Philip Doddridge was born in London the last of the twenty children of Daniel Doddridge. His father was a son of John Doddridge (1621–1689), rector of Shepperton, Middlesex, who was ejected from his living following the Act of Uniformity of 1662 and became a nonconformist minister, and a great-nephew of the judge and MP Sir John Doddridge. Philip’s mother, Elizabeth, considered to have been the greater influence on him, was the orphan daughter of the Rev John Bauman (d 1675), a Lutheran clergyman who had fled from Prague to escape religious persecution, during the unsettled period following the flight of the Elector Palatine. In England, Rev John Bauman (sometimes written Bowerman) was appointed master of the grammar school at Kingston upon Thames.
Before Philip could read, his mother began to teach him the history of the Old and New Testament from blue Dutch chimney-tiles on the chimney place of their sitting room. In his youth, Philip Doddridge was educated first by a tutor employed by his parent then boarded at a private school in London. In 1712, he then attended the grammar school at Kingston-upon-Thames, where his maternal grandfather had been master. The school’s master when Doddridge attended, was Rev Daniel Mayo, the son of John Bauman’s friend Richard Mayo, ejected vicar of Kingston-upon-Thames.
His mother died when he was only 8 years old on 12 April 1711. Four years later his father died on 17 July 1715. He then had a guardian named Downes who moved him to another private school at St Albans where he was much influenced by the Presbyterian minister Samuel Clark of St Albans. Downes squandered Doddridge’s inheritance, leaving the orphaned thirteen-year-old Philip Doddridge destitute in St Albans. Here, Clark took him on, treating him as a son, guiding his education and encouraging his call to the ministry. Having remained lifelong friends, Doddridge preached at the funeral of his older friend remarking: “To him under God I owe even myself and all my opportunities of public usefulness in the church.
On 22 December 1730 he married Mercy Maris, daughter of Richard Maris, a baker and maltster of Worcester, and his second wife, Elizabeth Brindley. The marriage was at Upton upon Severn where Mercy’s family lived. They had nine children. The first, Elizabeth or Tetsey, died just before her fifth birthday and was buried under the altar of the Doddridge Chapel, Northampton. Four children survived to adulthood.
With independent religious leanings, Philip Doddridge declined offers which would have led him into the Anglican ministry or a career in law; and in 1719, with Clark’s support, chose instead to enter the Dissenting academy at Kibworth in Leicestershire. Here he was taught by John Jennings, whom Doddridge briefly succeeded in 1723. Later that year, at a general meeting of Nonconformist ministers, Philip Doddridge was chosen to conduct the academy being newly established a few miles away at Market Harborough.
It moved many times, and was known as Northampton Academy, Doddridge died in 1751 and the academy continued. and is probably best known as Daventry Academy.
Also in 1723 he received an invitation to be pastor to an independent congregation at Northampton, which he also accepted. Here his popularity as a preacher is said to have been chiefly due to his “high susceptibility, joined with physical advantages and perfect sincerity.” His sermons were mostly practical in character, and his aim was to cultivate in his hearers a spiritual and devotional frame of mind.
Throughout the 1730s and 1740s Philip Doddridge continued his academic and pastoral work, and developed close relations with numerous early religious revivalists and independents, through extensive visits and correspondence. Through this approach he helped establish and maintain a circle of influential independent religious thinkers and writers, including Dr Isaac Watts. He also became a prolific author and hymnwriter. In 1736 both the universities at Aberdeen gave him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. However, these multifarious labours led to so many engagements and bulky correspondence that it interfered seriously both with his preaching and academic duties (he had some 200 students to whom he lectured on philosophy and theology, in the mathematical or Spinozistic style).
His The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul was translated into seven languages. Charles Spurgeon referred to The Rise and Progress as “that holy book”. Besides a New Testament commentary and other theological works, Doddridge also wrote over 400 hymns. Most of the hymns were written as summaries of his sermons and were to help the congregation express their response to the truths they were being taught.
- Born: 26 June 1702, London
- Died: 26 October 1751, Lisbon, Portugal
- Family: Married Mercy Maris and had nine children.
- Notable Works: The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul & The Family Expositor (6 vols., 1739–1756).