This is the day that … Samuel Medley was born in Hertfordshire, England, in 1738.
By the age of 14 he was apprenticed to an oilman in London, but disliking this work, at the age of 17, he became a midshipman in the Royal Navy. Despite a godly heritage, young Samuel Medley now descended into the quagmire of sin.
But during naval action between England and France in 1759 he received a severe leg wound. “I am afraid,” said the surgeon, “that amputation is the only thing that will save your life. I can tell tomorrow morning.” As he lay there, wounded, his mind turned to spiritual things. We are told that he spent the night “in prayers and penitence”, and next morning the surgeon held up his hands in amazement at what he called “a miracle”.
But alas, before long, Samuel Medley was back to his sinful ways.
It was three years later, back in London, that his pious grandfather, William Tonge, read him a sermon by Dr Isaac Watts on Isaiah 42:6-7. Samuel’s thoughts were turned to the things of eternity. He was soundly converted, and it is believed that it was to commemorate this experience that he penned his first hymn:
Awake, my soul, in joyful lays,
To sing thy great Redeemer’s praise;
He justly claims a song from thee;
His loving kindness, oh, how free.
He saw us ruined in the Fall,
Yet loved us notwithstanding all.
He saved us from our lost estate;
His loving kindness, oh, how great.
Samuel Medley joined the Particular Baptist Church, married, taught school for four years, and then became pastor of a Baptist Church in Liverpool, where he stayed for the next 27 years. His ministry there “was one of remarkable and increasing popularity and soon a much larger building had to be erected” (Christian Hymn Writers, by E. Houghton, page 138). He was “especially successful in reaching sailors.”
Among his 150 hymns we still find in our hymnals such favourites as:
I know that my Redeemer lives –
What comfort this assurance gives …
Oh, could I speak the matchless worth,
Oh, could I sound the glories forth
Which in my Saviour shine …
Shortly before he died, 17 July, 1799, he remarked, “I am now a poor, shattered barque about to gain the blissful harbour.”
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.