Notes from Dr. Julian's Hymnology. Samuel Medley was born on June 23rd. 1738, at Cheshunt, Herts. where his father kept a school. He received a good education, but, not liking the business to which he was apprenticed, he entered the Royal Navy. Having been severely wounded in a battle with the French fleet off Port Lagos, in 1759, he was obliged to retire from active service. A sermon of Dr. Watts read to him about this time, led to his conversion. he joined the Baptist Church in Eagle Street, London, then under the care of Dr. Gifford, and shortly afterwards opened a school which for several years he conducted with great success. Having begun to preach, he received a call in 1767 to become pastor of the Baptist Church at Watford. Thence, in 1772, he removed to Byrom Street, Liverpool, there he gathered a large congregation, and for 27 years was remarkably popular and useful. After a long and painful illness he died on July 17th, 1799. Most of Medley's hymns were first printed on leaflets or in magazines (the Gospel Magazine being one) ... Medley's hymns have been very popular in his own denomination, particularly among the more Calvinistic churches. In Denham's Selection there are 48, and in J. Steven's Selection, 30. Their charm consisted less in their poetry then in the warmth and occasional pathos with which they give expression to Christian experience. In most of them also there is a refrain in the last line of each verse which is often effective. In 1800 a Memoir of Medley was published by his son, which is regarded by members of the family new living as authoritative.
Notes from the Little Flock Hymn-book by Adrian Roach. It is said that Samuel Medley wrote 230 hymns. His hymns are marked by the spirit of praise and worship. It was to an oilman in London that he was apprenticed, which work he disliked and left. In 1755 he served aboard His Majesty's (George II) ship 'Buckingham' and was transferred to the "Intrepid" under Admiral Boscawen. He was severely wounded in the leg at the Battle of Cape Lagos against the French in Aug. 18th. 1759. He left the Navy and went to live with his grandfather, a Mr. Tonge, a pious man, who sought to lead Samuel into a different kind of life and a better one. One Lord's Day evening Mr. Tonge remained at home with him and read to him in the hope of reaching his heart, a sermon by Dr. Watts on Isaiah 42:6-7. By faith in the One preached, he had his eyes opened and was brought into liberty from the prison! After a restoration of health he listened to the word as preached by George Whitfield ... When near his death, a friend remarked to him, "Sir, Christ is your Centre". "Yes, yes" he replied, "He is, He is." Later he added, "I am now a shattered bark, just about to gain the blissful harbour, and oh how sweet will be the port after the storm." Again he said, "Dying is sweet work, sweet work! My heavenly Father! I am looking up to my dear Jesus, My God, my portion, my all in all!" He continued "Glory! Glory! Home! Home!" and then departed in peace on July 17th 1799.
Additional notes from "Who wrote our hymns" by Christopher Knapp. One of the best known hymns used in the United States is "Awake my soul, in joyful lays". It was first sung in Lady Huntingdon's chapel, now just 140 years ago. But it was composed earlier than this, and printed on what was then called "broad sheets", that is for distribution. A writer says "The popularity it has in America is owing much to the refrain which closes every stanza, and the old, old melody to which it has been sung in a thousand camp meetings, East, West and South we may add over the land for unreckoned years".
Knapp gives an account of the serious wounds that Medley sustained in battle. "I am afraid" said the surgeon, "that amputation is the only thing that will save your life. I can confirm tomorrow morning". Although Medley had led a profligate life in the Navy, he earnestly prayed. The next morning when the surgeon came to examine his sounds, he lifted up his hands in amazement and said, "This is little short of a miracle". He found the patient so much better that he could scarcely believe his eyes. God had heard Medley's prayer. Unfortunately Medley did not mend his ways after God had blessed him until he was saved through his grandfather reading Dr. Watt's sermon.
Medley's hymns in Spiritual Songs are: 96, "The Saviour lives, no more to die"; 99, "On Christ salvation rests secure"; 100, "Now in a song of grateful praise"; 118, "Awake, each saint, in joyful lays"; 196, "Come let us sing the matchless worth"; 309, "Saviour, before Thy face we fall"; 399, "Of Jesus the Saviour we sing."
Hymns 99, 100, 118, and 196 are popular hymns and are well worth inclusion in any collection of hymns. They give prominence to the Saviour and His many graces.