Philip Doddridge (1702–1751) refused a university scholarship and became a Dissenting minister. He wrote hymns primarily as summaries to his sermons. They were taught, line by line, to the congregation each Sunday.

At Isaac Watts’s urging, Doddridge opened an academy and trained 200 students, over 120 of whom entered the ministry. Later he helped to found an infirmary, and he championed foreign missions before it was fashionable. His treatise, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul—based on an outline by Isaac Watts—was translated into seven languages. But he is best known as the author of approximately 400 hymn texts, including “O Happy Day that Fixed My Choice,” which still appears in many hymnals.

George Whitefield (1714–1770) receives little notice in history books for his hymns, there being much more to say about his incredible preaching career. According to one source, Whitefield began his “career of revival song” in 1738, the year of his first preaching journey to America.

Urgently concerned about the lower classes, Whitefield created hymns based on music they knew. Writes Stuart C. Henry: “Thinking it wrong for the ‘devil’s house to have all the good tunes,’ [Whitefield] had appropriated some popular airs from favorite stage operas of the day and set sacred words to them.… [T]he strains of such music-hall ballads as ‘Love in a Village,’or ‘Maid of the Mill’ floated from the Moorfields Tabernacle, … What kind of religion sings this kind of song? asked London.… What kind of person is Whitefield, and what sort of religion does he teach?”

Whitefield’s Collection of Hymns, for “social worship,” was designed to be used by his congregation in London, and first appeared when the great Tabernacle was erected there in 1753. ...

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