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Early drilled in the elements of literature by Mr. Stott, a long since forgotten minister who kept an academy in London, Doddridge was removed, at ten years of age, to Kingston, to study within the walls of the old Grammar School, where his good grandfather had once been master. Mr. Mayo then presided over the establishment, and Doddridge, in a note to one of his sermons on education, expresses his gratitude to this early preceptor, for the advantages he derived from his catechetical lectures, and for many “excellent instructions in public and private.” After he had spent three years at Kingston, he lost his father, and soon his amiable mother was taken away. But amidst bereavements which lacerated his tender heart, he could say, “God is an immortal Father; my soul rejoiceth in him : he has hitherto helped me and provided for me; may it be my study to approve myself a more affectionate, grateful, and dutiful child !" He very touchingly observes, in his sermon entitled “The Orphan's Hope,” “I am under some peculiar obligations to desire and attempt the relief of orphans, as I know the heart of an orphan: having been deprived of both my parents at an age in which it might reasonably be supposed a child should be most sensible of such a loss.”
In the old town of St. Alban’s, so famed for the remains of its noble abbey, there lived, in 1717, the learned Mr. Nathaniel Wood, who, like many of his ministerial brethren of that day, had to betake himself to the duties of a schoolmaster; and in the same place, the ministrations at the Presbyterian meeting-house were efficiently conducted by the Rev. Samuel Clark, the author of “Scripture Promises,” a gentleman who, with ample means, possessed a large heart, and to extensive erudition added unaffected piety. Doddridge, about the time of his father's death, was placed under the care of that reverend tutor, and attended the ministry of that scholar-like divine. Being painfully reduced in circumstances, by the imprudence of the person who had the control of his pecuniary affairs after his father's death, he found in Mr. Clark a friend indeed; for, with characteristic generosity, that excellent man became a second parent to the forlorn young stranger, and assisted him to struggle with the rough necessities of his orphan lot. His con
duct at St. Alban’s was exemplary; his predilections were manifest. In his diligent study of the Scriptures we may discover an early pledge of the future theological professor and Biblical critic; and in his painstaking visits to the poor, for their religious benefit, we discern an early prophecy of the future model pastor of Northampton. No doubt being entertained of his piety, he was admitted to the church in his nineteenth year, when his hallowed ambition to become one of the shepherds of Christ's earthly fold began to manifest itself with unmistakeable distinctness. An offer from the Duchess of Bedford, whose husband's steward was Philip's uncle, presented an opening into the Church of England, with flattering prospects; but such an offer, though the young man received it with gratitude, he felt compelled to decline with respect, as he could not satisfy his conscience to comply with the terms of ministerial conformity. To preach the gospel in connexion with those who were despised by the proud and worldly, but whom he honoured for their conscientiousness, was his fervent desire. But the way in that direction was for awhile closed up; and the
writer of this memorial can well remember, how, some two-and-twenty years ago, he read this portion of Doddridge's instructive history, with a sympathetic and trembling heart, and was not a little strengthened in faith and hope, as probably many others in like manner have been, by the successful issue of this good man's early trial. The youth went to town with a palpitating heart, to call on the influential and dignified Dr. Calamy for advice and assistance, but found no encouragement in that quarter. He carried the richest buddings of promise, but returned with a cruel blight upon his hopes. There seemed no alternative but to accept a lucrative proposal, made to him by a friend, to enter on the study of the law, but he was unwilling to take a decisive step without fervent prayer; and while on his knees, the postman's thundering knock announced the arrival of a letter. It bore the handwriting of Mr. Clark, and contained an offer from him to receive Doddridge under his roof, and to afford him aid in preparatory studies for that holy office which had kindled in him such pure and strong desire. We fancy we see the tall and delicate youth, with ardent countenance and moistened eyes, folding up the precious epistle, and sitting down to write in his diary, “This I looked upon almost as an answer from heaven, and while I live shall always adore so seasonable an interposition of Divine Providence. I have sought God's direction in this matter, and I hope I have had it. My only view in my choice hath been that of more extensive service, and I beg God would make me an instrument of doing much good in the world.”
Next to the honour of a successful ministry itself, is the distinction of being instrumental in the introduction of another to such a course; and the story of Doddridge should be regarded as a caution to the masters of our Israel, not hastily to repress in the bosom of a gifted and ingenuous young man aspirations after the holiest of all employments. What a loss would the church have sustained at that critical period, had Calamy's repulse not been neutralized by Clark's encouragement!