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.



I T is very remarkable to what an extent Dr. Begg anticipated the feeling which now prevails on the subject of sanatory and social, and distinctively Scottish questions. There is not one of these questions on which he did not expatiate long before almost any one else had turned his mind to it. On a multitude of them he expressed his mind in a lecture which he delivered in a United Presbyterian Church in Edinburgh on the 10th of January 1850. Referring to the "Charter" and its "five points," he stated that his charter contained seven or eight points. Some of them he merely indicated; others he expounded at some length. These points, although they are not very definitely stated in the report before me, appear to be the following: - 1. Education, improvement of its quantity and quality. 2. Suppression of drunkenness. 3. Better dwellings for working people and the poor. 4. Public washing-houses and bleaching-greens. 5. Reform of the land-laws. 6. Simplification of the transference of land. 7. Treatment of crime and pauperism. 8. Greater justice to Scotland in [the British] Parliament.

On all these points he was distinctly a leader of public opinion, to the extent that he strongly advocated reforms which a few deemed desirable, and fewer thought to be attainable! while now some have been happily attained, and all men believe that the rest are to follow. "Next to the spread of the Gospel itself," he said, "he would put in the very front of the reformation which he proposed for the elevation of the working-classes, a universal system of education. He was convinced that ignorance and degradation would always be found to go hand in hand." He suggested the application of the Hospital property, in Edinburgh and elsewhere, to the effecting of this end, and so gave what was, so far as I know the first hint for the appropriation of a large portion of the funds of Heriot's Hospital to the foundation and support of free schools, a proposal for whose successful accomplishment we owe a debt of gratitude to the late Mr. Duncan M'Laren.

On the subject of drunkenness he only touched, but referred with hearty recognition to "the marked change in this respect which had been produced in America by the efforts of Temperance Societies, upon both the temporal comforts of the people themselves and the aspect of the country."

On dwellings for the working-classes and the poor his utterances were, as ever, most emphatic. "The reverend doctor forcibly illustrated the evils which were produced by the want of proper houses for the working-classes in large cities, and also in agricultural districts, particularly referring, as respected the latter, to the evils of the bothy system. He also said that, not only on grounds of humanity, but also of self interest, society had a deep stake in the question, both of promoting sanatory reform and providing better houses for the poorer working-classes, seeing that disease was generated by crowding people together, as was the case at present, and that they had to support the children of those who were cut off. The stables of farmers were well ventilated, partly because, if a horse died, £30 or £40 required immediately to be paid for a new one. Every male head of a family cut off by fever cost the community, in poor-rates, at an average, £50; if the money were required to be paid next day."

I hope it may not look like heartlessness if I stop here to point to this as illustrative of what I have had occasion to notice more than once before, - Dr. Begg's correct grasp of the great features of a subject, and his comparative inability to perceive minuter elements. The argument here would be valid, if the effect of overcrowding were to kill a person otherwise immortal, and had no tendency to shorten the lives of his children. In point of fact, the actual cost entailed on the community is not the whole £50, but only a sum bearing the like proportion to the £50 that the man's life, as curtailed, bears to the term of his life under more favourable circumstances; and even that were lessened in many cases by the fact, that the same causes which shortened the life of the father had lessened the number of those to be provided for. The evil is great and sad; but Dr. Begg does not state it quite accurately. His intentions were always good, and he always stated the truth as he apprehended it. These apprehensions were almost invariably correct in the main, but not always in the details. But to return. I shall have occasion ere long to dwell on his efforts to improve the domestic circumstances both of our city and rural populations.

As to public washing-houses, I suppose them to be a necessary evil. It is probably impossible to provide houses for all our people such that arrangements can be made in them for washing and drying clothes properly; and it is probable that recourse must be had to combination; and that combination must be aided either by the municipal authorities or by societies. Thus I suppose that public washing-houses are necessary. But still they are an evil. It is not good for the wife of a working-man to be obliged to leave her home for several hours at a time, and to be almost compelled to take part in the gossip of an indiscriminately admitted crowd. I can testify that the better class of the women for whom these houses are designed, as well as their husbands, while they acknowledge the vast superiority of the appliances which are provided over aught that is possible in their own houses, do not look upon them with unmingled favour. I think most of us will regard their dislike as not causeless or unreasonable; but I am not aware that any better method of supplying a great want has been devised.

The question of the land-laws is far too extensive for me to be able to treat it here, and far too difficult and complicated for me to be able to treat it at all. It is certainly an extremely undesirable thing that the soil of the country should be owned by a few men; but it is difficult to see how this can be prevented by legislation. Nor am I sure that the effect of the abolition of the privileges of primogeniture and of entail would generally be the breaking-up of overgrown estates. Would it not in many cases be rather their transference from the old feudal families to millionaires. And then such subdivision as might be effected would probably not be an unmixed good. A working peasant proprietary is one thing; a body of proprietors too rich to work and too poor to expend capital on the improvement of their land and the comfort of their tenants, is quite a different thing. But the subject, I repeat, lies altogether outside my sphere, and I should not be justified in saying anything about it, but that it is brought before me by Dr. Begg.

In advocating, as he strenuously did for many years, the simplification of the process for the transference of property in land, Dr. Begg had evidently in view mainly the facilitation of the transference of small portions, as crofts or sites for houses. I think there can be no doubt that this were a desirable reform, and I do not see that it needs be very difficult to effect it.

The treatment of crime and pauperism was a subject on which Dr. Begg thought much, and spoke and wrote much, for many years. It is unfortunate that the dealing with the two classes should have so many elements in common as to occasion their being treated together. The unhappy result is - and it is a very unhappy one - that the idea is encouraged, which many in such a community as ours are too prone to entertain, that a certain measure of criminality attaches to poverty. Few men were able to handle these subjects better than was Dr. Begg, avoiding at once the Scylla of sentimentalism and the Charybdis of severity. His invariable prescription in the treatment of all who through crime or poverty are thrown on public support was work; hard and continuous work for the criminal, work suited to the age and powers of the poor. He probably overestimated the extent to which, in either case, the work could be made remunerative; but unquestionably the principle was sound.

Dr. Begg was always a strenuous advocate of "Scottish rights." Many a time I have heard him laughingly say, that while he was no Parnellite, he was to a very large extent a Home Ruler, and he was either the first, or one of the earliest, to agitate for the appointment of a special Minister for Scotland. I must transcribe a passage relating to this from the lecture under review:-

"This, he said, led him to notice another point; and that was, that the state of Scotland would never be materially improved until some better plan was fallen upon by which to govern it. At this moment Scotland was treated not merely as a petty province, but just as if it were an additional county of England; and yet every man who had studied history, or who could study human nature, must see that no three kingdoms could be more different from each other than Scotland, England, and Ireland. They were united most happily together in one sense; but still, the kind of legislation applicable to the several countries must, to a large extent, be different. Scotland had only fifty-three members in the House of Commons; and her affairs were taken up there always after twelve o'clock at night as a general rule; they were taken up when most of the members had gone away to bed, as if matters relating to Scotland were not worthy of a moment's serious consideration. Besides this, Scotland had only one public responsible functionary, he meant the Lord Advocate. Now it must be borne in mind that he was not referring to any particular individual at present; he was speaking of the system which existed. And who was the Lord Advocate, generally if not always? Why, an eminent individual, who, in addition to having the whole government upon his shoulders, had a large private business to attend to; and who, over and above, had the whole responsibility resting upon him of public prosecutor for the kingdom. In short, they had the fag-end of a single man's time, and the fag-end of the time of the Parliament of England, after the members had gone to bed, as the only separate government of the country.... Did it not simply mean that the people of Scotland were to sit down and allow themselves to be dealt with, in the most important affairs, as irresponsible bodies of individuals of all kinds 37 pleased; that they were to allow themselves to be fleeced to any extent, by crude and foolish systems, with their eyes open, or with them shut, as they chose; and, at all events, that they were not to exercise their own understandings in regard to the measures which were necessary for their own government.

[Footnote 37: The reference is to such bodies as the Poor-Law Board, the Prison Board, &c. - T. S.]

"Now, he would go to the very opposite proposal. Scotland must take up her own questions, and bring her own intellect to bear on them. He thought that, at the very least, they ought to get that justice in Scotland which was dealt out to every colony of the British empire. When he was travelling in those petty dependencies of the British empire - Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - he found that they had their own parliament and their own government, and when he came back to Scotland and found that it was merely treated to the fag-end of the legislation of England, and that too at a time when great and urgent questions were rising up - questions to which the attention of the most practical and best-informed local minds ought to be turned - when he thought of this he felt indignant, and though he might be regarded as officious he would speak his mind, and he would say that Scotland ____. 38 John Newton did not care whether he or his wife drove the gig when there was no danger. They had, however, reached times which required very wise and careful statesmanship; and if no attention were to be paid to their affairs, - if a Secretary of State were not appointed for Scotland, with a Council of Scotsmen, - if some effectual plan were not fallen upon, he was not sure but they must endeavour to get such a change in the existing system as would secure them some legislative body in their own country to dispose of purely Scottish questions."

[Footnote 38: The reporter states that the remainder of the sentence was lost in vehement cheering. - T. S.]

It is to be remembered that this was spoken in 1850. I am sure that Dr. Begg never seriously contemplated such a "repeal of the Union" as would be involved in the institution of a separate Scottish parliament, although he does seem to hint at that as a last resort. I may say that he was still able to take interest in public affairs when it came to be the general expectation that Lord Rosebery - of whom he often expressed great admiration - was to become Secretary of State for Scotland, and he augured great good from the appointment. He would have hailed with delight the actual appointment of the Duke of Richmond to the office, and the other appointments which have since taken place.

At the meeting of the Presbytery of Edinburgh in January, Dr. Begg proposed the transmission to the General Assembly of an overture on the subject of national education. In the course of the discussion which ensued the divergence between his views and those of Dr. Candlish, to which I have more than once referred already, and to which I shall have to refer again, came into greater prominence than ever before, Dr. Candlish moving that the overture be not transmitted.´┐ŻOf course there were many points of agreement between the two. They both desired a national system. They both desired that that system should be religious; they agreed in reprobating any system which should exclude religious instruction from the schools at any hour of the day. But Dr. Begg held that the introduction and regulation of the religious instruction might be safely left in the hands of local boards, believing that they would uniformly insist on its introduction. "Dr. Candlish, on the other hand, believed that the brethren to whom he referred 39 were most anxious to get over this difficulty, and to go along with brethren of the Free Church in securing a national system of education which would practically involve the introduction of religion according to the Bible and the Shorter Catechism. But he could not shut his eyes to this, that after a little perhaps the more perspicacious and more clear-headed among them might come to see that the system must be worked according to their Voluntaryism - that it must be worked in the way of their making an effort, at least in the local boards, to raise the question, and to get it settled in their favour. Anticipating that, he could not, of course, have the same confidence that he otherwise might have in the local board making a right arrangement in regard to the religious instruction; for the real and pinching difficulty that was felt by a Voluntary was when he lent his hand and gave his consent to religious teaching of any sort that was to be paid for by public money raised by assessment, and he trusted that in saying this he was not imputing anything offensive to his Voluntary brethren."

[Footnote 39: The Voluntaries - T. S.]

Dr. Candlish's motion was carried against Dr. Begg's by a majority of two to one (26-13).

I have already said that a statement which I once made to the effect that Dr. Candlish and Dr. Begg subsequently changed sides on the question was not strictly accurate; but I must express my opinion that at this time Dr. Candlish was right and Dr. Begg was wrong. It is quite true that many conscientious Voluntaries acquiesce in the teaching of religion according to "use and wont" in rate-supported schools, and I rejoice on their account and the country's that it is so. But I doubt whether such acquiescence can be permanent. Their principles and their actings must in time be brought into harmony. Would that their actings might prevail to the modification of their views, rather than their views to the reversal of their actings! And I am not without hope that-in many cases it will be so. Meantime I am very glad that the action of so many good men is better than their opinions;- a not unusual case.

The controversy on the subject of national education was carried on long and strenuously. The powerful pen of Hugh Miller was employed for many weeks in succession on Dr. Begg's side of the question, and there was a thorough exhibition of theperfervidum ingenium, which, though those who suffer at its hands may affect to sneer at it, has on innumerable occasions prevented evil and effected good.

A public meeting was held on the subject on the 9th of April. At this meeting the chairman, the greater number of the speakers, and I presume of the audience, were Voluntaries. But the Free Church was represented, among the speakers, by Sheriff Crawford (afterwards Lord Ardmillan), Dr. Purves of Jedburgh, and Dr. Begg; a striking letter was also read from Dr. Guthrie, who was unable to be present at the meeting. It was a delicate position for our friend to occupy. He was quite as much opposed to Voluntaryism as he had been in the old Paisley days. But now he had the Voluntaries as his supporters, and a great number of anti-Voluntaries as his opponents. On one point he was thoroughly at one with his Voluntary friends. It was not merely by admission, but by strong conviction, that he was led to advocate the dissociation of the parochial schools from the Established Church. Not one of them was more resolute than he was in demanding this. But it was as a concession to them that he advocated the abstention of the State from prescribing religious instruction in public schools; and this advocacy was on the ground that the interests of religious education were safe in the hands of the people of Scotland, acting through local boards.

Altogether, his speech on this occasion is a fair specimen of his powers as a controversialist. It contains some very happy hits. The two following may be taken as samples:

"It was said during the late conversation, 40 by a noble duke, that because the people of Scotland nearly all held the same general principles, there was no reason why their children might not attend the same parish school. But he would turn the same fact into a different argument, and say there was no reason why all well qualified Scotchmen should not be equally admitted to the office of teacher."

[Footnote 40: In the House of Lords. - T. S.]


"Some said, with perfect scorn, 'Do you think we would commit such a matter to parents?' They commit! What presumption! It had been committed already to them by God Himself, and it was the height of presumption to employ such language."

In the General Assembly Dr. Begg's first business was to present the report of the Buildings Committee. His speech on this occasion, though dealing only with matters pertaining to the "outward service of the house of God," was very masterly and very interesting, and called forth a hearty tribute from his lifelong friend and mine, Dr. Nixon of Montrose:-

"Mr. Nixon moved the adoption of the report, and in doing so highly eulogised Dr. Begg's qualifications in dealing with subjects like the present. He thought they should be thankful to God for the diversity of gifts which He had bestowed on His servants in the Church, where they had high and sanctified abilities for all kinds of work."

At this Assembly the question as to the institution of the College at Aberdeen was keenly debated. Dr. Begg continued to oppose Dr. Cunningham and the College Committee, and made a motion, which he supported in a long speech, in favour of College Extension. It were out of place, or rather out of time, to enter upon this painful controversy now. I shall content myself, as on other occasions, with presenting a few racy "bits" from Dr. Begg's speech:-

"The discussion of this question on abstract grounds had been strongly deprecated by his two friends who had preceded him, than whom, he would say with all respect, two individuals more abstract in their tendencies did not exist in the world.... He could conceive why they should not discuss the abstract question, provided the practical matters were allowed to stand unaffected; but it made all the difference possible when it was proposed to divest the provincial college of half its practical utility. A man encroaches on my field, I tell him he has no right to do so. 'Oh,' says he, 'let us adjourn the abstract question; meantime, let me plant my hedge.'"


"They were all at one as to having a high standard of education for their students. They would go into no measure which would lower that standard. And especially at the present moment it was important highly to cultivate the gifts of the young men training for the ministry, in order to fit them for resisting the encroachments of infidelity and scepticism. But still, while in the training and furnishing of young men for the ministry these qualifications were necessary - talent, piety, and learning - it had to be borne in mind that, of these, two are divine gifts, and only one of them can be learned by any curriculum, however perfect."


"All experience proves that it is highly inexpedient to change the established current of habit, except a principle be in the way. And all experience proves that men trained for the ministry in the South will never cordially enter upon their ministry in the North. A man who has been eight years at his college studies in the South has a strong tendency not to return to the North if he came from it. He maintained that if they brought up the whole of the students to Edinburgh, it would be extremely difficult to get ministers to go to the North. Why is it that other churches, which have only one Divinity Hall, cannot penetrate into the North, but for the want of the influence of Divinity Halls in training young men for the ministry there? It had been remarked that the tendency of the Scotch was to go southward, and he saw that, among themselves, when a minister was asked to remove from the North to the South, he very readily did so; but when asked to remove from the South to the North it was very different. The fact was undoubted that if you wish to have a minister in the North, you must train that minister in the North."

It would neither be right, nor in the slightest degree in accordance with my wish, to revive this old controversy. I have only given a few sentences as characteristic specimens of Dr. Begg's manner of conducting a controversy. But I ought to state two things - first, that we do not find that attendance at our Southern colleges disqualifies or indisposes our Highland students for the exercise of their ministry in the Highlands; and secondly, that at a later period Dr. Begg would have given a different account of the failure of the United Presbyterians - for it was, of course, to them that he specially referred in the last of the passages which I have quoted - to penetrate into the North, than the fact of their having no Northern college. Rather he would have said conversely that they had not provided the supply because they had not the demand; not that they had not penetrated into the North because they had no college in the North, but that they had no college in the North because they had not penetrated into the North. After a long debate, Dr. Cunningham's motion was carried against Dr. Begg's by a majority of 103 (195 - 92).

By a much larger majority Dr. Begg was defeated in a vote between resolutions proposed by Dr. Wilson of Dundee, and by him respectively, on the subject of National Education. There was not in reality any very material difference in the sets of resolutions embodied in the two motions.

While I have again and again said that there was not subsequently an absolute change of sides on this question, it must be admitted that Dr. Begg's resolutions were more than Dr. Wilson's in the direction of the course which Dr. Wilson, and others who supported him in 1850, afterwards followed, and Dr. Begg opposed. This controversy is also dead, and needs not be revived until we come to chronicle its closing scene. I shall therefore content myself with the introduction an eloquent passage of a general character on the subject of the proper relation of Church courts to the moral and social questions of the day:-

"While I cordially say that everything pertaining to the mere partizan or politician ought always to be banished from the courts of this Church, the social condition and the physical circumstances of the people are matters with which we have much to do; and I believe that this great question of education has a most important bearing on the temporal welfare of the people, as well as on those higher objects at which we are bound to aim as ministers of Christ. If we look back to the past worthies of our Church, we will find that they were unacquainted with such subtleties. I see in George Buchanan, who was one of the founders of Presbyterianism, a sample of the highest class of scholarship, and one of the noblest expounders of the liberties of states. I see Knox, one of the greatest statesmen and legislators, as well as one of the most energetic champions of the Reformation. I see Alexander Henderson, a man who, coming forth from his rural retreat, was often closeted with nobles, at once guiding the counsels of faltering statesmen, pressing on the cause of truth, and the stern opponent of a corrupt Church. I see Samuel Rutherford, who exhibited in his writings the highest sublimity of spiritual development, and yet in his Lex Rex devotes his high talents to the more temporal work of anxiously limiting the power of kings. I see Carstares, who associated with William to staunch the flow of Scottish blood and promote the glorious Revolution. I see Dr. MacGill of Glasgow, with his many schemes of benevolence; Duncan of Ruthwell, with his savings' banks; Dr. Chalmers, with all his various plans of a temporal and a spiritual kind. I see all these distinguished men, whose successors we profess to be, dealing with great social as well as purely spiritual questions, and endeavouring, especially by vigorous applications to Government, to scare away that ignorance which is an evil in itself and the great parent of evil. I see these men, great as ministers of Christ, and at the same time prominent in promoting every object by which the temporal prosperity of the people maybe advanced; end when I see our poor country trodden under the foot of long-established tyranny - a tyranny whose great foundation is the popular ignorance; - when I see the very passes of our noble mountains interdicted, - when I see bits of poor soil refused as sites on which to erect buildings for the service of God; - when I see a growing crime and a crushing pauperism lying like an incubus upon the best energies of our people, and growing with that which feeds it; - when I see our country at the same time waking from the sleep of ages, and coming forth - I speak with all reverence - like Him who burst from the sepulchre, bound hand and foot with the fetters of a feudal despotism, and the dark napkin of ignorance upon her eyes, - I say it becomes this Assembly, and every man in it, to come at once to the discharge of a mighty duty, and assist in freeing our land from this sore bondage, by breaking the fetters of feudalism, and tearing the dark napkin of ignorance away. Shall I not be allowed to stand forward this night, and plead for the interposition of my fathers and brethren, to secure an universal and elevated education for all the people, even on such a ground as this?"

I have called this an eloquent passage; and such, in my judgment, it is. But I can scarcely claim for it the credit of being relevant. I think that the question of National Education was one whose consideration was fairly within the province of the Church courts, and that the right and duty of the General Assembly to consider it either needed no vindication, or might very easily have been vindicated. But that vindication should have rested on other grounds than the fact that some of our greatest men - our greatest saints or our greatest ecclesiastics - were at the same time our most patriotic citizens; seeing that from this fact it did not follow - whether it might or might not be true - that the consideration of social questions appertains properly to Church courts. Dr. Begg refers to what was in those days a burning question, the great Glen Tilt case; but I am confident that he would not have deemed it right that the General Assembly or any Church court should have intermeddled in that matter, however legitimate it might be for the members in their private capacity to take interest in it. Despite its irrelevancy to the matter in hand, I repeat that the passage is a very eloquent one, and contains a powerful advocacy of an important truth, and a powerful refutation of an important error, although the truth is not precisely the one which Dr. Begg had to advocate, nor the error precisely that which he had to refute at that particular time.

Some remarks which Dr. Begg made in the Presbytery of Edinburgh on the 2d October led him into a somewhat keen controversy with Mr. Arnot, then of Glasgow, afterwards of Edinburgh. Dr. Begg was impressing on his Presbytery the importance of more vigorously prosecuting Home Mission work in our large cities. He stated that the work was necessarily a difficult and an expensive one, and that our people must put forth greater energy and make greater sacrifices if they are to stay the "lapsing" of multitudes of our people. "Great," he said, "as were the evils in Edinburgh in this respect, they were nothing compared with the state of Glasgow. Almost all of the Free Churches in Glasgow were to be found at the west end of the city, away from the dense masses of the Gallowgate, Calton, &c., in the east end, with its crowd of whisky-shops and every other means of demoralisation," This was surely a sufficiently harmless statement. It cast no reflection on any man or any congregation; it referred to a mere question of topography, and one would suppose that if the statement was inaccurate its inaccuracy should have been evinced by simple measurement. But Mr. Arnot seems to have thought that Dr. Begg charged the Glasgow Free Church ministers with a preference for the rich and "genteel" people over the necessitous, and so he introduced the subject into a speech in the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Dr. Begg replied in a letter, in which he disclaimed all intention of finding fault with the Glasgow congregations or their ministers, and asserted that the statement which he had made was strictly true, and that it was relevant to the very important subject which was under consideration of the Presbytery at the time. Mr. Arnot replied, asserting that whatever Dr. Begg's intention may have been, his statement was understood by many as concerning the Glasgow congregations. Dr. Begg answered in a long letter; in the closing paragraph is the following sentence:-

"The matter excites in me, not anger, but overwhelming pity and alarm; and I will allow the whole Presbytery of Glasgow to abuse me for an hour apiece at every meeting at which they are in want of something better to do, if that may be the means of arresting public attention on this monstrous and growing evil, and doing something towards securing its remedy."

Undoubtedly Dr. Begg was right in calling the attention of the Free Church to a danger which is incident to all churches which are dependent for their support on the contributions of their members. I am not so confident that he has suggested the right remedy. Many causes which are beyond the control of the Church are leading to an ever-widening separation between the several grades of society.

One phase of this separation is the withdrawal of the places of residence of those who can afford it from the hearts of our cities to the suburbs. Those who thus withdraw desire, of course, to have churches in their own suburban localities, and those who still live in the central streets are unable to support Christian ordinances for themselves; all the more that in these streets there is a large and ever enlarging Irish and Romanist population. Dr. Begg's view seems to have been that this state of things should be met by the providing of endowments, and the immediate planting of churches in these localities. Now this is good, so far as it goes; and it is no answer to it to say that the Established Church has done no more, - indeed till lately it had done much less, - than the Free Church to meet the want.

It might be well if our suburban residents would build suburban churches for themselves, and leave their former churches, with partial endowments, for the occupancy of the city residents. This has been very creditably done by two of our Edinburgh congregations. 41 But this also is insufficient. Perhaps the problem is to be solved in a way which may not be theoretically the best, but which has various secondary advantages to recommend it: the method of congregational missions, in which a congregation undertakes the doing of home missionary work in a district, and gradually ripening the people for the privileges and the responsibilities of a congregation. Of this method also we have most creditable instances in Edinburgh. 42

[Footnote 41: Barclay and Viewforth, which moved, first the one and then the other, from Fountainbridge. - T. S.]

[Footnote 42: Especially Fountainbridge, the Pleasance, Cowgate, and Stockbridge, formed in this way by the St. George's, St. John's, New North, and St. Andrew's congregations respectively. - T. S.]

But good as these methods are, neither any one of them, nor all of them together, seem to be sufficient to meet the constantly increasing evil. The weak point of them all, the chink in all their harness, is this. A popular young minister is inducted into what is called a territorial charge, a large congregation is soon formed, but it is not a territorial congregation, the "territory" in many cases furnishing a very small proportion of the membership. Of course this might be avoided by putting unpopular ministers into these charges! This would obviate one evil; but I need not point out that it would produce a greater evil.

While I frankly point out the insufficiency and the defects of our home missionary work, I would give most emphatic utterance to my conviction that it is a most blessed work. If I might be allowed to make a somewhat egotistic statement, I would say that while it is my chief glory to have been for twenty years a foreign missionary, it is scarcely less a matter of satisfaction to have been for other twenty years a home missionary, as minister of one of our Edinburgh territorial churches. It is in great measure due to the exertions of the Free Church that the state of matters is not greatly worse than it is. But neither her exertions nor those of all the other Churches have been sufficient to diminish greatly the terrible evil. It may be questioned whether they have been able altogether to prevent its increase, though it is matter of thankfulness that they have greatly retarded that increase.

The period now under review was the epoch of what has been generally designated as the "Papal Aggression." For the first time since the Reformation Rome put forth the claims, which all intelligent Protestants well knew that she had never relinquished, to a substantive share in the government of the people of this country. Dr. Begg did not take a very prominent part in the agitation which ensued; but it needs not be said that the part which he did take was a decided one and a practical one. As this is one of the subjects to which his thoughts were constantly directed during a great part of his life, I must give, though with much abridgment, a speech which he delivered in the November Commission; the rather because it contains the first hint of an institution of which he may be regarded as the founder, and which has done, and under the able direction of Dr. Wylie is doing, much to diffuse a knowledge of the true character of Romanism, and to defeat its ceaseless machinations - the Protestant Institute of Scotland. In the Commission a series of resolutions were proposed by Dr. Candlish, seconded by Dr. Cunningham. Then Dr. Begg spoke:-

"Dr. Begg concurred thoroughly in the resolutions, and in the exposition given by Dr. Candlish of the general principles which they involved, He should like just to say a very little in reference to the duty which he thought they owed to the community in the way of taking active measures for the purpose of meeting and resisting not only this aggression, but the innumerable other aggressions of which this one was undoubtedly the herald, for they might rest assured that Popery would not draw back one single step which she had planted, but would endeavour, with the utmost energy, to up the bold outline which she had now chalked out. His own fear was that, even as in past times they had once and again had a very thorough agitation on this question, but which had just as often subsided, without the adoption of any practical measures whatever - his fear was that the present agitation, strong and universal as it was, would end without the adoption of any practical measures which would likely accomplish, by the blessing of God, the object at which they aimed. He rejoiced in the proposal to preach a sermon on the subject 43 - most cordially did he rejoice in that. Many were the sermons he had preached to his own people on the subject, and he had already preached a sermon in reference to this very aggression.

[Footnote 43: The last of Dr. Candlish's resolutions was an instruction to ministers to preach a sermon on the subject on or about the second Sabbath of December; these resolutions to be read from the pulpit on the Sabbath previous to such sermon. - T. S.]

"But they must not only, by preaching one sermon, endeavour to explain what Dr. Candlish had so well explained, viz., that there is an entire difference between the great anti-Christian system and any other of the many sects by which we are surrounded, but that in all the Word of God there is not, so far as he knows, any acknowledgment of Popery being a religion at all. The Divine Word always denounced Popery in language fitted to teach them that it is not a religion, but a studied diabolical attempt to root out and thwart religion. It was called 'that wicked,' the 'man of sin,' the 'son of perdition,' the 'mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,' and so forth; but in no case was it in the Word of God honoured with the title of religion; and, further, it would be found that while some uninstructed persons were apt to give credit to Popery for holding some essential truths of the Divine Word, every truth which bore immediately on the salvation of the sinner was denied or perverted by that system. It would be found that everything which would lead the soul to Christ was either completely denied or destructively perverted.

"He trusted, therefore, that those matters would be thoroughly made known to all their people; and, further, that, either in the pulpit or out of the pulpit, they would endeavour to disabuse the minds of the people of the erroneous impression that largely prevailed,viz. ; that whatever called itself religion was to be tolerated in doing everything which it chose for the purpose of advancing its claims, that the cloak of religion ought to secure impunity for what otherwise would be punished.

"In reference to the present movement of Popery, what would the brethren think of such a case as this? A most excellent man, connected with our own Church, engaged two servants who professed to be Protestants. By and by he found the children beginning to manifest very extraordinary feelings in reference to John Knox and the Reformation, and many other things which they held dear.... The worthy man discovered that he had got into his house two Popish emissaries, who, under the pretence of Protestantism, were actually corrupting his children, unknown to himself. Well, that might be called a part of religion; it might be called even a pious fraud; but he thought it ought not only to be dealt with in the way of exposure, but ought to be dealt with by the civil magistrate. He would have such persons put in the pillory....

"Now, the question was, how they were to meet all this. Passing resolutions would not meet it - far less anything that Lord John Russell was likely to do, however much they might rejoice in the spirit of his letter. It must be something directly directed to the object - foot to foot.... He thought that the time was come when, in self defence, they must address themselves to the people of England, and endeavour to make them as intelligent as they were evidently bitter in their feelings of hatred towards this whole system of Popery.... He believed the people hated Popery; but, at the same time, it was a comparatively unintelligent hatred.

"He would have those in this country who had been from their youth trained up in opposition to the system to go into that country and expound and explain the whole matter, so as to convey their intelligence to the common people of England, who were kept in ignorance by the hostility of the Puseyites and the monkish 44 sentimentalism of others, which would not allow them to break through the trammels of etiquette, for the purpose of getting at the people and explaining the system to them. He would also have a proper institute in Edinburgh - a counter Propaganda - with proper library, which he would make every student in theology and every teacher that went down to the country attend.... He would, therefore, have this institution established in Edinburgh, with a branch in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, and everywhere where Popery was to be found. He would meet it face to face, foot to foot, step to step.

[Footnote 44: Query "mawkish?" - T. S.]

"He would just say, further, if he might be borne with in saying so much, that one reason why he was most anxious for a universal system of education in this country, why he was so anxious that the Government should take it in hand, if Lord John Russell was really in earnest, was that they might have the means of spreading the light by which the darkness might be dispelled. One reason why he was specially anxious was, that the money now required for our denominational schools should be devoted to the extension of the Home Mission, as he believed that a wholesome system of education would be one mighty engine in the way of arresting the progress of this soul-destroying system."

The anti-papal agitation was apparently successful. The Ecclesiastical Titles Act was passed. Rome, by remaining quiet for a while, and biding her time, allowed it to become a dead letter, and got it repealed in a few years; and now her ecclesiastics are designated by these assumed titles even in official documents, and the "princes of the Church " take precedence of British nobles. If there be cynicism, is there not also truth in the saying, "There are thirty millions of people in this country - mostly fools"? Rome is no fool, whatever else she be.

Meantime Dr. Begg was prosecuting with characteristic energy his wide-branching scheme of social reformation, advocating especially the industrial employment of juveniles, soldiers, paupers, and criminals. In theWitness of 27th November he gives an interesting account of a visit which he paid to the "Perth Juvenile Industrial Farm," and strongly advocates the employment of many classes of our people in the cultivation of waste lands. In the present period of unprecedented agricultural depression, and with every prospect of our farmers having to compete continuously with America in the supply of our people with food, it is more probable that much of our cultivated land will become comparatively waste than that much of our waste land shall be brought under cultivation. Under the changed circumstances, therefore, it may be that this is not the best department of industry in which to employ the classes in question. But none the less is it essential that they be employed in some kind - or probably in many and various kinds - of labour; and it ought to be emphatically stated that it is to Dr. Begg that we owe, if not the origination, at least the unwearied advocacy of this idea. In a lecture in the Queen Street Hall, delivered to a large audience, composed mainly of working men, on the 16th of December, he expounded his views on many social questions, dwelling especially on the acquisition of houses by working men, and in order to this, the facilitation of the transference of property in land - conveyance of land, we call it in Scotland. This scheme also, of the transmutation of tenants into proprietors, though he did not originate it, was greatly indebted to his powerful advocacy for the large measure of success that it has achieved, as many who are now reaping the advantage of it have been forward to acknowledge.