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 NSTIGATED apparently by the sad state of matters brought to light by the disclosures made in connection with the failure of the Western Bank, the Presbytery of Edinburgh, on the motion of Dr. Begg, overtured the General Assembly to issue a pastoral address on the subject of "Commercial Morality." But, while the occasion of the overture was probably the event referred to, its scope was far more comprehensive. It was "that the General Assembly should issue a pastoral address applicable to the present time, with special reference to the moralities of commercial and social life: the duties thereanent of civil rulers, landlords, traders, masters and servants, and parents and children; and that the Assembly instruct all ministers to call the special attention of their congregations to the subject."

In his speech he referred to Sabbath trading; to the inequalities of the law as affecting men who swindled on a large or on a small scale, "small culprits being punished - although sometimes even they were not punished sufficiently - but great culprits, gigantic culprits who swindled on an immense scale, were to a large extent allowed to pass with impunity." With reference to landlords he specially referred to the "bothy system," and the state of the houses of the working-classes generally. Speaking of the relation between masters and servants, he deplored the deteriorations of that relation. "The former state of things in Scotland, when there was a beautiful and most salutary connection between these two classes of society, had to a large extent been abolished, to the great injury both of these classes themselves and of the general community."

"Last of all, he referred to parents and children; and probably it would be found that here was the root of nine-tenths of all the evil. It was well said lately by the American ambassador at Berlin, that if any good was to be done in the world it must be done through the reconstruction of the family relations. The church in the house will be found to be the basis and strength of the Church of Christ in all ages of the world. The duty of parents was to instruct their children, to instruct them themselves, and not to hand them over to the care of others; and the duty of children was to obey, respect, and reverence their parents. This was amongst the most important of all the social duties, and to perform this might be said to lay the basis of peace and good order in society, and the well-being of all classes even through eternal ages."

It is impossible to read this speech without being struck with the comprehensiveness of Dr. Begg's mind. He was often represented as a man who dealt with hobbies and little points, and who was incapable of distinguishing between great things and small. I am not sure that I did not sometimes make the same representation to himself in a half-jesting tone. But it would have been more accurate to say that he perceived, more clearly than most other men, the connections of things, and the bearings of small things upon great. Especially he apprehended, more clearly than most, the bearing of the Gospel and the Christian system on all the affairs of men, its right to dominate all men and all in every man, and the blessedness of such domination.

At the same meeting of Presbytery Dr. Begg proposed an overture on the Sustentation Fund, embodying the same proposals with regard to church extension which he had previously expressed. There was an almost unanimous expression of accordance with his views on the part of members of Presbytery, notably Sir Henry Moncreiff, Dr. Ramsay Davidson, and Dr. Maclachlan - Dr. Candlish was not present when the overture was discussed - but upon the whole, it was considered better not to transmit the overture to the Assembly, but to send it to a special committee of Assembly which had been appointed to consider the subject. In this course Dr. Begg acquiesced.

At next meeting of Presbytery Dr. Begg proposed that a remonstrance should be addressed to the Committee of Privy Council on Education against their issuing a list of books for use in schools, many of which abounded with Romish error. The Council had refused to take any responsibility with regard to religious books. But in many of the Reading books and the books of history there were very pronounced Romanist statements. For example, in the first book of reading lessons the child was taught to say, "I must often make the sign of the cross, that is, bless myself. I should also learn what that holy sign means, and take care not to make it in too great haste." In the more advanced books there were prayers addressed to Mary, to Joseph, to "My Guardian Angel." Monastic orders were declared to be "the very life-blood of the Church, and a Church without monasteries was a body with its right arm paralysed." There were also books of history in which the Reformation was strongly condemned, and books of geography in which Popish states were represented as well-governed and Protestant states as ill-governed. It is evident that this matter could scarcely be discussed without introducing the whole question of the mode of national education. The Free Church had consented to accept Government grants for its schools on the same terms on which grants were made to Romanist and Unitarian schools. This was approved of by Dr. Begg, and by Dr. Guthrie, who seconded his motion on this occasion. But it was regarded by many excellent men in the Church as giving sanction to the indiscriminate endowment of truth and error. While therefore all agreed that Dr. Begg and Dr. Guthrie succeeded in showing that the action of the Council was wrong, there were some who regarded that action as the legitimate and necessary consequence of the wrong in which the mover and seconder of the motion had acquiesced. In these circumstances the discussion was necessarily protracted, and had to be adjourned.

The same newspaper in which this discussion is reported 59 contains also a letter addressed by Dr. Begg to the Duke of Buccleuch on the bothy system. His Grace had presided at a meeting held in Edinburgh, at which a report was read and approved, which represented the objections brought against the bothy system as applicable only to its abuse, and stated that "many philanthropists are convinced that a well-regulated male bothy is a proper, and even necessary, adjunct to the best arrangements for working a large farm." After a sincere and well-merited acknowledgment of the Duke's earnest desire and exemplary efforts to improve the condition of the labourers on his estates, he asks: "What is a bothy? It is a kind of human stable or cow-house, invented for cheapness by the greedy lairds of Aberdeen and Angus, into which the farm labourers, made in the image of God; are huddled after their work. So far as I can gather, its physical and moral mischiefs are unexampled, except under the worst forms of heathenism. Fair words are always plausible, and may mislead the ignorant, but all experience proves that you may as well speak of a well-regulated pandemonium as of a well-regulated bothy."

[Footnote 59: Witness, January 23, 1858, - T. S.]

He then quotes a statement by Sheriff Watson of Aberdeen, a man of whom I may be pardoned if I am disposed to boast as a near relative and friend, since I can state that there are few men who have done so much as he has for improving the circumstances and the character of our working people in town and country. 60 He then in strong language, indeed, and in most manifest earnestness; denounces the whole system, and deprecates its introduction into districts in which it was still untried. "Landlords should be told plainly, and especially our Scotch landlords, that the very least thing they can do is to build decent cottages for those by the sweat of whose brows their rents are secured. The landlords of Scotland get the largest rents in the world, and, till lately, with the smallest burdens; and if their public burdens are now increasing; they may trace even that result to their own infatuated policy."

[Footnote 60: Sheriff Watson died on the 12th of May 1887. - T. S.]

As might have been expected, Dr. Begg's views and statements were strongly controverted, and he continued to struggle against all opposition, and not without some measure of success, although the system has not yet been altogether abolished. I have not such knowledge of the subject as would warrant my assuming the role of the arbitrator. I never saw a bothy; and indeed even my theoretical knowledge of the system was mainly derived from Dr. Begg himself; But I can form a pretty good conception of what the forecastle of a ship would be if there were no captain and no officers on board from year's end to year's end, and this, I think, would be a very parallel case to that of a bothy; with the difference only in favour of the forecastle, that the isolation of the ship would preserve its inmates from external temptations, to which those of the bothy must be constantly exposed.

In the Presbytery of Edinburgh, on the 6th of February, a matter was introduced which in the course of years gradually attained greater magnitude. Dr. Candlish and Dr. Begg introduced the following overture: "Whereas, the late General Assembly appointed a committee to consider on what footing the intercourse and correspondence between this Church and the sister Presbyterian Churches of England and Ireland should be placed, it is humbly overtured that, in sanctioning any plan for regulating that matter, regard should be had to the maintenance of the purity of worship in the Presbyterian Churches of these realms." The mover and seconder of the overture intimated that it had special reference to a proposal made about that time in the Presbyterian Church of England for the permission of the use of instrumental music in public worship. Each of them, while disclaiming any wish to dictate to an independent sister Church, very strongly deprecated the pursuance of a course by that Church, which must unhappily modify the relation of that Church to the Free Church. A sentence or two from each of their speeches will indicate with much precision the position which they severally occupied.

Dr. Candlish concluded his speech in these words: "He looked with considerable alarm even on the question being left as an open question in any Presbyterian Church - he looked with great alarm on its being raised at all in a Presbyterian Church. He thought the responsibility exceedingly great on the part of those who disturbed the peace of the Presbyterian Church by raising any such question; he thought that responsibility lay wholly and entirely on the innovators. Without wishing in the slightest degree to dictate, he thought all friends of Presbyterian unity and of order should well consider how such a question should be disposed of without 61 the least injury, in such a way as not to endanger any plans for drawing closer the bonds of intercourse and of union amongst the Presbyterian Churches."

[Footnote 61: Qu. "with"? - T. S.]

Dr. Begg "deprecated the introduction of the instrumental music question into this Church, for he believed that their forefathers, in discarding organs, acted on the principles laid down in the New Testament. He believed it was impossible for any intelligent, enlightened Protestant to defend the use of instrumental music in public worship on scriptural grounds, which could not be used to defend incense, crossings at baptism, kneeling at the communion table, and many other things which the Presbyterian Church had discarded from her worship as not authorised by the New Testament.... In reply to the assertion that there was no principle involved in the introduction of instrumental music, he maintained that this, if correct, placed all the responsibility upon the parties who proposed its introduction."

The transmission of the overture was opposed, but on a vote was carried by a majority of 12 (20-8). This gave rise to a correspondence in the newspapers, Drs. Blaikie and Guthrie writing to state that they were absent from the meeting, and that if they had been present they would have opposed the overture, and Dr. Bruce replying in the richest vein of humour.

On the resumption of the discussion in the Presbytery on Popish school-books, Dr. Candlish moved that Dr. Begg's motion be not adopted. This he did, not because he disagreed with it, but because he thought it inexpedient to deal separately with what was but a small part of a great evil. A somewhat keen debate ensued, but on a vote Dr. Begg was in a majority of 8 (16-8).

On the election of members of Assembly by the Presbytery, the question of rotation again came up. It so happened that both Dr. Candlish and Dr. Begg fell to be sent by rotation, the latter not having been a member of Assembly for six years; but a motion was made by Dr. Candlish that Dr. Hanna should be sent out of his turn, to the exclusion of the last on the rotation list; but in a vote that list was adhered to. As several resignations took place before the meeting of Assembly, Dr. Hanna was proposed to supply one of the vacancies thus caused. But he intimated that he could not be a consenting party to a deviation from rotation, and so the vacancies were filled up on that principle.

At the same meeting of Presbytery Dr. Begg again brought up the question of Popery, by proposing an overture to the Assembly to consider the whole subject of the indiscriminate educational grants given by Government, the effect of such grants in promoting the increase of Romish institutions in the land, and the duty of this Church in reference thereto. He was probably induced to propose this overture by the objection which was taken to his remonstrance against Popish books, that these were but a small portion of a great evil. In advocating its transmission he made out a terrible case, first, as to the increase of Romish institutions; and, secondly, as to the apathy of Protestants generally, and of the Free Church and its Assembly in particular. It is to be feared that the same tale might be told, in an enlarged edition, to-day.

At the April Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, Dr. Begg was again at his post, reporting on the subject of accommodation for the working-classes, and striking another blow at the bothy system. It had become evident that legislative action was necessary in order to enable proprietors of entailed estates, even if they were willing, to provide houses for farm servants. Such proprietors were entitled to burden the estates with certain charges. It had been decided that dog-kennels were a legitimate charge of this kind, and by the same court that cottages for farm labourers were not! It could not well be expected that a life-renter, whose heir of entail might be a distant relative, and who might himself have a family of daughters, should impoverish them by erecting houses which would at his death become the property of the heir-male. All that was wanted was an enactment declaring that Labourers' cottages should be put on the same level with dogs' kennels!

Dr. Begg was a member of the Assembly this year (1858), the first of which he was a member for six years, as has been stated. He, of course, took a leading part in the proceedings. He seconded the motion for the adoption of the Report of the Committee on the Highlands. He paid a hearty tribute to the convener, Dr. Maclachlan, whom he described as in many respects a model convener. He then referred to the cases of site-refusal which still existed in the Highlands; recommended that efforts should be made to obtain, by means of donations and bequests, endowments for Highland charges, and concluded by the following reference to the bursary scheme of the committee: "He had no sympathy with the opinion that their bursaries were becoming a nuisance, though, if ill-regulated, they might be productive of evil. But if there were a sufflcient number of bursaries, and there were intermediate schools in various districts of the Highlands, and if they would watch over the youth in these schools, and make the bursaries the terminating prizes for the young men who had the highest talent and greatest aptitude for the ministry, - by so doing they might gather the cream of the Highlands, and send them back to evangelise that noble and deeply interesting country."

We have seen how greatly Dr. Begg's interest in the Highlands was excited by the Inverness Assembly. But I do not find any indication of his being specially associated with distinctively Highland interests until the time which we have now reached. From this time onwards that association gradually increased; so also did his intimacy with, and his confidence in, the leading men of the North, among his chiefest friends being the two Mackays (Mackintosh and George), John Kennedy, and Gustavus Aird, as well as such laymen as the late Culloden and Dr. Mackenzie of Eilenach; not to mention others, who are still alive.

Dr. Begg, in seconding a motion on the Report of the Committee on the Distribution of Probationers, took occasion to introduce his often-stated views with regard to clerical recommendations and virtual patronage. "He trusted the ministers of the Church would abstain, as far as probationers were-concerned, from any exercise of personal influence, which might have the effect of giving undue advantage to one probationer over another when vacancies occurred. For he believed there had been very general and just complaints in this matter. He believed there was a tendency in the direction of a spurious clerical patronage in some quarters of the Church.... He did not quarrel with any minister who gave his candid opinion when it was asked, but anything more than that - anything in the way of obtruding an opinion which gave one probationer undue advantage over another - was very wrong."

The vexed question of the equal dividend came up on the report of a special committee which had been appointed by the Assembly of 1856. Dr. Begg moved, "That the Assembly resolve to transmit this report for the consideration of the Presbyteries of the Church, instructing them to send in any suggestions which they may desire to make in regard to it to the clerks of Assembly before the meeting of the Commission in March next. The Assembly at the same time declare that, in taking this step, they do not mean to throw any doubt upon the propriety of maintaining, as at present, the equal dividend from the Sustentation Fund to all ministers upon the permanent platform of the Church." It was the latter clause that was important. The report did recommend the withdrawal in certain cases of congregations from the equal dividend, and Dr. Buchanan's motion asked only for suggestions from Presbyteries as to the change actually proposed, apparently debarring Presbyteries from consideration of the question whether it were not better that no change should be made.

Dr. Begg supported his motion in a long, and very able speech. I can do no more than extract a few characteristic sentences: "Well, you have very little need to teach the people of Scotland that ministers can live on £100 a year. You either admit that this is the starving-point, or you admit that ministers can live on £100 a year. If you admit that they can so live you will get plenty of people in Scotland to agree with you; for I believe that the source of the whole difficulty with which we have to struggle in connection with this Sustentation Fund is just the opinion of many country people that £100 a year is plenty for a minister. They say, £100 a year! I can keep my wife on £25; and as for the minister, he has an easy life of it, and gets his bread by the win' o' his mooth.'"

It was recommended in the report that the change should only be introduced as vacancies occurred, and should not affect the present incumbents. Dr. Begg's remark on this is noble. "No doubt it is said this plan is not to apply to you during our lifetime. Well, that is a very cunning provision. I do not use the term in any very invidious sense. But it seems to me that if the thing is a good thing, and if the evils are so clamant, this grand panacea ought to be applied at once. Why not apply it at once if it is a good thing? Why should we go to our graves without seeing it applied? I believe it would have been proposed to apply it at once if it had been thought there was the least likelihood that it would go down. But the real proposal is, you will let us do what we like with regard to the men who are to come after you if you secure your own interest. Now, in the first place, the interests of congregations are at stake as well as the interests of ministers, and ministers are not entitled in this Assembly to do any act which will interfere with the future rights of their congregations; and that man would be a base man indeed if he thought a system bad in itself, and would not like himself to be subjected to it, and yet was prepared to subject his successor and his congregation to it after he was in his grave. I feel that a man should stand up for the rights of his successor as much as for his own, and for the rights of his congregation more than for his own, and therefore I throw aside the idea of the scheme being prospective, and maintain that we must judge of it on its present merits, and approve or disapprove of it accordingly."...

"I know that what our friends are proposing they are proposing in good faith. I admire their generosity, and their sacrifices on behalf of the Church. I will yield to no man in my respect for them. But I must express my opinion in a matter like this, when we are tampering with the very essential principles with which we started. I warned the men of Canada, when they were tampering with their equal dividend, that to tamper with it was to destroy it.... Everybody understands an equal dividend; but if you get into all this complexity, I believe you may disgust the people with it and may never have an opportunity of reconstructing it. But if you are determined on this scheme, I say take your course, as I said with the rating scheme. I said then that you were tampering with the foundations of the scheme, and I hold now that you are tearing down the very pillars of your financial temple. And if that financial temple, which has been constructed with so much pains, and which has been the admiration of all Churches and of all the world, - if that temple is dismantled, and if it lies for future historians to describe it as a ruin, they may write upon it this inscription - it is worthy of a scriptural inscription - 'Every wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish woman pulleth it down with her hands.'"

At the close of a very long and animated debate, Dr. Buchanan's motion was carried against Dr. Begg's by a majority of 99 (225-126).

In moving the adoption of the Report of the Committee on Popery, given in by his friend Dr. Gibson of Glasgow, Dr. Begg spoke in forcible terms of the progress of Romanism and the apathy of Protestants. He announced the purchase by the Protestant Institute of the old Magdalene Chapel in which the first General Assembly was held, and in which John Craig preached at the Reformation. 62 Dr. Gibson "intimated his resignation of the convenership of the Committee on Popery, and said the House would concur with him that there was one much more fitted than any other could possibly be for that office, whom he begged now to propose - Dr. Begg." - "Dr. Begg, though ready to do all in his power as a member of committee, wished to be excused from being convener on account of his other engagements. He suggested the Rev. David Thorburn of Leith as convener." - "Dr. Candlish had no objection to Mr. Thorburn, but he thought it was very obvious that Dr. Begg should be the convener." - "Dr. Begg deferred to the wish of the Assembly, and accepted the convenership."

[Footnote 62: I suppose that Knox and Craig were the only Protestant ministers in Edinburgh at that time. It is said that Knox preached in the High Street to the common people, and Craig in the Magdalene Chapel to the higher classes. I may be allowed to say in a note that I thought myself entitled to be regarded as the immediate successor of Craig, after a vacancy of 300 years. By the kindness of the Protestant Institute I got the use of the Magdalene Chapel till the Cowgate-Head Church was built; and, so far as I know, no ordained minister had statedly of officiated in it between Craig and myself. The venerable edifice is now appropriated to very useful services conducted in connection with the Livingston Memorial Institute. - T.S.]

In the same Assembly, Dr. Begg seconded a motion by Sir Henry Moncreiff that the representation of Presbyteries in the Assembly should be by a third of the ministers and as many elders. This was agreed to by a majority, in opposition to a motion in favour of a fourth, - and was sent down to Presbyteries in terms of the Barrier Act.

The question came up on the overture from the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and similar overtures from two other Presbyteries, as to the relations between the Free Church and the English Presbyterian Church, as affected by the action of the latter Church with regard to instrumental music. The discussion was admirably conducted. Thestatus questionis was clearly stated by Dr. Candlish, Dr. Robert Buchanan, and Dr. Begg. There was no proposal to exclude churches using instrumental music from catholic communion, but only, in the event of organs being sanctioned by the English Presbyterian Church, to modify the peculiar relations which subsisted between that Church and the Free Church. Dr. Buchanan especially gave no uncertain sound. He said,

"As to the question of catholic communion, he should deprecate as strongly as Sheriff Monteith the idea of adopting any motion that would interrupt in the slightest degree the catholic communion which one Christian Church ought to hold with another, whether they had organs or not, or even whether they differed in greater or more important matters than organs. That question was not raised here at all. The question raised here arose naturally out of the fact that it is not a question of catholic communion, but a question of the special communion which we hold with the Presbyterian Church in England. But this he would say, that, on the supposition Mr. Monteith made, if the Presbyterian Church in England were to go the length he pointed out, and actually to sanction the introduction of the organ, then, while he should continue with all his heart to hold catholic communion with that Church, as he would with the United Presbyterian and many other Churches, he would take the responsibility of moving the repeal of the law by which ministers of the Presbyterian Church in England could be translated to charges in the Free Church. He would have no hesitation in moving the repeal of that law, and in affirming in the same voice that, as regarded the question of Catholic communion, he was in the same position in which he had all along stood."

Dr. Begg maintained the position which he occupied from the first day of his public life to the last - the only tenable ground in my judgment - that the worship of God is to be kept pure and entire, as prescribed in the Word of God, pure in the sense that nothing is to be added to it, entire in the sense that nothing is to be taken from it. It will suffice to give the closing sentences of his speech:

"I think, therefore, that the proposal of Dr. Candlish is most reasonable. I trust that, in any arrangements which may be made for our future intercourse with Churches, we shall take care, without pretending to dictate to them, to make it quite clear that, as a Church, we are as determined to maintain the great principle that God's Word alone shall guide us in our worship, as we were determined at the time of' the Disruption that God's Word alone should guide us in the government and discipline of our Church. The principle is the same in both cases. You may say it is the will of congregations; you may say it is the will of church courts; but I hold that, if you come down from the very high ground of being regulated in such matters only by God's Word, and not by man's will, not only as to government and discipline, but also in the matter of public worship, we descend from the ground on which we notoriously stand as the Free Church of Scotland. I cordially second the motion of Dr. Candlish."

A counter-motion was made but was withdrawn on the condition of its mover and supporters being allowed to record their dissent. This dissent was entered by four ministers and four elders. Thus in 1858 the Assembly gave forth an all but unanimous condemnation of the use of instrumental music in public worship. Would that the Assembly of 1883 had done the same!

In introducing the overture from the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale on Privy Council grants to Romish schools, Dr. Begg frankly admitted the difficulties with which the question was beset, and went no further than to propose that the whole subject should be remitted to the committees on Popery and on Education jointly. In his speech, however, he stated his conviction that the solution was to be found in a national system of education, the particular features of which he did not indicate. He also introduced the overture from the Synod on "Houses for the working classes," and proposed the appointment of a committee on the subject. This was unanimously agreed to, and he was appointed convener of the committee.

In moving the adoption of the Report of the Committee on Temperance, Dr. Begg gave valuable testimony of the beneficial action of the Forbes Mackenzie-Act.

"Dr. Begg, in moving the re-appointment of the committee, with Professor Miller as convener, said that experience must have convinced every minister that that Act had been most effective in restraining drunkenness. He could testify for himself, for example, being connected with a suburb of Edinburgh where formerly there used to be poured out every Sabbath the scum of Edinburgh, that the shutting of the public-houses has had the effect of at least keeping those individuals at home. The greatest good had resulted from the Act, and he thought, if the Free Church did its duty, it would not only petition against the raising of the question at present, but use all its influence in every way, to prevent any relaxation of that valuable enactment."

It ought to be mentioned, for the sake of future reference, that it was in this Assembly that the famous "Cardross Case" originated. Mr. Macmillan of Cardross, having been found guilty of drunkenness, was suspended sine die. He then applied to the Court of Session, and obtained an interdict to prohibit the Assembly from carrying this sentence into effect. Being cited before the Assembly he was asked whether the application to the Court of Session was made at his instance and with his authority. Having answered this question in the affirmative, he was deposed from the office of the ministry. Dr. Begg does not seem to have taken any part in these initial proceedings; but it was necessary to chronicle them in order to the understanding of the subsequent proceedings, in which he took a somewhat prominent part.

At the meeting of the Presbytery of Edinburgh in October, Dr. Begg made a speech on Sabbath observance, in which he strenuously advocated the principle that "the Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all the day from such employments and recreations as are lawful on other days."

This speech appears to have been attacked by theGlobe. The character of the attack we gather from the generous reply of theWitness, the opening paragraph of which is as follows:-

"Our contemporary the Globe has been thrown into a state of perplexity and indignation by Dr. Begg's speech of Wednesday last on the subject of Sabbath observance. It is to our contemporary an insoluble problem that Dr. Begg, the known Radical reformer in matters political, should appear as champion of 'an antiquated Toryism in matters ecclesiastical'. To bring the Doctor up to the level of modern enlightenment the usual counsels are given - counsels not now remarkable for novelty. The observance of the Sabbath is to be not in the letter, as insisted on by Dr. Begg, but in the spirit, as practised, we hope, by our contemporary. The people of Scotland are to be brought into a religious frame of mind, and made better men, in order that observance of the Sabbath may result, and 'the arm of the law' is not to be invoked. The frightful consequences of 'coercion' in connection with the Sabbath - Dr. Stark's statistics, of course - are then referred to, and the most unimaginative reader can picture to himself in what kind of virtually satirical flourishes the article winds up."

The Witness very fairly expresses his dissent from Dr. Begg's exclusion of the work of the scavenger from the class of "works of necessity and mercy." Dr. Begg vindicated its exclusion in a letter to the editor. His position was, that two rounds of the scavengers on Saturday would supersede the neccessity of one on the Sabbath. I am not qualified to decide the question; and, indeed, there must always be questions of this kind which cannot be absolutely decided, and with respect to which the Christian conscience, enlightened by the Word of God, must judge of the whole circumstances. The concluding paragraph of the Witness article is important, containing the view of a highly competent observer as to Dr. Begg's consistency, a question which was raised and discussed from time to time. It is as follows:-

"The problem as to Dr. Begg's political Radicalism and ecclesiastical Conservatism, which has perplexed theGlobe, is not, as our readers hardly require to be told, insoluble. The union between earnest religion and uncompromising devotion to the cause of civil freedom is not strange or startling to Scotchmen. They have heard of men with the sword in one hand and the Bible in the other, to whom Scotland owes not only her Presbyterian Church government, but her national liberty. They might even hold that what has debased and endangered modern freedom is its severance from moral and religious truth. If the writer in the Globe could but see deep enough, he would learn that it is the very consistency and completeness of Dr. Begg's Liberalism which makes him earnest on behalf of the Scottish Sabbath. He knows that no nation is fit for freedom which is not steadied and calmed by the fear of God and the practice of religion, and while anxious that his countrymen should be politically enfranchised, he is only the more anxious that they should be able to use, and not abuse, their enfranchisement. He has, in many ways and on many occasions, demonstrated his zeal in promoting the physical welfare of the people of Scotland and he finds nothing inconsistent in anxiety to advance their spiritual welfare. Were the physical reforms at which Dr. Begg aims fairly carried out, most of even the apparent arguments against Sabbath observance on the part of the working classes would fall away."

To me this seems to be a complete vindication of the consistency of political Liberalism with ecclesiastical Conservatism. But as to the actual case, had I been charged with Dr. Begg's defence, I should have maintained that he never was politically a Radical, and that Sabbath observance is not an ecclesiastical question at all. As to the former branch of this assertion, it is, of course, true that Dr. Begg held many views which Radicals also hold; and in respect of social questions he constantly advocated Radical reform, while it is noticeable that almost the only opponents of some of these reforms were the leading Radicals of Edinburgh. But in politics, whenever he intermeddled with them, he uniformly held by what he considered to be Whig views, setting more by the Conservative than the Radical element of these views. If it be ecclesiastical Toryism to advocate the keeping holy of the Lord's Day, then, without doubt, he was an ecclesiastical Tory, and so were, and so are, ninety-nine out of every hundred Christian men.

In this year the Social Science Association held its meeting in Liverpool. Dr. Begg read papers on his favourite subjects - Working Men's Houses (including, of course, the Bothy system), National Education, and the Poor Law. These papers created a great sensation. After the reading of the first, Sir James Stephen expressed his extreme astonishment at the statements which it contained, and proposed that it should be sent to some public body in Scotland. A member moved, and another seconded, that the Social Science Association should call upon Parliament to interfere. A clergyman of the Church of England offered to commence a subscription by giving half-a-sovereign himself to send a copy of that remarkable paper to every member of Parliament. It was eventually resolved to bring the subject specially before the Council of the Association." With regard to Dr. Begg's other paper - that on national education - it is stated that it "led to a most animated discussion." The paper on the Poor Law appears to have been read near the close of the proceedings, and to have had less consideration accorded to it than it deserved.

At the half-yearly meeting of the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, Dr. Begg, as convener of a committee, again brought up the subject of Houses for the Working Classes, and proposed an address to the landlords within the bounds, which was unanimously adopted, and which, in some cases, as I understand, was productive of immediate good results, while it certainly led to a fuller consideration of the subject, and to the formation of a public opinion, which have led to the almost total cure of the evil within the bounds, and to its great alleviation elsewhere.

It was about this time that Dr. Begg gave himself, heart and soul, to the promotion of a practical measure for the accomplishment of this great object in our cities. I refer to the formation of societies for the advancement of money to working men to aid them in the erection or purchase of dwelling-houses. Owing to the great fluctuations in the price of house property, it is manifest that this work has to be carried on with great circumspection, and that a very considerable margin must be left on the amount of the loans as compared with the present estimated value of the houses. In point of fact, one at least of these societies has come to grief. But I understand that those which were promoted by Dr. Begg have been entirely successful, and have sustained no losses either by default or by depreciation of property. In his advocacy of these societies Dr. Begg was ever actuated by the conviction of the demoralising influences of such dwelling-places as alone were within the means of working men, and of the elevating influence of the thrift necessary to attain, and of the self-respect fostered by the actual attainment of proprietorship. The following short passage from a letter of 6th December 1858, gives his view in short compass:-

"The time is past when the sympathies of intelligent men are to be confined to what are called 'the lapsed masses' of the community, whilst nothing is done to encourage and stimulate the energies of industrious and hard-working men. A higher philosophy begins to prevail. The main application, after all, of the maxim, 'Prevention is better than cure,' is to be found here. Help men that are willing to help themselves. Keep up those that are above the line of crime and pauperism, and stimulate them to rise higher and higher in the social scale, and you will do much to render other plans unnecessary, by cutting off pauperism and crime at their sources. Here also is the solution of many moral problems. Dr. Chalmers spoke of 'the expulsive power of a new affection;' and let our working men only become enamoured of a comfortable fireside which they can call their own, and be induced to save every penny for the accomplishment of this object, and you will have one of the best securities, next to the grace of God, for their abandoning the dram-shop. Society itself will be gradually fixed on a firmer basis, and the public interest in every respect advanced, by the operation of such a system."

Such is a fair specimen of that "Radical reform in matters political" which the Globe represensed Dr. Begg as advocating. Well, if this be Radicalism, a considerable number of us have been Radicals after the fashion in which one erewhile spoke prose - without being aware of the fact.