The James Begg Society

The James Begg Society

Publishers of Protestant, Reformed Christian Literature




Including Autobiographic Chapters by Dr. Begg.
(First published in two volumes; 1885 and 1888.)


N OTWITHSTANDING a very general opinion that it is undesirable to add unduly to the number of published biographical books, there was a universal feeling, not only among the personal friends of Dr. Begg, but among a large portion of the general community of our country, that a "Life" of him should be written. Application was made to me to undertake the work. With a sincere desire to aid thus in perpetuating the memory of my friend, yet with much reluctance, arising from an appreciation of the difficulties of the task, I assented to the proposal, and now I am very glad that "half of my heavy task is done."

I have not had any aid from journal or diary, and very little from correspondence, to "make Dr. Begg his own biographer." So far as I know, Dr. Begg never kept any journal, and although he wrote innumerable notes in reply to innumerable inquiries, he wrote very few letters; nor did he preserve the notes or letters which he received. I do not know that the paucity of material of this kind is very much to be regretted, as it is a very imperfect idea that can be formed of a man's actual life from his own daily retrospect recorded during the last quarter of an hour in each day.

The first four chapters of this volume consist of an auto-biographical fragment. The reader will see that it is very diffuse, and that its author designed his Memoirs to be on a large scale - to be, in fact, a "History of His Life and Times." The chapters immediately following (V.-XI.) are a sort of running comment upon these, and it will probably be considered that they also are chargeable with undue diffuseness. My only apology is that I thought it right to accommodate my part of the work to the portion executed by my friend, and of which mine was designed to be a continuation.

In addition to the chapters which Dr. Begg had prepared for the press, he had had copied a considerable number of papers designed to be incorporated with his autobiography. These I have inserted at their proper places.

I have now to make a few additions and corrections:-

1. In connection with the monument of Dr. and Mrs. Begg of New Monkland (end chap. I), I have had forwarded to me two letters from a bank agent at Airdrie, from which it appears that one of Dr. Begg's sons, Mr. William Begg, deposited with him a sum of money to provide for the maintenance in perpetuity of his grandparents' monument.

2. I have through inadvertence spoken of the Dean of Faculty, who had so much to do with the Auchterarder and other cases, as Mr. Charles Hope. It should have been Mr. John Hope.

3. I have with some difficulty procured a copy of the "Anti-Patronage Library," spoken of in chap. XXI. I find that it was not published until 1842. The letter on that subject is therefore misplaced. The "Library" contains an abridgment of Dr. Begg's pamphlet on patronage, published in 1839.

4. To avoid periphrasis, I have spoken throughout of the subject of the memoir as Dr. Begg. This was occasionally somewhat awkward. But I thought it, upon the whole, better to designate him by the title by which he was so generally known. In point of fact, he did not acquire that title till a time subsequent to that to which the present volume relates.

I have only further to express my best thanks to many friends who have rendered me valuable aid, and in particular to several gentlemen to whom I took the liberty of making application without having any proper right, on the ground of friendship, to make it. In every case such applications have been kindly and favourably responded to.

And now I present the first instalment of my work to the public, with the promise that, if God spare me in life and health, the second portion of it shall follow without very long delay.

I have no right to deprecate criticism, as my task was voluntarily undertaken; and I am painfully conscious of many defects and imperfections in my execution of it.


I HAVE to express regret for the long interval that has l ensued between the publication of the former and that of the present volume of this book. It is due chiefly to comparative incapacity for work on my part, in consequence of painful bereavement.

I have no right to deprecate criticism, as I voluntarily undertook the task of preparing the biography of my friend. But I may say that the book is materially different from what I expected that it would be. It is more ecclesiastical and less personal than I hoped to be able to make it. But, far as it is from accordance with my ideal, I hope it may be acceptable to many of Dr. Begg's friends now, and may in the future be regarded as an honest narrative of important transactions.

In detailing proceedings in which the subject and the author of the Memoirs were closely associated, it was impossible on the author's part to avoid frequent references to himself and his own action. I hope these references will not be deemed to indicate offensive egotism.