Begg was a Church of Scotland Minister in Liberton, Edinburgh prior to the Disruption of 1843. He then became Minister in the Free Church of Scotland at Newington, Edinburgh, and also served as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1865.
Begg was a key figure in the foundation of the Scottish Reformation Society in 1850 and the Protestant Alliance, and was known not just for anti-Catholicism but also his concern for working and living conditions. He was editor for The Bulwark or The Reformation Journal for 21 years from its beginning July, 1851. He also wrote frequently to The Witness, Hugh Miller's newspaper.
Together with Thomas Chalmers, Begg was a major influence behind the colony houses of Edinburgh, which were built between 1850 and 1910 as homes for artisans and skilled working-class families by philanthropic model dwellings companies.
- Gallagher, Tom (1987). Glasgow - The Uneasy Peace: Religious Tension in Modern Scotland. Manchester University Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-7190-2396-3.
- Blaikie, William Garden (1885). "Begg, James". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
- Fraser, Hamish (2000). Scottish Popular Politics: From Radicalism to Labour. Polygon. p. 73. ISBN 1-902930-11-8.
- Brown, Stewart (2008). Providence and Empire. Longman. p. 183. ISBN 0-582-29960-8.
- Gifford, J. Edinburgh (Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of Scotland). Yale University Press. p. 420. ISBN 0-300-09672-0.
- Smith, Thomas. Memoirs of James Begg, D.D.: Minister of Newington Free Church, Edinburgh volume 1, 1885: Edinburgh. James Gemmell.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1885–1900 Dictionary of National Biography's article about Begg, James.|