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His Private Character.
HAVING considered Dr. Doddridge in his public and more
important relations, as a minister, tutor, and author, we are now to take a view of his temper and behaviour in private life, and the many virtues, which adorned his domestic and social character.
In December 1730, he married Mrs. Mercy Maris, a native of Worcester; in whom he found a prudent, religious and affectionate companion, and whom God was pleased to continue to him through his whole life *; though he had often been exercised with painful apprehensions of losing her by some threatning disorders. It were easy to enlarge on the affection and tenderness, with which he filled up this relation, if the subject were not of too delicate a nature to admit of a particular detail. It is sufficient to say, that his behaviour in it was founded on the same excellent principles, which influenced the rest of his conduct; and discovered, in a high degree, that sweetness and benevolence of temper, for which he was so remarkable. I shall only add, as it may be a model to others, that I find him, just before his marriage, spending a day in extraordinary devotion, that by the exercises of repentance, faith and prayer, he might bring no guilt into that new state to lessen its comfort, and that he might engage the divine blessing in it; and among some maxims, which he drew up for his conduct in his various relations, in the advance of life, this is inserted; "As a husband, it shall be my daily care to keep up the spirit of religion in my conversation with my wife, to recommend her to the divine blessing, to manifest an obliging tender disposition towards her; and particularly to avoid every thing, which has the appearance of pettishness, to which, amidst my various cares and labours, I may in some unguarded moments, be liable." He kindly interested himself in the concerns of her relations, and when some of them were in circumstances of very great affliction, he exerted himself for their assistance and relief.
In the education of his children, he endeavoured to act upon the advices, which he recommended to others in his ser
mons upon that subject. He behaved to them in an affectionate. and condescending manner, encouraged them to use a proper degree of freedom with him, and carefully avoided that forbidding air, which would have kept them at a distance and rendered his instructions less pleasing and acceptable. Though, through the multiplicity of his business, especially in the latter part of his life, he had less time to employ in their education, than he could have wished, yet he was very solicitous to take every opportunity of impressing their minds with pious and virtuous sentiments. What his resolutions, with regard to the discharge of this important duty, were, will appear from the following extract from his papers: As a father, it shall be my care to intercede for my children daily; to converse with them often upon some religious subject; to drop some short hints of the serious kind, when there is not room for large discourse; to pray sometimes with them separately; to endeavour to bring them early to communion with the church; to study to oblige them, and secure their affection." He was particularly solicitous to form his children to a catholic, mild and friendly disposition, which he thought of the utmost importance to their own comfort, and their esteem and usefulness in the world. He had observed, that," too many, from their tenderest years, have been taught to place a part of their religion in the severity with which they censure their brethren; and that a peccant humour, so early wrought into the constitution, will not easily be subdued by the most sovereign medicines." He was therefore very careful not to convey unkind prejudices into their minds, but to educate them in open and generous sentiments; that they might learn to reverence true christianity, wherever they saw it, and to judge of it by essentials rather than by circumstantials.
He behaved to his servants with affability and kindness. Reviling and chiding, his nature abhorred; and that abhorrence increased, the more he studied the gospel. When any thing was greatly amiss in their behaviour, he privately and calmly argued the matter with them, admonished them, and attended the admonition with prayer. He was especially concerned, that they might be truly pious: For this end he gave them bibles, and practical treatises, and often on the Lord's-day evening discoursed seriously with them by themselves, and prayed with them. Thus did he walk before his house with an upright heart, and laboured that they might serve the Lord, and, when they left his family, might be blessings to other families in which they might be fixed. Nothing severe, sour or peevish was seen in his deportment to any of his domestics. He con
sidered them all as his children, and endeavoured to draw them to their duty with the cords of love.
It would be unpardonable, in this account of Dr. Doddridge, to omit his character as a friend, in which he shone so illustriously. He had a sublime idea of friendship, and a heart turned to relish its noblest joys. He used often to say, "Blessed be God for friendship, and the hope of its being perfected and eternal above! If it be so delightful on earth, amidst our mutual imperfections, what will it be in heaven!" He thus wrote to his best friend Dr. Clark, "It is a great satisfaction to me to think, that, when you cannot speak to me, you can speak to God for me and however providence may dispose of me for the present, I hope we are to live near each other in a better world, where I may be for ever improving by your conversation and for ever acknowledging, and perhaps repaying, those obligations, which do so immediately relate to that state, that I cannot but think they will be most gratefully remembered there." God honoured him with many valuable and faithful friends; and were it proper to mention their names, it would appear to all, who know them, how justly he valued them and thought himself happy in their esteem and affection. His learning, piety and politeness recommended him to the esteem and friendship of several of high rank and distinguished learning, both among the clergy and laity, with whom he kept up a correspondence. From them he received very obliging letters, expressing in strong terms, the regard they had for his works, and the benefit they had found from them. The esteem of such persons for one in his station, was an ample testimony to his great merit; as nothing but his personal qualifications could recommend him to their notice. He often improved his acquaintance with persons of superior rank and fortune to obtain assistance for some distressed objects, whose case he knew; but solicited no favours for himself. In his plan of secret devotion his friends had a considerable share; and on days of extraordinary devotion, he prayed for them separately, if there was any thing peculiar in their circumstances that required his remembrance. He esteemed it the duty of friends, daily to pray for one another, as a proper expression and the firmest support of their friendship; and he counted the prayers of his friends among his most valuable treasures. When he had occasion to mention some persons of eminence as his friends, he would sometimes add, “Though I do not merit such friends, I know how to value them, and I bless God for them. I am not insensible of the blessing, and I hope ingratitude does not secretly lurk in any corner of my
heart." He always esteemed it the truest act of friendship to use mutual endeavours to render the characters of each other as blameless and as yaluable as possible. He often acknowledged, that he looked upon it as a singular mercy of his life, that God had raised him up from time to time, wise and judicious friends, who had his interest at heart; and their prudent cautions were the means of preserving him from many temptations and indiscretions, to which the natural gaiety and sprightliness of his temper, especially in younger life, exposed him. No one had a juster sense of the worth of such friends, and would more readily hearken to their admonitions; and he always owned the goodness of God in giving him a heart to make a proper use of them. "I have never felt, saith he, a more affectionate sense of my obligations, than when those worthy persons who have honoured me with their affection and correspondence, have freely told me what they thought amiss in my temper and conduct." When one of his friends had made an apology for his freedom, in giving him a hint of this kind, he answered; "I thank God, I have not that delicacy of temper, that a friend should need to make an apology for saying and doing a kind and proper thing, when there is, what the foolish taste of the present age sometimes call, a freedom taken in it. Freedom in friendship is the very soul of it, and its necessary test and support." Many of his friends well know what pains he took, in his correspondence with them, to maintain in their hearts a pious disposition and an active zeal to promote the interest of religion. He longed for opportunities of personal converse with them, that his own heart and theirs might be quickened thereby in the service of their common Lord. Thus he writes to a friend; "I hope soon to see you, and that your company will be a blessing. I want every help to raise my heart to God, and keep it stedfast with him. Indeed I can say, I feel earth and all its concerns growing daily less and less to me. The chief thing I value in it, next to the enjoyment and service of God, is the love and converse of my dear friends." He often used to express the pleasure he had in the enjoyment of his friends, as giving him a delightful foretaste of the happiness of the heavenly world; and the snares and afflictions which arose even from friendship, as increasing his desire of that perfect state. He thus wrote to one of his most esteemed friends, in the year 1722. "Your reflections upon the love of God and the vanity of creature-love are just and pathetic, and I enter fully into the spirit of them. I have a few darling friends, yet from them I meet with frequent disappointments. You, in particular, are always
friendly and kind when I see you, and frequently favour me with your letters; yet though I have some of the most delightful parts of friendship with you, the pain of parting and the impatience of absence embitter even these. Yea, pardon me, if I confess, that were I to converse more intimately with you, I should meet with greater uneasiness. My present happiness lies so much in my friends, that they frequently discompose me. I feel their afflictions more than my own, and am tormented with a thousand imaginary fears on their account, which my affection and not my reason suggests. Every thing which looks like a slight or neglect from them, touches me to the quick; and when I imagine they are out of humour, I am so far from being chearful, that I can hardly be good natured. If they look upon me a little more coldly than ordinary, while they express their affection for another, I am uneasy; and a thousand minute occurrences, which others take no notice of, are to me some of the most solid afflictions of life. They unfit me for pleasure and business; may God forgive me! they unfit me for devotion too. God and the important concernments of the eternal world are neglected and forgotten, while these trifles are admired and pursued.
"And now, if the immoderate love of the most excellent creatures hath such unhappy consequences, let us learn to place our supreme affection upon our Creator; for it is that alone, which can afford us lasting satisfaction. And certainly, if we could but persuade ourselves to love the blessed God, as we ought, the happiness of this life, as well as the hopes of the next, would be fixed upon the most solid, unshaken basis. We should have all the transports of the most unbounded passion, without any of the anguish and perturbation of it. He has no sorrows to be condoled, no unkindness to be suspected, no change to be feared. The united power of the creation cannot give him one moment's uneasiness, nor separate us one moment from his presence and favour; but the great object of our wishes and hopes would be for ever happy and for ever our own. We might converse with him in the most intimate and endearing manner, in every place and in every circumstance of life. Every affliction would then be light, and every duty easy. How ardently should we embrace every opportunity of doing some little matter to testify our respect and affection for him! What a relish would it give to every common enjoyment of life, to consider it as coming from his hand; and that he sends it as a small token of his love, and as the pledge of something infinitely more valuable! Death itself would be