I have many happy memories of attending church with my parents during my childhood in the 1950s. In those days we used the old red “Methodist Hymn Book” in our services. One Sunday (presumably during a long boring sermon!) I remember reading the Preface to the Hymn Book. The opening words were, “Methodism was born in song”.
In 1738, soon after the “conversion” experiences of John and Charles Wesley, Charles wrote the first hymns of the Evangelical Revival, and since that time Methodists have never ceased to sing their faith.
I love the Easter hymns, from Wesley’s “Christ the Lord is risen today” to modern hymns of praise by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. One of my favourite hymns about the Risen Christ was written by Samuel Medley.
Samuel Medley was born in Cheshunt in 1738, about one month after the Wesley brothers experienced their New Birth. His father was a Schoolteacher and Samuel was given a good education and was apprenticed to an Oilman in London. Samuel was unhappy with his parents plans for his life, so he enlisted in the Royal Navy.
Unfortunately, Samuel was severely wounded in a battle with the French fleet off Port Lagos and was obliged to retire from active service. He was sent to stay with his grandfather, William Tonge, whilst he recovered from his injuries. William was a devout Christian and he sat at his grandson’s bedside and read sermons to him. I think that we can imagine how Samuel must have felt about this!
His grandfather’s prayers were eventually answered and Samuel Medley met with the Risen Christ and became an evangelical Christian. He started to attend a Baptist Church and soon entered the Baptist Ministry. In 1771 he was appointed as Minister of the Baptist Church in Byrom Street, Liverpool where he remained until his death in 1799. During his long ministry there he led hundreds of men and women to faith in Jesus Christ, their Risen Lord.
Samuel Medley wrote many hymns, but this is my favourite:
I know that my Redeemer lives
what joy the blest assurance gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
he lives, my everlasting 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, and grants me daily breath;
he lives, and I shall conquer death;
he lives, my mansion to prepare;
he lives, to lead me safely there.
He lives, all glory to his name;
he lives, my Saviour still the same;
what joy the blest assurance gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!
Easter is not just an annual event in the Christian calendar. Each Sunday is a celebration of the Risen Christ, and each day we can truly say, “I know that my Redeemer lives”.
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.