Friday, June 26, 2009

Philip Doddridge

Philip Doddridge, the Nonconformist preacher and professor who trained at least two hundred men in ministry at his own academy, was born today in 1702. He admired the hymns of Isaac Watts, whom he later met and befriended. Later in life, having written many hymns of his own, Doddridge wrote that he was but one of the many lamps "kindled at Watts' torch."

I think the most interesting thing about Doddridge is that he wrote his hymns to be sung immediately following his sermons; he apparently wrote them at the same time, using the same scripture verses as the theme. How many modern ministers would find it a useful discipline to write both a sermon and a hymn illustrating that sermon each week?

My God, thy table now is spread,
Thy cup with love doth overflow;
Be all thy children thither led,
And let them thy sweet mercies know.

O, let thy table honored be,
And furnished well with joyful guests;
And may each soul salvation see
That here its sacred pledges tastes.

Drawn by thy quick'ning grace, O Lord,
In countless numbers let them come;
And gather from their Savior's board
The Bread that lives beyond the tomb.

Nor let thy spreading Gospel rest
Till through the world thy truth has run;
Till with this Bread all those be blest
Who see the light, or feel the sun.

Philip Doddridge, 1755; alt.
arr. Edward Muller, 1790

This hymn has undergone many changes over the years; though it still reads a bit old-fashioned to us, it has in fact been "modernized" from Doddridge's original, which began:

My God, and is thy table spread?
And does thy cup with love o'erflow?

Somewhere along the way an editor decided to make the opening lines declarative rather than questioning (though Doddridge was certainly not questioning - he knew the answer was "yes").

The tune ROCKINGHAM, familiar and used in many hymnals, appeared in Edward Muller's Psalms of David (1790). He adapted the tune from an earlier one called TUNBRIDGE, which appeared in another psalter tune book about ten years earlier. The relationship between the tunes was apparently revealed in 1909 in The Musical Times, which reproduced the page from Miller's copy of the earlier book containing TUNBRIDGE, with his notation "would make a good long m.[eter tune]."

P.S. The illustration above is the frontispiece of a book by Doddridge, described as "the Author, supported by Faith and Piety, accompanied by Benevolence."

One Year Ago: Philip Doddridge

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