I have been grieved by several letters directed to Doctor Newton
(Letters of John Newton)
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15
I have been grieved by several letters directed to Doctor Newton. I beg you to inform my friends in Scotland, that if any letters come to me addressed to Doctor Newton — I shall be obliged to send them back unopened. I know no such person — I never shall, and I never will, by the grace of God.
Do not think I am displeased with you, or any of any kind friends, who mean kindness and honor by such an address. I only beg for my peace sake, that it may not be repeated.
I have been informed that a college in America, I think in New Jersey, has given me the honorary degree of Doctor. As to the title itself, I renounce it heartily — nor would I willingly be known by it, if all the universities in Europe conferred it upon me!
My youthful years were spent in slavery in Africa, and I ought to take my degrees (if I take any) from thence. Shall such a compound of misery and mischief as I then was — be called Doctor? Surely not!
I very much object to the designation, "To the Reverend C.H. Spurgeon" — for no 'reverence' is due to me!
Assuredly, 'Reverend' and 'sinner' make a curious combination.
And as I know I am the second — I repudiate the first.
To me, it is surprising that such a flattering title should have been invented — and more amazing still, that men should be found who are angry if this title is not duly given to them.
In ourselves we are poor, sinful erring creatures — and daily do we have occasion to blush and hang our heads in shame. Therefore we respectfully request that none will address us as 'Reverend'. No worm of the dust is due such a title.
"It is the Lord your God you must follow — and Him you must REVERE." Deuteronomy 13:4
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For further reading: "Church Leaders and the Use of Honorific Titles" (3 pages).