Philip Doddridge Part II – His Adult Life

By Marcelo Tolopilo

For the first part of this article please see “Philip Doddridge Part I – Birth To Boyhood” in our article archive.

An Eventful Year

The year 1730 proved to be an eventful time for young Philip Doddridge. Recently graduated from college he was called to pastor Castle Hill Church and appointed as the Director of the Training Academy at Northampton. The college itself was for all intents and purposes a liberal arts training center where science, mathematics, and literature were taught to prepare it’s students for all manner of professions. The special emphasis of the institution however was to equip young men for Gospel ministry. Philip Doddridge accepted the call to Castle Hill Church and the Academy while only 27 years of age. He labored faithfully in both ministries for a period of twenty years and prepared hundreds of young men to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Love of A Lifetime

In this same year (1730) the young pastor married the love of his life, Mercy Maris. Their twenty years of married life can be described as delightfully blissful. These two people simply adored one another and enjoyed each other immensely as they sojourned through this life serving Jesus. When separated by his travels, Mercy and Philip would write each other two to three times per week. It is also quite apparent that their home was graced by a generous dose of humor. Laughter was not a stranger to the Doddridge household.

Please understand, it’s not that their lives were trouble free, indeed ministry often presented its difficult challenges. There were many heartbreaks along life’s way as when they lost their beloved first born Tetsy to childhood disease – they had a total of four children. Yet in the ebb and flow of life their love and commitment to one another was evident to all and remains a refreshing example to succeeding generations including ours.

Influences On Preaching

Dr. Doddridge’s preaching was driven by his deep, thoroughly biblical theology. He determined at an early age that though he read broadly and copiously, he would study the scriptures preeminently. The Bible was the focus of his mind and the song of his heart. It should be noted that his preaching was also shaped by fervent prayer. He was known to spend four to five hours praying at one time, and it is said that when he prayed in public he had an amazing ability of echoing the heart felt cries of his fellow worshipers as he shepherded them to the throne room of God. His prayer-filled and studied preaching significantly impacted the lives of his parishioners and students for twenty years.

Doddridge’s Extended Ministry

Philip Doddridge also labored tirelessly in his writing ministry producing some four hundred hymns many of which still nurture the church today. He also penned his popular commentary “The Family Expositor” and the widely read “The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.” God used this last work to convert John Wilberforce, John Newton, J.C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon and other great saints who have left a lasting impact on the church and Western Culture.

It is also known that “the eminently good Dr. Doddridge” as he was known had an impact on many through his printed sermons not the least of which might be William Carey – considered the father of modern missions. In 1741 Doddridge preached a passionate sermon setting out the need to take the Gospel to all the world – strange as it may sound, that was considered radical thinking for that day. Twenty years later William Carey was born a mere ten miles from Castle Hill Church. His beliefs and actions have caused some to speculate that W. Carey was impacted by Dr. Doddridge’s sermon. We don’t know for sure, but we do know that one of the few treasures William Carey took with him to India was the “The Family Expositor.” He was evidently familiar with Dr. Doddridge’s work.

Whether through preaching, teaching, or writing, Philip Doddridge proclaimed his biblical convictions empowered by the Spirit of God. Many of those who came into contact with his proclamations were transformed by that same Spirit into vessels of His bidding.

Crossing Over The Jordan

Dr. Doddridge never enjoyed a full and vigorous health. He was tall, slim – so much so that he was described as “a bag of bones” – and he labored without pause for His Lord. By the time he was just forty eight years old Philip Doddridge was physically worn out. In 1751 he sensed his departure from this world was near and he began to prepare his church and college for his departure. As word spread of his weakening condition friends from every corner of England, and from many denominations came to this dying saints aide. Desiring his recuperation they raised nine hundred pounds and sent their beloved friend and brother to Lisbon. It was their hope that the dry warm weather might revive his beleaguered frame.

However, on his sea voyage to Lisbon, Philip Doddridge understood that he was not merely crossing an ocean, but a river whose opposite shore was heaven. On this last voyage of his earthly life Doddridge began to anticipate the glories of heaven and confessed, “Such transporting views of the heavenly world is my Father now indulging me with, no words can express.” He arrived in Lisbon, Portugal only to find the weather as wet, windy and dreary as England’s had been. Nevertheless Pastor Doddridge was himself full of joy because he eagerly anticipated his true destination, the presence of Christ! Convinced of this he told his beloved wife Mercy “So sure am I that God will be with you and comfort you, that I think my death will be a greater blessing to you, than ever my life had been.” And so passed from this world one of the Lord’s beloved servants. The final chapter of this servant’s influence has yet to be written.

View All Articles