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these pious exercises, and in this solemn manner, did he enter on his ministry at Northampton.
That he might be better qualified for, and quickened to that large pastoral work now devolved upon him, he employed some of the time between his settlement and ordination, in reading the best treatises of the qualifications and duties of ministers; particularly Chrysostom on the Priesthood, Bowles' Pastor Evangelicus, Burnet on the Pastoral Care, and Baxter's Gildas Salvianus. He likewise read the Lives of some pious active Ministers; particularly of Mr. P. Henry, which he often spoke of as affording him much instruction and encouragement. He selected the most important advices, reflections and motives contained in these books, which he frequently reviewed. He likewise at this time made a collection of those maxims of prudence and discretion, which he thought demanded a minister's attention, if he desired to secure esteem and usefulness.
About two months after his settlement at Northampton it pleased God to visit him with a dangerous illness, which gave his friends many painful fears, that the residue of his years of usefulness to them and to the world would be cut off. But, after a few weeks of languishing, God mercifully restored his health. While he was recovering, but yet in a very weak state, the time came, which had been fixed for his ordination. Of the transactions of that day, he has preserved the following "March 19, 1729-30. The afflicting hand of God upon me hindered me from making that preparation for the solemnity of this day, which I could otherwise have desired, and which might have answered some valuable end. However, I hope it hath long been my sincere desire to dedicate myself to God in the work of the ministry; and that the views, with which I determined to undertake the office, and which I this day solemnly professed, have long since been fixed. The work of the day was carried on in a very honourable and agreeable manner. Mr. Goodrich of Oundle began with prayer and reading the scriptures. Mr. Dawson of Hinkley continued the exercise. Then Mr. Watson of Leicester preached a suitable sermon from 1 Tim. iii. 1. This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. Mr. Norris of Welford then read the call of the church, of which I declared my acceptance: he took my confession of faith, and ordinationvows and proceeded to set me apart by prayer. Mr. Clark of St. Albans gave the charge to me, and Mr. Saunders of Kettering the exhortation to the people. Then Mr. Mattock of
Daventry concluded the whole solemnity with prayer.* I cannot but admire the goodness of God to me in thus accepting me in the office of a minister, who do not deserve to be owned by him as one of the meanest of his servants. But I firmly determine, in the strength of divine grace, that I will be faithful to God, and the souls committed to my charge; and that I will perform what I have so solemnly sworn. The great indisposition under which I labour, gives me some apprehension, that this settlement may be very short: but, through mercy, I am not anxious about it. I have some chearful hope, that the God, to whom I have this day been, more solemnly than ever, devoting my service, will graciously use me either in this world or a better; and I am not solicitous about particular circumstances, where or how. If I know any thing of my heart, I apprehend I may adopt the words of the apostle, that it is my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death; that, to me to live is Christ, and to die unspeakable gain. May this day never be forgotten by me, nor the dear people committed to my charge, whom I would humbly recommend to the care of the great shepherd!"
The annual return of his ordination-day was observed by him with some peculiar solemnity in his secret devotions. Thus he writes upon it; "It is this day, fifteen years, since I have borne the pastoral office in the church of Christ. How many mercies have I received in this character! But alas! how many negligences and sins have I to be humbled for before God! Yet I can call him to record upon my soul, that the office is my delight, and I would not resign the pleasures of it for any price, which the greatest prince upon earth could offer me."
His Discharge of his Ministry at Northampton.
MR. Doddridge having entered on the pastoral office with so
much seriousness and solemnity, we are now to see with how much faithfulness and zeal he performed his vows, and fulfilled
*It is rather surprising that we do not meet with the name of Mr. Some on this occasion. Some particular cident, now not known, perhaps a sudden illness, might have deprived Mr. Doddridge, of the assistance of so valuable and intimate a friend. That the cause should not have been mentioned by Mr. Orton in his memoirs, or by Mr. Doddridge in his diary, is an omission that could scarcely have been expected.-K.
the ministry he had received of the Lord Jesus.-It was his first care, as a pastor, to know the state of his flock. As it was large, and lay dispersed in most of the neighbouring villages, he had frequent meetings with the deacons and a few other persons belonging to it, of whom he made particular enquiries concerning the members and stated hearers, their names, families, places of abode, connections and characters. He entered in a book the result of these enquiries, and what other intelligence of this kind he could honourably procure. This book he often consulted, that he might know how, in the most prudent and effectual manner, to address them in public and private; and made such alterations from time to time in this list, as births, deaths, additions, and his increasing acquaintance with his people required. By this list he was directed in the course of his pastoral visits, and could form some judgment what degree of success attended his labours. Here he inserted the names and characters of the lowest servants in the families under his care, that he might remember, what instructions, admonitions and encouragements they needed; what hints of exhortation he had given to them or others, how they were received, what promises they had made him, and who wanted bibles, or other religious books, that he might supply them. By this list he was directed how to pray for them. He likewise wrote down particular hints of this kind, as they occurred, which were to be taken notice of in the historical register of his congregation; especially when the many revolutions of one kind or another made it necessary for him to renew it.
It hath been already observed what care and pains he took in composing his sermons, when he first entered on the ministry. His work as a tutor and the pastoral care of a large congregation, rendered it next to impossible that he should be so exact and accurate afterwards: Nor was it needful; having habituated himself for several years to correct compositions, having laid up such a fund of knowledge, especially of the scriptures, which was daily increasing by his studies and lectures, he sometimes only wrote down the heads and leading thoughts of his sermons, and the principal texts of scripture he designed to introduce. But he was so thoroughly master of his subject, and had such a ready utterance and so warm a heart, that perhaps few ministers can compose better discourses than he delivered from these short hints*. When his other important business would permit,
* This encomium is to be admitted with some slight degree of abatement. The Sermons of Dr. Doddridge were different as he was differently circumstanced. VOL. I. F
when he was called to preach upon particular occasions, or found his spirits depressed by bodily infirmities, or other afflictive providences, he thought it his duty to write his sermons more largely. Of what kind they were, the world has had a sufficient specimen in those, which have been published. And it is imagined all persons of judgment and candour will allow, that they are well calculated to answer the great end of preaching. The vital truths of the gospel, and its duties, as enforced by them, were his favourite topics.. He considered himself as a Minister of the gospel, and therefore could not satisfy himself without preaching Christ and him crucified. He never puzzled his hearers with dry criticisms and abstruse disquisitions; nor contented himself with moral essays and philosophical harangues, with which the bulk of his auditory would have been unaffected and unedified. He thought it cruelty to God's children to give them stones, when they came for bread. "It is my desire, saith he, not to entertain an auditory with pretty lively things, which is comparatively easy, but to come close to their consciences, to awaken them to a real sense of their spiritual concerns, to bring them to God, and keep them continually near to him; which, to me at least, is an exceeding hard thing." He seldom meddled with controversial points in the pulpit; never with those, with which he might reasonably suppose his congregation was unacquainted; nor set himself to confute errors, with which they were in no danger of being infected. When his subject naturally led him to mention some writers, from whom he differed, he spoke of them and their works with candour and tenderness; appealing constantly to the scriptures, as the standard, by which all doctrines are to be tried. He shewed his hearers of how little importance most of the differences between protestants are, and chose rather to be a healer of breaches, than to widen them. He always spoke with abhorrence of passionately inveighing against our brethren in the pul
When he had leisure to draw out his plan and the hints of what he proposed to say to a considerable extent, his discourses were often excellent in a high degree. But at other times, when he could but just lay down his scheme, with only a very few thoughts under it, his sermons, especially if he was not in a full flow of spirits, were less valuable. Once, during my residence with him, a number of pupils complained through the medium of Mr. Orton, that, though their revered tutor's academical lectures were admirable, they had not in him a sufficiently correct model of pulpit composition. The consequence of the intimation was, that his sermons became far superior to what they had sometimes formerly been; for he was the most candid of all men to the voice of gentle admonition. When, however, he took the least pains, he was always perspicuous in his method, and natural and orderly in the arrangement of his sentiments; and hence he furnished an example, from which many of the young men educated under him derived no small benefit in their future labours.-K.
pit, and making christian ordinances the vehicle of malignant passions. He thought this equally affronting to God and pernicious to men; poisoning instead of feeding the sheep of Christ. He seldom preached topical sermons, to which any text of scripture relating to the subject might be affixed; but chose to draw his materials and divisions from the text itself; and this gave him an opportunity of introducing some uncommon, striking thoughts, arising from the text, its connection, or the design of the sacred writer. When his subject was more comprehensive, than could be well discussed on one Lord's-day, he generally chose a new text, in order to supply him with fresh materials, keep up the attention of his hearers, and increase their acquaintance with their bibles. He chose sometimes to illustrate the scripture-histories, and the character of persons there recorded. He selected the most instructive passages in the prophets, relating to the case of the Israelites, or some particular good man among them, and accommodated them to the circumstances of christians, where he thought there was a just and natural resemblance. In these discourses he had an opportunity of explaining the designs of the prophecies, displaying divine wisdom, faithfulness and grace, and suggesting many important instructions. This method produced a variety in his discourses, and was pleasing and edifying to his hearers. He thought himself fully justified in these accommodations by the practice of the inspired writers of the New Testament.
He was always warm and affectionate in the application of his sermons, and experimentally described the workings of the heart, in the various circumstances, which he had occasion to treat of: Thus he came home to his hearers' bosoms, and led them to see their real characters, wherein they were defective, and how far they might justly be comforted and encouraged. He gives this reason for that warmth of devout affection, with which he addressed his hearers; "While I have any reverence for scripture or any knowledge of human nature, I shall never affect to speak of the glories of Christ, and of the eternal interests of men, as coldly, as if I were reading a lecture of mathematics, or relating an experiment in natural philosophy. It is indeed unworthy the character of a man and a christian to endeavour to transport men's passions, while the understanding is left uninformed and the judgment unconvinced. But so far as is consistent with a proper regard to this leading power of our nature I would speak and write of divine truths with a holy fervency. Nor can I imagine that it would bode well to the