Samuel Medley

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
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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 "broadsheets," that is, on slips, for distribution. A writer says, "The popularity it has in America is owing much to the refrain which closes every stanza, and the odd, old melody to which it has been sung in a thousand camp-meetings, East and West [and South, we may add], over the land for unreckoned years.”
Its author, Samuel Medley, was born in England, June 23, 1738. When a lad he was apprenticed to a dealer in oil, but disliking the work, he took advantage of the privilege accorded apprentices in those times of war, and had himself transferred to the navy, and was very seriously wounded in an engagement off Cape Lagos. "I am afraid," said the surgeon, "that that amputation is the only thing that will save your life. I can tell to-morrow morning." Now young Medley had been piously instructed when a child, both his father and grandfather being godly men, and the surgeon's words troubled him greatly. He had led a very profligate life since entering the navy, and knew well that he was not prepared to die. So he gave himself earnestly to prayer; and the next morning, when the surgeon came to examine his wounds, 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 the young midshipman's prayer; and you will, perhaps, think he was converted.
Alas, no! As so often happens, when people cry to God in some distress, they make all sorts of promises and resolutions for the better; but when the danger is past they go right back to their old ways and forget the benefit they received. So it was with young Medley; he did not really turn to God for salvation, but soon returned to his evil ways, an forgot God.
But three years later he was really converted. It came about in this way: The war being over he returned home. There he had to listen to godly admonitions. One evening he asked the servant if his grandfather was going out to meeting. "No, he is going to read a short sermon to you," was the answer. This was worse to young Medley than a battle at sea. "A sermon to me!" he exclaimed; but he had to hear it. It was a sermon by Isaac Watts on Isa. 42:6, 76I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. (Isaiah 42:6‑7); "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. This refers to Christ and His redeeming work. The young man listened at first with indifference; then his heart softened at the grace and mercy of the Lord, and when he was left alone, he fell upon his knees and gave himself entirely up to Christ. And it is said that he wrote, "Awake, my soul," to commemorate this blessed occasion.
A blessed occasion indeed!—to be brought to the feet of Jesus. Has this event yet taken place in your life, reader, young or old? Has it! Oh, it is glorious, wonderful, past all telling. May you know it by blessed heart experience! I could wish you no better fortune. And it is so simple—just to yield to the strivings of God's Spirit—to receive Christ in your heart, and you are saved!
Medley became a minister of the gospel after his conversion, and for many years preached in Liverpool. Here he was very much thought of by the sailors who came to hear him; for, having been once himself a sailor, he knew their ways and thoughts, and took special pains to instruct them in his preaching. Even in death he used the language of the sea to express his happy thoughts; "I am now a poor shattered bark," he said, "just about to gain the blissful harbor. Oh, how sweet will be the port after the storm! But a point or two more, and I shall be at my heavenly Father's house!" So he peacefully "fell asleep," July 17, 1799, aged 61.
Medley wrote in all over two hundred hymns, the best of which, perhaps, is,
"Oh, could we speak the matchless worth—
Oh, could we sound the glories forth
Which in the Savior shine,
To God and Christ what praise we'd bring!
The song which soon in heav'n will ring,
Extolling grace divine!
We'd sing the precious blood He spilled,
Our ransom from the dreadful guilt—
From sin and wrath divine!
We'd sing His glorious righteousness,
In which all-perfect, heav'nly dress
Our souls shall ever shine!
We'd sing the characters He bears,
And all the forms of love He wears,
Exalted on the throne!
In loftiest songs of sweetest praise,
We would through everlasting days
Make all His glories known!
Soon that delightful day will come
When our dear Lord will bring us home,
And we shall see His face!
Then with our Savior, Lord and Friend,
A blest eternity we'll spend,
Triumphant in His grace!”
His Loving-Kindness—by Samuel Medley
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,
Vet loved us notwithstanding all.
He saved us from our lost estate:
His loving-kindness, oh, how great!
Though num’rous hr Th of mighty foes.
Though earth and hell our way oppose,
He safely leads His saints along:
His loving-kindness, oh, how strong!
When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gathered thick, and thundered loud,
He with His Church has always stood:
His loving-kindness, oh, how good!
Soon shall we mount and soar away
To the bright realms of endless day,
And sing with rapture and surprise
His loving-kindness in the skies.