No man ought to be complained of because some college pronounces him worthy of an honorary title; and the conferring of the degree of Doctor of Divinity on J. M. Pendleton is no strange thing, for he has been long regarded both as a scholar and a theologian. If any man has merited college honors doubtless he has; but no nobody thought he needed them. It would sooner have occurred to us that the college faculty needed his commendation; for "without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better," And as he declares that "no formal offset of the title was made to him," no one can wonder why he did not decline it.
But for him to defend the title, or to write that which savors of a defense, we think will be a matter of surprise to thousands of Baptists. His brethren will remember that he is the author of the "Old Landmark Reset," and they will probably be troubled, and fail, when they try to find the degree of Doctor of Divinity among the landmarks of the church in the days of the apostles, and the succeeding ages of persecution. Perhaps they will agree with him, "it is difficult to be consistent. He is fortunate who does not in his practice condemn his theory."
"I wonder," says Bro. Pendleton, "that those who are so hostile to the title D. D., do not object to the title Mr." May not an humble preacher of Jesus allow the title Mr., and yet doubt the propriety of wearing a title that distinguishes him from and above his Brethren? And Webster says "Honorary degrees are those of Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Laws, etc." The degree of Doctor of Divinity is peculiar to the ministry, and is conferred upon only those who are most distinguished for learning. But is as common as man, and in its common acceptation it certainly means nothing more, and is not expressive of any honorary distinction whatever. Webster gives "Mr. - an abbreviation of Mister the common title prefixed to the names of men of ALL classes.'' We know that this is the sense in which we use the title every day; and it does not appear a great wonder, even if persons should object to an honorary title that distinguishes a few brethren from all the ministry, and yet find no objection to one common to men of all classes. There certainly can be no honor expressed by a title common to the learned, ignorant, civil, rude, white, black, red, thieves, murderers and adulterers - men of all classes. Mr. means that the person indicated is not a woman; and when D. D. comes to mean nothing more, we predict that all hostility to the title will cease, colleges will no longer confer it, and those who are esteemed great among us will never again write it after their names.
It is unfitting that we juniors should become the censors of the writings of our elder brethren, and for one we declare against any such purpose. But when the doctors differ, whom shall we follow? Bro. Pendleton says, "I suppose every preacher is, in fact, a Doctor of Divinity." Webster says, "The title Doctor is given to certain fathers of the church, whose opinions are received as authorities." Bro, P. says "Mr. means Master." Webster says it is the "common title prefixed to the names of men of all classes." "Judge ye."
[From The Baptist newspaper, August 8, 1868. CD edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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