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.

CHAPTER XLVI.

SOCIAL IMPROVEMENT - PORTRAIT - SHORTER CATECHISM - DR. JOHN FORBES - NEWSPAPER ATTACK - PUBLIC HOUSE LICENSES - CONSECRATION OF CEMETERIES - CRIMINALS - BARBARISM OF SCOTLAND.

O N the 27th of January 1864 Dr. Begg made an important speech in the Presbytery of Edinburgh, in which he set forth at considerable length, and with admirable clearness, the principles on which he constantly acted with respect to matters affecting social morality and well-being.

Dr. Blaikie proposed an overture:

"that the General Assembly direct special attention to the relation of Christianity and the Christian Church to social improvement, with the view of determining the most efficient and expedient mode of bringing Christian influence to bear on questions of social improvement."

This overture he supported in a speech of great value, in which he laid down the principles which ought to guide Christian men and ministers and churches in a course in which he and Dr. Begg took a more active part than most of their brethren.

I may be excused for digressing here, not to pay a compliment to my respected colleague in the New College, but to express my sense of the great value of the service which he has rendered to the cause of humanity and godliness by his intelligent and energetic labours in this field. The motion of Dr. Blaikie was seconded by Mr. David K. Guthrie, a son who has steadily followed in the footsteps of his distinguished father in the path of philanthropy. Then Dr. Begg supported the motion in a speech from which, for the reason stated, I must give passages of considerable length.

"Dr. BEGG said he very cordially supported the transmission of this overture, and he thanked Mr. Blaikie for his very admirable speech in support of it. He liked the overture because it assumed that Christianity, and those by whom it was represented, had much to do with social matters; and he liked it, moreover, because it raised the very important question how the influence of Christianity, and of those who represent it, can be most effectually brought to bear on the promotion of these objects. He was not sure, if he were to come to principles with Mr. Blaikie, and to particulars with his excellent friend Mr. Guthrie, that in every particular he would be found to agree with them, though in general he thought they would very much agree. For example, he was not sure but that rather too much stress had been laid upon the notion that the apostles and early preachers of Christianity did not assail the social evils which existed; for he had no doubt that the principle which they maintained, viz., "All things whatsoever ye would," &c., cut directly at the root of social mischiefs.... It was perfectly manifest that the Reformers had no scruple at all in dealing with a number of those questions directly, and in a most masterly way. They all knew that at the time of the second Reformation the same views were acted upon. In the Shorter Catechism the principle was laid down; and it was amplified in the Larger Catechism, where it was required of the observers of the Sixth Commandment that they should both preserve their own lives and the lives of others. It was quite manifest that if the promotion of sanitary measures had the direct and demonstrable effect of preserving our own life and the life of others, we were bound to lend our assistance in adopting such measures.

Moreover, it would be remembered that in answer to the question, "What is required in the Eighth Commandment?' it was laid down that we should 'further the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.' Now we did not generally scruple about the duty of promoting our own estate, and it was only when it came to the question of promoting the wealth of others that we began to boggle.... He thought the Word of God contained far more direction and guidance in regard to these questions than many persons were likely to suppose or admit. He maintained that Christ Himself evidently assumed that the people were to have houses very different from those that they had at present. They all remembered that saying of His, 'Enter into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut the door,' &c. Now that assumed that the houses inhabited by the people were to have more rooms than one, and assumed that the exercise of priyate devotion should be carried on in houses where there was a closet; and yet well did they know that one-third of the people of Scotland lived in houses of only one room, and had consequently no privacy for the exercise of their devotions....

He hoped that while their Church Courts would exercise due caution in plunging into matters with which they had no concern, they at the same time would not scruple to help forward great social improvements that were inseparably connected with social morality. He believed that Satan gained immense advantage from their abstinence in these matters. He was delighted to find that great progress had been made in connection with these questions; and he thanked Mr. Blaikie cordially for bringing forward his proposal, and he entirely concurred in the proposal to transmit the overture to the Assembly."

It needs scarcely to be told that the whole Presbytery united in the cordial thanks and in the entire concurrence. In an excellent article on "Christianity and Social Improvement," the Witness (January 30, 1864) referred to this action of the Presbytery in the following terms:-

"To this hour Scotland, despite her science and her wealth, is deformed by miserable hovels, in which neither health nor decency is possible, - by bothies, hotbeds, we fear, in too many instances of impiety and vice, - by female barracks, unfavourable to the modesty of woman, - by customs and usages, partly the result of habit and partly of bad regulations, dangerous to all classes. Hitherto Dr. Begg has stood almost alone in his denunciation of these evils, and in his call for reformation. He has already, by his labours, succeeded in forming so far a public opinion on the question, and in effecting no small amount of actual reformation, for which the country will never be able to repay him. Other voices, we are glad to find, are now beginning to be lifted up, and the movement bids fair to acquire a breadth which augurs well for its speedy success. At last meeting of the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh, as reported in our columns, Mr. Blaikie, of Pilrig Free Church, whose labours in connection with the Pilrig model houses are still in the recollection of our readers, in a spirit not unworthy the great leader in this cause, brought forward an overture on the subject of social improvement, which the Presbytery agreed to transmit to the General Assembly."

At the annual meeting of the Scottish Reformation Society, Dr. Begg moved the adoption of the Report, and gave a cheering account of the work of the Society. He stated that the Society

"arose in connection with what was called the Papal Aggression; and in considering their efforts, it was necessary to keep in view the object of that aggression, which was now more perseveringly and successfully prosecuted than ever. It was a great conspiracy, as Lord John Russell called it, of the Romish Church, managed by a number of the ablest men in Europe, to reconquer Britain, and subject it again to the power of the Vatican.... And it was truly a great object; for if Great Britain could only be reconquered to the Pope, Romanism would be again dominant in Europe and the world."

He then detailed the proceedings of the Society during the year, dwelling especially on the labours of Dr. Badenoch, the secretary of the Society, and on those of Dr. Wylie in connection with the closely associated Protestant Institute.

One of the speakers, the Rev. Mr. Traill of Elgin, made a somewhat enigmatical statement, which was afterwards explained.

"There is one gentleman specially whom I do not need to name here, who, I think, is especially worthy of our thanks and gratitude. I believe he is here in a somewhat new character to-day, for, if I mistake not, he is to be two-faced. I would venture to say that that is quite a new character for him; for, whether agreeing or differing from my friend on any point, I never did but admire the one-facedness, the heroic boldness, and frank outspokenness of the man."

The solution of this enigma is contained in the closing proceedings of the meeting, when we are told that "the presensation took place of a full-length portrait of Dr. Begg to the trustees of the Protestant Institute."

Most interesting addresses were given by Colonel Davidson, who made the presentation, and by Dr. Lindsay Alexander, who accepted it in name of the Directors, who vied with each other in bearing the strongest testimony to the esteem in which Dr. Begg was held, and to the value of his services in support of every good cause. I may notice in passing, that the portrait is now supported by a companion, that of Dr. Wylie, presented to the Institute by some of his friends on the occasion of his attaining the semi-centenary of his ministry. It is well that these two friends should be associated in their "counterfeit presentments," as they stood so long shoulder to shoulder in the battle against deadly error and wrong. The only drawback to the satisfaction with which these portraits may be viewed is, that the hall in which they are placed, admirably constructed for its purpose as a lecture-room, allows none but a most unsatisfactory light - whether sunlight or gaslight - to fall on the pictures.

As indicative of the estimation in which Dr. Begg was held as a sort of champion vindicator of the rights and interests of the working classes, I find him stating, in a letter to the Witness (23d February 1864), that he had had his attention called "by a deputation" to a proposal which was made about that time, and which has frequently been repeated since, to convert the "Meadow Walk" into an ordinary street .This he describes as "the most Gothic and barbarous proposal which has been made in [his] day," and sets about arguing against it with characteristic ardour.

A public meeting was held on the subject on the 7th of March, at which Dr. Begg was the chief speaker. In his speech he gave an interesting account of the ways in which properties had been alienated from the people of Edinburgh by the indifference or selfishness of the magistracy of earlier times.

"It was certain that the great mass of the property belonging to the city was given away at a merely nominal value, and that it was entirely lost at the present day to the people of Edinburgh. The Meadow Walk might be regarded as one of the crumbs Ieft from this enormous banquet at which our former magistrates and others had helped themselves. He concluded by saying that he hoped the citizens would not permit a single inch of their romantic town to be impaired to suit the convenience of any person whatever."

The attempt to convert this beautiful avenue into a common road is renewed periodically. It was made with more than the usual vigour last year, but was happily defeated by the remonstrance of the medical profession, who declared that the noise and vibration produced by carriage traffic would be hurtful to the patients in the Royal Infirmary - one of the finest hospitals in the world - recently erected in close proximity to the Walk.

In a conference in the Presbytery on Sabbath-schools, Dr. Begg gave utterance to the sentiments which he held all through his life as to the importance of cultivating the memory, and storing it with passages of Scripture and with the Shorter Catechism.

"For his own part, he believed that the memory is developed in children at an earlier age than the judgment. He had never had much sympathy with the notion which had prevailed of late years, that because children can commit to memory things which, perhaps, they cannot understand all the meaning of, that this system of teaching is consequently to be regarded as one of 'cramming,' and the children should not, therefore, be taught anything till they were able fully to understand it. Let them take, for example, the Shorter Catechism. It was quite certain that children might not understand fully the questions and answers of this Catechism; but it was just as certain that, by teaching all young children this Catechism, and having the truths embraced in it earIy instilled into their minds, that when they grew up to be men and women the most inestimable bIessings would result to the country. He thought that the idea that children were not to be taught the Catechism unless they could fully understand all its doctrines at the time was a thorough delusion, from which nothing but superficiality and mischief had resulted to this land."

Thoroughly agreeing witth this sentiment, I may be excused for interjecting, in illustration of it, an amusing anecdote which was told me many years ago by an intelligent member of Parliament. A few years after the Disruption, two English friends of his had a Scotch shooting, and one day entered into conversation with the keeper on ecclesiastical matters. The keeper expounded to them with great force and clearness the principles of spiritual independence. When they parted from him, one said to the other, "How in the world does that fellow get all that knowledge?" "Oh," replied his friend,"it must be from Shorter's Catechism. I'm told it's a wonderful book, that Shorter's Catechism, and that it's by learning it that all the people are so intelligent." "Do you know who Shorter was, or when he lived? " "No, I do not; but he must have been a splendid fellow." And I quite agree with him.

In anticipation of the meeting of the General Assembly of this year, a pretty keen controversy arose as to the appointment of a professor to the Glasgow College. When a vacancy occurs in one of the colleges through the death or resignation of a professor, the Presbyteries and Synods of the Church are asked to submit to the General Assembly the names of candidates. Dr. Hetherington of Glasgow was stricken down with severe and hopeless illness, and a colleague and successor was to be appointed. Several names were proposed, but practically the candidates were Dr. Islay Burns of Dundee, and Dr. John Forbes of Glasgow. Dr. Begg and I took the leading parts in the nomination of Dr. Forbes in the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and in the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale.

I should not have mentioned this controversy but for the fact that it was in connection with it that Dr. Begg first took the position which he continued to occupy in the sight of friends and foes, as a special advocate of orthodoxy, growing steadily in the estimation of its friends, and more and more provoking the hostility of its foes. The two candidates were, perhaps, equally matched in respect of intellectual qualifications. Dr. Forbes was a very distinguished mathematician, and a man of great mental vigour and sound judgment. Dr. Burns's mind was far inferior to that of his opponent in power of thought and reasoning, but far superior to it in the qualities wbich are distinctive of literary culture. Neither of them had published much on theological subjects, and there was no doubt as to the soundness of either of their views of Christian doctrine. But Dr. Burns had shown a tendency to lax or "broad" views ia regard to the constitution of the Church; and Dr. Forbes was welI known to hold views which his opponents had no difficulty in representing as specially strict and "narrow." The controversy was not a vital one, and it came to an end; when Dr. Burns was appointed by the Assembly; and I need not say that he was cordially supported by those who had opposed his election, and that he discharged the duties of his office with much ability.

But while the controversy was not in itself of great moment, it was not without importance as indicating certain currents of sentiment within the Free Church and outside of it. It is, therefore, worth while to quote the speeches of the mover and seconder of Dr. Forbes in the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The report, as given in the Courant, is very brief. It is as follows:-

"Mr. THOMAS SMITH proposed Dr. Forbes, Glasgow, and said he quite agreed with the premises laid down by Mr. M'Gregor. 87 The qualifications which that gentleman stated were just those which Dr. Forbes possessed in a more eminent degree than any man whom they could expect to accept the chair. Mr. Smith referred at some length to the qualifications of Dr. Forbes, and said he felt it would be a strong step in the General Assembly to take, and in the Synod to recommend the Assembly to take, to put a young manlike Mr. Burns into the place in which Dr. Forbes ought to have been long ago. "

[Footnote 87: In proposing Dr. Burns - T. S.]

Dr. BEGG seconded the motion. His impression was, that Mr. Burns was not a man of that clear decided judgment necessary for the office; Mr. Burns was not a man that could very shortly and clearly indicate a conclusion in regard to any particular subject on which he was writing. Dr. Begg quoted at considerable length from the writings of Mr. Burns in support of his remarks, and concluded by saying that on the whose he believed Dr. Forbes was the best man for the office, and he cordially seconded his nomination." This is all that the readers of the Courant had presented to them of what was said in opposition to Dr. Burns; and the report was substantially accurate. Surely the readers of that most respectable paper must have been�� astonished in no small ineasure when they came upon a long article containing such a statement as this:- "It shows that there are men in the Free Church of a very different stamp from Mr. Begg. Torquemada, or that Cardinal of Lorraine who proposed to Henry II. of France to burn half a dozen heretics 'as a junket to the grandees of Spain,' would have hailed in the Rev. Doctor a kindred spirit!" My old friend, Mr. Marshman of Serampore, used to say that he would back Bengalis, and especially Bengali women, against the world for galli. 88 He had not read the Courant.

[Footnote 88: Abusive language. - T. S.]

In his speech in the General Assembly, when the election came to be made, Dr. Begg referred to such newspaper attacks:-

" I must say that I have a test by which I try the articles of newspapers, however eminent they may be, and that is this: I wish to know, in the first place, what their view is in reference to the Free Church itself, and whether they really wish it well. I sometimes read articles backwards, - that is to say, I read them just in the very opposite sense of the writer, and I do to these articles exactly what Wotherspoon says the Moderates used to do to sermons. In his Characteristics he says that the Moderates held it to be an infallible sign of a bad sermon if the people liked it. Supposing that a sermon had passed through the criticism of the whole Presbytery, and that they had fully approved of it, yet, if a young man after that should go and preach it in a congregation, and the people liked it, that was certain evidence that it was a bad sermon; because it was held that the Presbytery were not so uniform in judging right as the people were in judging wrong!"

For twenty years after this the name of Dr. Begg was used in the Edinburgh newspapers as a synonym for bigotry and intolerance, while he was all the time aiding ia every reasonable effort for the physical and spiritual improvement of his fellow-men.

In confirmation of the latter part of this statement, it is noticeable that, in looking over the file of the Courant, the next mention that I find of Dr. Begg's name is in a report of a speech on Sabbath observance, of which the closing sentence is -

"He believed, also, that much of the mischief was traceable to the very prolonged hours of labour on the other days of the week, especially Saturday, when many were obliged to work till twelve o'clock at night, and were thus ready to take advantage of the Sabbath, not only partially but wholly, as a day of bodily rest."

Is this the language of a kindred spirit of Torquemada?

Besides his speech on the election of the professor, from which a short extract has been already given, and that on Union, which I pass over for the present, Dr. Begg made an important one on Education, moving the adoption of the report given in by the convener of the committee, his friend Mr. Nixon - to whom, I may be allowed to say in passing, the Free Church and the people of Scotland are under immense obligation for his zealous and efficient labours in that capacity.

Dr. Begg also gave in, and spoke to, the reports of three committees of which he was convener, viz., that on Popery, that on the right of ministers of the Free Church to vote in the election of members of Parliament, and that on houses for the working classes. Many compliments were paid to him on his exertions in respect of the second and third of these matters; but Mr. Murray Dunlop thought it necessary to repeat his last year's repudiation of that course of procedure in Parliament which Dr. Begg and his committee favoured.

"He would not give the least countenance to the policy of Mr. Whalley. For he must say that, next to the skill and talent with which the Popish cause is prosecuted and advanced by its own supporters, next to that, as a means of advancing its interests, is the injudiciousness of some of our advocates."

The pain of heart which these attacks - for they were attacks - gave to Dr. Begg was in proportion to the high esteem in which he and all men held him who made them. To what extent they were sympathised with by the Assembly or the people of the Free Church he did not know, and I do not know. But it was becoming obvious that the leaven of indifference with respect to Popery was beginning to work in the minds of our people under the guise of a spirit of liberality, which the agents of the most illiberal body that ever was in the world were fostering by most insidious means, and for most sinister ends.

From this time it became clear to Dr. Begg that his anti-Popish exertions must be put forth apart from so cordial sympathy on the part of the Free Church as had hitherto cheered him. There were, of course, multitudes who .cordially sympathised with him; but he was painfully conscious that there were some who regarded his zeal as insufficiently tempered with discretion. Although he had been from the very beginning of his life a fearless controversialist, and often spoke of himself as having been a man of war from his youth, he was never independent of sympathy or indifferent to approbation, and he could ill brook the growing coolness - which he perhaps exaggerated - of some of those with whom he had delighted to take counsel.

The first lesson which the champion of truth has to learn is how to comport himself towards his opponents; the second and more difficult one is how to treat friends less ardent in the cause than himself. The fearless champion is not always the successful leader.

A comparatively small matter is signficant as indicating the amusing way in which all Dr. Begg's "hobbies" were associated in his mind, so that when he spoke bf one of them it seemed natural to himself and his hearers that he should speak of them all. He lived in the Grange, a southern suburb of Edinburgh. Applications were lodged for two "licenses" for the sale of drink in the district. A public meeting of the residents was held for the purpose of remonstrating, and Dr. Begg was one of the speakers.

"Dr. BEGG expressed his cordial approbation of the object, and referred to a return which, with one or two friends, he had succeeded in getting from Parliament, of the number of public-houses in the excise districts of Scotland, with the number of gallons that went into each of them during the years 186l, 1862, and 1863. The Rev. Doctor also referred to the efforts of the working classes to provide themselves with dwelling-houses, and censured the Governors of George Heriot's Hospital for their delay in answering the application of the Co- operative Building Society for the ground at Leith Walk. At present the Governors were receiving £10 per acre for it as garden ground, and the Society had offered double that amount, but had got no answer yet. The matter had been remitted to some committee of oblivion - sent to its grave, as it were, unless the working men resurrectionised it. He hoped the Magistrates would consider that it was their duty to refuse to increase the number of public-houses in that district.'' 89

[Footnote 89: That is, in the Grange district. It is far from Leith Walk. - T. S.]

These two subjects, thus united, came under discussion separately in the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale on the 1st of November. I find that it fell to me to introduce both subjects, as convener of two committees. But I have no doubt - though at this distance of time I have no distinct remembrance of it - that Dr. Begg was one of the most active members of the committees, and that it was on his instigation that the committees brought these matters under consideration of the Synod. The proceedings are briefly reported in the Courant, as follows:-

"The Rev. THOMAS SMITH gave in the Report of the Committee on Prevailing Vices, in accordance with which "Dr. BEGG moved that the Synod transmit the following overture:- 'It is humbly overtured by the Free Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale that the General Assembly shall direct its special attention to the present arrangements in regard to the licensing of public-houses, as fraught with the greatest moral and social evil to the community.' Dr. Begg said that for the last three years about 100 additional licenses had been given in this city. Forty new licenses were given in 1860-61, other forty in 1861-2, and other twenty recently. One of these seemed to him to be a case of very great enormity, viz, the licensing of the lodge entering into the Queen's Park at St. Leonard's. The licensing parties were exposed to pressure from interested parties, and there ought to be decisive measures for enabling the public to have their interests protected."

Dr. J. J. WOOD seconded the adoption of the overture, which was unanimously agreed to.

"Mr. SMITH also gave in the Report of the Committee on Houses for the Working Classes. The committee stated that a good deal of satisfactory progress had been made of late. They recommended that sessions should be urged to lend their influence to the provision of houses for the working classes; and that a respectful memorial be presented to the Governors of Heriot's Hospital, entreating them to afford all possible facility to those who desire to have portions of their ground for the erection of working men's houses.

Dr. BEGG moved the adoption of the report. In doing so he stated that Dr. Littlejohn was preparing an interesting document showing the proportional death-rate in different streets and lanes in the city. He had got access to some of the facts, and found that while the average death-rate in healthy districts was ahout 15 to the 1000 - sometimes less, one district in Edinburgh showing only 13 to the 1000 - in some parts of the city the rate was as high as 33; in Blackfriars' Wynd it was 37, and in College Wynd 45! The death-rate among children under five years in College Wynd was 123 to 1000, and in Blackfriars' Wynd 192 to 1000; or nearly 20 per cent. - in fact, a regular slaughter-house of human life. It was perfectly plain that they had arrived at a state of things that called loudly for the interposition of Christian men. Of course the pulling down of existing buildings would only aggravate the mischief until new houses were built."

At the same meeting of Synod Dr. Begg introduced another subject, regarding which he and I did not concur. It appears that a cemetery company in Edinburgh had got one of their cemeteries "consecrated" by Bishop Morell. Dr. Begg proposed an overture to the Assembly to:

"consider whether any and what duty devoIves upon the Church in connection with attempts on the part of Scottish Episcopalian bishops to consecrate the public burial-grounds of the country."

I moved the non-transmission of the proposed overture, on the ground that the matter in question was between the proprietors of the cemetery and the public, and that the evils which Dr. Begg had pointed out as resulting in England from the consecration of burying-grounds were due to the fact that the law in England attaches certain civil rights to the consecration, but that similar evils cannot result in Scotland from a procedure of which the law takes no cognisance. I have to acknowledge that my motion was not seconded.

" The overture," says the report, "was unanimously adopted, Mr. Smith dissenting.". An important meeting of the Presbytery of Edinburgh was held on the 8th of November. It was held specially to consider the subject of Sabbath desecration. Dr. Begg opened the discussion, and referred chiefly to the opening of shops and to the use of cabs on the Lord's Day. With reference to the former subject he said:- "It appeared to him that they must have the question of the Magistrates' right to protect the Fourth Commandment, as well as every other commandment, clearly understood and set before their people. There seemed to be no reason whatever why the Magistrates should enforce all the other commandments which were recognised by the statute law of the country, and which formed part of their civil rights and privileges, as well as their Christian rights, and should make a distinct exception in the matter of the Sabbath."

Ten days later I find Dr. Begg lecturing in Glasgow, "under the auspices of the Glasgow Auxiliary to the London Ladies' Sanitary Association," on Christian duty with regard; to the health and homes of the people."He spoke of the miserable dwellings of the poor as occasioning premature death and as being a great cause of drunkenness and pauperism."

In November of this year a small controversy ensued between Dr. Begg and an Episcopal minister in Aberdeenshire on the proportion between the criminals belonging to the several denominations. Dr. Begg had been quoted as making some statement on this subject, to the effect that the number of Romanist criminals was greatly out of proportion to the number.of Romanists, and that of Episcopal criminals to that of Episcopalians. Mr. Proby attacked this statement, and attempted to show that it was not true with respect to the Episcopalians. I suppose there may be some meaning in his arguments, but I have not been able to discover any. The correspondence between Dr. Begg and Mr. Proby was sent by the latter to the Courant. The subject was discussed in a leader in that paper, which I must give at length, as a specimen of the treatment which Dr. Begg occasionally received.

"Dr. Begg has just come before the world again, in a way highly characteristic of himself, and of the school of Scottish preachers to which he belongs. The activity of these men in political and social agitation, and in attacking the Churches most valued by the educated classes of the country, is apt to be unduly wondered at by people who do not consider the whole circumstances. Dr. Begg and his friends, we must remember, never discharge any of those duties which in the more civilised countries of Europe are reckoned the most honourable and onerous on which the clergy can be employed. They are always talking of the Bible - by which they mean the Authorised Version. But they never produce anything in theology or scholarship. They never edit the Septuagint or the Greek Testament. They never make a contribution to ecclesiastical history or sacred philology. They never defend the faith against the sceptics of England, or France, or Germany. The result is, that they have abundant leisure to employ in teaching the lairds their social duties, and in criticising the conduct of those Churches for which the lairds have such a perverse preference."

On the particular occasion which has suggested these remarks, Dr. Begg, - giving the Establishment a little breathing-time, - took the Episcopal Church of Scotland in hand, and pretended to lay down the general principle that it was fertile beyond example in the production of criminals. There are some poor creatures in the country who take everything the Doctor says on trust. So, when a clergyman of the Church in question, Mr. Proby, happened to be lecturing lately, he was suddenly assailed by a wretched Stonehaven print, and told that 'the Scottish Episcopal Church has nearly as many criminals in jail as the Free, United Presbyterian, and Independent Churches together.' The statement, it turned out, was made on Dr. Begg's authority, which, however, though good enough for a Stonehaven scribbler, could hardly be expected to satisfy men of better position. The Doctor himself was therefore called upon to explain, and the result has already appeared in our columns.

In the first place, the Stonehaven man was assuming as true of 1864 what even Dr. Begg onIy pretended to be true of 1862. But in the next place, Dr. Begg had taken care to suppress one important fact, and to ignore another, about the return of 1862. That return comprised 294 'Protestant Dissenters,' whose non-classification he never hinted at or inquired into. And he ignored the obvious fact that under the head of 'Episcopalians' all kinds of waifs and strays from England and Ireland must naturally be allowed for. When shown in what respects he was wrong, and told that by the return of 1st January 1864 there were only 217 Episcopalian prisoners to 433 of the Free, United Presbyterian, and Congregational bodies, Dr. Begg became impudent and evasive. He shirked the real difficulty presented to him, and rode off on the joke that his exposure had probably diminished the amount of Episcopalian crime. Of course, he did not apologise. These men never do. They have neither the heart nor the good breeding which in the case of persons of a higher class sometimes supplies the want of heart.

"There are one or two morals which we must now take the liberty of drawing from this little history. The first is, that it is a most dangerous thing for clergymen of any Church to base arguments on criminal returns of the kind with which we have been dealing. What does the inference that Dr. Begg wanted to draw from his cooked facts amount to? Neither more nor less than this, - that there is something in the Prayer-Book which is likely to make a man steal spoons, and that Mr. Sykes will be more apt than his neighbours to break into a dwelling-house because his parson believes in apostolical succession. This is surely the highwater mark even of Scotch bigotry. For our part, we don't believe that the 300 Free Church prisoners of the last return were brought into bad courses by their Non-Intrusionism, or that they came of families more neglected by their pastors than the average run of families in other Churches. In the classification of criminals, too, Established Churches - and so, of course, Churches whose proper members may be confounded with those of any Establishment - are sure to fare worst. The stronghold of Dissent is in the tolerably well-to-do lower middle class, and the very poor are left to Establishments, because it is worth nobody else's while to claim or annex them. In short, for polemical purposes, criminal returns are next to valueless; - it is so impossible to determine how much or how little the nominal religion of a criminal has to do with his crime. Were the opposite principle admitted, a Mahometan might impeach Christianity itself on the ground of the vast mass of prisoners of all denominations undergoing punishment in these islands. Yet we know that these prisoners have not offended because they are Christians, and a little reflection might teach Dr. Begg that the same thing is true of such Episcopalians as happen to be in jail also. Our next moral is a staler one. It is, that nothing so much retards the civilisation of Scotland as the barbarous narrowness of which this D.D.'s ecclesiastical policy is a symptom. Like the miner in Leech's picture, he never sees a Christian of another Church without wishing to ' 'eave 'alf a brick at him,' and the impulse descends through gradations of ignorance to village editors and village shrews. 'Liberalism,' such as we have it here, can do nothing against this spirit, for it only opposes a comic Begg to the great serious one, and forms a camp which is hostile to what grain of good does exist in the fanatical severity of the latter. Time, and literature, and the influence of travel and other nations on the Scotch, are the only curative agents to be trusted in. Meanwhile, Dr. Begg and his friends may rest assured that their activity in works of spitefulness is well known to be due not only to their want of charity, but to their want of learning. Such base humours would never have risen in the bodies of men accustomed to bathe in the healthful waters of the Eurotas."

I am glad that I have not occasion to say much on this "curative agency" for the barbarism of Scotland. But I must say a little. It is quite true that Dr. Begg never "edited the Septuagint or the Greek Testament," a crime in which, so far as I know, he shares with all the Scottish, and certainly with 999 out of every 1000 English, Episcopal ministers of the present and of preceding generations. Dr. Begg never professed to be a particularly learned man, and no one of his friends ever believed or said that he was; but it so happens that the Scottish Episcopal clergy have contributed extremely little to theological, historical, or apologetic literature. With the exception of the late Bishop Cotterill, not one of them in the present generation has contributed anything at all. 90 Of course I do not blame them for this. The Scottish Episcopal clergy are a thoroughly respectable body of men, for whom as a body I have most sincere respect, while for those of them whom I happen to know personally I have more than mere respect I am sure that these sentiments were also Dr. Begg's. The Scottish Episcopal clergy are not to be held responsible for the singularly injudicious action of their champion. The very heinous charge which the editor of the Courant brings against Dr Begg of "cooking facts" is not only unsupported, but is disproved by his own witnesses. Neither Mr. Proby nor his Civil Service correspondent charges Dr. Begg with making an unfair use of the data which he possessed. If facts were "cooked," it was not by him, but by the official compilers of the returns.

[Footnote 90: I do not mean to include under this statement English clergymen wbo have resided in Scotland without any official connection with the Scottish Episcopal Church, such as the late Archdeacon Williams and Professor Kelland, and Dr. Payne Smith, the present Dean of Canterbury. - T. S.]

In the absence of information, which the Courant ought to have furnished, I take upon me to assert that Dr. Begg did not use these statistics for polemic ends, and that he never either stated or insinuated that Episcopal criminals were criminal because of the teaching of their Church or because of the negligence of their clergy,