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LIFE, CHARACTER AND WRITINGS
OF THE LATE
REV. P. DODDRIDGE, D. D.
THE REV. JOB ORTON.
ORTON'S LIFE OF DR. DODDRIDGE.
THE lives of worthy and pious men are generally reckoned some of the
most useful books which have been published. But there seems a peculiar propriety in laying before the world what can be known of the piety, benevolence and zeal of those, who have filled more eminent stations in it; and distinguished themselves by their writings in the service of religion. There is a natural curiosity in mankind to know some particulars of the lives of those, whose works they have read with pleasure and advantage. Even minute circumstances, which to others may appear unworthy of public notice, are to them interesting events. Nor is this kind of history merely calculated to entertain and amuse, but is evidently capable of answering much more valuable ends. When there appears an exact correspondence between a man's writings and temper; between the duties he recommended to others and his own practice, his works are read with greater attention, and are more likely, through a divine blessing, to produce the desired effect. The lives of holy, zealous ministers are particularly useful; as in them may be seen a pattern of a christian conversation for all, and of ministerial faithfulness and activity for their brethren; and thus the good influence of such examples may be widely diffused: And when a person of solid worth, learning and piety has been employed in training up young men for usefulness, especially in the ministry, his character must be allowed to demand a particular attention, and may be peculiarly beneficial to the world. It may excite those who have been under his care, to recollect his instructions and example, and their consequent obligations. His conduct in that important office may serve, in some degree, for a model to other tutors; and, if he hath appeared among Protestant Dissenters, may tend to remove some prejudices, if such remain, against their seminaries, as if they were nurseries of schism, enthusiasm and faction. That these several valuable ends may be answered, is the design of this work, and the earnest wish of its author. He is sensible that he wants some qualifications for executing it in such a manner, as to do justice to the character and worth of Dr. Doddridge, and present it in a proper form to the public. He has laboured, but in vain, to engage some better hand to undertake it; and hath at length, with reluctance, submitted to the reasons urged by the Doctor's friends and the admirers of his writings; among which the principal was, their apprehension of its usefulness to the world. Upon the whole, he thought it better to expose himself to censure A
for attempting it without due qualifications, than to withhold an excellent pattern from mankind, when the influence of every good example is so needful for their reformation and happiness.
My purpose is to lay before the world, in the following sheets, what appears to me most instructive in his life and character, according to the best judgment I could form from a long and intimate acquaintance, and the best information I could procure. A striking likeness of a person may be drawn by a hand not skilful in colouring; and unable to give the picture that grace, which would render it more generally admired, especially by the best judges. I shall dwell chiefly on those exemplary effects, which the sincere and lively piety of the Doctor's heart produced, in a beautiful correspondence to those circumstances in life in which he was placed. Herein perhaps modern writers of lives have been defective; either from a mistaken apprehension, that it was of little moment, or, as I would rather hope, through want of materials. Had I satisfied myself with giving an account of his public and literary character, especially if I could have embellished it with the beauties of description and language, it might have been more agreeable to the modern taste, and the politer part of my readers. But I am fully convinced, it is the more private part of a man's character, from which we may expect the greatest benefit. What is it to me, that another had a bright genius, was learned, elegant and polite? But to see a display of his piety, humility, zeal, benevolence, and the principles by which they were supported, this, if it be not my own fault, may be very beneficial to me. I thought I should do the most real service to the world by bringing to light those graces of the christian, which, though they do not make the most shining part of a character in the eyes of men, are his fairest ornaments in the sight of God, and the surest proofs of the sincerity of his outward profession. In order to execute this design, I have made such extracts from his diary and other papers, written solely for his own use, and his letters to his intimate friends in which he laid open his whole heart, as I judged most proper to give my readers a just idea of his inward sentiments, and the grand motives on which he acted through life. And if these appear to be, in every respect, agreeable to his profession and public character, I think it must be acknowledged the strongest proof that can be given of his integrity, and consequently greatly tend to heighten our idea and excite our imitation of him.
I am sensible, it hath been objected, that what was principally written for a person's own use, ought not be made public.' And no doubt a prudent caution should be used in making extracts from such papers. But (as Mr. Howe hath observed on a like occasion) what are many of the psalms of David, and other holy men; what the meditations of that renowned philosopher and emperor Marcus Antoninus, but records of the most secret dispositions and motions of the hidden man of the heart, made public for the instruction of their own and succeeding ages? As there is so much resemblance in the frame of our minds, nothing certainly can be of more advantage, than to see the secret workings of the hearts of great and good men upon different occasions; and especially to be informed, what methods they took to conquer their particular temptations, to improve their religious character and to keep alive that sacred ardour of love and zeal, which carried them through so many labours and difficulties. The great advantage, which many humble christians have received from such extracts in other lives, is, I think, a sufficient vindication of the use here made of them. The acceptance
and usefulness of Mr. P. Henry's life in particular, encouraged me to pursue this method. Some few of these extracts may not be thought necessary to illustrate Dr. Doddridge's character; but as they appeared likely to impress the reader's heart with pious sentiments, and so subserve my leading design, I was not willing to suppress them. Some quotations from his writings are intended to shew the consistency between the rules he gave to others and his own conduct; and they may lead some to read his works, who might before know nothing or little of them. Accuracy of style is not to be expected in what a person writes merely for his own use, or to his intimate friends; yet it may be as serviceable to others, as any of his publications. I am sensible these extracts and quotations spoil the uniformity of this work and make some sentences abrupt and imperfect; yet, as they are, in my judgment, the best part of it, I could not satisfy myself to omit them, merely upon those accounts.
When I inform my readers, what were his sentiments upon particular subjects and occasions, where it is not supported by his writings and papers, I can with great truth assure them, that my representation is just, from the opportunities I had of learning them from his lectures, conversation, or correspondence; and I am persuaded, that they, who were intimately acquainted with him, will acknowledge the same.
It may be thought an objection to some part of this work, "that the model here proposed, especially of devotional exercises, is too high for the generality of mankind, amidst the necessary cares of their respective families and stations." And it must be acknowledged, that it is no man's duty to be in his closet, when his business in his shop, fields or family demands his attention: Nor would I bind it upon any one's conscience to follow the particular method here described too strictly. No one's practice can serve as a model for every one. That may be a very good rule for one, which is not so for another: And, therefore, every one must use his own discretion in copying after the examples set before him. He must consider his abilities of body and mind, his circumstances and connections in life, that every part of duty may have proper time allotted to it according to its importance. Nevertheless, there are few persons but might employ more time than they do, in cultivating their understandings and improving their graces, by reading, meditation and devotion, without breaking in upon any of the necessary duties of life, if their hearts were in these exercises, and they were more careful to redeem their time, from unnecessary sleep, visits and recreations.* Dr. Doddridge's extraordinary diligence in the services of his station, and that constant attention which he paid to relative duties, plainly evince, that his devotional exercises had a good effect upon him. He found (as Dr. Boerhaave acknowledged he found) that an hour spent every morning in private prayer and meditation gave him spirit and vigour for the business of the day, and kept his temper active, patient and calm.'-Yet I must, on the other hand, caution persons of a serious spirit, especially those of a cool temper and a sickly frame, that they be not uneasy, if they find themselves surpassed by him in the fervour of devotion. Allowance must be made for the great difference of natural tempers; and persons must carefully distinguish between that ardour of pious affection, which is indeed desirable, and that
*See Rise and Progress, &c. chap. xx. § 1.