Ministerial Liberty

Birmingham Daily Post


Sir, - Your correspondent ‘Observer’ asks, ‘Would the members of the Church of the Saviour continue to support Mr. St. Clair if he began, distinctly and earnestly to preach the doctrines of the Trinity, atonement, regeneration, justification by faith, and future punishment, as preached in thoroughly orthodox pulpits, and as once held by himself?’ Speaking as an individual member, and for myself, I answer ‘Yes.’

The Church of the Saviour is a free church, but George Dawson used to glory in its latitudinarianism, and never ceased to glory also in his being a latitudinarian of latitudinarians. He said, on one occasion, ‘Some of you idly imagine that I come here to preach what you believe. I do nothing of the kind. I come here to preach what I believe; and if you don’t like it, leave it. But if you do leave it, so much the worse for yourselves; it will be your misfortune.’ If ‘Observer’ can require a larger liberty than embodied in those words, perhaps he will be good enough to tell what he does want.

Mr St. Clair is supposed to teach the truth as he finds it, and is expected to preach that which makes for righteousness, and that which can be verified in the daily experience of ourselves. The two fundamental principles of the Church of the Saviour are: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all all thy heart, and soul, and strength;’ and ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

These are the guiding principles of the Church of the Saviour, and Mr. St. Clair has all through ardently and devoutly taught the same. Whatever Mr. St. Clair might teach, he would teach it reasonably as unto reasonable men, who judge what he says, and if he taught doctrines which seemed subversive to common sense and dangerous to true religious growth - his unreasonableness would be met by reasonableness, and probably some members would ask him to debate the subject, and let truth carry off the victory.

If such a thing were possible, or conceivable that Mr. St. Clair took a retrogressive course, and preferred darkness to light; superstition to science; dogma to truth; old wives’ fables to sound sense; yesterday instead of today, then it might so happen that the members of the Church of the Saviour would not go to hear him, and so he would preach himself out of the ministry so far as the Church was concerned.

‘Observer’ further asks: has he (Mr. St. Clair) not a brief quite as much as any Dissenter?’ No: because no one gave him one as far as i know.  Certainly the Church Committee are not invested with any privileges, and there is nothing in the constitution of the Church which says to any man who occupies the rostrum thou shalt and thou shalt not teach this or that. Teaching and preaching at the Church of the Saviour are left to the good taste and solid sense of those gentlemen who are invited to teach and preach from time to time, truth and the conscience of the individual being the sine qua non of the Church of the Saviour, the members of which cannot reasonably desire more, and assuredly expect nothing less.

Yours truly