Doddridge, Philip


b London 1702, d Lisbon, Portugal 1751. The youngest and barely surviving 20th child of a dissenting London oil merchant, he was one of only two to grow beyond infancy. He was educated at home by his mother, then briefly at the Grammar School at Kingstonon- Thames, Surrey, and at St Albans; being orphaned at 13 he was cared for by a guardian, then by his relatives. The Duchess of Bedford offered to support him at Oxford or Cambridge, but (like his older contemporary Watts) he declined to adopt the Anglicanism which was then required for those universities. Discouraged by the renowned Dr Edmund Calamy but encouraged by his own pastor Samuel Clark, from 1719 he trained at Dr Jennings’ Academy at Kibworth, Leics. He ministered at Kibworth, Stretton and Market Harborough and in 1729 he began a 22-year pastorate in Northampton which he combined with the leadership of a remarkable academy/seminary there which in many ways outshone the Oxbridge of its day. Aberdeen Univ awarded him an hon DD in 1736. Among his many books including the popular Family Expositor and the dramatic Life of Colonel Gardiner (short title, 1747), the most influential proved to be The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (1745). A moderate Calvinist of evangelical and catholic spirit (Faith Cook calls him ‘large-hearted’), he maintained friendships, not without criticism, with Whitefield and the Wesleys as well as with Isaac Watts, and such local Anglicans who were willing to associate with him. As a patriot he helped raise a small militia to counter a possible advance from the north by the army of the RC ‘young pretender’; as a philanthropist he pleaded for mercy for felons condemned to death, supported inoculation against smallpox and made the plans which led to the building of the town’s general hospital; as an educator he opened a new school for boys and addressed the town’s philosophical society.

Doddridge wrote some 400 hymns, many of them at some speed to be in time for the following Sunday’s services, when they would sum up or illustrate the message of his sermons. Many are very fine and some leave room for gentle irony in the style of the prophets, even in a final stz: ‘Now let the powers of darkness roar,/ how vain their threats appear;/ when they can match Jehovah’s power,/ I will begin to fear’! Never very fit physically, he sailed to Portugal from Falmouth in Sept 1751 in a final attempt to regain his failing health, but died there soon after arriving and is buried at Lisbon. Just before leaving England he had said to Lady Huntingdon, ‘I can as well go to heaven from Lisbon, as from my own study at Northampton.’ His sermons and some letters were printed; the hymns were collected and scripturally arranged in various posthumous edns from 1755 onwards, not always compatible, by Job Orton in 1755 and by John Doddridge Humphreys in 1839. Among many studies of his life and work is a symposium edited by Geoffrey Nuttall in 1951, Malcolm Deacon’s 1980 biography, and Alan Clifford’s (qv) The Good Doctor (2002). He was the subject of the Evangelical Library’s annual lecture in 2002. James Montgomery wrote in 1825 that his hymns ‘shine in the beauty of holiness’; they are mild, human, ‘lovely and acceptable…for that fervent and unaffected love to God, his service, and his people, which distinguishes them.’ John Ellerton quoted the judgement that none were so good as Watts’s best and none as bad as his worst. Northampton’s Castle Hill ch, now URC, is known as the Doddridge Memorial Ch and contains many memorabilia. Doddridge is the third in order of contributors of Spurgeon’s Our Own Hymn Book (1866), with 45 entries, Wesley having 48 and Watts 246. The 1951 Congregational Praise included 14 of his hymns; Rejoice and Sing (1991) retained 8 of them; while GH has 13; CH had 23 in 1977 and 19 in 2004. Nos.345, 409, 654, 721, 864, 867, 873, 964.