Ministerial Liberty

Birmingham Daily Post 21 August  1878

To the Editor of the Daily Post

Sir, -  In your issue of Monday last, ‘Observer’ asks, with reference to my sermon on ‘Intellectual Inconsistency’, ‘Would the members of the Church of the Saviour continue to support Mr. St. Clair if he began, distinctly and earnestly, to preach the doctrine of the Trinity, atonement, regeneration, justification by faith, and future punishment, as preached in thoroughly orthodox pulpits?’

To this I would say, first, that whatever doctrine the minister of our church might preach, I imagine the hearers would prefer that he should be ‘earnest’ in preaching it. The question being thus narrowed a trifle,  I must inform my critic that by the terms of our trust-deed, as well as by our usage from the beginning, the members of the church ‘do not regard their minister as the retained advocate of certain doctrines, and therefore bound to publish and support them; but as a teacher whose duty it is to lay before them the results of his own earnest enquiries into the truth of God.’

On their own side, also, they retain the right to ‘prove all things and hold fast that which is good.’ In pursuance of this method, if the minister is distinct in enunciating a doctrine, he is expected also to prove and recommend it by sound arguments and just considerations.

Any man who attempts this with regard to all the doctrines enumerated by ‘Observer’ will be found to talk either sense or nonsense; and if he talked nonsense very frequently I confess that I don’t think the members of our church would continue to support him. Yet it should be understood that we are not committed to the denial of the above doctrines any more than to their affirmation. With regard, for instance, to the first on the list - the doctrine of the Trinity - our church is no more committed to Unitarianism than to Trinitarianism.

As a matter of fact, some of our members tell me they are Trinitarians and some profess themselves Unitarians; and the Minister may be which he likes, provided that he does not talk nonsense in defending his view, or seek to force his opinion upon others as being a sine qua non of their acceptance with God.

I am, Sir, yours &c.,


Minister of the Church of the Saviour

Llanfairfechan, August 21, 1878.