KELLY, WILLIAM: Plymouth Brother; b. of Episcopalian parentage in the north of Ireland 1821; d. at Exeter, England, Mar. 27, 1906. He was early left fatherless, supported himself by teaching in the island of Sark, and joined the Plymouth Brethren (q.v.) in 1840. He retained a close connection with the Channel Islands for thirty years, residing in Guernsey, but for the latter half of his career his home was at Blackheath, London, S. E. He graduated with classical honors at Trinity College, Dublin, and by his writings established a reputation for sound scholarship and acquired distinction as an able controversialist. Besides aiding Tregelles in that eminent scholar's investigations as a Biblical textual critic, he himself published, in 1860, a critical edition of the Revelation of John, which earned a commendatory notice from Ewald in the Göttingen Jahrbücher. Such studies were carried on concurrently with the editing of a periodical entitled The Prospect, which gave way to The Bible Treasury, carried on by Kelly to the time of his death. This brought the editor into correspondence with such men as Dean Alford, Dr. Robert Scott the lexicographer, Principal Edwards, Professor Sanday, and other theologians. In his last days Archdeacon Denison was wont to speak of The Bible Treasury as the only religious magazine worth reading, so steadfast was the editor in rejection of what he believed to be Christ-dishonoring views of the Bible put forth by higher critics.
Kelly identified himself whole-heartedly with the body of doctrine developed by the late John Nelson Darby (q.v.), whose Collected Writings were edited by him. According to Neatby, he "was essentially the interpreter of Darby to the uninitiated." Kelly's own merits were, however, manifest alike in living as in written ministry. Spurgeon, judging by the latter, has applied to him, in the Guide to Commentaries, words of Goldsmith, "born for the universe, who narrowed his mind" by Darbyism. Although friction at last arose between them, the younger retained his veneration for the older man.
In the list of Kelly's writings will be found lectures
on or formal expositions of all the books of
the Bible. Kelly exercised considerable influence
upon outside readers by his Lectures on the New
Testament Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (London,
(1867); On the Church of God (10th ed., 1906); On
the Pentateuch (1877); On the Gospel of Matthew
(1868); and On the Book of Revelation (1861). "In
the Beginning" (Mosaic Cosmogony), Expositions
of the Prophecies of Isaiah and the Gospel of John
(enlarged ed. by E. E. Whitfield, 1907); The Epistle
to the Hebrews and the Epistles of John; a work on
God's Inspiration of the Scriptures, and his last words
on Christ's Coming again (in which he vindicated
the originality of Darby in regard to the "Secret
Rapture" after its impugnment by an American
writer) are other works which warrant notice.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. B. Neatby, William Kelly as a Theologian, in Expositor, 7 ser., no. 17.
Calvin College. Last modified on 10/03/03. Contact the CCEL.