With independent religious leanings, Philip Doddridge declined offers which would have led him into the Anglican ministry or a career in law; and in 1719, with Clark’s support, chose instead to enter the Dissenting academy at Kibworth in Leicestershire. Here he was taught by John Jennings, whom Doddridge briefly succeeded in 1723. Later that year, at a general meeting of Nonconformist ministers, Philip Doddridge was chosen to conduct the academy being newly established a few miles away at Market Harborough. It moved many times, and was known as Northampton Academy, Doddridge died in 1751 and the academy continued, and is probably best known as Daventry Academy.
Also in 1723 he received an invitation to be pastor to an independent congregation at Northampton, which he also accepted. Here his popularity as a preacher is said to have been chiefly due to his “high susceptibility, joined with physical advantages and perfect sincerity.” His sermons were mostly practical in character, and his aim was to cultivate in his hearers a spiritual and devotional frame of mind.
Throughout the 1730s and 1740s Philip Doddridge continued his academic and pastoral work, and developed close relations with numerous early religious revivalists and independents, through extensive visits and correspondence. Through this approach he helped establish and maintain a circle of influential independent religious thinkers and writers, including Dr Isaac Watts. He also became a prolific author and hymn writer. In 1736 both the universities at Aberdeen gave him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. However, these multifarious labours led to so many engagements and bulky correspondence that it interfered seriously both with his preaching and academic duties (he had some 200 students to whom he lectured on philosophy and theology, in the mathematical or Spinozistic style).
His The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul was translated into seven languages. Charles Spurgeon referred to The Rise and Progress as “that holy book”. Besides a New Testament commentary and other theological works, Doddridge also wrote over 400 hymns. Most of the hymns were written as summaries of his sermons and were to help the congregation express their response to the truths they were being taught.