Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Hymns #47 (vs. 1 and 5), 159, 194, 197, 236, 253, 292, 306, 308, 338, 341, Appendix 34 (12 hymns).
Philip Doddridge was born June 26, 1702, son of an oil merchant in London, England. He was the youngest of twenty children in the family! One biographer states that “at his birth he showed so little sign of life that he was laid aside as dead. But one of the attendants, thinking she perceived some motion, or breath, took that necessary care of him on which, in those tender circumstances, the feeble frame of life depended, which was so near expiring as soon as it was kindled.”
His mother was the daughter of an exiled Bohemian clergyman, John Bauman. She was a devoted Christian and with her father left Prague, Bohemia, because of persecution. They gave up a large estate and journeyed as peasants, carrying a Bible of Luther’s translation.
Young Philip was taught the history of both Testaments by his mother before he could read. In early life he showed great piety. He became an orphan while still young. He once said: “I know the heart of an orphan, having been deprived of both of my parents at an age in which it might reasonably be supposed I should be most sensible of the loss.”
While desiring to study for the ministry he had an offer to study law, and after prayer he suddenly and unexpectedly received an offer of help in ministerial studies from Samuel Clark, a Presbyterian minister. At twenty when first he preached, two souls were saved, his text being, “If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha.”
In 1730 he started an academy at Northampton to train young men for the ministry. Here he spent the rest of his life. He is described as a man “above middle stature, extremely thin and slender. His sprightliness and vivacity of countenance and manner commanded general attention in the pulpit and private circles.”
After a season of sickness he once wrote: “It is impossible to express the support and comfort which God gave me on my sick-bed. His promises were my continual feast. They seemed, as it were, to be all united in one stream of glory, and poured into my breast. When I thought of dying, it sometimes made my very heart to leap within me.” His health, never very good, broke down as a consumption took hold on him. He was advised by friends in September 1751 to go to the warmer climate of Lisbon, Portugal, to recover. Lady Huntington as she entered his study saw tears in his eyes. “What! weeping again, my dear doctor?” she asked. “I am weeping, madam,” he faintly replied, “but they are tears of joy and comfort. I can give up my country, my friends, my relatives, into the hands of God; and as to myself, I can as well go to heaven from Lisbon as from my own study at Northampton.” His resignation is further expressed in one of his hymns:
“Where Jesus dwells my soul would be;
It faints my much-loved Lord to see.
Earth! twine no more about my heart,
For ‘tis far better to depart.”
He is perhaps best known for that joyful hymn:
“O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice
And tell its raptures all abroad.”
But two weeks after arriving at Lisbon he went home to sunnier, brighter scenes above. The “peace of God which passeth all understanding” smoothed his dying pillow and spread such a halo of glory around his death couch that his wife could write to the children, “Oh, my dear children, help me to praise Him. Such supports, such consolations, such comforts has He granted, that my mind... is ready to burst into songs of praise under its most exquisite distress.” So, on October 6, 1751, he went home to that eternal “Happy Day.”
“ ‘Twas past and o’er, that deathful pain,
When forth the life—blood flowed
That washed our souls from ev’ry stain,
That paid the debt we owed.”
(Original words were, “O precious Savior, deep Thy pain.”
The rest of the hymn was left unchanged by Mr. J. N. Darby.)