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Philip Doddridge was one of England’s gifted evangelical preachers. Like the Wesley brothers, he came from a large family. While there were nineteen children in the Wesley family, Philip Doddridge was the last of twenty children.

The religious background of the Doddridge family was significant. Although his father was an oil merchant in London, his grandfather had been one of the Independent ministers under the Commonwealth who were ejected in 1662. Both of his parents were pious people, and Philip, who was born June 26, 1702, was brought up in a religious atmosphere.

He was such a delicate child that his life was despaired of almost from birth. His parents died while he was yet quite young, but kind friends cared for the orphan boy and sent him to school.

Because he revealed such unusual gifts as a student, the Duchess of Bedford offered to give him a university training on condition that he would become a minister of the Church of England. This, however, Philip declined to do, and he entered a nonconformist seminary instead.

At the age of twenty-one years he was ordained as pastor of the Independent congregation at Kibworth, England. Six years later he began his real life work at Northampton, where he served as the head of a theological training school and preached in the local congregation.


To this school came young men from all parts of the British Isles and even from the continent. Most of them prepared to become ministers in the Independent Church. Doddridge himself was practically the whole faculty. Among his subjects were Hebrew, Greek, Algebra, Philosophy, Trigonometry, Logic, and theological branches.

As a hymn-writer Doddridge ranks among the foremost in England. He was a friend and admirer of Isaac Watts, whose hymns at this time had set all England singing. In some respects his lyrics resemble those of Watts. Although they do not possess the strength and majesty found in the latter’s hymns, they have more personal warmth and tenderness. Witness, for instance, the children’s hymn:

See Israel’s gentle Shepherd stand

With all-engaging charms;

Hark! how He calls the tender lambs,

And folds them in His arms.

Note also the spiritual joy that is reflected in the hymn so often used at confirmation:

O happy day, that stays my choice

On Thee, my Saviour and my God!

Well may this glowing heart rejoice,

And tell its raptures all abroad.

Something of Doddridge’s own confiding trust in God is expressed in the beautiful lines:

Shine on our souls, eternal God!

With rays of beauty shine;

O let Thy favor crown our days,

And all their round be Thine.


Did we not raise our hands to Thee,

Our hands might toil in vain;

Small joy success itself could give,

If Thou Thy love restrain.

Other noted hymns by Doddridge include such gems as “Hark, the glad sound, the Saviour comes,” “Great God, we sing that mighty hand,” “O Fount of good, to own Thy love,” and “Father of all, Thy care we bless.”

Doddridge wrote about four hundred hymns. Most of them were composed for use in his own congregation in connection with his sermons. None of them was published during his life-time, but manuscript copies were widely circulated among the Independent congregations in England. The fact that about one-third of his hymns are still in common use on both sides of the Atlantic bears witness of their unusual merit.

Though Doddridge struggled under the burden of feeble health, his life was filled with arduous duties. When he was only forty-eight years old it became apparent that he had fallen a victim to tubercular infection. He was advised to leave England for Lisbon, Portugal. Lacking funds for the voyage, friends in all parts of England came to his aid. The journey was undertaken, but on October 26, 1751, he died at Lisbon.

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