Our early years do not always presage what we will become. In his youth and early adult life, Samuel Medley would have seemed an unlikely candidate to write these words:
"O could I speak the matchless worth,
O could I sound the glories forth which in my Savior shine!
I'd sing His glorious righteousness,
and magnify the wondrous grace
Which made salvation mine..."
He was born on this day, June 23, 1738 in Chestnut, England. A Grandfather gave him his earliest education, and when he was fourteen, he was apprenticed to an oil-man in the city of London. Three years of that was enough for young Medley. In 1755, he escaped from his agreement by enlisting in the Royal Navy.
Late in 1759, he was discharged from the Navy, too, after being severely wounded in a battled off Port Lagos in August, 1759. It was while he was recovering from his injuries that he read a sermon by Isaac Watts, a pastor and hymn writer, that led to his conversion to Christianity.
For a few years, he operated a school. Then Pastor Dr. Andrew Gifford urged him to enter the Baptist ministry. By 1772, Medley was preaching in Liverpool. He took a real interest in the souls of seamen and adapted his preaching to them. Evidently his methods were lively, for his meeting-house soon could not hold all the people who crowded in to hear him. It had to be enlarged. Even that solved the problem only temporarily, and a new building had to be constructed.
Medley wrote many other hymns besides the one above. These appeared in various magazines in his own day and in a collection of poems gathered by his daughter after his death. Among the best-known were "Awake, My Soul, to Joyful Lays," and "I Know that My Redeemer Lives:"
I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.
He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.
He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high....
- Brown, Theron and Butterworth, Hezekiah. The Story of the Hymns and Tunes. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1906.
- Burrage, Henry S. Baptist Hymnwriters and their Hymns. Portland, Maine: Brown, Thurston and Co., 1888.
- Julian, John. A Dictionary of Hymnology, setting forth the origin and history of Christian hymns of all ages and nations. London: J. Murray, 1907.
- "Medley, Samuel." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.
- "Samuel Medley." Cyberhymnal
- Wells, Amos R. A Treasure of Hymns; Brief biographies of 120 leading hymn- writers and Their best hymns. Boston: W. A. Wilde company, 1945.
- Various internet sites.
Last updated May, 2007.