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PHILIP DODDRIDGE (JUNE 26, 1702-OCTOBER 26, 1751)
English Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
Philip Doddridge, along with people, such as Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, occupies space in the pantheon of English-language hymn writers. He wrote over 400 hymns as follow-ups to sermons. Unfortunately, as the contents of hymnals change with each generation, the number of great hymns decreases (with some exceptions) as the proportion of substandard praise music (“seven-eleven songs” and other texts with few words) increases (with some exceptions). One lineage of hymn books documents this pattern. The Methodist Hymnal (1905) contains twenty-two Doddridge hymns. The Methodist Hymnal (1935) has eight. The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966) contains seven. And The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) has a not-so-grand total of one.
Doddridge was born in London, England, in 1702. His father was a wealthy oil merchant. His mother was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor who had fled persecution in Bohemia. Family life was devout yet brief, for our saint became an orphan at a young age. Doddridge, educated at Kingston Grammar School then at the Nonconformist (Congregationalist) school at Kibworth, declined an opportunity to study for Anglican Holy Orders. He became a Congregationalist minister in 1723 instead.
Doddridge, minister at Kibworth for for a few years, moved to the Castle Hill Meeting (now a congregation of the United Reformed Church) at Northampton in 1729. There he ministered to a flock of poor people and founded a seminary, where he taught most of the subjects and trained hundreds of clergymen. This work ended in 1750, when our saint contracted tuberculosis. He, seeking to restore his health, traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, yet died there the following year.
The publication of Doddridge’s hymns occurred posthumously. And his collected theological works–many of them influential across decades and centuries–filled ten volumes: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X. I have added some of Doddridge’s texts to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog. There are too many others to include all of them in this post, but here are two:
How gentle God’s commands!
How king his precepts are!
Come, cast your burdens on the Lord,
And trust his constant care.
Beneath his watchful eye
His saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guard his children well.
Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your heavenly Father’s throne,
And sweet refreshment find.
His goodness stands approved,
Unchanged from day to day:
I’ll drop my burden at his feet,
And bear a song away.
Ye servants of the Lord,
Each in his office wait,
Observant of his heavenly word,
And watchful at his gate.
Let all your lamps be bright,
And turn the golden flame;
Gird up your loins, as in his sight,
For awful is his name.
Watch, ’tis your Lord’s command:
And while we speak he’s near;
Mark the first signal of his hand,
And ready to appear.
O happy servant he
In such a posture found!
He shall his Lord with rapture see,
And be with honor crowned.
Doddridge’s legacy is a wonderful one.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR
Dear God of beauty,
you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to
Philip Doddridge and others, who have composed hymn texts.
May we, as you guide us,
find worthy hymn texts to be icons,
through which we see you.
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK
THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH