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 LVI.

UNION CONTROVERSY.

W HILE freely acknowledging that I have no right to expect that I shall be regarded as an impartial judge in the matter, I venture to assert that the history of the Free Church since the Disruption is one of the most instructive portions of all ecclesiastical history. It teaches, perhaps more emphatically than any other portion, what all ecclesiastical history teaches if it be read aright, at once the potency of the divine element in the Church of Christ, and the utter weakness of its human element. It emphasises the lesson at once of trust in God, and of distrust in man, - a lesson which, in its two branches, summarises well nigh the whole of Christian wisdom. Nil desperarandum.is its one precept, Nil sperandum its other. Most emphatically is the lesson inculcated by the "ten years' conflict," 1863-73.

From the earliest days after the Disruption fond hopes were cherished by many of a union between the Free and the United Presbyterian Churches, and various schemes were propounded for effecting what many deemed to be one of the most desirable of all consummations, and all admitted to be on many accounts desirable, if it could be accomplished without the sacrifice of principle on either side.

It was the late Sir George Sinclair that took the most prominent part in this movement, which at first could, of course, be only tentative. It had the effect of turning men's thoughts at once to the advantages of such a union, and to the difficulty of effecting it. The negotiations in those days were necessarily of a private, and in some measure of a confidential, character. It was no secret that such negotiations were being carried on; but reticence was very properly observed as to the precise character of them.
A large number of office-bearers of the two Churches, headed by Sir George, did indeed put forth a statement, but it went little beyond an expression of the desirableness of the object contemplated. I was not in this country at the time; and if I had been, I should probably not have occupied a position which would have entitled me to expect to be asked to take part in the deliberations.

I am therefore unable to give information which would be interesting now, and which there is now no reason to keep back if it were available. This only I will say, from what I heard from many who took part in these deliberations - almost all of whom have now passed away - that there was no marked difference between those who were subsequently ranged on the opposite sides in the Union controversy. All desired the end; all saw the difficulties in the way of its attainment.

The future Anti-Unionists did the former no less than the future Unionists; the future Unionists did the latter no less than the future Anti-Unionists. From various circumstances, indeed - from the treatment which he had received from some of the supporters of the Established Church in connection with the question of sites, and from the great kindness which he and his congregation had received at the hands of a United Presbyterian congregation Dr. Begg's feelings were stronger in favour of such a union than those of most of his brethren.

During the year 1862-3 it was agreed that the matter should be taken up by the Churches. The Synod of the United Presbyterian Church met first, and discussed the subject with great ability and in an excellent spirit. They addressed a communication to the Assembly of the Free Church, intimating that,

"after lengthened reasoning, the Synod resolved that a Committee be appointed to consider the subject of union with other Presbyterian bodies, in all its bearings, and more immediately, to meet with any Committees that may be appointed by the General Assembly of the Free Church, or by the Synod of the English Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, or the Original Secession Church, and to confer with them respecting the relative positions of these several bodies and the United Presbyterian Church, and the steps proper to be taken for their present co-operation and ultimate union."

This communication was received by the Free Church Assembly with profound respect. It gave rise to a long and most interesting discussion - debate it could not be called. Dr. Gibson indeed moved, and Dr. Forbes seconded, the addition of a sentence to the motion made by Dr. Robert Buchanan and seconded by Dr. Charles Brown. But it merely repeated in somewhat more detail what the motion itself confessedly contained, that the Committee should have due regard to the maintenance of the principles of the Church. By the almost unanimous advice of those friends whose sympathies were most with him, Dr. Gibson withdrew his "rider," and Dr. Buchanan's motion was passed unanimously.

Dr. Begg's speech on this occasion was of a high order. Not falling behind any of his brethren in their estimate of the blessing of unity, and of the advantages which the contemplated union might be expected to yield, he dwelt upon the importance of the truth which he regarded certain forms of Voluntaryism as controverting, - the truth that nations and their rulers, no less than individuals, are under obligation to promote the cause of Christianity. On this ground he stood all through the long and painful controversy, ever declaring that if he could be convinced that the United Presbyterians held views compatible with the inculcation upon nations and their rulers of their duty as under law to Christ, he would hail a union with them.

He even went further than most in expressing the opinion that all matters relating to finance and other details might be satisfactorily adjusted.

The Union Committee which was appointed by this Assembly was a large one, and was composed with perfect fairness, Drs. Gibson and Forbes, who had taken the less favourable view of the prospect of union, being included in it, as well as, of course, Drs. Begg and Nixon, who had spoken most earnestly in favour of the appointment of the Committee as proposed by Dr. Buchahan. No members of the Committee wrought more loyally than they.

The Report of the Union Committee to the General Assembly of 1864 was very brief. It contained a recognition of the excellent spirit in which the negotiations had been conducted on the part of the United Presbyterian brethren. It stated six important points on which perfect agreement had been evinced, and one on which there was difference of view among the negotiants.

This was as to the relation of the civil magistrate, or the State, to the Church and cause of God. On this point statements were given in parallel columns by the representatives of the two Churches. All that the Committee asked, and all that Dr. Candlish proposed, was that the Committee should be reappointed to continue the conferences until they should be able to present a definite report on the whole subject. But to Dr. Wood and others it appeared that the differences already evinced were irreconcilable. There was no hope that the United Presbyterians would adopt the views of the Free Church. There was no possibility of the Free Church's adopting those of the United Presbyterian Church, without a sacrifice of a great and important principle. Dr. Wood therefore moved that the Committee should indeed be reappointed, but no longer as a Union, but only as a Co-operation Committee.

Dr. Begg and Dr. Nixon strongly urged Dr. Wood to withdraw his motion, mainly on the ground that it was premature, that the question had not been fully discussed in the Committee, and that light might arise in the course of further discussion. Dr. Wood consented to this, to the great joy of all; as all felt that that would not be the doing of the Free Church which was done in opposition to Dr. Wood or without his concurrence.

But Dr. Begg went further than he was logically called to go. He strongly stated,

"I believe it will be possible to find a solution of that problem; at all events, I think we should try."

Again, "If we look at the questions themselves, it seems to me that there is a possible solution."

Thus far, then, Dr Begg was a strong "Unionist," not only as cherishing the desire for union on sound principles which he never ceased to cherish - but also in holding the expectation that such a union could be formed without the sacrifice of principle by the Free Church, an expectation which he afterwards considered himself constrained to abandon.

At this Assembly a.proposal was received from the Reformed Presbyterian Church, that they also should be received into the negotiations for union. This proposal gave great satisfaction to all parties.

Very little was done in the Assembly of 1865 on the subject of Union, and in that little Dr. Begg was precluded from taking any part by his occupancy of the Moderator's chair.

The Report of the Committee was very brief, merely intimating that the Joint Committee had met ten times, that they had frankly stated their views regarding those doctrines on which there might have been supposed to be any material difference, and they had found no such difference to exist.

From this statement, however, Drs. Wood and Forbes had dissented, on the ground that on a matter of so vital importance the Committee ought to have instituted more detailed inquiries. On this line two motions were made in the Assembly; but that of Dr. Rainy, simply approving the Report and reappointing the Committee, was carried almost unanimously. It may be presumed that had Dr. Begg been at liberty to speak and vote, he would have supported this motion. It was very heartily supported by Dr. Nixon.

It was in the Assembly of 1866 that the Union controversy began. The Report of the Committee left the matters of agreement and disagreement very much as in former years; and all that Dr. Buchanan proposed on behalf of the Committee was, that the Report should be sent down to Presbyteries for their information, and in order that they might, if they saw cause, make any suggestions to the Committee as to the further conduct of the negotiations.

A counter-motion was made by Mr. Brodie of Monimail, and seconded by Dr Forbes, that the Committee should be discharged. Dr. Blaikie made a strong speech as to the importance of contemplating a larger union in due time, - the reconstruction of the national Presbyterianism by the formation of a Church which should include a reformed Establishment.

Dr. Begg strongly supported Dr. Buchanan's motion, but made it pretty evident that he neither expected nor desired that the Presbyteries should altogether approve of the Report which was to be transmitted to them. He stated strongly the view, which he never afterwards abandoned or materially modified, that the Free Church could not in faithfulness consent to holding the duty of the civil magistrate with reference to the Church as an open question. At the same time, he disclaimed all expectation of any rightful union with the Established Church.

In answer to Dr. Blaikie, he said -

"It was a far more noble thing, in his opinion, to maintain the principle of a Church Establishment when they had nothing to expect in connection with it than it was when they had something to gain. He did not sympathise with the opinion that they ought to look to the Establishment with any expectation at all. They had nothing to do with it but to protest against its corruptions and impenitence for past sins. :For his part, he did not see any Establishment on the face of the earth that deserved any support, and he had no idea that until the Establishment was shivered to pieces any reconstruction would take place. But for that very reason, if there is a principle of God's Word involved, it is a more noble thing to stand by it when we have nothing to gain by it."

Dr. Begg, however, concluded with the expression of a strong hope that the difficulties in the way of Union would be got over, and the Union ere long accomplished. It was no secret at the time, though it was not made public till the next meeting of the Assembly, that a "little rift within the lute" of the Union Committee occurred at its first meeting. Some members of the Committee insisted that in sending the Report to Presbyteries, and inviting them to offer suggestions to the Committee, the Assembly intimated that these suggestions were to influence the future action of the Committee. By those who held that view it was contended that the action of the Committee should be suspended until the receipt of such suggestions as might be offered. And I think they had good sense on their side. But the majority decided otherwise.

Dr. Begg, Dr. Gibson, and Mr. Main thereupon withdrew from the Committee for a time.

The Assembly of 1867 was the critical point in the Union controversy. Three motions were made. That on the part of the Committee was given notice of by Dr. Candlish, and in his absence, was moved by Dr. Rainy. It was, after a preamble, to the effect that,

"being of opinion, as at present advised, that, as regards the first head of the programme, considered in itself, there appears to be no bar to the Union contemplated, the General Assembly, while reserving final judgment on the whole case and every part thereof, direct the Committee to give their earnest attention to the other heads of the programme, especially those which deal with the worship, government, and discipline of the Church, and with those important practical questions which relate to property and finance."

In opposition to this Dr. Begg moved as follows: -

"The Assembly, on receiving the Report laid on the table by the Committee on Union with other Churches, approve of the diligence of the Committee, and reappoint it with its former instructions. The Assembly at the same time, considering the immature state of the question, the overtures now on the table, and the fact that, whilst only one-third of the members of this Church are entitled to be present in the Assembly, the people of the Church at large have never been consulted in regard to this matter at all, reserve their judgment on any part of the programme till the Union Committee shall have completed its work by bringing up a report on all the heads of the programme, with definite proposals, and the grounds on which they rest, so that the General Assembly and the Church may have the whole subject before them."

Dr. Nixon made a third motion, as follows:-

"....The, General Assembly, continuing to be deeply impressed with the duty and importance of aiming at Union of all the Disestablished Churches in Scotland, reappoint the former Committee with the former instructions. They direct their Committee to use all diligence in prosecuting conferences on all the subjects, with a view to a final report, which shall contain the conclusions arrived at, with the grounds on which they rest, so that the General Assembly may be in circumstances to submit the whole question in a satisfactory form to the Church at large."

It will be seen that the last two motions do not differ widely from one another; their chief difference is the omission from Dr. Nixon's of the specific statement given in Dr. Begg's of the grounds on which the Assembly should refuse to give a decision.

Many of those who were, upon the whole, of one mind with Dr. Begg, could not support a motion which would have amounted to a declaration of the inability of any General Assembly to do anything; for it is as true of every Assembly as of that one, that only a third of the whole ministry are members of it. But while the motions were so nearly alike, the rules of the House required that they should first of all be put to the vote as against each other. This was done, and Dr. Nixon's motion was carried against Dr. Begg's by a majority of 29 (90 - 61).

Dr. Begg then rose and said

"that he intended most cordially to vote for Dr. Nixon's motion as against Dr. Rainy's."

The latter was carried by a majority of 226 (346 -120). Hereupon Dr. Begg laid on the table a "protest," signed by himself and others. This was till then a procedure, so far as I know, without precedent. It was understood by many on the other side to have been adopted with a view to litigation on the subject of property, and because it was deemed to have more validity to that end than the ordinary "dissent." Thus it increased the irritation, which was already intense; and I do not know that it would, in the unhappy event alluded to, have been of more effect than a dissent. The controversy was now waged with vigour through the press and in the Presbyteries and Synods of the Church.

A "Statement" was drawn up by Dr. Horatius Bonar on behalf of those who were now styled the Anti- Union party, and was published as a pamphlet. This was replied to by Dr. Rainy, and I replied to him.

Before this time there had been begun the publication of a monthly magazine, under the title of the Watchword. Dr. Begg was its editor, and his conduct of it brought down upon him many reproaches and much obloquy. At this distance of time it may be freely admitted that there was in it little - too little - of the suaviter in modo. But the contributors to it honestly believed that their brethren were prepared to sacrifice vital truth; and with this belief they expressed themselves in terms that could not fail to be distasteful to their opponents. The editor did not write much for it; but he never shrank from responsibility for its contents.

The matter was copiously discussed in the Church-courts throughout the country, and when the Assembly met in 1868 a large number of overtures came up from these courts, either expressing disapprobation of the action of last Assembly, or urging greater caution in the prosecution of the Union negotiations; and when the Assembly met, an apparently pacific motion was submitted by Dr. Buchanan, to the effect that no judgment should be pronounced on the question of Union until the whole subject should have been considered and reported on by the Committee, and in the meantime that there should be much earnest prayer for wisdom to be vouchsafed to the Committee in their deliberations and actings.

This would have been all well - all that could have been desired but for the resolution of last year. But it was felt by those who opposed that action that it had gone very far towards the decision of the whole question. Accordingly, Dr. Wood moved in effect that that action should be set aside, or at least that the deliberations of the Committee should be conducted without reference to it.

I took it on myself to propose what I hoped would be a healing motion, stating that I would press it only in the event of its being accepted by both parties.

In point of fact it was accepted by neither. I therefore withdrew it, and the vote was taken between Dr. Buchanan's motion and Dr. Wood's, when the former was carried by a majority of 322 (427 - 105).

Dr. Begg's speech in support of Dr. Wood's motion was a telling one, touching on many points, and dwelling especially on the duty of the Free Church to insist upon the obligation of the State to acknowledge and defend, and in certain circumstances to endow, the Church of Christ - a duty all the more incumbent on her now that she had no direct interest in the endowments.

It is noticeable that now, for the first time, he did not express the hope which he had repeatedly stated before, that Union might be eventually effected. Indeed it is manifest that he had now abandoned the hope of a Union on terms in which he could acquiesce.

In the Assembly of 1869 the motion made by Principal Fairbairn on behalf of the Union Committee was to the effect that the Assembly should simply receive the Report, and witout expressing any opinion as to the matters contained in it, should publish it for the information of the Church, in order that the minds of the people might be intelligently prepared for such action as might ultimately be taken. This was certainly a plausible proposal, which it was very difficult for any one to oppose without incurring the reproach of objecting to free discussion by the people of a question in which they were vitally interested.

Dr. Nixon manfully faced this difficulty, and moved that, on the ground of serious differences of opinion

"as to whether and how far the results arrived at concern the doctrines of Scripture and of the Church to which we have all given our adherence,.... no further steps be taken until negotiations can be renewed with due regard to the Scriptural principles and the peace of the Church."

His chief argument in support of his motion is to the effect that even the "Articles of Agreement" are framed on the principle of compromise, terms being employed which may be .understood by different parties in somewhat different senses. His speech was a very masterly one.

But perhaps the most telling speech on that side was that of Dr. Horatius Bonar. So far as I know he was the first, and in that speech, to intimate distinctly that Union on the terms proposed could only be accomplished at the cost of disruption.

"Sir (he said), if these articles are accepted, if a new Church is based upon them, I for one can be neither a minister nor a member of such a Church. They exclude me - and I speak, I daresay, for others; but they exclude myself certainly. If I am a Free Churchman - if I maintain Free Church principles, as I have done all along - I would on no consideration be a minister of a Church based on such articles as these."

Dr. Begg spoke briefly but forcibly. The motion of Dr. Fairbairn was, of course, carried by the "overwhelming majority" of 340 (429 - 89).

The Assembly of 1870 was, in its action on this matter, little more than a repetition of that of 1869. Before the discussion began Dr. Gibson read a protest against it. I have already stated my belief that tabling a "protest" instead of a "dissent" after the discussion and vote of 1867 was of doubtful competency and doubtful expediency. But I have no doubt that a protest against the discussion before it was entered on was expedient, and was the only competent course. It devolved on me to vindicate this course. A very short speech of mine is reported in the Blue Book:-

"Dr. Thomas Smith supported Dr. Moody-Stuart's motion, and in the course of his remarks maintained that the importance of the protest lodged by Dr. Gibson had been unfairly, however unintentionally, exaggerated.

Those who considered that the question proposed to be submitted to Presbyteries involved a change in the fundamental constitution of the Church were shut up to one or other of two courses of action.

If they had simply entered on the discussion of the question, it was not altogether inconceivable that they might have been in a minority. But in that event it would certainly have been urged against them that they had accepted the issue, and must abide by it. This they could not do. They must therefore either decline to take any part in the discussion, or they must take part in it under the protection of such a protest as had been lodged.

It would have been deeply painful if this house had been emptied when the debate came on, and if the party to which he belonged had retired to the refreshment room, or remained sulkily in their seats and allowed the discussion to go on without taking part in it. He was sure that either of these courses would have been more distasteful to their friends on the other side than that which they had actually adopted."

The Moderator, in his closing address, referred in complimentary terms to my vindication of the protest, and seemed to represent it as quite satisfactory. But the protest was regarded by those on the other side as preparing the way for a lawsuit respecting the property of the Church - a perfectly legitimate process according to Free Church principles - and so regarded it as in some sort a threat. It doubtless had a good deal to do with the irritation which, more than on previous occasions, was manifested in the debate.

The motions were made by Dr. Candlish and Dr. Moody-Stuart respectively; and the debate was very able. Dr. Begg spoke with great earnestness and power, "sparing no arrows," and defying the interruptions alike of "house" and gallery. At some parts of his speech, when he spoke of the probability of disruption, he was greatly affected, and evoked the sympathy of his strongest opponents.

The result of the vote was as usual - a majority of 235 (379 -144) in favour of Dr. Candlish's motion. No doubt the situation was greatly in favour of the Unionists. The motion of Dr. Candlish pronounced nothing in favour of Union; it simply asked Presbyteries to consider whether there were any bar in principle to the formation of a Union on the basis of the Confession of Faith as accepted by the negotiating Churches. The resolution of the Assembly pronounced no judgment whatever on this point, and, further,

"declared that, apart from the consideration of principle, the entire question of the propriety or expediency of the Union contemplated, as well as the time and manner of effecting it, is, and must be held to be, reserved."

Dr. Moody-Stuart was shut up to moving that the question ought not to be brought under the consideration of Presbyteries at all. Thus the strongest "Anti- Unionist," and all who were doubtful or undecided, could vote for Dr. Candlish, while no Unionist could vote for Dr. Moody-Stuart. I have no doubt that a considerable number of Dr. Candlish's supporters would have refused to say that they were prepared to go into the Union. Still, it were vain to deny that the large majority was mainly composed of those who had made up their minds as to the propriety of the Union.

The year between the Assembly of 1870 and that of 1871 was a period of intense excitement and keen agitation. Public meetings were held throughout the country for and against the Union proposed. In the latter class of meetings Dr. Begg was, of course, the speaker most sought after. He laboured incessantly and spoke most eloquently.

Although in some cases attempts were made, with some measure of success, to swamp the meetings and carry counter-resolutions, yet upon the whole the campaign was a success, and went far to confirm the view which Dr. Begg constantly expressed, that the Union feeling was by no means so strong in the minds of the people as in those of the ministers and elders who constituted the "overwhelming majorities" in the General Assembly.

The motion submitted by Sir Henry Moncreiff, seconded by Dr. Candlish, to the Assembly of 1871 was a virtual abandonment of the Union proposal. Its main paragraph was the following:-

"III. That while this large measure of agreement among the negotiating Churches with respect to the proposed basis of Union, in so far as the question of principle is concerned, appears to the Assembly amply to justify the confident expectation that the Lord will, in His own good time, bring the contemplated Union to pass, they willingly acknowledge that much consideration is due to the difficulties which still appear to an important minority of esteemed and honoured brethren to stand in its way.

In this spirit, accordingly, and having respect to the great desirableness of affording adequate opportunity to all parties calmly and fully to weigh the whole import and bearing of the opinion pronounced by the Presbyteries, and to consider the position and duty of the Church in connection therewith, the Assembly, in reappointing the Committee, as they now do, instruct them, instead of proceeding to the further consideration of any of the matters outstanding under the programme of Heads of Inquiry, to direct their attention for the present to those measures which may seem best fitted to draw the negotiating Churches into closer and more friendly relations to one another, to encourage and facilitate their cordial co-operation, and thus, while allaying the heat and irritation of controversy, to cultivate that more intimate knowledge of each other, and to call forth and cherish those mutual sympathies and kindly feelings which cannot fail, under God, to promote that seeing eye to eye, and that coming to be of one heart and of one soul which is the needful and fitting preparation for the more perfect union, and with a view to which those profoundly important negotiations have all along been carried on; and further, it is the desire and intention of the Assembly that the Committee reappointed for these purposes should be so enlarged as to be in harmony with the ends in view."

It was certainly difficult to frame a motion in opposition to this proposal. Had one word in it been omitted or changed it would have been both impossible and unnecessary. Had the motion expressed only the hope and expectation that God will, in His good time, bring Union to pass, Dr. Begg and his friends would have added to it their hearty Amen. But they had neither the expectation nor the desire that the contemplated Union should ever be brought about.

Dr. Nixon, therefore, moved in substance, that the Committee be discharged. Dr. Begg spoke with great energy in opposition to Sir Henry Moncreiff's motion, and when it was carried by the usual majority of 270 (435 -165), he handed in a protest signed by fifty-three ministers and fifty-six elders.

From the Blue Book I see that I did not sign this protest, but gave in a dissent, "to which," says the Blue Book, "Dr. Begg and others adhered." At this distance of time I do not remember the precise ground on which I declined to sign the protest. I suppose it must have been simply that a protest was not the proper form of dissenting from a resolution that had been passed, however appropriate it might be as against the discussion of a particular question. But I find that I signed a similar protest in the following year.

The Union Committee came to the conclusion to recommend a plan for the allowance of the transfer of ministers from charges in the one Church to charges in the other; and a measure of this kind was adopted by the United Presbyterian Synod. When it came to be known that this was to be proposed to the Assembly it gave rise to great opposition, and a petition against it was laid on the table of the Assembly with some 70,000 signatures.

When the motion was made in the Assembly of 1872 by Dr. Adam, it was strongly insisted on by him and others, that I was committed to such a scheme in a pamphlet which I had published some years earlier, and, to a certain extent, Dr. Begg and others with whom I generally acted were committed also, inasmuch as, although I had stated in the pamphlet that, while they were not responsible for the contents, I believed that they would substantially agree with them, they had not formally repudiated them, Now it was true that I had propounded a scheme of mutual eligibility more extensive than that now proposed.

It was true that there was no formal repudiation, because there was no notice of the proposal taken by those on the other side, who at that time, and for long after, would think of nothing short of incorporation. But even in these circumstances, the Watchword, while highly commending the pamphlet generally, had distinctly stated that in this particular proposal its author had gone too far. There was, therefore, no inconsistency on the part of Dr. Begg and others in opposing now what they had never supported - what, indeed, they had dissented from so far as there was any occasion to express dissent or assent.

My own consistency must be vindicated, if at all, on other grounds. The ground that satisfies myself, and which, I think, ought to satisfy others, is that the circumstances were entirely changed. When the proposal was made, it had never been questioned that there was an essential difference between the views of United Presbyterians and Free Churchmen regarding the proper relation between Church and State. But I knew, and was glad to know, that there were some in the United Presbyterian Church whose views were much nearer to those of the Free Church than were those of most of their brethren; and I knew, and was sorry to know, that there were some in the Free Church who, without being Voluntaries, were not so strong anti-Voluntaries as most of us.

My proposal accordingly was, that a door should be opened through which those exceptional men might pass. But the assumption now was, that there was no difference of any consequence between the Churches, that every Free Churchman might become a United Presbyterian, and that every United Presbyterian might become a Free Churchman, without any inconsistency.

It was on this assumption that Dr. Adam and his supporters advocated their Mutual Eligibility scheme, and the fact that it could be so advocated showed that, with whatever external resemblance, it was a totally different scheme from mine.

Counter-motions were made by Dr. Samuel Miller and by Dr. Couper of Burntisland; the final vote being taken between Dr. Adam's and Dr. Miller's motions, the former was carried by a majority of 197 (369 -172).

A keen agitation was kept up throughout the ensuing year, in which Dr Begg took a leading part. It is no secret now that the opinions of eminent lawyers were obtained as to the disposal of the property of the Church in the event of the policy of the majority being carried to its legitimate conclusion.

Meantime various conferences were held between several men on both sides in order to ascertain whether a solution of the difficulty might yet be possible. I remember one, for example, arranged by Mr. MacEwan on the one side, and Dr. Maclachlan on the other; and Dr. Main afterwards stated that he had correspondence with Dr. Buchanan with the same view.

When the Assembly of 1873 drew near, it was fully expected that a disruption of the Free Church was to ensue. As it was agreed that Dr. Duff was to be Moderator of that Assembly, and as there was almost daily intercourse between him and me, of course we often spoke of the subject of which our hearts were full. I often stated what I regarded as the minimum of concession essential to prevent a disruption. He repeatedly urged me to put it into writing. I repeatedly refused, but was at last over-persuaded, When I submitted to the leading members of my own party the letter which I had written, and which Dr. Duff had had put in type, they almost unanimously disapproved, not so much of its matter, as of my having consented to write on the subject at all. Some of them expressed their disapprobation in very strong terms.

Meantime paragraphs got into the newspapers as to disunion in the Anti-Union camp, Dr. Samuel Miller, Dr. Moody-Stuart, and I being freely named as refusing to go with Dr. Begg into a disruption. We regarded these paragraphs as simple "feelers," put in by reporters who had been baffled in their attempts to get information, and hoping that such statements would "draw" us out. We therefore agreed to take no notice of them.

When the Assembly met, Dr. Candlish moved that the overture which had been sent down to Presbyteries under the Barrier Act, in accordance with Dr. Adam's motion, should be passed into a standing law. Dr. Nixon moved, in opposition, that certain alterations should be made in it, with the view of securing that ministers of the United Presbyterian Church, before being called to charges in the Free Church, should be required to make a statement as to the sense in which they understood the declarations which they would be required to sign if they accepted the call. Dr. Candlish, in making his motion, expressed in extremely strong terms the impossibility of accepting- Dr. Nixon's motion, of which notice had been given.

I took an early opportunity of speaking in the debate, and while, of course, supporting Dr. Nixon's motion, suggested some modifications in the line of my letter to Dr. Duff. The debate went on, and there seemed no prospect of any satisfactory solution of the difflculty, which all felt to be extreme. I had better give the account of what followed in the words of a newspaper of the day.

In its summary of the proceedings the Daily Review wrote:-

"Dr. Thomas Smith tried hard to conciliate both sides, and with more success than usually attends efforts of this description; for his suggestion was adopted by Dr. Candlish, who, at the opening of the evening sederunt, added to his motion, that the Presbytery, after finding the call to a minister of another Church to be regular, should adjourn for a fortnight, or not more than four weeks, transmitting the formula, &c., to the minister called, and informing him that, unless they hear to the contrary, they will assume that he has no difficulty."

This is a very meagre statement of the matter. What induced the minority to accept Dr. Candlish's proposal was, that it includes the transmission of important documents which the Daily Review refers to merely as "&c.

" Dr. Begg, while stating that he thought the motion, thus modified, "afforded materials for a satisfactory adjustment,"

asked that time should be given for consideration.

The Assembly therefore adjourned, and on its meeting next morning Dr. Nixon and Dr. Begg stated their acceptance of it, to the unspeakable joy of the Assembly and the Church. The motion was passed without a vote, the minority recording their dissent, though only on minor points and on technical grounds. Of course it was a compromise. Neither party professed to like it.

It was a generous concession on the part of Dr. Candlish and his friends, and it delivered his opponents from what they knew would be a dire calamity. I conclude this brief narrative by quoting the words of my revered and beloved father, Dr. Duff:-

"The Moderator then said, "This matter having been now so singularly settled, contrary to the expectations of most, I think, as more than one member has avowed, and I myself endeavoured in prayer to acknowledge, that it is the doing of the Lord, and wondrous in our eyes. I am sure I express the mind of the whole Assembly when I say that the right way to conclude this matter would be for the Moderator of the Assembly to ask one on either side to thank God. I would ask my dear old friend, Dr. Julius Wood, to return thanks."

Devotional exercises were then conducted by Dr. Julius Wood and Dr. Charles J. Brown. Like prayers and thanksgivings ascended that night from thousands of the homes of our people. The matter required to go once more to the Presbyteries under the Barrier Act, but it was a matter of course that it should safely pass this ordeal. Accordingly, at next Assembly, the Committee for classing returns to overtures reported that it had been approved "almost unanimously" by the Presbyteries; and so, without a single observation - so far as appears from the Blue Book - it was passed into a standing law.

Thus ended a controversy which had threatened to rend the Free Church. It is not to be questioned that the beginning of the Union movement was of God; and I firmly believe that its ending was of God, however in its beginning, its progress, and its end human imperfections may have marred it.

It ought to be mentioned that before the decision of 1873 had been reached, preparations had been made, in anticipation of a different decision, for a disruption. In these preparations Dr. Begg of course took a leading part. Shortly afterwards he published a volume, 104 in which he gives an account of some of these preparations. It is to be hoped that the future proceedings may necessitate reference to this volume, and to the opinions of Counsel, of which it is mainly composed.

[Footnote 104: "Memorial, with the Opinions of Eminent Counsel in regard to the Constitution of the Free Church of Sootland; and Remarks on our Present Stalte and Prospects. By James Begg, D.D. Edinburgh, 1874." ]