To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken.—Jer. 6.10

[An Honor Declined.]


Excerpted from:




MARCH, 1882.

No. 5.

IT having been stated in the last Advocate that Monmouth College had conferred on me the title of Doctor of Divinity, it is proper for me to state my views on that matter. The officers of that institution have my profound gratitude for the distinguished honor they have shown me. Such an honor, coming from any good institution, would be highly appreciated, and would call forth expressions of sincere gratitude; but coming from an institution of such standing as Monmouth College, and my own Alma Mater, greatly enhances its value in my estimation.

But, feeling my own weakness and unworthiness, for me to receive a title that would indicate that I was more learned, or more talented, or occupied a higher position than other brethren who have not the title, it seems to me {153} would be contrary to that spirit of humility the Master and his gospel require.

The Saviour says, "But be not ye called Rabbi." Be not ye called Doctor. The Saviour gives a very strong reason why persons should not be called Rabbi: "For one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." With my understanding of the teachings of Christ, it would not be proper for me to be called of men, Doctor, Doctor.

Far be it from me to make any reflection on other beloved brethren who understand Christ's teachings differently, and wear the title. But feeling as I do, I respectfully ask my friends and correspondents in addressing me to leave off the title.


[We notice with some satisfaction that in recent years church courts, in making up the roll of their members, omit the titles by which some have been distinguished from others. These titles are most commonly D.D., or LL.D., or both these appended to one name, thus—D.D., LL.D.; and sometimes a ruling elder has been distinguished as M.D., or by some other appendage. Any person who is familiar with the proceedings of such judicatories, but especially if he has ever been in the position of secretary or clerk in those bodies, we are sure will rejoice in the relief from useless labor, which is frequently so onerous as to ruffle the temper even of a stenographer. Think of two or three, or it may be half a dozen or more, of these titled individuals as members of a committee, and the record of their transactions comprised in a report. The texture of the report may show that they were unanimous; but the report even then may require the names of the members to be written, that others interested may know how to attach proper responsibility. In the event of diversity of views—a majority and minority—possibly a third party, the members must then be designated by name; and the scribe will need sympathy in the labor of committing to writing—it may be repeatedly, a string of D.D.'s, LL.D.'s etc.

Although "Titles of Nobility" are constitutionally {154} prohibited in the United States, as being incompatible with republican equality, yet foreigners often discover a very general ambition among American citizens to be saluted by some honorary title—especially military. But this is by no means the only national inconsistency. Outside of the seminaries of learning, colleges, etc., we now meet with Professors in penmanship, painting, music, sculpture, mechanics, etc.; so that the classic sarcasm, sutor ad crepidem, has lost its former significance.

Perhaps none of modern titles of distinction has been more abused than that of D.D., especially when one knows the debasing and ignoble means by which it is too often sought, and the mercenary objects or ends for which it is both sought and obtained. Indeed, the title has become so common that it no longer symbolizes superiority in literature in general, or in theology in particular. We understand that, as attached to a gospel minister's name, it is expressly prohibited by Christ; and it is also inconsistent with Presbyterianism—ministerial parity. "Be not ye called Rabbi." (Didaskalos, Doctor, in Greek and Latin being the exact equivalents of the Hebrew Rabbi); "for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." Matt. 23.8.

Let no one suppose that we reject all titles of honor. We are in favor of official titles. They are essential to organized society. We go farther: we favor titles of nobility, because they are sanctioned in the Bible, an authority paramount to all human laws and constitutions. From the Author of human society we have the imperative injunctions,—"Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." 1 Pet. 2.17.

How few in this corrupt age, dreading the Divine Majesty, are thereby deterred from "giving flattering titles!" How few, "when the vilest men are exalted," refuse to "bow and do them reverence!" How many in our day imitate the example of Elihu or of Mordecai?—ED.. [D. Steele.]]