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.



A T the beginning of the year 1861 the Committee on the Cardross Case issued a "circular to ministers," signed by Dr. Begg, as convener of the committee. Internal evidence shows that it is substantially the production of the convener. It sets forth very clearly the principles involved in the case. The dissensions on the administration of the Sustentation Fund were not at an end. The Assembly of 1860 sent down to Presbyteries, for their consideration, certain overtures on this subject, one of which was as follows:-

"That the Assembly shall, each year, after the number of sanctioned charges for the ensuing year shall have been ascertained, agree upon and appoint a definite sum to be set apart out of the ordinary income of the Sustentation Fund for that ensuing year toward the support of Church Extension charges actually sanctioned; but the sum so set apart shall never exceed what would have been 2 per cent. of the income of the past year, after deducting expenses; and that the Supplementary Sustentation Fund shall now be applied to this object, so far as the annual interest of that fund will go, and that the definite sum to be set apart by the Assembly shall be thereby diminished."

In opposing this proposal Dr. Begg had to occupy a delicate position. Without doubt the design of the proposal was to expedite church extension; and equally without doubt extension was desirable; - necessary if the people of our land were to be supplied with the means of grace. In opposing the overture Dr. Begg undoubtedly laid himself open to the suspicion of being opposed, or at least indifferent, to its design. But in reality the question was not as to the designed object, but as to the method whereby that object was proposed to be promoted. The proposal was, that the church should be extended by the application to one object of money contributed for a different object; that it should be extended by the imposition of a tax: of £3 on £150 of every minister's income; that is, in the case of many ministers, on their whole income, - in these cases, an income-tax of 4.8d. per pound.

It might be that the platform of the equal dividend was too narrow, and that greater facilities should have been given for the admission of Church Extension charges to that platform. In point of fact such facilities were given by subsequent legislation. Although opposed by some of the leading men in the Presbytery Dr. Candlish, Sir Henry Moncreiff, Dr. Maclauchlan, and Dr. Rainy - Dr. Begg's motion was carried by three to one (21-7). In his reply on this discussion, Dr. Begg introduced a Chalmerian anecdote, but either he or the reporter considerably blunted the point of it. The proper version of it is this. When the "one-and-half method" was under discussion, the question was asked what a minister would get whose congregation gave nothing "Why, sir," said Dr. Chalmers, "he would get nothing, plus nothing divided by two!"

At the next meeting of Presbytery Dr. Begg, supported Dr. Candlish, in opposition to Dr. Clason, Mr. William Balfour and others who usually agreed with him, in proposing an application to the Assembly for a relaxation of the rule in regard to the curriculum of study, in order that a gentleman might be licensed and ordained to the ministry who had been very successful in evangelistic work. I happened to be Moderator of the Presbytery at the time, else I also should have opposed him. I most cordially acquiesce in the argument used by him and others, that the curriculum can only be vindicated on the condition that it be subject to occasional relaxation. Nor did I fall behind any in appreciation of the gifts and graces of the gentleman in question. But my opposition rested on two grounds, which I stated when the matter came before the Synod:- First, that all encouragement should be given to lay evangelistic agency, and that it was a disparagement of that agency to remove to the ministry a successful agent. Secondly, as a territorial minister, I objected to the idea that the access to the ministry o£ territorial charges should be made wider than that to other charges. Dr. Candlish's motion was carried by a majority of one (11-10). On dissent and complaint the Synod reversed the judgment of the Presbytery. But on further dissent and complaint the Assembly reversed the judgment of the Synod, and confirmed that of the Presbytery.

At a special meeting of Presbytery on the 5th of March Dr. Begg introduced three important subjects, viz., Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister, National Education, and Sabbath Trading. The first of these subjects had not then become so hackneyed as it has now; and Dr. Begg treated it in such a way as to show that he had fully apprehended at once the Scriptural argument, and the moral, social, and ecclesiastical bearings of the proposed permission. It needs not be said that in his strenuous opposition to this proposal he never wavered or faltered. The phase of the National Education question with which he had now to do was connected with a decision of the Court of Session, to the effect that the Burgh Schools were, equally with the Parish Schools, under the control of the Presbyteries of the Established Church, and that their teachers behoved to be members of that Church. Anticipating that that decision would give rise to agitation for amendment of the law under which it was given, he advocated that advantage should be taken of that agitation for the purpose of securing a more thorough nationalising of education. It is of some interest to note that Dr; Begg's motions on these two subjects were seconded by Dr. Candlish, and were unanimously agreed to by the Presbytery.

At the March Commission Dr. Begg reported as convener of the committee of the Cardross Case, and delivered a powerful speech. I say nothing here about the case, its history or its merits. But I extract from this speech a few sentences of a general character. The following is a good instance of the speaker's sound judgment and common sense on practical matters:-

"Experience proves that the only way to settle the path of duty in regard to many questions is not to suppose the best result that can happen, but to suppose the worst result that can happen. If a man regulates his procedure by always supposing the best result that can happen, that man will very frequently find himself in the wrong at the end of the day; but if he settles his procedure upon the theory of considering what may be the worst result that may happen, he never can go wrong." In other words, expect nothing and you will not be disappointed. The following is a brief but clear enunciation of the view which Dr. Begg ever held of co-ordinate civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction:-

"We hold the Scriptural ground; and I maintain that it is not only essential to the purity of the Church, but it is equally essential to the liberty of the State. What has been the grand bulwark of liberty? Why, just the two jurisdictions. What has been the grand centre of despotism? Just the absorption of the one into the other. The despotism of Russia, for example, in which the civil power absorbs the ecclesiastical, and by the union of the two establishes an unbending despotism; and the despotism of Rome, on the other hand, in which the ecclesiastical absorbs the civil - despotism in both its forms consists in the establishing and carrying out of that very principle which is contended for at present by so many so-called Liberal journals. But the effect of carrying out their principles would be not only to destroy Christian purity, but to lay even civil liberty in the dust."

About this time Dr. Begg and the congregation of Newington were engaged in an extremely painful controversy with a neighbouring congregation and its minister. It would serve no good purpose to rake up the embers of this old fire. I shall therefore confine myself to a bare outline of the chief facts. It was a question as to the overlapping of home mission agencies. The United Presbyterian congregation of Newington had for several years been conducting operations in the Causewayside district, confining them almost entirely - though not quite - to the southern portion of the district, where their own church was situated. The Newington Free Church congregation had, ever since the Disruption - that is, some ten years before the United Presbyterian congregation came into the district - conducted operations, on a small scale, in the northern part of the district. It was at this time resolved to render these operations more efficient, and an appeal was made to the community for pecuniary help in order to the procuring of accommodation.

On the issue of this appeal the United Presbyterian congregation interposed, alleging that they were carrying on efficient and sufficient operations in the district. A long correspondence ensued. The United Presbyterian congregation published as an advertisement, extending to nearly three columns (5 ft. 10in.!) of small type, their own statement of the case, embodying the correspondence, and commenting on the portion opposed to themselves. To this the Free Church congregation replied in a counter-advertisement, of somewhat less than a column (2 ft. 3 in.) To this the United Presbyterian congregation replied in another advertisement of two columns and a half (5 ft. 8 in.) The matter was referred to the Presbyteries of the two Churches, which decided, respectively, in favour of their own congregations. A conference was held of committees appointed by the two Presbyteries, and an understanding was arrived at, the Free Church congregation getting what they asked, and the United Presbyterians acquiescing, only because, of course, they had no right or power to exclude the Free Church from the district although they still thought that it was uncourteous and unbrotherly on the part of the Free Church not to withdraw, or, as from their point of view to enter into it. Although the matter was thus settled, I suspect that a good deal of unpleasant feeling remained for a long time.

I may state that Dr. Begg and his congregation carried on missionary operations vigorously and with considerable success in the northern end of the Causewayside district, until, a Free Church having been formed in the Grange, the mission was handed over to that congregation, and is carried on with excellent results.

It is not pleasant to contemplate the state of feeling which was indicated in the course of this controversy as existing in certain quarters. For example, when it was proposed in the United Presbyterian Presbytery to meet the Free Church Presbytery in conference, this was objected to by one member on the ground that the Presbytery's meeting with them would imply a concession of the designation which the Free Church had assumed of the "Free Church of Scotland," while he held that the United Presbyterian's ought not to acknowledge the existence of any "Church of Scotland," Free or other. It ought, however, to be stated that this objection, though made by a man of note, probably the most learned member of the Presbytery, appears to have found no favour with his brethren. On the other hand, it ought to be admitted that, while Dr. Begg and his office-bearers and congregation were cordially supported by the Presbytery, there were certain Free Churchmen who disapproved of their action, and in token of their sympathy with the United Presbyterian congregation, sent them large subscriptions for the support and extension of their mission, one anonymous Free Churchman subscribing to the amount of £500. On this Dr. Begg remarked, with characteristic coolness, that it is a great evil for men to have more money than sense!

The following story is one of the raciest in Dr. Begg's repertoire:-

"A young man had preached in one of the churches in Glasgow, and he saw a curious figure in a camlet cloak, and a red handkerchief up his cheeks; the young man was told that this individual was in the habit of coming in to give some advice to young ministers after they had done. The man came in accordingly, and said, 'My young freen', ye gien us a very sweet discoorse the day; but a discoorse may be ower sweet, and I wad say to you what Boaz said to Ruth, "Dip thy morsel in the vinegar." ' This is a very just remark in reference to sermons, and often in reference to men too. He liked a man to be plump and plain and to speak out his mind."

In the Assembly of this year Dr. Begg delivered a long and important speech on the much agitated question of the union of the Australian Churches, or rather the question of the relation in which the United Church on the one hand, and on the other the Free Churchmen who had refused to enter into the union, should be held as standing towards the Free Church. The dissentients, of course, claimed that they alone should be recognised as ministers of the Free Church; the majority claimed that by entering into the union they had not forfeited their right of recognition; and a motion was made in the Assembly that some recognition should be accorded to both parties. Dr. Begg strongly opposed the recognition of the dissentients to any extent whatever. The question has long ago ceased to have any interest in the concrete. But it is of permanent importance on account of the principles which were asserted or assumed in the discussion. Dr. Begg stated with great clearness his view in regard to union, its basis, and "open questions;" a view which, I shall have occasion to show afterwards, he held substantially when the question came nearer home. The following passage may probably be found useful for future reference:-

"On general grounds they must all admit that if unions can be formed, especially in reference to colonies of such vast extent, and where a divided Presbyterianism is almost powerless - if they can be formed upon right principles, they are eminently desirable; and this is all the length I go. I am not prepared to say that if the basis which has been adopted, for example, in Australia were not capable of the most thorough defence, we could have any ground to go upon in recognising the majority of those ministers. My ground is simply this, that I think I can thoroughly defend that basis, as it stands now, as in all the circumstances sufficient and I just take this as an illustration. There is the same distinction, in my opinion, betwixt distance of time and distance of place. Suppose we go back to the time of our ancestors, we will admit that in the days of Melville there was a sufficient basis, and yet that basis consisted simply of those Books of Discipline and of the old Scotch Confession of Faith. It was a good basis then, simply because many questions which have been raised since had no existence then in the same forms. They did not require the same aptitude 66 of testimony. When we come to distance of place - Australia, for example - we find precisely similar circumstances, namely, a state of things in which the precise debates and extended negotiations which we have had in this country never had an existence; and it appears to me on that ground that, within the four squares of these documents, there is an ample and a sufficiently sound basis on which to construct a Free Church in Australia"

[Footnote 66: Qu. "Amplitude? " - T. S.]

In giving in the report of his committee on "Houses for the Working Classes," Dr. Begg was able to state that they had succeeded in getting a column introduced into the census schedule for Scotland, to be filled up with the number of rooms in each house. He gave an interesting account of a visit which he had made to the Carse of Gowrie, and his inspection of the bothies there. Of course it may be said that he went with a "foregone conclusion," and that he saw only what he brought eyes to see. But his description was so graphic, and bore such a manifest air of truthfulness, as must have convinced the Assembly that war against the bothy system was a "holy war." He intimated with great satisfaction the erection of excellent farm-cottages on several estates; and repeated his often-made complaint as to the expense of conveying small portions of land.

On the subject of National Education he seconded the following motion of the late Dr. Nelson, of Greenock:-

"That the General Assembly agree to petition the Legislature in favour of a scheme of National Education for Scotland, due regard being had to the religious belief of the vast majority of the people; and that this Assembly deprecate any partial legislative settlement of this question (for example, the proposed application to Parliament for increasing the salaries of the parochial schoolmasters under the present system of tests, or in reference to the recent decision in the Elgin Case) without full consideration being at the same time given to the whole educational necessities of the country."

The motion was agreed to unanimously. At the meeting of Presbytery on the 26th of June Dr. Begg made an important speech on the subject of National Education. The Lord Advocate had brought in a Bill opening the parochial schools to teachers not belonging to the Established Church. This was, of course, but a small matter, as the election was still left in the hands of the parish minister and a section of the heritors, who generally left the matter in the hands of the minister. The Presbytery, on the motion of Dr. Candlish, agreed to petition in favour of the Bill as being in the right direction, although utterly inadequate to satisfy the claims of the Free Church and the nation. Dr. Begg, in seconding the motion, stated with great clearness the twofold difficulty in the way of really nationalising the parish schools.

Before the August Commission Dr. Begg made a speech on a matter of no great importance in itself, but involving important principles. On this account I extract a considerable part of it. The matter was this. The congregation of Strathy and Halladale had been vacant ever since the Disruption, on account of the inability of the people to agree in the choice of a minister. A commission had been sent by the Assembly to deal with parties on the spot. Of this commission Dr. W. Wilson was convener, but in his absence the report, prepared by him, was given in by Dr. Begg. After laying the report on the table, he went on to say:-

"I may state, in addition, that, as an individual member of that commission, I visited that congregation and country with very peculiar interest. It was melancholy, in the first place, to see a district of country denuded of its inhabitants; 67 some of whom I have met on the other side of the Atlantic. It was singularly melancholy, for example, to pass through a large valley, about twenty miles in length, of which the population had been nearly altogether expatriated, and in which even the parish church had been entirely removed, or rather converted into a barn, as no longer necessary. I have no doubt that, as more intelligence diffuses itself, and a better state of feeling arises, such a state of things will cease in our land. But, on the other hand, it was a matter of pleasing interest to find the staunch adherence of the people throughout the district to the Free Church. In fact, they seemed to have abandoned the Establishment to a man; so far as we could discover, the average number attending the Established Church was from three to a dozen, in a very extensive district of country. It entirely realises a story which I once heard of an Englishman, who, in the North, seeing the people flock to the church, asked, "Have you any dissenters here?" The answer was, "Yes, we have a few dissenters, who go to the Established Church. 68 It was almost impossible to over-rate the moral value of such a unanimous adherence; and if the same state of things had occurred over the whole of Scotland, it would have been impossible to have had a Disruption. After eighteen years had passed away, these people seemed to be as decided and unbroken in their attachment to the Free Church as ever. In the case of Strathy and Halladale, it was peculiarly remarkable, inasmuch as they have been for eighteen years without a regular minister, and yet they adhered firmly, and, as we had occasion to see, most intelligently, to the Free Church. But in reference to the practical suggestions contained in the report, 69 I think it right to say that the Commissioners, all of whom were present, were strongly impressed with a sense of their importance....

[Footnote 67: By the "Sutherland Clearings." - T. S.]

[Footnote 68: The answer was in reality somewhat more pointed. The Englishman was Mr John Bright, the place was Lairg. Mr Bright asked the landlord of the inn where he was staying what church he belonged to. "Oh! to the Free Kirk. We a' belong to it." "So you have no dissenters?" "Ohay, there's twae or three Established dissenters." - T.S.]

[Footnoye 69: These suggestions are worthy of permanent record. They are the following:

"1. That the church should discourage and disallow anything like private canvassing, and obtaining names in favour of one candidate or another. Whatever is done in reference to the election of a minister should be done in the open congregational meeting, presided over by a member of Presbytery.

"2. That congregations should be made explicitly to understand that the matter of calling a minister is not a matter to be absolutely determined by a mere majority; - that what the Church desiderates, and what the law requires, is a harmonious call.

"3. It would also tend to the preservation of harmony in vacant congregations, that all private correspondence between candidates and members of the congregation were prohibited."

It would be very difficult - in some cases impossible - to enforce an absolute prohibition; but such correspondence as that referred to should be strongly reprobated. - T.S.]

"There seems to be an impression, and I am afraid it is very general over the Church, that in choosing a minister the only thing to be decided is, who has the majority. If a majority can be secured in favour of a particular individual, the idea seems to be that the individual should, as a matter of course, be the minister of the congregation; whereas the true theory is, that a congregation is a unit. It is as much a united body as a family, and the members of the congregation, in choosing a minister, ought not to think of their own wishes merely, but of the general interest of the whole congregation, and ought to seek so to consult with one another, and for each other, as to bring about a united, and if possible, a unanimous settlement in every case....

"When these principles were explained and urged upon the people of Strathy and Halladale, they most cordially concurred in them, resolved to abandon their previous choices and prepossessions, to begin anew, and to endeavour to get a minister whom all the people could agree in choosing. I would say, further, that I hope the last suggestion in the report will reach the ears of our probationers and students. Their interest in being settled ought never to be regarded as a personal interest; and although a man may naturally wish to have a congregation calling him, he ought to keep in view that it is a transaction between the Church, the congregation, and himself, and not simply between himself and the congregation."

The journey of Dr. Begg to the Highlands in connection with this commission was an epochal event in his life. He often referred to it as having intensified the interest which he had felt in the Highlands and the Highlanders ever since the Inverness Assembly in 1845. This interest continued steadily to increase till the end of his life. And the interest was mutual. It might tend to correct an idea which is prevalent in some minds as to the exclusiveness and bigoted nationality of the Highlanders were those who entertain it to reflect that those who came in ecclesiastical circles to be known as "the Highland Brigade" frankly acknowledged the leadership of a Sassenach, with no drop of Celtic blood in his veins, and with no knowledge of their beloved language as supplementary to the leadership of their own Mackays and Kennedies and Airds.

A somewhat amusing scene was enacted at Haddington on the 4th of October. Some of the East Lothian Farmers had not unnaturally, taken offence at some imperfectly reported statements of Dr. Begg, in some of his multitudinous speeches on the relations between farmers and their servants in connection with the bothy system. The East Lothian Agricultural Club invited him to attend one of their meetings, and to discuss with them the whole question of the condition of rural labourers. I suspect that the invitation was given somewhat in the spirit of a challenge, and with the expectation that it would not be accepted. But Dr. Begg was not the man to decline either a friendly invitation, as this was in language and form, or a challenge, as it probably was, in some part, in spirit. He accordingly accepted the invitation, and dined with the Club on the date mentioned. After dinner a long and interesting discussion took place, the report of which covers half a page in theWitness. The result was most satisfactory. Some misapprehensions on both parts were cleared away. A perfect agreement was ascertained between the Club and their guest as to the desirability of improving the condition of the agricultural labourer to the greatest extent possible, and not very material disagreement as to the amount of the possibility, or the method of effecting the improvement. I may say, in passing, that the state of matters in East Lothian was never very bad, and that now it is as good as probably it can be made. Dr. Begg's visit to the county on this occasion had certainly a good deal to do with the supply of such deficiency of accommodation as then existed.

I notice that at the meeting of the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale on the 29 th of October, Dr. Begg apologised for not having attended, "owing to ill health," to a matter which had been entrusted to him. I do not think, however, that his indisposition amounted to aught more than the "fagging" which now came upon him occasionally, and sent him to his favourite resort of Bridge of Allan.

The anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot was signalised this year by the installation of Dr. Wylie as lecturer in connection with the Protestant Institute of Scotland. This was a great event in Dr. Begg's history. The Institute owed its existence to him more than to any other man; more, indeed, than to all other men together. And the lecturer was his personal friend, as well as the object of his respect and admiration on account of the service which he had already rendered to the great cause of Protestantism. The constitution of the Institute is catholic, seven of its thirteen Directors being appointed by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh, and six by the Scottish Reformation Society, which is quite undenominational. At the installation of Dr. Wylie, a sermon was preached by Dr. Candlish, and a public meeting was held, which was presided over by Dr. Begg, and which was addressed by four ministers of denominations other than the Free Church. Dr. Begg, as chairman, gave an interesting address on his favourite topics, the unchangeableness of Romanism, and its progress in Scotland. Dr. Wylie has done, and is doing, excellent service to the cause of truth, by the delivery of a course of lectures each winter in Edinburgh and Glasgow. These lectures are attended by large classes of students, mainly, though not exclusively, theological.

In connection with the November Commission an important Conference on Foreign Missions was held in Edinburgh, under the presidency of Dr. Tweedie, the convener of the Foreign Missions Committee. This was one of the most important Conferences ever held on the subject. The occasion of it was the existenae of illdefined suspicions as to the propriety or wisdom of the educational system introduced by Dr. Duff, and largely adopted in all the Indian Presidencies. Those who entertained these suspicions expressed them honestly; and the result of the whole was a cordial acquiescence in the educational method, as one, and a very important one, of the methods which ought to be employed for bringing the gospel to bear on the understandings, the hearts, and the consciences of men. In this Conference Dr. Begg took ap active part, and was in his best "form." The introductory paragraph of his speech well merits reproduction here:

"Dr. BEGG said - I am sure we have all listened with the deepest interest to the admirable address which has just been delivered. 70 I, for one, may say that the whole proceedings of this Conference hays been extremely interesting to me, and I rejoice to think that a question which seemed at first to assume the aspect of a debate may be said to have ceased to assume that aspect. There seems to be now, I think, whatever there may have been before the Conference assembled, great unanimity both in regard to the maintenance of our existing institutions in India, and in regard to the importance of extending the cause of Christ by evangelistic operations, if men can be found qualified for the work.

[Footnote 70: By Principal Cunningham. - T. S.]

It is impossible not to recognise the wonderful sagacity of Dr. Duff in discovering the plan which he has worked with such zeal for many years past; and I do not see any ground on which a doubt can exist in regard to the importance of his efforts, and those of his coadjutors, to teach men, and especially men in these circumstances, by the deliberate application of effective means - by means beyond all doubt defensible on the highest Christian grounds. I rejoice to think it is universally conceded 71 now that the preaching of the gospel, as we ordinarily understand that phrase, ought also to be used as extensively as possible in the evangelisation of India; and I should like that there were no apparent antagonism between these operations, or any attempt to exaggerate the importance of the one at the expense of the other. The only thing that grated at all on my feelings was the idea that India is so peculiar in the composition of its people, or in its circumstances, that the simple preaching of the gospel cannot be supposed to be effectual, by the Divine Spirit, in converting the highest and most educated people."

[Footnote 71: I take the liberty to say that this was never a "concession" on the part of the advocates of the higher Christian education as an important missionary method. It is what we never conceded, but always maintained. - T. S.]

He then goes on to lament the lack of men able and willing to do the work of the Church in the Colonies and the mission-field, and very solemnly appeals to ministers and Christian men to strive to imbue with a missionary spirit the earnest young men in our congregations, and to facilitate their obtaining the necessary education. As illustrative of the eagerness of young men to get churches at home, and their unwillingness to go abroad, he introduced one of his favourite stories. There was an old minister in the South of Scotland who fell into bad health and consequent low spirits. Two of his co-presbyters went to see him. He spoke despondingly of the state of his health, and complained grievously of the difficulty he found in getting probationers to occupy his pulpit. "Do ye think," said one of his brethren, "ye're gaun to dee? " On his piously stating that that was a very probable issue of his illness, his friend said, "Then ye had better let that be kenned." He took the advice, and had thenceforth no difficulty in procuring supply!

During the night of Saturday, or Sabbath morning the 23d of November, a calamity occurred in Edinburgh which appalled every heart. An old tenement in the High Street, occupied by thirty or forty families, fell with a sudden crash, burying its sleeping occupants in the ruin. Twenty-nine of them were killed, and a large number severely injured. On examination it was found that the catastrophe was caused simply by the action of centuries on the timber and mortar of the walls and foundation. This suggested to Dr. Begg the thought which was seldom absent from his mind, and to which all associations seemed to lead, the importance of providing better dwellings for the poorer classes in our cities. Accordingly, in a public meeting held to procure relief for the homeless and injured, he said:-

"He entirely agreed with the resolutions proposed and he hoped and expected that there would be no difficulty in raising a large sum to meet the case of those who had suffered by this tremendous calamity. He also anticipated that an examination would take place into the particular circumstances that had led to the calamity. But he trusted they would not allow the public sympathy to pass away without endeavouring to accomplish far more important objects than even these. He thought they would ill read the lesson of Providence in this tremendous visitation unless something were done for the purpose of improving what was undoubtedly the general cause of all such calamities - the wretched accommodation provided for the working classes in this city. He would not obtrude any observations on that subject, because it was a very large one, and would require very full consideration; but if no one else was prepared to call attention to the subject, it was his purpose to give a lecture to-morrow evening in John Knox's Church 72 on this subject, for the purpose of endeavouring to arouse public attention, and to point out what he thought was the duty of the people of this city in the circumstances in which they were placed. A meeting was also to take place on Friday for an object of the greatest importance - to encourage the working people of this city to proceed to erect houses for themselves - the only way in which the evil could be permanently met. These he believed to be the great practical lessons of this event; but at the same time he cordially concurred in all the measures which had been adopted."

[Footnote 72: In the immediate neighbourhood of the scene. - T. S.]

Concluding a singularly eloquent leader on the calamity, the Witness says:-

"We are glad to see that our townsman, Dr. Begg, prompt as usual in his philanthropy, is coming forward in this emergency. We want to hear what plan the Doctor will recommend. This at least we may be sure of, it will be no Utopian one. If all will give their heads to the work of devising, and their shoulders to the work of executing, it is possible that we may yet see great good come out of this most deplorable catastrophe."

The lecture was delivered, and the public meeting was held, as announced. The lecturer dwelt upon his favourite topics, the bearing of good houses on the comfort and morals of their occupants, the need of improvement, and the ways by which it might be effected. Those he referred to were the benevolence of the philanthropic; this, mingled with a fairly remunerative investment; and the co-operation of working men themselves in Building Societies. While all three should be called into operation, his main dependence was on the last. He also referred to the importance of legislative enactments for the purpose of enabling land to be got for this purpose on such terms as those on which it can be had for the construction of railroads and other public works; and to the necessity of lessening the legal charges for the transfer of land. He concluded as follows:-

"I must have done; and I fear I have already trespassed too far, although it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of the subject, especially at the present moment, to all classes of the community. Some have imagined that this was very much a monomania on my part. I have not been moved by that opinion; and I suppose that every man who desires to do any good must be content to be misunderstood. But I stand here this evening, within a few paces of that sad and dismal ruin, which was so lately a living (?) tomb, and I feel justified now in the clearest way for any little that I have done in the past to procure better houses for the people. My only regret is, that, being so much absorbed by professional and other engagements, I have been able to give so little time to a matter so profoundly important. Giving the utmost credit to all the pioneers in every walk of benevolence, I hold that the question before us this evening stands first amid questions of mere social reform. The state of the houses of the people must ever be the moral and social barometer of the nation; and I here, before this great audience, testify, in the presence of Him who shall soon judge us all, that if all warnings are still neglected, and greater mischiefs must still overwhelm our unhappy and neglected people; I and others who have laboured in the same cause will still have the satisfaction of saying, 'These hands are clean.'"

It would be unpardonable to omit from the biography of a Free Church minister a notice of the death of Principal Cunningham on the 14th of December 1861. His removal was felt by every Free Churchman to be the greatest calamity at had befallen the Church since the morning when the earthly career of Dr. Chalmers came to an unexpected end, in some respects the loss of Dr. Cunningham was more regretted, if possible, than that of Dr. Chalmers. For one thing, he was a younger man, and his great powers were in unimpaired vigour; while those of Dr. Chalmers, though not actually impaired, could not, in the course of nature, be expected to retain their mighty vigour much longer. And then the qualities of Dr. Cunningham were precisely of the kind with which the Free Church could least afford to dispense. His learning, at once extensive and accurate, the unexampled union of tremendous debating power with almost excessive candour, and with the childlike simplicity which compelled all who knew him to love him, led all when they heard of his death to quote the verse, "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?"

In Dr. Begg's case the most intimate personal friendship was added to the admiration which he shared with all his brethren from the time of their first meeting in 1828, all through the years when they were co-presbyters in Paisley, and then when they were co-presbyters in Edinburgh, their personal friendship and mutual esteem were unbroken, while their sentiments on public questions - with the single exception of the Aberdeen College question - were practically the same. Many a time in the days of conflict in after years did Dr. Begg lament the absence of one whose potent aid he confidently believed that he would have enjoyed. Many a time his aspiration was:-

"O for the touch of a vanished hand
And the sound of a voice that is still;"

even as, in still later days, with reference to the two champions, thee aspiration of their followers was:-

"O for an hour of Wallace wight,
Or well-skilled Bruce to rule the fight."