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

[page 2]

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

purely official.

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.

[page 3]

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

[page 4]

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or rather withdrawn, I thought I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)