This is the day that … Philip Doddridge was born in 1702, the 20th child of a London tradesman.
“So feeble the spark of life that he was first laid aside as dead” – until a servant girl noticed a movement … and the child lived. Except for sister Elizabeth, all the other children did die in infancy.
By the age of 13 he was orphaned, and a prosperous gentleman named Downes became his self-appointed guardian. He grew up in a godly environment, both at home and school. “Although he could never tell when he was first conscious that Christ was his Saviour, he knew that he loved Christ and was in fellowship with Him…” (Life of Dr P. Doddridge, by H.J. Garland, page 14). He “openly confessed his Lord and joined the Church” (of England) on New Year’s Day, 1718.
The Duchess of Bedford offered to send him to university and pay all fees for his theological training. But by this time Philip Doddridge had swung to the non-conformists (those who did not ‘conform’ to the state church or ‘conform’ to the rules of the Prayer Book).
Thus it was that he became pastor of the Chapel Hill Congregational Church in Northampton for 22 years, during which time he opened an Academy where 200 young men were trained for the ministry. It is said that he had a student read to him, even whilst he was washing and shaving…” (Gospel in Hymns, by A. Bailey, page 66).
He married Miss Mercy Maris on 22 December, 1730 … and he wrote The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, which is mentioned in the biographies of William Wilberforce, C.H. Spurgeon, Henry Martyn and Mary Slessor as having an influence upon their lives.
He wrote 364 hymns, many of which are still to be found, and used, to the present day. One of the best known is …
O happy day, that fixed my choice
on Thee, my Saviour and my God …
Others include :
Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve
And press with vigour on …
Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes
The Saviour promised long …
O God of Bethel, by Whose hand
Thy people still are fed …
His hymns were usually written to be sung after his sermon, “given out by the presentor and sung a line at a time” (Life and Hymns of Doddridge, by H. Garland, page 30).
Philip Doddridge died in Lisbon, Portugal, on 26 October, 1751. Among his final words, spoken to Lady Huntingdon, were: “My tears are tears of joy. I can give up my country, my loved ones and friends into the hand of God; and as to myself, I can as well go to Heaven from Lisbon as from my own study in Northampton. I am more afraid of doing wrong than of dying” (ibid, page 53).
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.