Philip Doddridge was a non-conformist minister and hymn-writer born in London in 1702, the youngest of twenty children. His maternal grandfather was the Rev. John Bauman, a Lutheran clergyman who had fled from Prague to escape from religious persecution.
Doddridge’s mother began to teach him about the Old and New Testament using the illustrated stories on their Dutch chimney tiles. Once he had learnt to read, he began studying the stories by himself in the Bible. Sadly, his mother died when he was eight and a year later he began attending the grammar school at Kingston-upon-Thames where Rev. Bauman had once been the headmaster. When his father died three years later, Doddridge was moved to a private school in St Albans where he was influenced by the teachings of Presbyterian minister Samuel Clark. Doddridge’s guardian stole his inheritance and abandoned him at the school. From then on, Clark took care of his as though he was his son. Many years later at Clark’s funeral, Doddridge said, "To him, under God, I owe even myself and all my opportunities of public usefulness in the church."
After finishing school, instead of pursuing an Anglican ministry or law career as most of his peers did, Doddridge enrolled at the Dissenting Academy at Kibworth in Leicestershire. In 1727, he became the pastor at an independent congregation in Northhampton, although continued academic work into the 1740s. In 1730, he married Mercy Maris with whom he had nine children, four of whom survived to adulthood.
Due to his academic connections, Doddridge influenced many religious thinkers and writers including Isaac Watts and John Wesley. He also established a youth scheme to encourage boys from poor families to study at a dissenting academy. On top of this, Doddridge wrote over 300 hymns, some which are still sung today.
Doddridge suffered from poor health for most of his life and, in 1751, it took a turn for the worse. That year, he travelled to Lisbon but never returned, passing away from tuberculosis on 26th October 1751. Although he was buried in Lisbon, he is remembered in Northampton at Doddridge United Reformed Church, where he preached when it was a congregational church.
Hymns by Doddridge that are in our hymn books include Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve; Father of Peace, and God of Love; Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand; Hark, the Glad Sound! The Saviour Comes; My Gracious Lord, I Own Thy Right; O Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice; and Ye Humble Souls That Seek the Lord.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon