The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To George Whipple
Secretary of the American Missionary Association
12 October 1869
[MS in American Missionary Association Papers # 11522, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University]
Oberlin 12th Oct. 1869.
Your circular came to hand
last evening. I have no salary
& have had none since the
first of March last. But you
must have help. God will
help me, if I help the poor.
Enclosed please find a check
for $20. I have been ill
since commencement. Just now
I am laid up with a severe
cold. I hope Br. Strieby apologized
to you for the implied insult
offered you in the Board of Trust
at their last meeting. I was
shocked to discover that a
motion was made & intertained
in that body to confer on you
a D.D. Now what does such
a motion imply? Why that
you would consent to be called
Rabbi. Say what they will, this
D.D. is the equivalent of Rabbi.
It is not an official designation
like, E[l]der, Bishop, Rev. These
are used to distinguish a
clergyman from a layman & are
D.D. Is an unscriptural dist
inction between clergymen.
It is sickening to contemplate
the arguments by which
D.Ds attempt to defend this
plain violation of the Spirit
of Christ's commands.
If honorary degrees are confered
at all, for mercys sake let them
be secular exclusively.
But D.D. is plainly a church
or ecclesiastical honorary degree.
It is not secular like A.M. &
L.L.D. These are silly enough, but
do not, unless confered upon
ministers of the gospel, imply
a silly vanity in the church of God.
The very general itching for the
degree of D.D. & the audacity
of colleges in confering it,
are unmistakable symptoms
of decay in the earnest piety
of the ministry. I have good
reason to know that the manner
in which the teaching of Christ
upon this subject is evaded
by many minsters, is much
abating the confidence of the
praying people in them.
For many years strangers have
called me Doctor. In meekness,
at least, with as much meekness
as I have, I repel the implied
charge of disregarding the
command of chri[s]t through
a silly vanity & a disposition
to be placed above mine equals.
But I did not think of touching
this question when I took my
pen. But the implied insult
offered you occured to me, & lest
Br. Strieby has failed to inform
you that the motion was refuted,
or rather withdrawn, I thought I
would mention it. Just think,
Br. Mahan signs himself D.D.
& puts this in his book. Br. Henry
Cowles has done the same, as he
says, to increase confidence in his
book. A singular reason. As if
so plain a violation of the teaching
of christ could secure confidence
in an interpreter of the bible.
O how important it is that every
one, & especially religious teachers,
should live in such simplicity
before God as not to obscure
the Holy Spirits light in the
soul. Love to your Dear family
& to Br. Strieby. Mrs. F. joins in
this. God bless you.
C. G. Finney.
[along left-hand margin of page 1, and the right-hand margin of page 2]
P.S. I should like to hear some D.D. tell us what christ did mean
by the command refered to.
The words Made slip are written by Finney in the left margin sideways along the page against this section.
At the Board of Trustees meeting on 31 July 1869, the following minute is noted:
The Board met in joint session with the Faculty - Present Prest J. H. Fairchild Rev Messrs Wm. B. Brown - M. E. Strieby - S. Wolcott - H. Cowles, with Messrs B. Pelton - J. W. Merrill and U. Thompson - The special subjects for consideration were the confering of honorary degrees, and the Appointment of two additional Professors in the Theological Department -- After discussion of the subject of honorary degrees, the motion to confer was withdrawn and the subject dismissed.
The meeting also agreed "in conformity with the recomendation of the Faculty" to confer the degrees of A.B. and A.M. on a number of students. (Board of Trustees Minutes, 31 July 1869, pages 318-319)