obtaining a site in Liberton. - T. S.]

Q. 253. Have you ever heard these words, reported to have been used by him with regard to the Duke of Buccleuch: "The Duke and all others must give way; they are welcome to come down as softly as they please from the bad eminence on which they have placed themselves, but they must clearly and unequivocally come down or be driven down." — A. I do not remember these words. I have heard Mr. Begg speak very frequently in the General Assembly. If you can give me the date, I might.

Q. 254 It is reported in the Edinburgh Post of December 2, 1843. — A. That could not have been at the Assembly.

Further on the same questioner asks the same witness:-

Q. 279. Is not Dr. Candlish among the most eminent of the ministers of the Secession? — A. Certainly, a very eminent man; but I do not suppose that everything that he says, or may have said, would be approved of by other individuals connected with the Free Church.

Q. 280. Mr. Begg is an eminent man among the ministers of the Assembly? — A. He is a minister of the Free Church.

Q. 281. Mr. Tweedie is not unknown? — A. No; they are all known. I would say, talking of eminence, that Dr. Candlish is probably of the greatest eminence.

The chairman (Mr. Bouverie, M.P.) afterwards asked Mr. Spiers:-

Q. 338. You have been asked with reference to certain statements alleged to have been made by Dr. Candlish, Mr. Begg, Mr. Tweedie, and in the Witness newspaper; have you any knowledge at all about it? — A. I really have not. I cannot charge myself with recollecting any of those statements that have been referred to; nor do I think that statements made by those individuals enter into the question at all. In the answers I have had the honour to receive 29 from proprietors to whom I have applied for sites, they have rarely alluded to anything of the kind; and when they have, I haves always expressed disapproval of it, and said that those were not the principles of the Free Church.

[Footnote 29: Mr. Spiers was convener of the Assembly's Committee on Sites. - T.S.]

As to Dr. Begg's statement respecting the Duke of Buccleuch and other site-refusers, supposing that it was spoken by Dr. Begg precisely as it was quoted by Sir James Graham, I must say that I fail to see in it anything so very terrible. He speaks not of casting down His Grace from his dukedom, or of depriving him of his estates. Nothing is further from his thoughts than this. The position from which he is to be brought down is simply that of a site-refuser - that, and no more than that. Dr. Begg hoped that he would relinquish it with a good grace; if not, then he must be driven from it by a legal enactment. Aught more than this, or aught different from this, Dr. Begg did not say. Aught less than this I cannot see that he could have said in the circumstances; and, in point of fact, this is substantially what the committee unanimously - not even Sir James Graham dissenting - said in their report, which closes thus:-

"It appears from the evidence that, in the first heat of the secession, hostile intentions and feelings affecting the safety, and even the existence, of the Established Church of Scotland were avowed by certain leading members of the Free Church. It also appears that language, to be regretted on account of its violence, was used by members of the Establishment. This heat has abated, but the compulsion to worship in the open air, without a church, is a grievous hardship inflicted on innocent parties; and while your committee abstain from judging the motives which have led either to the secession or the refusal of sites, they hope that every just ground of complaint may be speedily removed by the voluntary act of those whose property gives them the means of redressing a grievance, and thereby conciliating the good-will of a large body of their countrymen."

The coincidence is all but perfect. Dr. Begg calls site-refusing a "bad eminence;" the committee call it "the infliction of a grievous hardship on innocent parties." What Dr. Begg calls "coming down softly " from the "bad eminence," the committee calls the "speedy removal of every just ground of complaint by the voluntary act of those whose property gives them the means of redressing a grievance." There is no specific statement, indeed, on the part of the committee corresponding to Dr. Begg's declaration that site-refusers who would not come down softly from the bad eminence must be driven from it. But who can doubt that such a legislative enactment as Dr. Begg contemplated must have followed, if the strong recommendation of the committee had been disregarded? Happily it was not disregarded, and I am sure that while all held the late Duke of Buccleuch in the highest respect, there was no one who respected him more sincerely than did Dr. Begg.

On the 18th of June we find Dr. Begg addressing a meeting in Exeter Hall on the subject of the missions of the Free Church, and urging the people of England to "help forward the missionary cause, till the knowledge of the Lord shall extend from shore to shore."

It must have come on the Newington people like a thunder-clap in a cloudless sky when it was announced to them that an attempt was about to be made to remove her minister to another field. In June of this year Dr. Begg was unanimously and enthusiastically elected to the pastorate of the Free Church at Dumfries. The call was numerously signed, was sustained by the Presbytery of Dumfries, and was in due course laid on the table of the Presbytery of Edinburgh. The reasons in favour of the translation, and answers to these reasons, were read. Members of the Presbytery of Dumfries were heard in favour of the translation, and members of the Newington congregation in opposition to it. The question was then put by the Moderator whether Dr. Begg desired to address the Presbytery, whereupon:-

"Mr. Begg said that he felt extreme difficulty in making a statement on the subject before them. At the same time, he should like at least to say, in the first place, that he felt the deepest attachment to his present congregation. A more united, a more agreeable, and a more zealously co-operating people, according to their means, no minister could wish to have. He thought it right to say, however, that he regarded the call which had been addressed to him to be, in his peculiar circumstances, the most important one that could have been addressed to him. He considered the congregation of Dumfries to be one of the most important in Scotland, and one the importance of which he had peculiar occasion to know; 30 and he would just say, in addition to what had been already stated, that not only had the South of Scotland suffered more severely than any other part of Scotland - with the exception, perhaps, of the North - from the blight of Moderatism, but was at present suffering under the tyranny of a very un-Christian aristocracy, 31 and also from the zeal of the Popish Church. On the other hand, he was able from experience to state that the people were most willing to listen to the Gospel; in fact, a people manifesting a deeper interest in the preaching of the Gospel than the people of the South of Scotland he never addressed. When he mentioned these facts to the Presbytery, he said about all that he could say on the subject. He had hitherto refused all calls addressed to him. He could not say that his mind had been made up on the subject now before him; and while, in ordinary circumstances, he would have held it his duty to have been more precise in a matter of that kind, he thought, in the peculiar circumstances of the case - the question being chiefly argued on public grounds, of which it did not become him to speak at all - that the Presbytery would excuse him if he left the decision of it entirely to them, in whose judgment he would cordially acquiesce."

[Footnote 30: From his early ministry at Maxwelton, which, though in a different county, is virtually a part of the town of Dumfries. - T. S.]

[Footnote 31: With reference to what I said a few pages back, I think it proper to express my conviction that Dr. Begg did not intend to include the Duke of Buccleuch under the designation. In the circumstances, however, the expression was an injudicious one. - T. S.]

On the motion of Dr. Cunningham, the Presbytery, while fully admitting the importance of the Dumfries congregation, and the desirableness of having a man of power in such a place, unanimously refused the translation; and the commissioners from the congregation handsomely acquiesced in the decision, waiving their right of appeal, as their insisting on it would have kept both congregations in suspense for ten months, until the case should come before the next Assembly.

There seems to have been much "searching of heart" on the part of the Newington congregation in connection with the calamity - for such they would have deemed it - of the threatened removal of their minister, and with their deliverance from what they had feared. It is not therefore surprising, while it is specially pleasing, to find the following paragraph in theWitness of September 11, the next issue but one to that which contains the discussion in the Presbytery regarding the proposed removal to Dumfries:-

"NEWINGTON FREE CHURCH. - A meeting of the congregation of this church was held on Tuesday evening, to consider what plan ought to be adopted for the purpose of giving greater efficiency to their efforts for the spiritual good of the district amidst which they are placed. The meeting was addressed by Mr. Begg, Mr. Noble, and George Lees, Esq.; and it was most cordially and unanimously resolved greatly to improve the present church of Newington, and to add two efficient schools, and also, if possible, to place on a more permanent footing the missionary church and schools in the Causewayside."

A subscription has been commenced for this end, and we understand that Mr. Begg has given £100, as stated near the beginning of this volume that the original Free Church of Newington was erected at a marvellously small cost. It was but an unsatisfactory makeshift at the best, and the time had fully come when its reconstruction, or its supersession by a more convenient structure, was an absolute necessity. Wisely or unwisely, the former course was determined on. The portion of the church farthest from the street was converted into school-rooms. The walls of the other portion were raised to double their original height, and the accommodation in the church subtracted by the formation of the school-rooms was compensated for by the construction of a gallery. A moderately ornamental front was added.

Perhaps it would have been as well or better to have pulled down the old structure altogether; but this would have deprived future generations of an interesting relic. So far as I know, there is not in Edinburgh any other portion of an original Disruption church now used for public worship. A few buildings are indeed extant, and with more or less alterations have been converted to other uses.

When the proposal of the congregation was brought before the Presbytery, it was very cordially approved, and gave occasion to the following characteristic statement by Dr. Guthrie. "Thousands of strangers were in the habit of coming to Edinburgh, and when they saw that the buildings in which the members of the Free Church worshipped were of an inferior kind, it gave them an idea which they had not had before, leading them to think that we were a low, mean, government-upturning; troublesome community. When, however, they found we were building churches of a respectable and ornamental kind, they entertained very different ideas of us. He had personal reasons, which he could state, why Mr. Begg's church should be made better. He had two or three times travelled from England to Scotland, and on his journey he had met with Englishmen of influence, station, and rank, with whom he entered into conversation. The subject of discourse naturally turned to the Free Church. He would mention one case as an illustration of several others which had occurred. There was a gentleman on the top of the coach. When they came within sight of Scotland, the gentleman said, 'I hope the battle of the Sabbath will be successfully fought there.' They immediately entered into conversation, and the gentleman made inquiries about the Free Church. He said, 'I hope the Free Church is prospering. I am a minister of the Episcopal Church; but at the time of that great event (the Disruption) in Scotland, we met once a month for prayer, and we never forgot to pray for the party who were fighting for the truth there.' He (Mr. Guthrie) entered into details in answer to his questions, telling him of the large sums they had raised, and the churches they had built. He had just got to the end of his story, and had exhausted 32 the Free Church, placing her upon good substantial ground, when, to his horror, he saw Mr. Begg's church. Well, he wondered how he could get past that church, for he felt if his fellow-traveller saw it, down went the Free Church in a moment and his talent was set a-work to discover how he could get past the Newington nuisance; and he immediately hit upon the remarkable resemblance of Arthur's Seat to a lion! He pointed it out to his friend, and kept his eye fixed upon it till he got past Mr. Begg's church, when it was all right." Every one will of course understand that it was only in the exaggeration of playful banter that this structure could be described as the "Newington nuisance;" but in sober seriousness it was, according to all accounts, no ornament to the district.

[Footnote 32: Qu. " exalted." - T.S.]

I have now reached a point in my narrative, on which taking my stand, I can look my reader in the face with the proud consciousness of being henceforth a truth-speaking man. I stated in the preface to the previous volume that in order to avoid a clumsy periphrasis I had conferred brevet-rank on my friend. The crime of this does not lie very heavily on my conscience. But the awkwardness of making quotations in which he is styled "Mr. Begg," in the midst of passages in which I have called him "Dr. Begg," convinced me, when too late, that I had committed a blunder. No wonder then though I transcribe, with a degree of satisfaction which some might deem excessive, the following note from the Witness of 3d November 1847:


In estimating the value of this honorary degree, it is to be borne in mind that American degrees are of two classes. There are American degrees which confer no honour. But a Princeton Doctorship is justly regarded as the blue ribbon of our profession, and the Lafayette degree is but little inferior to it. The work of the new church went on most satisfactorily. A grant of £200 was made by the Central Building Fund, but was generously returned, in order that more necessitous congregations might have the benefit of it; and in due course, as we shah see, the work was completed, and the congregation entered upon the occupancy of what was virtually a new edifice, while it retained much of the sacred associations which attached themselves to the old. A great bazaar was held in order to aid in bearing the cost of the erection. So far as I know this was the first instance of a bazaar for such an object. 33 At all events they were much rarer than they (perhaps unhappily) are now, and it was a great success, A volume of sermons was published, with a preface by Mr. Hugh Miller, and was sold in large numbers.

[Footnote 33: To this bazaar I find characteristic reference in the "Memorials of the Rev. Henry M. Douglas, minister of the Free Church, Kirkcaldy," by my former colleague in the New College, Dr MacGregor. Mr Douglas was then a schoolboy, and a member of the Newington congregation. He kept a journal or diary, of which his biographer gives an account. In the course of that account is the following passage: "He shows an immense admiration of his minister, who at this period transfigured from plain Mister into learned Doctor Begg, by an institution mysteriously vast - 'the College of America.' For this divine a new church is being erected. In aid of the building fund they are getting up a bazaar - or, if you dislike the name, a 'sale,' and Henry turns his geological knowledge to account by making up a little museum of geological specimens, which go for twelve shillings to a gentleman whom he illuminates about their nature and value. He also beats up among his friends for subscribers to a volume of twelve sermons, contributed by leading Free Church ministers in aid of the sale, but of which, unhappily, a good many copies remain unsold." The meaning of the last sentence must be, not that copies remained unsold at the time of Dr. MacGregor's writing, but at the date of the diary immediately after the bazaar. I have had no little difficulty in procuring a copy of the volume. - T. S.]

In November 1847 a great meeting was held in Edinburgh in connection with the newly formed "Sabbath Alliance." Dr Begg made a long and powerful speech, in the course of which he introduced an argument which he constantly repeated in after years. It is substantially this: There is a certain amount of labour to be performed, a certain number of labourers ready to be employed in the performance of it, and a certain sum of money ready to be paid as wages. Now if the number of labourers were increased, while the work and the pay remained the same, it is evident that the wages of each would be diminished in the same proportion in which the number of labourers was increased. Now the employment of the labourers seven days instead of six is simply tantamount to increasing the number of the labourers by one for every six. Each one then would only get the same pay for seven days' work that he would otherwise have got for six. It is therefore the special interest of working men to resist the desecration of the Sabbath by labour. This argument has been often ridiculed; but I am persuaded that it is unanswerable, and absolutely valid as against Sabbath labour. But nobody now advocates or vindicates Sabbath labour, excepting in cases of "necessity or mercy." In this department the sole question is as to what constitutes "necessity;" and the friends of the Sabbath have yet much to do in correcting misconceptions on that point, - showing, for example, that there is no necessity for a great part of our post-office and railway work. The great question now is not as to Sabbath labour, but as to the character of the Sabbath rest, which all, on one ground or other, admit to be essential to the wellbeing of our people. Dr. Begg's favourite argument is not directly applicable to this phase of the question, but indirectly it is; for not only does Sabbath amusement, or relaxation, as it is called, whether in the way of excursions or exhibitions, involve Sabbath labour, but the only ground on which we can claim exemption from Sabbath labour is the Divine authority, and that authority requires that the Sabbath-day be remembered so as to be kept holy. Here, again, there will be controversy between Christian and unchristian men, and there may well be differences of opinion among Christian men themselves as to the consistency or inconsistency of certain things with that holiness wherewith the Sabbath is to be kept. No intelligent Christian, certainly not Dr. Begg, ever conceived that gloom and sadness are synonymous with holiness.