This article was found in the September 1951 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by R. A. Newman
Many Congregational Churches throughout the Country, will be celebrating, in some form or other, the two hundredth Anniversary of the death of the Rev. Dr. Phillip Doddridge, on or about October 26th . It may be by special sermons, lectures, or the singing of his hymns. He was not only a great and noted 18th century Congregational preacher, but a poet in the realm of Hymnody, of no mean order. He was the author of no less that 375 Hymns, but only eleven appear in our Hymnary to-day, although in previous editions (e.g. dated 1859) forty-six were included.
He ranked with Watts, the Wesleys, Montgomery, Cowper and Newton as an Hymnologist. His hymns that we are all familiar with are: -
Dr. Charles Stanford tells us that the Doddridges are supposed to be descendants of one named "Dodo", who lived in the time of King Edward the Confessor, and is recorded in "Domesday Book" as owning certain manors in Devonshire. In a land of dells and declivities it was natural that Dodo should build his house on a ridge and become known as "Dodoridge". By the time of Queen Elizabeth [the first] the family name seems to have become "Doddridge".
Geoffrey Nuttall records Phillip as born in London on 26th June, 1702, three months after Queen Anne came to the throne, and was the twentieth child of his parents, only two of which survived childhood.
His father was an oilman, but his two grandfathers were ministers, with the courage of their convictions, by throwing their lot with the Nonconformists as a result of the Act of Uniformity in 1662.
Phillip was orphaned at the age of 13, and his guardian placed him in a school at St. Albans, the principal being a Nonconformist Minister. At 16 he became a Church member, and vert early definitely decided for the Ministry. His uncle was steward to the Bedford estates, and the Duchess became interested in the boy, offering him a university education, attaching the conditions that he conformed to the C. of E. It was a very tempting offer, especially as the Universities were not open to dissenters. It was not until 1871 that it was possible for Nonconformists to receive degrees at Oxford or Cambridge. If such were desired the pupil had to go to Scotland or Holland.
Doddridge declined the offer, remaining true to his dissenting interests, which later he said "I take to be the interests of Jesus Christ". He was, however, helped in his training for the Ministry by friends, gaining him (1719) admittance to the Academy of the Rev. John Jennings at Kibworth, Leicestershire, who was the Independent Minister at Kibworth. At the decease of Jennings, Phillip was senior student, and was called to the pastorate at the age of 21, salary £35 per annum. He said provisions were cheap and that he might manage on £10. The morning congregation numbered 40 and the evening never exceeded 150, each one slowly stumbled in, sleeking down his hair, tempting the young minister to write:
"My congregation is the most impolite I ever knew, consisting of shepherds, farmers, graziers, and their subalterns."
He soon became in great demand as a preacher over a very wide area, and received calls from Coventry, Nottingham, Pershore, Bradfield, Brockfield and Lincoln's Inn Fields, all of which would have been at an enhanced income, but he widely spent his time consolidating his position by wide and critical reading, and as to marriage he was of opinion that it was not to be thought of in a hurry.
In 1729 a call came from Castle Hill Church, Northampton, where he settled in December of that year, stating he never expected to be called to a ministry in a country so delicate and polite. The flourishing state of the Dissenting interest in the County was called: "The glory of our cause in England". Here he ministered for the rest of his life, i.e. 21 years, being barely 50 when he died.
In addition to his Ministerial duties he started an Academy for students at Kibworth and continued at Northampton where his salary was but £70 per annum.
Professor Victor Murray says his students varied in number, e.g. in 1730 they numbered 40, in 1743 the total was 63, but in 1747 only 29. On entrance the student paid a guinea for his room, a guinea for the library, a guinea for wear and tear of scientific apparatus. Tuition was £4 a year, and board £16. The course was 5 years for theological students, and 3 years for laymen.
Doddridge was supposed to make a profile of £4 per annum on each student, but seldom realised for he kept a very liberal table. He married in 1730 and the housekeeping books of his first year of married life were preserved, which gives the following interesting reading:
One quarter's rent, £2. 10s. 0d
Two bedsteads 14/-, easy chair 6/-
Servants' wages, £6. 10s. 6d.
Mrs. Doddridge pin money for the year, 6s. 1d.
Price of mutton, 2 1/2d. per ib.
Later, 3 months' schooling for child, 3s. 6d.
Of their 9 children, 5 died in infancy.
His wife Mercy is referred to as "the dearest of all dears".
Doddridge was the friend and disciple of Isaac Watts, also the friend and collaborator on religious matters of John and Charles Wesley, that great evangelist George Whitefield, the Countess of Huntingdon, and other religious leaders of his day, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and several Bishops.
In 1736 the Aberdeen University presented him with the diploma of D. D. in recognition of his great services as a teacher.
Doddridge in addition to his work as pastor, principle of Academy, was the author, already stated of 375 published hymns, 53 books, and 37 pamphlets. His standard work referred to by many writers was the volume on the "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul" said to have been translated into many languages.
At 49 years of age he was worn out, and with his wife took a sea trip to Lisbon for health, but soon after arrival he passed to his eternal rest, October 26th 1751, and was buried in the English Cemetery.
George Whitefield on hearing of his decease, said: "Doddridge is gone, Lord Jesus prepare me to follow after".
One of his own hymns I suggest sums up the life of a great, courageous, Soldier of the Cross
My gracious Lord, I own Thy right
To every service I can pay,
And call it my supreme delight
To hear Thy dictates and obey.
His wife lived on to the age of 82, departing this life in 1790.