Doddridge, Philip, Dd
Doddridge, Philip, D.D.
was born in London June 26, 1702. His parents were pious Dissenters, and took pains to educate their children religiously. Philip was introduced by his mother to a knowledge of the characters and scenes of the O. and N.T. history by means of some Dutch tiles that lined a corner of their sitting- room. In his childhood he was taught the rudiments of Greek and Latin, and from his tenth to his thirteenth year he attended the grammar-school at Kingston-on-Thames. In 1715 he entered a private school at St. Albans, kept by Mr. Nathanael Wood, and here he gained the friendship of Samuel Clarke, who aided him in many ways after the death of his father (1715). Doddridge repaid his benefactor by his devotion to study and to personal religion. In 1718 he received an offer from the duchess of Bedford, who lived in the neighborhood, and had heard of his character and circumstances, to send him to either of the two universities on condition of his becoming a clergyman in the Church of England. He declined the proposal. Mr. Clarke now undertook to bear the expense of his education, and Doddridge gladly embraced the offer by entering, in 1719, the academy of Kibworth, in Leicestershire, where he studied under Dr. Jennings. In 1722 he was licensed to preach, and was settled over the congregation at Kibworth as successor to Dr. Jennings. In 1729 he removed to Harborough, to be assistant to the venerable Mr. Some.
In the same year, Dr. Doddridge, in conjunction with Dr. Watts, Reverend Mr. Saunders, Reverend Mr. Some, and others, established an academy for preparing young men for the work of the ministry among Dissenters; and to that institution he was appointed tutor. No man was better qualified than Dr. Doddridge for that situation, and the institution soon acquired a wide celebrity. A pressing invitation from the Independent congregation in Northampton, enforced by the advice of Dr. Watts and other friends to accept it, led him to a new sphere of labor; and from December 24, 1729, he discharged in that town the double duty of pastor of a large congregation and tutor to the theological seminary. "Seldom has there been a more laborious or conscientious life than that of Doddridge. To serve his divine Master was the ruling principle of his heart; and to the advancement of the sacred cause he brought all the energies of an active mind, and all the stores of an almost boundless knowledge, daily to bear. Many students resorted to him from all parts of the kingdom, and amongst these not a few who afterwards rose to distinction, not among the Dissenters only, but in the established churches of England and Scotland, in America, and even in Holland. The University of Aberdeen conferred on him, in 1736, the degree of D.D. He was a voluminous author. His most important works are Sermons on Regeneration; Sermons to Young People; Life of Colonel Gardner; Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul; Family Expositor, or Paraphrase and Version of the N.T. Dr. Doddridge's frame, never robust at any time, was enfeebled by his incessant labors, and severe cold having settled on his lungs, and been followed by symptoms of consumption, he was advised to try the effects of a sea voyage. On the 30th of September, 1751, he sailed from Falmouth in a vessel bound for Lisbon, where he landed on the 13th of October, and, being completely exhausted, he died on the 26th, expressing to Mrs. Doddridge, who accompanied him, his firm faith and joyful hope in Christ" (Rich, Cyclopaedia of Biography, s.v.). The best edition of Doddridge's works is that of Leeds, 1802, 10 volumes, 8vo, the first volume containing his Life by Job Orton. His Lectures on Pneumatology, Ethics, and Divinity are stereotyped in one volume, imp.
8vo (Lond., Bohn). The Family Expositor has passed through many editions; a convenient one is that of Amherst (1844, royal 8vo), with memoir by Prof. N.W. Fiske.
As commentator and theologian Dr. Doddridge deserves the praise of industry and purity of aim, but in no field, except in that of practical religion, did he rise to the first rank. In the Commentary "Doddridge always writes in a good spirit. The love of Christ reigns in his heart, and pours itself out in all that he says. This is the charm of his 'Observations.' His 'Notes,' though often valuable, could not be expected to possess the highest philological merit. Dr. Doddridge had not the time, the training, nor the means to furnish a thorough critical commentary on the N.T. The paraphrase is diffuse, often needlessly so; circuitous in expression, when the straightforward, simplicity and terseness of the original would be far better. It is proof enough of the comparative and absolute worth of the Observations that they are more and more read, at family devotion and in private reading, to the exclusion of other parts, and in preference to other commentators. Good sense, warm piety, flowing ease of expression, and a happy exhibition and improvement of his text, mark the Observations, and recommend them to the Christian reader" (Comprehensive Commentary, Philadelphia Supplement). As a divine, "with all his manifold excellencies, Doddridge had neither a deep theological interest nor a strenuous theological mind. He did not always conceive of nice distinctions clearly; he did not value them highly when conceived. Hence he flees to authorities, recites catalogues, and balances opinions, and continually slides from the scientific to the historical. From one end of the lectures to the other we look in vain for a thorough, masterly, and exhaustive treatment of any one theological point. The method of the work scarcely allows such a result. Continual perusal; if, indeed, such a thing were endurable, would, we think, engender vacillation and skepticism. Such seems to have been the effect upon his students, who heard him announce every variety of opinion, without decided and weighty assertion on his own part. Great liberality and mildness are beautiful in their time; but this is not when the enemy is assaulting the citadel, which was true of Nonconformist-theology a hundred years ago. His sermons are remarkable for soundness in doctrine, for rigid method and cleal statement, and for earnest application to the heart and conscience of the hearer... His hymns are, in number, three hundred and seventy-four. A few of these are likely to be preserved, such, for example, as 'Let Zion's Watchmen all Awake;' 'God of my Life, through all its Days;' 'Ye Hearts with youthful Vigor warm;' 'See Israel's gentle Shepherd stand;' 'What if Death my Sleep invade?' and 'Remark, my Soul, the narrow Bound;' but, in general, they are measured prose" (Princeton Review, 1857, p. 257). See also Bogue and Bennett, History of Dissenters, volume 2; Orton, Life of Doddridge; Stoughton, Life of Doddridge (Boston, 1853, 12mo); Kippis, Biographia Britannica, volume 5; North British Review, 14:190.