He was born in London. His father, Daniel Doddridge, was a merchant, and his mother the orphan daughter of the Rev. John Bauman, a Lutheran clergyman who had fled from Prague to escape religious persecution, and had held for some time the mastership of the grammar school at Kingston upon Thames. Before he could read, his mother taught him the history of the Old and New Testament from some blue Dutch chimney-tiles. He afterwards went to a private school in London, and in 1712 to the grammar school at Kingston-upon-Thames.
About 1715 he was moved to a private school at St Albans, where he was much influenced by the Presbyterian minister, Samuel Clarke. He declined offers which would have led him into the Anglican ministry or the bar, and in 1719 entered the very liberal academy for dissenters at Kibworth in Leicestershire, taught at that time by the Rev. John Jennings, whom Doddridge succeeded in the ministry at that place in 1723. At a general meeting of Nonconformist ministers, he was chosen to conduct the academy established in that year at Market Harborough. In the same year he received an invitation from the independent congregation at Northampton, which he accepted. Here he continued his multifarious labours; but the church seems to have decreased, and his many engagements and bulky correspondence interfered seriously with his preaching, and with the discipline of his academy, where he had some 200 students to whom he lectured on philosophy and theology in the mathematical or Spinozistic style. In 1751 his health, which had never been good, broke down, and he sailed for Lisbon on September 30 of that year; but the change was unavailing, and he died there.
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. He worked towards a united Nonconformist body, which should retain the cultured element without alienating the uneducated. His principal works are, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (1745), which best illustrates his religious genius, and has been widely translated; The Family Expositor (6 vols., 1739-1756), Life of Colonel Gardiner (1747); and a Course of Lectures on Pneumatology, Ethics and Divinity (1763). He also published several courses of sermons on particular topics, and is the author of many well-known and justly admired hymns, e.g. "O God of Bethel, by whose hand." In 1736 both the universities at Aberdeen gave him the degree of D.D.
See Memoirs, by Rev. Job Orton (1766); Letters to and from Dr Doddridge, by Rev. Thomas Stedman (1790); and Correspondence and Diary, in 5 vols., by his grandson, John Doddridge Humphreys (1829). The best life is Stanford's Philip Doddridge (1880). Doddridge's academy is now represented by New College, Hampstead, in the library of which there is a large collection of his manuscripts.