Northamptonshire Nonconformist Minister
and Missions Enthusiast
Philip Doddridge was a leading nonconformist minister in Northamptonshire during the first half of the eighteenth century. Committed to freedom and dissent, Doddridge refused a university education within the Established Church of England. In 1723, he became a nonconformist minister in Kibworth, Leicestershire, and initiated a dissenting academy in the nearby area of Market Harborough, where he had moved to accept a new pastorate in 1725. Soon thereafter, he moved to Northampton, and was ordained there. When he moved to Northampton, he relocated his academy there too.
In addition to over 300 hymns, Doddridge wrote many works of importance, including the following:
Free Thoughts on the Most Probable Means of Reviving the Dissenting Interest (1730)
The Family Expositor, or a Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament (6 vols., 1760-62)
In relation to William Carey, Doddridge was an important figure, though Doddridge died of tuberculosis ten years before Carey's birth. In common, Doddridge and Carey were dissenters, and both performed Christian ministry in both Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. On October 5, 1783, Carey was baptized within sight of Doddridge's meeting house in Northampton. Most significant, however, was their agreement on Christian worldwide missions. In 1741, Doddridge proposed a missions undertaking to a group of non-conformist ministers. Hints of his missionary ideas are evident in his work The Family Expositor, or a Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament and in his Preface to David Brainerd's 1748 Journal Among the Indians.
In An Abridgement of Mr. David Brainerd's Journal Among the Indians--Or, the Rise and Progress of a Remarkable Work of Grace Among a Number of the Indians In the Provinces of New-Jersey and Pennsylvania (1748), Doddridge wrote a dedication "To the Honourable Society for propagating Christian Knowledge in the Highlands of Scotland, and in Popish and Infidel Parts of the World." Doddridge argued for the validity and necessity of sharing the Christian message as widely as possible.
From this dedication, Doddridge's pertinent statements on the worldwide missionary outreach include the following:
Brainerd's Journal should "awaken my Brethren in the Ministry to bear their Testimony with greater Zeal and Affection, to those glorious Truths which have been the Power of God to the Salvation of those happy Creatures [i.e., Native Americans], who tho' so lately in the darkest, and most wretched State; are now Light in the Lord" (pp. ii-iii).
"God will not suffer this sacred and noble Cause [i.e., missionary outreach] to die with him [Brainerd]" (p. iv).
Doddridge offered the Society his "best Wishes for its Success abroad" (p. v).
Book Cover Title p. i pp. ii-iii pp. iv-v pp. vi-3
After his death, Doddridge's wife published The Family Expositor, or a Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament in 1760-1762, though Doddridge originally drafted the books between 1738 and 1750. These volumes include paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on the New Testament, often including line-by-line exegesis. For each New Testament text, the King James Version is quoted alongside Doddridge’s paraphrase of the text. Also included for each biblical section is Doddridge’s "Improvement" discussions, which are expository and practical interpretations of the text.
In his notes, Doddridge cited lexical, historical, theological, and textual issues, including various patristic sources and occasional New Testament Greek manuscript differences. Specifically related to Matt. 28:18-20, Doddridge referred to the passage as "the Commission," referring to the universal nature of the Christian message, and he insists upon "adult baptism" being the sense of the text. Also, Doddridge pointed out the Authorized Version’s mistranslation of Matt. 28:19, "teach all nations." Suggesting that the translation of the verb maqhteusate should not "confound" with the use of didaskonteV ("teaching") in the next verse (28:20), Doddridge renders 28:19 as "proselyte all nations." He says (vol. II, p. 668),
(l) Proselyte all the Nations of the Earth.] The whole Tenour of the succeeding Books of the New Testament shews, that Christ designed by this Commission, that the Gospel should be preached to all Mankind without Exception, not only to Jews, but to all the idolatrous Gentiles: But the Prejudices of the Apostles led them at first to mistake the Sense, and to imagine, that it referred only to their going to preach the Gospel to the Jews among all Nations, or to those who should be willing to become Jews.—I render the Word maqhteusate, proselyte, that it may be duly distinguished from didaskonteV, teaching, (in the next Verse,) with which our Version confounds it. The former seems to import Instruction in the Essentials of Religion, which it was necessary adult Persons should know and submit to, before they could regularly be admitted to Baptism; the latter may be related to those more particular Admonitions in Regard to Christian Faith and Practice, which were built upon that Foundation.—It is certain, that no Argument can be drawn from hence to the Prejudice of Infant Baptism; for had Christ sent out these Missionaries to propagate Judaism in the World, he might have used the same Language; "Go, and proselyte all Nations, circumcising them in the Name of the God of Israel, and teaching them to observe all that Moses commanded."
Further confirmation of Doddridge's support for worldwide missions occurs in Joseph Belcher, George Whitefield: A Biography, with Special Reference to His Labors in America (New York: American Tract Society, 1857), p. 324. Belcher quoted Doddridge as having said,
"I am now intent on having something done among the dissenters, in a more public manner, for propagating the gospel abroad, which lies near my heart. I wish to live to see this design brought into execution, at least into some forwardness, and then I should die the more cheerfully."
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Created: July 12, 2004 Updated: April 2, 2013