Open main menu

Medley, Samuel (1738-1799) (DNB00)

MEDLEY, SAMUEL (1738–1799), baptist minister and hymn-writer, second son of Guy Medley (d. 25 Oct. 1760), was born at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, on 23 June 1738. His grandfather, Samuel Medley, had been in the diplomatic service, and accompanied the Earl of Kinnoull's embassy to Constantinople in 1729. His father, Guy, had been tutor to the Duke of Montague, and attorney-general of the Isle of St. Vincent; he subsequently kept a school at Cheshunt; married the youngest daughter of William Tonge, a schoolmaster at Enfield; and was an intimate friend of James Hervey (1714–1758) [q. v.] Medley was educated by Tonge, his maternal grandfather, and at the age of fourteen was apprenticed to an oilman in the city of London. In 1755, however, he obtained his freedom on entering the royal navy, from which he was discharged after being severely wounded in the action off Cape Lagos on 18 Aug. 1759, while serving in Admiral Boscawen's squadron. From 1762 to 1766 he kept a flourishing school in King Street, Soho, and became acquainted with Andrew Gifford [q. v.], assistant-librarian at the British Museum and pastor of the particular baptist church in Eagle Street, Holborn, whose church he joined in December 1760. Gifford led him to enter the baptist ministry. He began preaching on 29 Aug. 1766, and on 6 June 1767 he accepted a call to a congregation at Watford, Hertfordshire, which had been without a minister since 1763. Here he was ordained on 13 July 1768. His ministry was successful, and on 11 Nov. 1771 he was invited to the baptist church in Byrom Street, Liverpool. He first visited Liverpool at the end of December, and began his stated ministry in Byrom Street on 15 April 1772.

Medley's career as a preacher in Liverpool was one of remarkable and increasing popularity. His meeting-house was enlarged in 1773, and in 1789 a new and much larger building was erected for him in the same thoroughfare. His old meeting-house was consecrated in 1792 as St. Stephen's Church. Medley did a valuable work among the seamen of the port of Liverpool. His methods, often adapted to gain the ear of this class, exposed him to the criticism of fastidious persons like Gilbert Wakefield; his daughter collected some of his witticisms. Halley, who ranks him as ‘a great preacher,’ testifies to his ‘liberal and catholic spirit.’ His high character and disinterested philanthropy are unquestionable. Adult baptism was not an essential for membership in his church, which became practically congregational. He yearly visited London, preaching at the Surrey Tabernacle and that in Tottenham Court Road. After a painful illness he died on 17 July 1799. He married (17 April 1762) Mary, daughter of William Gill, hosier, of Nottingham. His portrait was painted and engraved by his son Samuel [q. v.], for a volume of ‘Memoirs,’ published by the latter in 1800. Two of Medley's sermons are printed with his ‘Memoirs’ (1800); one was translated into Welsh. His hymns, originally printed on single sheets, and in the ‘Gospel Magazine’ and other publications, were collected in 1. ‘Hymns,’ &c., Bradford, 1785. 2. ‘Hymns on Select Portions of Scripture,’ &c., Bristol, 1785 (this is called 2nd edit., but is a smaller and variant collection; it was enlarged 1787). 3. ‘Hymns,’ 1794. 4. ‘The Public Worship and Private Devotion … Assisted … in Verse,’ &c., 1800. Though Halley calls Medley ‘a small poet,’ Mr. Stevenson speaks of ‘the warmth and occasional pathos’ of his hymns, of which he specifies twenty as having gained considerable vogue. His daughter Sarah published a volume of ‘Original and Miscellaneous Poems,’ Liverpool, 1807, and other poems in Liverpool magazines; also a ‘Memoir,’ 1833, of her father, with appended hymns, ascribed to him, but many of them altered, and some of them by Thomas Kelly (1769–1854).

[Memoirs by Samuel Medley, his son, 1800; Memoirs of Gilbert Wakefield, 1804, i. 208 sq.; Memoirs by Sarah Medley (his daughter), 1833; Thom's Liverpool Churches and Chapels, 1854, pp. 43 sq.; Halley's Lancashire, 1869, ii. 479 sq.; Urwick's Nonconf. in Herts, 1884, pp. 361, 466; Mr. W. R. Stevenson, in Julian's Dict. of Hymnology, 1892, pp. 112, 722.]

A. G.