"No one is able to show to those who knew him not what he was; no one could show this to those who knew him in a way they would feel satisfying."
William Kelly first saw the light when England was beginning to recover from the Napoleonic wars. The Battle of Waterloo lay only five years behind. Napoleon himself had just died at St. Helena. The least estimable character that ever occupied the British throne had but recently succeeded to it, and demands were everywhere rising for reform and popular liberty. The Home Secretary, Addington, and his more powerful colleague, Lord Castlereagh, sensing the uneasy situation, and fearing that the ominous stirrings so apparent might flare up into open revolution, foolishly introduced into Parliament a most unpopular and hated measure known as "Six Acts" hoping thereby to effectually prevent this. It only served, however, to increase the growing discontentment.
This measure threatened with severe penalties all who advocated any kind of social reform, and was repressive to a degree. The general populace was exasperated by its severity against all and any who dared to protest against the policy of the Government. The Home Secretary and Lord Castlereagh, however, succeeded in forcing the obnoxious measure through. When Castlereagh died shortly after, his funeral became the occasion of a most disgraceful outburst of hatred against both himself and the Act he had sponsored. The French revolution, alike so recent and near, only needed a spark to explode the magazine of pent up resentment felt by thousands at the injustice of the new law. Both politically and ecclesiastically a transition period had arrived. The more sober and practical elements were filled with alarm at the violent and threatening temper displayed by the masses, and the obtuseness of the ruling class to its implications. In a remote country parish one of Oxford's most brilliant students was then quietly brooding over the conditions in church and state. It was several years, however, before the result of his thoughts stirred the country in a sermon preached in the university pulpit, and published under the title of "National Apostasy".
Two great religious movements were then both due to appear and radically affect the religious outlook. The Evangelical revival was settling down into a quiet, select, self-complacent orthodoxy. The Methodist movement also was rapidly losing its original fire and fervour. A few years previously both had been fanned by the fires of persecution, but these had now died down. Ecclesiastical gales were beginning to blow from Oxford and Plymouth, and were disturbing the religious dovecotes. Both were destined to exert an influence upon English speaking Christendom beyond anything known since the sixteenth century Reformation.
One of these, the Tractarian movement, was later to be known as the Oxford movement; while the other was the Plymouth, or as often called, the Brethren movement. Both were silently taking shape and much has been written about them. The impetus given by both is still being felt after the lapse of well over a century. These two movements had their origin in the accident of urgent necessity! one from the suppression of ten Irish bishoprics by the Government; and the other by an Archiepiscopal order to the Irish clergy stopping the work of the Irish Home Missions, as an oath of allegiance to King George now became compulsory on the reception of the converts. "If it be true anywhere that such enactments are forced on the legislature by public opinion, is Apostasy too hard a word to describe the temper of such a nation?" This was the question asked by Mr. Keble.
Naturally enough, the two most prominent figures in the respective movements were clergymen of the Established Church; the one John Henry Newman, who strenuously opposed the former of these; and the other, John Nelson Darby, Lord Nelson's godson, who as strongly objected to the latter. At once a number of pious men with active minds and great natural abilities were quickly attracted to these movement. Two who stand out from their fellows were singularly alike in many respects John Keble, the Tractarian friend referred to earlier, and William Kelly, the henchman of the Plymouth leader. Both Keble and Kelly were humble and self-effacing men personally, although each had in their day carried off the highest honours of their respective universities.
The words of a brilliant contemporary of theirs may here be quoted, "Where personal character is the main source of influence on others - where the unconscious labourer, pressing forward in faithful service, reflects a glory from his upturned countenance, scatters the fire of his aspiration in surrounding hearts, and by that subtle impress of spirit upon spirit refines the conscience, warms enthusiasm and quickens effort - there it is that a life, a record, a portrait is most needed. The chief work is done without it, many a heart moulded, many a course changed by contact with the living man."
This fully applied to both these great men. It is, however, with William Kelly we are concerned in this present volume.
Dublin, Downpatrick and the Wicklow Hills form the setting of William Kelly's birth, boyhood and youth. The son of an Ulster squire, he was born in May 1820 at Millisle, Co. Down. His father's early death left him and an only sister to be brought up by their devoted mother. At an early age he matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin, and here a natural flair for the classics and sacred languages was fostered. This, combined with a steady application, soon caused him to be regarded as a very promising student, one likely to add to the lustre of he University.
He early gave evidence of an innate love for study and also possessed the rare gift, for one so young, of sufficient wisdom to refrain from presuming of it. As Sir Joshua Reynolds says, "If you have genius, industry will improve it; if you have none, industry will supply its place." And William Kelly followed this hard but sure road. He himself in later years once casually remarked to the writer, "Genius is ninety-nine per cent hard work and close application to one's studies;" and his early career at Trinity College was an illustration of it, his steady industry being finally crowned with first class distinction when he graduated later in highest classical honours. The Principal, when warmly congratulating him upon his scholastic brilliance, offered a post upon the College staff, hinting that if accepted he would make his fortune in the world. "Which world, sir?" was his enquiry.
He was then only twenty years old, but the reply was both self-revealing and almost prophetically anticipative of his whole after life of being in the world but not of it. The influence of the Evangelical school of religion in which he, as an Ulsterman, had been nurtured made a deep impression upon him, the other-worldliness of that movement predisposing the devoutly minded youth in the direction of Orders in the Irish Established Church. Why this ambition was never realized will appear later, but at the time of leaving the University it was uppermost in his thoughts.
In passing we may note that half a century later Kelly's nephew by marriage closely rivalled his uncle's reputation at Trinity. The then Principal remarked to a friend of the Kelly family, "You know, we look on Malcolm as one of the chief ornaments of our college." In later life Malcolm Montgomery, the lad in question, was also regarded as the best Greek authority among the "Brethren", and showed that he shared his uncle's convictions as to the relative values of worldly honours when one has had the vision of higher things.
Upon leaving Dublin University Kelly found himself momentarily at a loose end, being then a couple of years too young for ordination in the Irish Church. He decided to seek a tutorial post in the interim, and keep up his special theological reading. He always held that it was in the providence of God that just then the Seigneur of Sark happened to visit Northern Ireland seeking a tutor for his young family. Being also the Rector of Sark, and happening to contact the University authorities, he heard of that year's brilliant student and expressed a wish to meet him. This resulted in a warm invitation to Sark, and Kelly's immediate difficulties as to a livelihood disappeared. William Kelly even afterwards regarded this entirely unexpected opening as a most important stage on his life's pilgrimage. When referring to it later, the present writer ventured to quote:
"There's a divinity that shapes our ends Rough-hew them how we
Mr. Kelly smilingly replied, "I am not a Shakespearian," and said that he much preferred the poet Cowper's version:
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."
From the Emerald Isle, with the busy life of Dublin, Downpatrick and the Wicklow Hills, the boundaries of his youthful days, to the remote Isle of Sark, situated in the stormiest part of the English Channel, was a journey not to be lightly undertaken in the early nineteenth century. But in Kelly's case it was the first of the several stages en route for London, where so much of his life and work was done.
He firmly believed in the guiding Hand of God, and always regarded the stages of his pilgrimage as the direct leading of the One Who knows the end from the beginning and guides all the journey through. So from Dublin to Sark, thence to Guernsey covering the next twenty years; and then to London, where at Blackheath and Lee the rest of his days were spent, is the story of his earthly pilgrimage.
Few islands contain so much romantic interest in so small a compass as the Isle of Sark. It is remarkable for its grandeur of cliff and cave, and deemed the loveliest of those lovely gardens of the sea - the Channel Islands." Here in the Channel Islands it was that Kelly as a young tutor experienced what he always regarded as the two most important events in one's life: the knowledge of personal soul salvation, and the finding of life's greatest earthly treasure, a good wife.
Taking the latter as first in order, for the wife was used to lead him into the knowledge of the former, it was here he met and fell in love with a Miss Montgomery of Guernsey in whom for years until her death in 1844 William Kelly found a perfect help-meet in life and work. Like himself she hailed from the Emerald Isle, being a lady of the Ulster Scottish branch of the Montgomery tree and of Norman origin. These happy formative years in Sark were now filled with congenial employment, domestic bliss and happy Christian fellowship.
William Kelly had from boyhood been religious and conscientious; his growing knowledge of Hebrew and Greek had also fostered a scholar's interest in the Holy Scriptures in their original tongues. As a child familiar with what the Evangelicals of that day termed the "Plan of Salvation", he yet so far had not taken a really personal interest in the subject. The important step by which one passes from a general knowledge about Christ to a special knowledge of Him as a personal Saviour had not been taken by him, when he accepted the appointment in Sark.
Sixty years later in a public lecture in London, when quoting the text from John's epistle, "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater," he remarked, "May I recall the divine relief and deliverance these words gave more than sixty years ago to a soul converted but harassed and deeply exercised through sense of sin which clouded his soul's rest on Jesus? These words chased away all doubt, and made him ashamed to question God's witness. It became the application of truth to him, and no longer his applying it to himself, though not at all doubting the intrinsic worth of Christ's death for the sinner. "It was not my seeing as I ought the efficacy of the blood, but resting by faith on God's seeing it, and God's valuing it as it deserves." William Kelly thus explained the great change which was the prelude to becoming the man of God he did.
The third important happening which took place in the Isle of Sark was some months subsequently. He made a careful examination of current conventional ecclesiastical customs in the light of the New Testament which he always studied in the original tongue. The conclusion arrived at by him was expressed in the following words: "It is but too plain that whatever good men may do here and there, the only real inquiry is as to the will of the Lord. It is not a question of making others walk in your light, but you must not walk in their darkness. This is the great point, not occupying ourselves with others, prescribing what they must do, but feeling my own sin, as well as the common sin, yet by grace resolved at all costs to be where I can honour and obey the Lord." So he explained his action in then leaving the Established Church. He had come to see that in all the current religious societies, Established or Dissenting, one, if loyal to the tenets of the company, had either to surrender some Scriptural principle or to acquiesce in what was obviously unscriptural and therefore contrary to the will of the Lord.
He quietly decided, therefore, to associate himself with a very tiny company of likeminded Christian believers who were gathered simply to the Name of the Lord Jesus, relying upon His own assurance (Matt. 18,20) of His Presence in the midst of them. He found them making no pretensions to superior knowledge or spirituality, yet most certainly enjoying much spiritual blessing and happy fellowship in the things of the Lord, to which he had hitherto been a stranger. It was another lady, one of the well known Acland family, who helped the young tutor now, both to appreciate the simplicity of God's way of salvation, and also the Scriptural way to gather for worship and service. One Lord's day William Kelly went to a meeting for the Lord's Supper, the Breaking of Bread, as recorded in Acts 20, where it is written, "When upon the first day of the week, the disciples came together to break bread." To his momentary confusion, on that particular morning no other brothers were present in the tiny gathering, and he, though having received much light and help spiritually from the writings of J.N. Darby and other "brethren", had never actually met a "brother".
Some two years or so after this William Kelly, now in his twenty-fifth year, went on a short visit to Plymouth, and happening to call at a bookseller's shop in Whimple Street, there, to his great joy, met a man whose life for the next forty years was to be very closely linked with his own. For the last couple of years Kelly had been a close and careful student of the works of John Nelson Darby, then creating something of a stir in ecclesiastical circles, and the clerical dove-cotes generally. This had made him greatly desire to meet the author, and the meeting in that bookseller's was a great day in Kelly's life. Given in his own words he says, "I go back to my first intercourse with J.N.D. in the summer of 1845 at Plymouth. For though I had been for years in communion before this, it had not been my lot to see him for whom above all others I had conceived, because of his love and testimony to Christ, profound respect and warm affection. I was then living in the Channel Islands, in one of which I began to break bread with three sisters, before ever looking a "brother" in the face. It was in J.B. Rowe's shop, Whimple Street, that we met, and very frank and cordial was his greeting." This apparently casual meeting was another spiritual milestone on life's pilgrimage, and one of Kelly's most cherished memories.
Shortly after this first contact with J.N. Darby, whose conversation served to deepen greatly the impression which his own solitary studies had made upon him, an opportunity of attending a big London Conference of Brethren was presented, which enabled Kelly to hear an address by his new acquaintance and erstwhile life-long friend. This address by J.N. Darby made an ineffaceable impression upon him, so that some sixty years later in a reminiscent mood he said with emphasis, "It was a most impressive discourse." The ecclesiastical atmosphere was then very heavy with dark clouds. The gathering storm of the Oxford movement had increased in intensity in the months of Newman's secession, and the first great calamitous division of the so-called Brethren movement co-incided. The air was electric in the circles of both these movements. Kelly's interest was second only to Darby's. It was not Tractarians or Newtonians as such, but the truth of God and the honour of Christ which they felt to be at stake. It has been well observed, "the hour finds the man," and Kelly's special gifts were very speedily recognized beyond the boundaries of the Channel Islands where hitherto they had been exercised.
The comparatively early death of his young wife no doubt accounts for his decision to leave Sark, which he did shortly afterwards. His conviction, too, that the Lord was guiding his steps towards the sister isle of Guernsey finally determined him to remove his home there. Subsequent events proved that his action was justified, as the next chapter shows.
Guernsey, where William Kelly resided for the next twenty-seven years 1844-1871, provided a far wider field than Sark in his service for the Lord. Almost at once there began that surprising output of literary work which was remarkably sustained for half e century. It was here that Dr. S.P. Tregelles invited him to collaborate as a biblical textual critic, a great honour for so young a man, and an appreciation of Kelly's ability in this specialized department of sacred study. Here also his first great work appeared, the Revelation of John with an independent translation, to be hailed by Professor Heinrich Ewald of Göttingen as "the best piece of English work of the kind that had ever come under my notice."
Such tributes and recognitions quickly placed William Kelly in the front rank of those rising young writers upon sacred subjects whose work then claimed notice in the so-called religious world of that day. Reviews, articles, pamphlets and more substantial volumes, all bearing the hallmark of scholarship, simplicity and lucidity, appeared in succession from his eloquent pen. He was now recognized as a sound biblical scholar and controversialist of a formidable calibre. He had for some three years contributed articles to the Christian Annotator which attracted much attention. Then the editorship of the Prospect, at the age of twenty-nine, marked a further stage of progress in Kelly's early career. This magazine was one devoted to the exposition of prophetic subjects, and though issued in an uninviting style both as to size and shape, with the added drawback of closely printed type, yet for the two years of his editorship had a good circulation.
His opportunity came, however, when Professor Wallace, about to relinquish responsibility for the Bible Treasury, invited William Kelly to contribute a series of papers, six months later handing the periodical over to him. From the outset it was a success; here he found and held his ecclesiastical public for the next half century. It was a venture of faith for so young a man, but "the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Ps. 37,23), and the Bible Treasury soon firmly established itself in the hearts of its readers. Archdeacon Denison, expressing his opinion a few years subsequently, said, "It is the only religious magazine any longer worth taking." Yet the Editor by no means spared the school of thought represented by the Venerable Archdeacon when he considered truth necessitated his so doing.
In the first number issued under the new editorship Kelly frankly states the aim of the new venture in these words,
The name of the periodical is not one which I should have chosen, as it wears a pretentious air - least to an unfriendly eye. But the project was unknown to me till after the first number, or the second, was in the hands of its readers. To the third I contributed the first of a series. Prom the eighth number the editorial care was mine; not long after the entire responsibility devolved on me. Though never liking the title as a question of taste and feeling I saw in it no sufficiently serious objection to risk the confusion which must have ensued from a change of name. If the work be a poor Treasury, as I cannot but feel, the Bible, at any rate, is in God's grace a rich unfailing source of supply.
Accordingly, whilst the prophetic word has not been neglected throughout the past eleven years, I may say, of its course, the reader can bear witness that there has been the continual desire to draw from every province of Scripture, avoiding no truth which God has revealed for our instruction. The person and the work of Christ, the expectations of Israel from of old, the prospects of the world, the hope of the Christian and of the Church, the dispensations and the Kingdom of God, have all been treated, most of these subjects frequently and by various pens, and this with a distinct view to the practical profit of souls. Exposition of Scripture (Old Testament and New, portions and whole books), has had, and I trust ever will have a large place. So, too, questions of the day for good or ill have been discussed, with occasional reviews or notices of such books as handle them. Neither exhortations to Christians nor appeal to the unconverted will be looked for in vain in these pages.
Critical difficulties, faults or textual readings in Greek and Hebrew, emendations of translations, and corrections of prevalent interpretation, may not interest so extensive a class, but they have ever had a prominent place here; because the aim has been ever to consider such Christians especially as desire to make progress in the things of God. How, mistake in text or version or exegesis arrests the mind in proportion to the value given to God's word. Hence to such as prize that word above all things, the exceeding preciousness of every fresh insight into its true bearing, and the importance of removing every hindrance.
As for the writers, no matter of interest to the believer, or of bearing on Christ's glory, will they exclude or evade; though it is assuredly desired to avoid the discussion of every unprofitable question, and to rid all things discussed as much as possible of a controversial aim. Papers of real value from any Christian will of course be admissible, save where known evil practice, or indifference to Christ, ruins the credit of the profession of His Name. "May the gracious Lord deign to use the work increasingly to the edification of souls and to His glory. 'For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.'"
This Guernsey period in Kelly's life, although thus full of outside activities was one in which the interests of the local assemblies of believers with which Kelly was so closely connected were never neglected. Always modestly disclaiming being an elder, bishop or overseer of the flock, yet his supreme delight was found in ministering to the sheep of God's pasture; and many gratefully acknowledged it was right good spiritual food which he supplied. It was also often remarked with surprise that so erudite a man could be so simple in his public ministrations, whether purely evangelistic, expository or of a more advanced character.
Intellectual cleverness, glibness of speech as worthless as they are common, William Kelly abhorred, his public ministry and private conversation being alike marked by the word of wisdom and sanctified common sense. He was alive to the danger of the then very critical period in the so-called religious world. It was the post-Tractarian era which followed hard upon Newman's defection and Manning's desertion from the Established Church.
Dr. Pusey, John Keble and some others of the early movement remained, but Maurice and Kingsley and their disciples now in the ascendant were busily introducing their Liberal Social Gospel with the openly expressed approbation of Dean Stanley; the Evangelicals appeared to have lost their savouring salt and much of their influence; and at the same time the "Brethren" were in the throes of their first great division. Earlier on they had caused dismay in ecclesiastical circles both Established and Dissenting by their rapidly spreading influence, so many of clergy and ministers having joined their ranks. Now considerable confusion prevailed on all sides, and a clear voice was needed to re-affirm the fundamental witness to God's inspiration of the Scriptures, and the true other-worldliness of real Christianity. On the one hand Dr. Pusey quickly sensing the alarming situation bore a very bold witness to both these matters, somewhat weakened, however, by his decided Patristic and Mediaeval leanings. Of these Mr. Kelly himself may be cited as being one of these scholarly voices then raised respecting these matters in the early fifties of the 19th century. (See Introduction to W. Kelly "Lectures Introductory to the Minor Prophets).
It was during this Guernsey period that William Kelly also began those occasional excursions to London for lecturing and preaching which in the sixties brought him into personal contact with hundreds who, already familiar with his writings, were anxious to see and hear him.
The first of these visits appears to have been made in the late spring of 1866, between May 31st and June 20th when he delivered a course of eleven lectures which drew remarkable attendances, and made a deep impression on the hearers. These were taken down in shorthand, a real demand for publication having arisen during the delivery of this series. These he corrected with additions and retrenchments, shaping them in a more written style. Issued in book form at the end of the year as "Lectures Introductory to the study of the Gospels", they found a remarkable sale. Two years later when local conditions again favoured another London visit, this time in May 1868, the reception given to a companion series of twelve lectures delivered on the Epistles of Paul was a further tribute paid to the expository gift of the lecturer. One who attended several of these lectures expressed recollections of the crowded gatherings night by night, and of real help received from the word so ably ministered then.
On this occasion publication was unavoidably delayed until the next year when they appeared as Lectures Introductory to the study of Paul's Epistles. In quick succession there followed a series of Introductory Lectures on the study of the Pentateuch; Historical Books of the Old, Testament; Minor Prophets, the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit; the Second Coming and Kingdom; the Church of God; and a bulky volume of Occasional Lectures on Ritualism, Rationalism, Creation and nine other subjects of general interest.
In the providence of God it appears that in one of his lecturing tours William Kelly met the accomplished lady, Miss Elizabeth Emily Gipps, who years later was to become his second wife. Her father, the Reverend Henry Gipps, rector of St. Peter's, Hereford, had married a Miss Plumptre, sister of the first Lord Menthuen and cousin to J.C. Ryle, later Bishop of Liverpool. A learned and venerable friend whose hobby and recreation appears to have been that of genealogical research, (especially among the pedigrees of the early Brethren), kindly supplied this detailed information. He also traces J.N. Darby's pedigree on the male line to Commonwealth days of 1674, and on the distaff side through the O'Mores and old Earls of Ormond back to the times of King Edward I. - The family of the Gipps, like that of the Montgomerys, became closely connected with the spiritual movement of which Kelly was one of the (if not the) most able exponents. The brother of Elizabeth, a Mr. Pemberton Gipps became a firm adherent of the London Park Street Fellowship in 1881, a fateful year in the memory of so many Brethren, when the cryptic remark of the late Principal, Dr. W. H. Griffith Thomas of Toronto University, received a further sad illustration. Said that worthy divine on more than one occasion, "The Brethren are a remarkable people for rightly dividing the Word of Truth and wrongly dividing themselves."
One further incident of the Guernsey period, and perhaps of more than general interest, may be mentioned before closing this chapter of William Kelly's life in the Channel Islands. It was the meeting between two men who some fifty years later were to be regarded as leaders in opposite camps of the Brethren, namely Kelly and Lowe. In the eighties and nineties some sectarian minded brethren might have been heard speaking of the "Kelly" and "Lowe" parties. This incidentally was not the spirit of either of these revered leaders. It, however, gives a spice of interest to the story of their first meeting.
William Joseph Lowe, than a brilliant and accomplished youth, Junior to William Kelly "by some eighteen years, had obtained an important position in Madras when only twenty-one years of age. Before sailing to take up this post, a holiday of some three weeks was spent by him in Guernsey where he met and heard Kelly. So mutually impressed were they that the acquaintance speedily ripened to friendship owing to common interest in divine things. Ever after, Lowe referred to this meeting as having been one of the great formative influences of his life. Indeed on several occasions he remarked that in some respects it was the turning point of his career which, in truth, was a remarkable one in many ways. W.J. Lowe, a civil engineer by profession, possessed great linguistic ability, speaking nine or ten languages with ease; and his worldly prospects in India appeared very favourable indeed. The climate, however, soon took toll of health and energy, and in a few years he felt compelled to resign. Upon his return to England one of his first visits was to Guernsey to see the man to whom spiritually he considered he owed so much. Then began a life of almost apostolic labours as he visited Belgium, France, Germany and other parts of the Continent in the service of Christ, eventually extending his visits to Canada and the United States. He also rendered invaluable assistance to J.N. Darby in the French translation of the New Testament which the latter very frankly and gratefully acknowledged. W.J. Lowe himself, as already remarked, never tired of acknowledging the debt to what was an apparently casual meeting with William Kelly when on holiday on Guernsey. There are no little things, however, in the life of a child of God. Upon a very small hinge a big door may swing and turn. In the retrospect how often it is seen that apparently trifling events have moulded our lives and work. "For all the ways of a man are before Him." Darby, Kelly, Lowe and the thousands influenced by their lives and teachings realised that things which have neither sanction in the word of God nor will bear the searching light of its testimony had invaded Christendom and gained acceptance by devout souls. St. Cyprian, in the early days of the Church, gave the warning that even antiquity is not authority, but may only be "vetustas erroris" -the old age of error.
The moving pillar of God's guidance and providence in William Kelly's life now pointed the road to the last and longest stage of his pilgrimage - Blackheath, where he resided for the next thirty-five years. This was perhaps the most important one of all, as here circumstances arose which forced him conscientiously to take a stand ecclesiastically separating him from many of his oldest and most valued friends.
Blackheath, five miles south of London, was then and for some years included
in the county of Kent. It has played an important part in the history of London
from Roman days, coins of Claudius and Gallienus having been found bearing the
names of these Emperors. In 1710 a great many urns were dug up here, and among
them two of an unusual form, the one globular, the other cylindrical; both of
fire red clay, containing a great quantity of ashes. In one of them were the
words "Marcus Aurelius IIII" rudely scratched. The Danes also had an
encampment on Blackheath. Its history has bristled with battles, triumphant
processions and splendid pageantry? Indeed every inch of it teems with history.
Here kings, queens and cardinals from the year 1400 paraded "in all the pomp and
pageantry of secular and ecclesiastical state" to Christian readers,
however, Whitefield's mount still standing as a reminder of that great
Evangelist preaching to thousands on Blackheath from a slight elevation, is of
great interest. Morden College, founded by Sir John Morden in 1695, is on one
side of Kidbrook Grove where the Kelly family made their home, and on the other
is Greenwich Park, so pleasantly situated on the banks of the Thames that
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, called it Placentra, or the manor of Pleasaunce,
in the reign of Henry VI, to be later used in 1675 for building the Royal
Observatory, the old tower having fallen into decay.
In Blackheath Village, teeming with historical associations, the Brethren had a meeting place: called Bennett Park Hall with which, to the end of his life, William Kelly was to be closely connected. The Rink Hall near by, now displaced by a modern Post Office, also served on occasions when a conference overflowed the usual place of assembly.
William Kelly's coming to reside among the local gathering, he being a teacher of widely recognised influence and ability now in his early fifties, was welcomed by his brethren. Here, too, his gifts were to find ample scope, and before long the so-called religious press discovered his presence. It happened that if anyone wished to study prophecy (then a burning question in religious circles irrespective of denomination) from what was termed "futurist" standpoint, he commonly resorted to Bennett Park Hall in search of information, William Kelly being considered one of its ablest exponents.
A London journalist thus described a visit there veiling his identity beneath the nom-de-plume of "Spectator".
The Brethren are like Zoophytes who at certain times cut themselves off from the parent stem, and start life on their own account. The Brethren do this with themselves, only they never own their relatives after. This process of development has been again recently gone through; I am not sure whether "the meeting" I attended at Blackheath is, or is not, part of the original stem. Mr. Kelly is the "leading brother" as the chief minister, or ministering brother as a "gathering" (that is a meeting) is called. Bennett Park Hall, "the Room", is lofty and very comfortable} the Table is covered with the usual white cloth, a large decanter of wine, and some four or six large tumblers for the distribution of it; this gives the Table a singular appearance. I slip in, and before me is a board with a polite request written on it, not to trespass into the sacred enclosure of those "breaking bread". I wait; more arrivals until about one hundred and fifty or more people of the well-to-do class are present. Hymn books are provided for visitors. They are entitled "Spiritual Songs" "for the little Flock". Does the little flock mean the Brethren?
Mr. Kelly now arises and states that "our brother so-and-so from such a place is breaking bread with us today." This is, I judge, a signal that the meeting has commenced, for immediately after, a hymn is given out, and is sung standing. I notice there appears an unwritten rule that when hymns are addressed to the Divine Being they stand. If only truth about God or Christ they sit. The singing, though not unmusical, was of the slowest description until it became positively painful. Do they wish outsiders to consider they are going through a painful process?
Mr. Kelly then prayed; and it was on the whole a very remarkable prayer, and had some notable striking sentences. He said, "O God, we thank Thee it is Thy will to bring us together. We should never have thought of it, should never have known the joy of communion, and the deeper joy of Christ in the midst; separate us from the evil, from the evil which looks fair. O God, may our hearts be led by the Holy Ghost. Heaven is occupied in praising. Thou hast called us to praise Him. He became Man, to take up that great question, entirely insolvable to any but Himself, the question of our sins. O God, never didst Thou have an object which entirely filled Thy heart but Christ. We thank Thee for that One Who drew out Thine affections, Who brought out Thy counsels of glory. May there be holy liberty for Thy Spirit to exalt the Head, Jesus Christ." "Hymn again followed by some gentleman praying. He used very much the same style of language as Mr. Kelly. Another hymn sung standing; and Mr. Kelly then broke the bread, and prayed again. Addressing himself now to the Saviour he said, "O blessed Saviour, this is Thy particular command that we should break bread in remembrance of Thee. Lay it in our hearts, that we may as a continual offering give Thee the fruit of our lips. No tongue of men or angels could adequately set forth what Thy death means. What a sweet savour to God, what glory everlasting that death shall bring. Every other death is the wages of sin. Thou art the life everlasting, yet didst Thou die, Thou Who art the resurrection and the life.
The bread and the wine having passed round, a hymn was given out by one whose appearance and manner indicated that he was of the lower class. The good brother pitched it to the tune of Hold the Fort. It did not fit, so he had to pull it out the right size. This the good brother did, singing a solo at the same time. It is peculiar to hear this tune sung at the rate of a mile an hour.
At last it was finished and Mr. Kelly got on his feet, a rustle of expectation going through the room. The brief address being over, the box went round for the collection. Another hymn and short prayer, and the meeting broke up without the benediction.
Mr. Kelly is an able man as a teacher and theologian; moreover, he is a scholar and evidently a thinker. He was formerly a clergyman. His manner is not pleasant as a speaker, and he has a weak voice, dropping it at the end of every sentence.
Objectionable as the practice is, in a general way, of reporting prayers, since they are presumably intended for the Divine ear, and not as the American press once flatteringly remarked of a preacher that "his prayer was the most eloquent ever offered to a Boston congregation," yet, now that Mr. Kelly's voice is silent, few will regret that the reporter at Blackheath meeting included the above two devotional utterances which instinctively recall the speaker to those who knew him.
Shortly after settling at Blackheath Mr. Kelly commenced a weekly lecture in the Bennett Park Hall which soon became a regular feature of his ministry, and continued it for the rest of his life; suspended temporarily only on occasions of short absences from home. Every one interested knew that on Wednesday evenings he would be found at his post* and visitors to London, not only brethren, but clergy and others, were to be seen in the congregation fairly frequently. Indeed in the eighties and nineties, both at his Sunday evening Gospel services and Wednesday lectures, a rather cosmopolitan company would often be assembled to hear him. One well remembers having to vacate one's seat with many other local hearers in order to accommodate visitors from the Colonies and States who made a visit to the Blackheath Room (as the Hall was called by Brethren) a part of their tours. Also, as most of the thirty odd London gatherings of the Brethren held their week evening services on Mondays and Fridays, a goodly remnant could always be relied on to come to "the lecture" as it became widely known. And Kelly was a lecturer par excellence. One London divine who condescendingly came to hear this "Plymouth Brother", has put on record that on arrival at the Room he was astonished to find a congregation armed to the teeth with Bibles, listening to a masterly exposition of the origin of languages delivered without a single note, and lasting for an hour. It might have lessened the good clergyman's surprise had he been aware that others of his order, including Archbishop MacLagan, Bishop Ellicott, Archdeacon Denison and others also frequently consulted the lecturer upon matters of Scripture translation and exposition.
Quite another side of Kelly's ministry found illustration when a young Government official remarked to the writer that often, when standing alone under the starlit sky in the lonely Soudan, he had meditated upon a sermon of Mr. Kelly's at Blackheath heard by him on the Sunday evening previous to going out to take up his appointment. Though not then living at Blackheath, he had on the Sunday previous to his departure for Egypt gone over as he said, "to hear the old gentleman once more, perhaps for the last time;" and singularly enough, in his address Mr. Kelly, quite unaware of the visitor's presence or circumstances, dwelt very much upon the restless ambition of men for wealth or fame driving them to the ends of the earth, in seeking their own advancement in this world, while often neglectful of the all-important concerns of the soul. This made so profound an impression on this young fellow that when returning some three years later, on his first Sunday after landing in England, he went to Blackheath to hear again the one whose words had as deeply impressed him on the former occasion.
Another phase of Kelly's ministry the following will serve to illustrate. He was to preach at St. German's Hall, Lewisham, one week evening. This Hall was situated in a working class district quite unlike Bennett Park Hall. Here William Kelly delivered an interesting, instructive and most earnest address based upon the Scripture reading before the sermon from Luke 23, 33. With studied simplicity of style in words both simple and arresting, he told the old, old story of the love of God in Christ for mankind. The divisions of the subject were clearly defined:
By way of contrast (was it on the following Sunday evening?) at his own place at Bennett Park Hall to a different congregation, one of mainly leisured and professional people, he commenced a series of three simple gospel addresses on 1 Peter 1, 2, the consecutive subjects beings
One wonders whether any preacher since Archbishop Leighton's famous lectures on Peter's Epistles had ever used one such verse for three full Sunday evening discourses. They were masterly, reasoned expositions, shot through with evangelistical application and followed by the congregation apparently with intentness of interest. The scene even at this distance of time stands out clearly before the eye of one then present. Precisely as a chiming clock in a neighbouring church tower struck the hour, William Kelly stepped up to the desk, announced a hymn, followed this by a short earnest prayer; a further hymn and the reading of a short passage of Scripture from 1 Peter 1. Then we settled back as the short compact figure, as was his wont, his spectacles up on his brow announced the text with just the suspicion of a lisp in his voice, "Elect according to the fore-knowledge of God the Father."
Asserting that the Calvinist was right in what he affirmed as to this, and
wrong in what he denied by false deduction, he also declared the Arminian to be
in the same plight, only reversed. He then proceeded to stress the importance of
recognizing the pure grace which saved any, and the great importance of not
receiving the grace of God in vain. The church clock chimed the quarter before
the hour; the preacher carefully, but unhurriedly, summed up, announced a short
hymn, and dismissed us on the stroke of the hour. He was ever a punctual man.
Punctuality breeds punctuality, and Bennett Park Hall in William Kelly's days
could afford an object lesson in this respect.
Another reminiscence of those days kindly contributed by an old friend may be appropriately inserted here. He writes: "You probably knew Dr. Joseph Kidd, famous as he was for his skill and generosity, and as being the personal physician of Lord Beaconsfield. I used to hear during my life in London of that Monday evening in April, 1881, when the prayer meeting was interrupted by a postman arriving with a summons to Dr. Kidd to wait on the dying Premier. We all have heard or many have done of Dr. Kidd's guinea fees, and how he put the guineas into a box. If a poor patient turned up out came the guineas to assist the needy brother." Personal recollections of the good doctor are chiefly of his stately entrance with Mrs. Kidd and the younger branch of the family on Sunday mornings. His snowy head, patriarchal beard, benign countenance and dignified bearing is not easily forgotten after the lapse of so many years. His reading of Psalm 65, "Praise waiteth for Thee O God in Zion," followed by a prayer in quiet reverent tones commencing with "Holy Father," made a deep impression.
Mr, Spurgeon, in these Blackheath days, referred to William Kelly in very suggestive terms in "Commentary and Commentaries" (of the College Series). First, as "a leading writer of the exclusive Plymouth School." Secondly, as "an eminent Divine of the Brethren School who sometimes expounds ably, but with a twist towards the peculiar dogmas of his party." In the third instance, he remarks, "We are sorry to see such a mind as Mr, Kelly's so narrowed by party bounds." Fourthly, "It is a pity that a man of such excellence should allow a very superior mind to be so warped." Finally, adapting Pope's well-known words, he says, "Kelly is a man who, born for the universe, has narrowed his mind by Darbyism."
It is, of course, true that William Kelly was an intimate friend and fellow-worker with Darby; indeed this oneness of mind and spirit led to him being asked both to revise and edit all the elder man's writings. The "Synopsis of the Bible", and from thirty to forty volumes of Darby's works: English, French, German, Dutch and Italian, all passed under his careful review as Editor. Yet throughout their close association Kelly was in no wise a blind follower of Darby; the bond of "truth in love" was what cemented the union in which each, while agreeing in the main, preserved independence of thought and action. This somewhat discounts Spurgeon's appraisal of Kelly and his work.
All critics were not so superficial, however; for a distinguished French scholar, who also wrote of Kelly and his works, says, "Kelly -savant, realisateur, tete logique, résumateur, philosophe;" and another critical writer spoke of him as "possessed a rare logical skill, fine precision, powers of original research, high moral power and spiritual culture." An Oxford man, and one not inclined perhaps to rate very highly the product of another University, frankly described Kelly as the distinguished alumnus of his (Dublin) University." His reputation apparently may therefore be considered as being established.
The final course of the Wednesday lectures was begun in his eighty-fifth year. At the concision of the first of these he announced, "I trust, if the Lord will, to continue these "Lectures on John's Epistles" without intermission." Happily he was enabled to complete the series which were, however, published posthumously. These were characterised by all his accustomed vigour of intellect and incisive speech, and possessed the added charm of a graciousness of spirit which greatly impressed some who were privileged to hear them delivered. It almost seemed as though a touch of completeness was being put to the long ministry of one who had figured so prominently in the many conflicts and controversies in the ecclesiastical arena in earlier days. They contrasted somewhat with the polemical style of much of his earlier work. Some who were devoted to him felt that a kind of sunset glory was resting upon this last phase of a faithful ministry. Many of them felt as the year 1905 ran out that these were the last addresses he would be giving. One very godly man who for sixty years had admired William Kelly, remarked at the close of one of these series, "Ah! If the old gentleman had always spoken like this, perhaps things would have turned out very differently with some." But William Kelly's own thoughts expressed in his words at this time clearly indicate just how his mind was working.
"Oh, my brethren" he exclaimed,
Be it ours to fill 'the little while' separate from the world, and above fleshly ease in the devoted service of Christ. Nothing so good and happy now, and nothing so appreciated on high and through all eternity; unless it be communion with Himself and the worship which accompanies it."
It was in 1869, when the scientific air was electric with speculations of Lyell, Darwin, Huxley, Asa Grey and others, that a lecture by William Kelly attracted great attention. The extraordinary grasp of ancient mythology, modern speculation and oriental languages possessed by the lecturer astonished some present who had hitherto regarded him as a mere henchman of J.N. Darby, and only a hidebound Plymouthist. His tacit rebuke of some who tremblingly sought to prevent the sacred ark of Holy Scripture from being shaken by its critics found expression in such a sentence as, "It is not part of wisdom for a Christian to deny facts. Why reject the phenomena which indicates states not only of the earth, but of living creatures there before Adam was made, i.e., before the six days? Otherwise how can we escape the supposition, that God was pleased to make vast quantities of fossilized objects, giving the appearance of having lived on earth, which never did? Are you prepared to accept the notion that God studiously gave a semblance of that which was not true? There are remains of animals, and animals too that were made with distinct objects, and with characteristics altogether different from those of animals to be found now, and supposing a correspondent state of things (as for instance, when the world was a vast marsh and enormous heat prevailed). There is no ground whatever to doubt these facts. I do not see that a Christian shows his wisdom, or his faith either by denying anything of the sort. (Creation p. 17, 18).
Sir Edmund Gosse in "Father and Son" relates how his father Philip Gosse had published an essay on Genesis 1, in defense of current orthodox teaching on Creation. His experiment in the field of geology called forth from the press, "God hid the fossils in the rocks in order to tempt geologists into infidelity," made Huxley scornful, and led Charles Kingsley, a close friend of Gosse, to write that he "could not give up the painful and slow conclusion of five and twenty years of study of geology, and believe that God has written on the rocks one enormous and superfluous lie."
The second Mrs. Kelly, to whom reference has been made in a previous chapter, one son and three daughters comprised the Kelly family at Blackheath. The son, named William after his father, was a young man of great promise who passed away in early life. Of the three daughters, one married a cousin, Mr. Edward Ramsden in 1875, another, Miss Emmie Kelly, married into the well known Colquhoun family, the other daughter later becoming Mrs. Armitage. William Kelly never failed to acknowledge the invaluable help rendered by his equally gifted wife, who was also an accomplished linguist. In the preface to an anonymously issued volume, "The Psalms - a new version with short notes", he pays this tribute to her memory:
"No apology is offered for the close rendering of the Hebrew, often no doubt uncouth to western ears. The aim of a version for public use is wholly different. But the more literal reflection is also full of interest and instruction to those who would weigh the form as well as the substance of the inspired word, whether Old or New; and this is what has been essayed here, however, inadequately. This I say for myself in particular, for time failed me with many calls on it to do more than supply what one ever dear to me began, but was compelled by sickness to give up just beyond the first fifty psalms. These first sheets lay for many years in the printer's hands, which it was a little labour of love to complete, with brief notes also on the distinctive aim of each of the hundred and fifty as I understand it. The critical eye may discern slight differences of rendering as to the words translated nations, peoples and Gentiles. For I felt bound not to alter a letter of hers on the one hand, on the other to be faithful in my part to give, what I believe, the precise sense. Also this memorial is given anonymously as all to whom it is of interest will understand that one or other name would not be quite true; and to put both savours to me too much of sentiment, which I dislike publishing, especially in divine things."
The loss of his second wife on February 4th, 1884, led him to remove across Blackheath to its extreme border at Lee, where for the remainder of his life he resided at Venner Lodge, Belmont Park. By this tine he had gradually acquired a very considerable library which grew until it reached some fifteen thousand volumes. The first view of it and the stocky figure with a short ladder against the book-lined shelves is not quickly erased from one's mind. But a further reference to this library and its disposal occurs later on these pages.
"Act on your convictions, and the most honeyed courtesy turns sour; your desire to please God at all costs will be branded as Pharisaical pride and exclusiveness."
It was the Evangelical prophet who truly said, "He that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey" (Isa. 59,15).
An American minister says, "William Kelly edified thousands by his clear Scriptural expositions." Yet it was to clergy and ministers of religion generally that his church position seemed to some very perplexing and to others so irritating. To himself it was a clearly defined one. He knew exactly where he stood in matters of faith and church order. True, he frequently experienced what the above quotation from Isaiah meant practically. At some real cost to him of worldly position and honours he consistently pursued his chosen course to life's end. On the vexed subject of infant baptism, or household baptism, his decided conviction forced by a study of Scripture was that there was neither warrant nor direction to be found for it; but although necessarily therefore a believer in the baptism of believers he way not a Baptist. He viewed with alarm the growing ecclesiasticism on every hand in the ranks of professedly Christian people.
On, the subject of Church fellowship his cherished and practiced principles, strangely so often misunderstood or misrepresented by some of a more legal turn of mind, found expression in the following, "We receive every Christian as such, without reference to their connection with Nationalism or Dissent; we rejoice to have communion with them, whether privately or publicly; They may join us in worship and the Supper of the Lord. They are as free as any of us to help in thanksgiving, prayer or a word of edification, if so led of God; and this without stipulation either to leave their old associations or to meet only with us. Where is this done save only with "Brethren"? With us on the contrary, if any godly Churchman or Dissenter thought fit to come when we remember the Lord together, he would be quite in order if he did any or all of these things spiritually; and this, not from any permission on our part, but as a matter of responsibility to God and His Word."
A letter of his on the subject is appended,
Blackheath, August 31, 1875.
My dear Brother,
Individuals among Brethren may urge their private views on evangelists or others; but all such narrowness is censured by every wise man in our midst; and, what is more important, it is dead against that return to keeping Christ's Word and not denying His Name which characterizes the work. The question has often arisen as to fellowship as well as service; and as often those who are entitled to speak have resisted the tendency to a restrictive school. If some have thought to require intelligence in those received, my own answer has been that it is in vain and unscriptural; that they themselves when received were the very reverse of intelligent; that if intelligence is to be anywhere, it should be in those who receive; and that those who require it in the received fail in the intelligence they demand from others; else they would not expect it where it could not be... Hence Scripture knows nothing of keeping outside a godly-walking member of Christ.
As little does it countenance the church's interference with the Lord's work, and especially in the gospel. To set the servant in the simplest dependence of the Lord, to foster his immediate responsibility to the Lord, without the intervention of the church is what every brother holds as a sacred duty and principle...This maintains the evangelist intact in his liberty and responsibility to his Master.
To another who prided himself on holding aloof from Assembly fellowship on account of real or imagined difficulties he wrote:
My dear Sir,
As far as I understand your position, it is one of "holding yourself aloof," or nothing-arianism to Church relations. Without doubt a dry morsel and quietness therewith is better than a house full of the sacrifices of strife; as it is better to dwell in the corner of a house-top than with a contentious woman in a house of society.
But I read unmistakably in the last epistle of the great apostle who alone communicated the truth of the Church, that grace gives a wholly different resource in view of the disorder and dangers of the last days. Circumstances may indeed here or there leave one isolated; but isolation is neither the revealed provision nor the legitimate aim. "The firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knew those that are His, and, Let every one that nameth the Lord's name depart from unrighteousness." This is individual and of deep moment as things are. But all does not end here. "Now in a great house etc." And this you own and have acted on. We are not tied to ecclesiastical corruptions where they are sanctioned constitutionally and admit of no removal. One must purge oneself out, if one cannot purge the evils out. But is this all? While the apostle bids his beloved child flee the lusts of youth, wide as they are and some of them subtle, he adds, "And pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Tim. 2, 19-22), Thus one may and ought to look for companions and fellow-witnesses called to like fidelity. Never should one contemplate isolation. The Holy Spirit bids one by grace to desire and expect communion of saints, however great and general may be the ruin of Christendom. Rev. 2,3 may be pleaded for individualism. How the call here to him that hath an ear is imperative in not allowing assemblies absolutely to govern faith and practice. I am bound, whatever the pretension of authority in defense of wrong or error, to hear not them but what the Spirit saith to them. Their voice is prima facie entitled (like that of my parents) to high respect and obedience," but certainly not if the wrong or the error is known and acknowledged; else that holy, responsibly holy, enclosure becomes a screen for evil, and may end in a hold of any unclean and hated bird. As a prophetic book the Apocalypse does warn and call for obedience to the word; but that word was to leave no faithful soul settled down in isolation. On the contrary, it encourages him, who separates from the evils men impose under the abused name of the Lord, to cherish a fellowship as much according to God as the separation. For Christ died to gather in one the children of God that were scattered abroad; and the Holy Ghost came to baptise them Jew or Gentile into one body. Never should God's will as to this inalienable privilege and duty become secondary. It is of all obligation, and the Holy Spirit abides to give both permanence and power, as we too are called to be subject to the Lord. Hence the blessedness of His own promise to be in, the midst (not certainly of all Christians in their wanderings) but of all that are gathered unto His name, were they but two or three. Let these be diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; and may they do it with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.
Yours faithfully in Christ,
In August 1884 he paid a visit to America end made a point of attending a Conference of some thousand Brethren at Plainfield, New Jersey. Here he occupied the position of an observer, deeply interested but personally detached, although several of the leaders were anxious to consult him and to secure his acquiescence in their differing views as to reunion among themselves. In several interesting letters to Mr. Henry Glanvill of Blackheath he expressed himself very frankly, that in his opinion although good from the point of view of numbers, nothing of any real moment transpired at this Conference. He steadily refused to compromise, or to be drawn aside from what he was convinced was the Scriptural path of Church, faith and order. One of the Brethren enquired how it was that in places like America so few appeared to agree with Kelly. Another shrewdly sensed the situation and remarked, "It is because he did not travel around the country giving speeches in his own cause like a politician." As a matter of fact he rarely travelled outside the United Kingdom.
William Kelly was strongly opposed to ecclesiastical pretension, and nowhere so much as among those who professed to be "outside the camp." He possessed to a degree the judicial gift of weighing and sifted evidence, and gave short shrift to those partisan leaders who sought to enlist his aid in schemes of reunion by making compromises. It was this which led to the American visit mentioned above.
His habit, too, of minutely examining doctrinal novelties by whomsoever
sponsored, and of drastically pillorying detected errors, did not make him
exactly popular with their exponents. He, however, earned the lifelong gratitude
of the "unlearned and ignorant" who, while in some degree sensing the
evil, were not competent to discern exactly where, why, in what it consisted,
and how to deal with it. Kelly's exposures in such cases commended themselves to
the poor of the flock by the clarity, simplicity and devotion to Christ which
marked them. Two instances may perhaps be permitted here. For example, when in
the eighteen nineties a re-hash of Apollinarianism appeared under the guise of
"fresh light" among one section of Brethren, Kelly quickly tore the
mask off its ancient face, revealing it to be as heterodox as to the Person of
Christ as when it was presented by the young bishop of Laodicea in Syria in the
fourth century and condemned by the Oecumenical Council at Constantinople in
In dealing with a quasi-doctrinal deliverance by another able teacher among the Brethren which for a time attracted more notice then than since as to propitiation being made after death in the disembodied state by our Lord, Kelly labelled it as a "ghostly theory of atonement." As a contradiction of the Lord's sixth word uttered with a loud voice, "It is finished", Kelly considered it in any case a slight upon the work of the Cross, detecting positive heresy in the statement and defence alike by the inventor. When in February 1900 it was formally considered by Brethren, and a paper signed by them refusing any compromise with this teaching, Kelly added as a postscript, "None but faithless or unwise men could wish such a matter to be an open question."
It is interesting to recall that when after Kelly's decease an American leader launched a line of teaching subversive to the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of our Lord, a magazine editor unearthed a hymn of Kelly's written years previously which showed what his attitude towards this would have been had it promulgated in his lifetime.
"Unending praise be Thine,
Eternal Son, we say;
Who came to bring the true God nigh
And put all sin away.
Ah! Thee the world knew not,
Created erst by Thee;
Its kings and rulers cast Thee out
And nailed Thee to a tree.
Had'st Thou not then a sphere
By every right Thine own?
'Twas there Thine own from heathen craved
For Thee the cross alone.
Rejected, glorious Lord,
The Saviour only Thou
To God for men far off or near,
Alike the heart to bow.
For since Thy blood is shed,
Our sins to faith are gone;
And reconciled, we shall be saved,
Thou livest for Thine own."
It is only fair to note that Kelly's deep convictions and principles firmly held did not, however, lead him to neglect the Apostolic injunction of some "making a difference." It is the man who is sure of his ground who can go further than others in meeting difficulties and disarming the prejudices of others. This led him to be very patient with those who had genuine difficulties, as he was impatient with pretentious assumption of those gentry so felicitously described by the translators of King James' Authorised version as "self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil."
A loving tribute to the memory of Mr. Kelly sent to the Editor of "Words
of Help" by an old gypsy brother, may fittingly find a place in this
chapter. Said he, "I read in "Words of Help" your writings on
(of) W. Kelly with much joy, calling back to me my first meeting with that loved
and departed brother, whose writings to me brought such joy and do now. I had
not been many years a child of God, born again, and redeemed by the precious
blood of Christ, when I met him. I had been only a poor gypsy, and not many of
the tribe I belonged to could read or write; and his treatment of me was love;
he met me as though I was one like himself, in such a humble and loving way.
I had asked who he was at a meeting, and when told it was W. Kelly I wondered why he had not even opened his mouth, for I loved his writings that I had read."
Surely this incident speaks for itself of the spiritual greatness of the one, and does honour to the other, and exhibits one of the characteristics which go to reveal the character of William Kelly.
William Kelly was good correspondent, prompt in his replies to letters received. He had, however, a penchant for postcards which occasionally, from his forthright habit of plain speaking, tended to embarrass the recipient. His habit of abbreviation made it possible to get a fairly long letter written upon a postcard, of which the following interesting specimen may serve as an illustration. It was sent to the Rev. F. W. Foster M.A., a clerical friend with whom he occasionally corresponded and was written microscopically with many abbreviations.
V.L., Bt. Pk., Lee, S.E.
1 Sept. 1905
My dear Foster,
Though I cannot deny plenty to do, I must write a few words to explain that the new Serial in which Dr. Driver takes a leading part is "The Interpreter", of which I have seen but No. 1. It was enough for me. But that he does not exercise great restraint, and steers clear of German scoffing and irreverence; but he seems to me only occupied with the husk and knows nothing of the inner fruit. The external caution makes him, with his Hebrew learning in the letter, the more dangerous in my eyes. Yet I mean to get and weigh his recent book on Genesis, puffed up by the "Times" which endorses that skeptical school.
Only I want to bring out Leviticus as a whole; which as it will make some 700 pages, raises the question of two moderate volumes. If allowed, I hope to bring out Genesis in three fair-sized volumes, D.V., so I fear my sword must wear out the old scabbard. Did I tell you that Col. (or rather Mr.) S., as he prefers to be styled, having abjured the army, is the literary executor of the late Mr. G., and asked me to review his own defence of the strange doctrines candidly. This, as you know, is my wont; and I only pray that it may blow up what hardly deserves the powder and shot. It is a scheme worthy of a maniac at issue with Scripture on every side. I have striven to speak kindly and repress indignation, and hope eyes may be opened. You nay not know that an early volume of mine (on the Ephesians) caught the eye of Father Thomas (an Oxford early Tractarian) who went over long before J. H. Newman, and (later) joined the Brompton Oratory. Astonished to find the "Church" there, as far from Rome as from Canterbury, he was given the volume which made the round of the cells. But I told the donor that these gentry needed "Romans" rather, and sent him one by post. I know no more, but do not forget that Roman Catholics have conscience to feel and souls to be saved.
With Dr. Wace I have never corresponded, but sent him occasionally a brochure.
You asked me (not in your last, I think, as to Councils of Orange). There were two as far as record goes; one presided by Hilary of Aries in A.D. 441, with thirty decrees on discipline; the other in A.D. 539 under Cassarius of Arles with 25 decrees on dogma, chiefly extracts from Aug. and Gen. and against Pelagianism. There was nothing of moment in either.
We had an excellent season at Southampton from Great Britain and Channel Islands from Saturday evening, 5th August, till Tuesday night; early prayer, forenoon, afternoon and evening. As I took a large part (save in the early morning being miles away) you may judge I am able to play the working man still. I am sure that they would have furnished you with much thought and lasting enjoyment.
Believe me, ever yours in the faith and hope,
P.S. You may like my notice of Whitefield in Sept. B.T. Did you know R. F. Horton, N. C. Oxford? W. K.
From the same to the same.
Belmont Park, Lee, S.E.
3 Jan. '05
My dear Foster,
Though I fancy I wrote last, I do not scruple to write again, trusting that the New Year finds you fairly well, and awaiting the blessed hope. Port Arthur is fallen, and the Baltic fleet delays, the third is clamoured for by the young bloods of Russia, but we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, need grace to serve acceptably. I think, as you rather complained of apostolic rudeness of speech and, if I mistake not, in that Exposition of 2 Peter though finding substance in it, that I asked, your kind help in pointing out such defects. For though I rather despise rhetoric in divine things, and have not time even to cultivate it, I am happy to profit by a friend whose métier it is more than mine, The addresses on the Epistles (half) are in the printer's hand; and I may have a fourth more by the time he has done that half, and the remaining fourth as soon as he can set it up and get it through the press.
There is a mistranslation in 1 John 3,23, where "on" is contrary to the usage of ... with the dative. Yet to say "believe the name" seems strange, as if it were a person. What say you?
Believe me with best wishes
Ever faithfully yours,
After the home-call of Mr. Kelly this correspondent sent the following to the writer, which is inserted as it throws a sidelight on their usual way of corresponding; it is of value also as showing the high regard in which he was held by one quite outside his communion.
From the Rev. P. W. Foster M.A., to W.G.T.
St. Gregory's Day, '07?
Dear Mr. Turner,
Will you care to look at the accompanying brief (i.e., brief for that learned writer) postcard of the late Mr. W. Kelly. You see, I had been urging Mr. Kelly as editor of the "Bible Treasury" (monthly) to aim at all possible lucidity of exposition and beauty of style in his very able articles in that excellent periodical so far as his time allowed him to do so; what he says in his postcard is in substance a reply to my bold entreaty.
Nothing is ever written well in a hurry; no, not even if written by a pen like the late learned, earnest and eloquent W. Kelly's. I told him all I could remember, find out, or imagine about pisteuo with (1) the accusative, of things, and with (2) dative, of persons...
You cannot lay too great stress on one striking characteristic trait of our lamented friend, viz. his marked humility, conspicuous even in his smartest arguments and controversial writings...
The enclosed postcard is by no means a choice exemplar or very favourable specimen of Mr. W. K.'s skill as a letter card artist.
Yours sincerely and faithfully,
P.S. - W.K. very rarely (I dare say) diverged into politics or contemporary topics, as he does at the beginning of this feuilleton.- F. W. F.
The next letter (also on a postcard), written on the evening of his wife's death is one of more than general interest, the vocation of a preacher and advice as to general habits of study.
22 Kid. Gr. B'heath
Tuesday evening. Feb. 4/84.
When I say that it pleased the Lord this morning to deprive me of a devoted sister, wife, mother of several children, you will not expect more than a few words from me.
One who believes the Lord has called him and given him a gift to preach and teach, need not be hasty or anxious. Power makes itself felt; and it is well to begin in a small (proving one's gift and so be gradually led into a larger) way. But if sober brethren, who have heard, invite one to preach in their Room, one ought to have good reasons for declining. Love would lead to help; especially if gift were lacking among those older, or not of the kind to win souls. As to studying the Word, it is well when reading papers of interest to search generally. But this should not hinder the regular reading of O. and N.T. daily. Both ways are profitable, and should be combined. And it is not amiss how to read Gr. and Hebr. words, to learn even if one knows no more of the language; for this helps to better understanding of remarks, made by those who do know them. I do not think well of a slight knowledge of Gr. and, Hebr., and most men, even if they spend many years, could only acquire a slight knowledge. If one just learns enough to appreciate good remarks it is far better than spending time for what is generally pretension. The A.V. compared with the Revision and other helps, give better results than most are capable of acquiring. And remember, "prayer and the word," Acts. 6.
Apropos of this last letter, here may be a suitable place to mention what an encourager William Kelly was to young brothers who wholeheartedly engaged in the service of the Lord. The following incident is typical of many other instances of this fatherly interest. At a gathering of Brethren engaged in the Lord's work held in London, the question under discussion was one of gospel preaching. After several, including himself, had spoken freely, Mr, Kelly, looking across the room at a young brother who had been useful and was acceptable as preacher, remarked, "Let us hear what our young brother opposite has to say on the matter." Immediately several brothers who happened to be on the other side of the room, none of whom could be styled young, save by courtesy, looked up. Upon one of them beginning to express his substantial agreement with what had been said, Mr. Kelly interrupted with, "Yes, yes. But it was our brother, the young evangelist behind you to whom I referred." The opinion of the young fellow in question was probably of little value, but the memory of the kindly recognition by the great man of the gift of Christ in him was naturally a very treasured one. The Christian courtesy then, as on many similar occasions, shown by Mr. Kelly may well serve as an object lesson to some who, in their anxiety to curb the display of "flesh" in the meetings, forget that even an inspired apostle could write to a young man, "Let no man despise thy youth" as also to the gifted Corinthian assembly, "If Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him; but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren."
Another incident may bear putting on record of rather a lighter character, A young Sunday School secretary faced by the annual difficulty of raising funds for the summer treat wrote asking him for a donation. Promptly arrived a postcard covered with apparently microscopic hieroglyphics, which upon deciphering appeared to be an invitation to call upon him at his house. A most courteous reception was given by Mr. Kelly who, however, proceeded to put his visitor through a fairly stiff cross-examination as to the whys and wherefores of Sunday School treats. He then intimated that the whole matter was rather outside his general line of things, and said that the arguments advanced had not at all convinced him of the necessity for Sunday School excursions. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile as he noticed the disappointment of the young visitor, he said, "Ah well, if I do not feel at liberty to assist you in your undertaking, I see no reason why I should not recommend you to some persons I know who very probably will." He then gave a short list of names which later produced very gratifying results. It smacked somewhat Hibernian, and was characteristic.
When on another occasion a young unknown scribe with an urge to write, but lacking almost everything else as a writer, approached him diffidently for advice, Mr. Kelly laid the youth under a lifelong obligation by his readiness to assist him. Without the faintest trace of that awful patronage which in others often mars even kindly intended help, William Kelly courteously, from the treasures of his well stored mind, gave sound advice and wise hints as to writing for publication. Then on closing the interview, he added, "Come again if I can be of further service. It is a real joy to be of assistance to those who are His. But pains and labour; pains and labour; nothing worth doing in this way is accomplished without pains and labour."
William Kelly always stoutly disclaimed being an ecclesiastic in the sense of bishop, elder or overseer (whichever title of the same office is preferred). But, as a gifted teacher, he, from the earliest days of his ministry, was of necessity profoundly interested in ecclesiastical affairs. His close study of Church history familiarised him with the controversies of the first four centuries, so beloved of Anglican high churchmen, while interest in the disputations of the Schoolmen was evidenced by the contents of his well stocked, carefully selected and intense library of 15.000 volumes. Some description of these occur in the next chapter dealing with their transfer at his death to a Public Library in Yorkshire on the advice of Archbishop MacLagan of York.
His Editorship of the "Prospect", but even more of the "Bible Treasury", the latter for a very lengthened period, introduced him to many doughty champions in the ecclesiastical arena who, often not sharing his convictions, always greatly respected his scholarship. In many cases his advice on critical points of translation was sought by them. Being absolutely free of any denominational control, yet realizing and fully accepting his personal responsibility to the Head of the Church as His servant, William Kelly fearlessly pursued his course. His gifts as teacher and expositor, his qualifications as scholar and exegete, like his University degrees, were not honorary or assumed but actual and self-evident. His critical reviews of the Bampton Lectures caused much discussion as these appeared annually, and never failed to evoke both critical and complimentary notices in erudite quarters. The learned and friendly correspondence with the New Testament Revision Committee in later days when he freely criticised their findings also, betoken the regard with which contemporary scholars and men of letters regarded his scholarship and judgment.
It was his custom when issuing a new volume whether of Lectures, articles in more permanent form from the Bible Treasury, or books, on some important subjects to write a preface revealing the author in the character rather of a critic of his own work. Often these proved to be further thoughts on the subject treated, and were illuminating to the reader.
In the Guernsey period, possibly the most prolific of all in a literary sense, a volume appeared in the spring of 1868 on the five books of Moses; these had been delivered as lectures on a visit to London during the previous year. A more pretentious volume on the Twelve Minor Prophets followed to which a lengthy preface appeared and in which he explains what he recognises as a defect in a literary point of view. Indeed as one of his closest ecclesiastical friends and associates remarked upon reading the volume, "If you wish to know what W.K. thought, say on the subjects of the Church or the gospel, turn up his 'Twelve Minor Prophets', where neither occurs exegetically." The fact was that, while in the main steering a straight course, he was led to make so many long digressions in answer to questions that the book became cyclopedic of his religious convictions generally.
During a short holiday in Italy in 1897 William Kelly who had been stirred both by Dean Farrar's "Larger Hope" and his contribution to the "Expositor's Bible", felt moved to re-issue some lectures on the "Book of Daniel" with pungent criticisms on the Higher Criticism. He was Fundamentalist in the true sense of that oft maligned expression. Hence there is no hedging or doubtful disputation in the following prefaces:
"The lectures on the Book of Daniel were taken in shorthand and printed first some forty years ago, with a very slight correction in a later edition. It would be easy to fill up details and to improve their literary form. But as they are, they have helped not a few souls, and not at least since Great Britain and the United States have been beguiled into their growing pursuit of that guilty and withering craze which calls itself the "Higher Criticism". What is it in the main but a revival of older British Deism, aided by devices of foreign unbelief, and decorated with modern German erudition or its home imitation? Yet all fail to conceal hostility to God's inspiration, and ceaseless effort to minimize real miracle and true prophecy, where, as in this country, men dare not yet deny them altogether. The notorious Oxford Essays, which roused strong feeling in a former generation, are quite left behind. Dissenters vie with Nationalists (Episcopalian or Presbyterian), Methodists with Congregationalists, and of late Ritualists with avowed Rationalists, in showing themselves up to date in free thinking; as if the revealed truth of God were a matter of scientific progress. What joy to all open infidels, who cannot but hail it as the triumph of their contempt for His word! It is not now profane men only, as in the eighteenth century, but religious professors, ecclesiastical dignitaries in the varied bodies or so-called "churches" of Christendom, and particularly those who hold theological and linguistic chairs in the Universities and Colleges all over the world, who became increasingly tainted with this deadly infection. Alas! it is the sure forerunner of that "apostasy" which the great apostle, from almost the beginning of his written testimony, said must "first come" before the day of the Lord can be present.
Take, as a recent instance (and it is only one out of many in the conspiracy against Scripture), the then Dean of Canterbury's (F. W. Farrar D.D.) contribution on the "Book of Daniel" to the Expositor's Bible. Self-deception may hide much from its victims; but no believer should hesitate to say, "An enemy hath done this." While claiming for the book an "undisputed and undisputable" place in the Canon, think of the infatuation of denying openly and unqualifiedly its genuineness and its authenticity! "It has never made the least difference in my reverent (!) acceptance of it that I have for many years been convinced that it cannot be regarded as literal history or ancient prediction." Yet such persons assume to be actuated simply by the love of truth; for this they confound with the counter-love of doubting. Alas! they are under "the spirit of error" (1 John 4,6); or, as Jude so warns, "These speak evil of the things which they know not: but what as the irrational animals they know, in these things they corrupt themselves." May the Christian keep Christ's word, and not deny His name!"
In 1903 Kelly's vigilant care for the truth of God led him to write his "God's Inspiration of the Scriptures". The ecclesiastical world just then was full of theological nostrums preparing the way for Mr. Campbell's startling deliverances at the City Temple a couple of years later of his "New Theology". A kind of Pantheism, which when exaggerated easily implies the ignoring of moral distinctions, was widely hailed by some and mourned by others. Principal Forsyth described it as "under developed and over exposed"; and Robertson Nicoll in a series of trenchant articles in the "British Weekly" passionately denounced Pantheism and all its implications.
The Preface to "God's Inspiration of the Scriptures" reads:
"There is no question agitated in Christendom of greater moment than the true character and claim of the scriptures. Nor has their divine authority been more widely denied all over the world than in our own day; and this, not merely by avowed sceptics, but by professing Christians of practically every denomination, and by many of their most distinguished representatives. But when the adversary comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord does not fail to lift up a standard against him.
In this volume my heart's desire is to furnish a help for souls that seek the light of God which inspiration furnishes to those who tremble at His word. I have presented the positive proofs that God speaks in it to every conscience and heart, more particularly of Israel in the Old Testament, and of the Christian in the New though all scripture is his food. Men may refuse to hear, or hear to despise; but this they do at their peril for God is not mocked. Such unbelief has a deeper brand of evil, after men have professed the Lord's name, that when the written word was first committed to human responsibility. It is the spirit of apostasy diffused by the great enemy of God and man, before the apostasy is established as a public fact, which is at hand. In the face of a preparation so dark and ominous, which scripture announces as certain (2 Thess. 2, 3), there are children of God all over the earth, who acknowledge with grateful thanksgiving His faithfulness in turning the attacks of Satan and his dupes to their confirmation in the faith, and the more profound enjoyment both of scripture and of Christ therein revealed by the Holy Spirit.
May the reader by grace be helped to share a privilege which bespeaks itself divine, the best antidote to that unbelief which enfeebles if it does not quite destroy the divine energy of every revealed truth. To human tradition I give no real weight, less if possible to the speculations of men on grounds which they deem probable. As the traditional school is one form of rationalism, so is neo-criticism another, the one adding to God's word, the other taking from it, to His dishonour. Legitimate criticism is the servant of faith in seeking to eliminate errors of transcription; but it receives without question every word that was originally written. What, is called "scientific inquiry" rises up in its empty pride against the divine authority of Christ, who has ruled what it dares to deny."
It is interesting to note that the published works of this able workman occupy four pages in the British Museum Catalogue.
A born student, an accomplished scholar and an omnivorous reader, it is not surprising that in his long life William Kelly accumulated an immense library of valuable works. The great Codices (some in facsimile), all the great Polyglots, the works of the Fathers and the great Schoolmen, many rare and valuable volumes in every department of Science, Philosophy and History were comprised in his collection. His library was specially rich in the Classics, Ecclesiastical History and Theology, which had ever been his favourite study.
As the year 1905 wore on, Mr. Kelly became increasingly aware that the sands
were running out, and that in any case his course would soon be ended. He had in
early life embraced the truth of the blessed hope, and firmly held it to the
end, ever living and working in constant expectation of its realisation by the
return of our Lord to receive His people and take them to His Father's house. He
did not, as some, presume to fix dates, nor as others to preach the coming as
though it were the only truth of importance revealed in Scripture. Neither did
he overlook the plain inference from the story of the talents (Matt. 25, 19). On
being asked his thought as to death and the coming of the Lord during his last
few days and as to whether he "would desire to depart and be with
Christ", or to be amongst those who are alive and remain at the coming of
the Lord, he replied,
"I have no choice, neither would I choose if I might."
"But surely you would like to be alive and meet the Lord on His return?"
"I have no wish at all in the matter, my dear," he replied.
"It will be as He wills, best either way." Here he confidently and peacefully left the whole matter.
In this spiritually sane and balanced spirit he considered the question of the disposal of his great library of almost priceless value. Where could it best be placed? An old friend, Dr. MacLagan, the then Archbishop of York, whose judgment he valued was consulted. After some consideration the Archbishop suggested that Middlesborough in Yorkshire would for many reasons be a most suitable place for its permanent housing. The town, too, was prepared (after the Archbishop's recommendation) to build a special wing to the Public Library to accommodate the gift! Mr. Kelly readily agreed on the sole condition that the anonymity of the giver should be strictly preserved. This, needless to remark, was in keeping with his general character. His wish for anonymity was respected, but upon his decease the Library authorities were compelled to make a statement with reference to this, which they did in the following terms:
The Free Library,
Middlesborough April 1906
Anonymity no longer!
We have been repeatedly asked why we have avoided all notice in our pages on the recent death of our "anonymous benefactor". More particularly as the bond of silence laid upon us has been removed by the publication of his name; we therefore take this opportunity of assuring our readers that it was not because of forgetfulness, or the lack of a sense of duty, but of the express wish of the family. "Mr. Kelly was a man who preferred to do good by stealth, or rather he held himself a steward only, of possessions either physical or mental, and only last summer (1905) he reiterated to us his hope that his name might not become public property as the donor of the valuable library which has come to us. We guarded the secret well, and it was with surprise and regret that whilst paying the last tribute of respect and gratitude to one to whom we owe so much, that we learned that "The Times" in an obituary notice, had stated his connection with the donation to Middlesborough. Then it was that his daughter signified her wish that we should remain silent, but the paragraph in "The Times" was copied and expanded, and eventually our local press published the information to our townsmen. It is greatly to be regretted that the donors wish has been disregarded by others, for it was the only obligation he laid upon us. His donation was a free one, without any of the onerous conditions which so frequently accompany such gifts, and perhaps the spirit in which the presentation was made can be best appreciated by the following fragment of conversation:
Standing in his library where the books were being packed for their transit to Middlesborough, we asked: "It must be painful to you, Sir, to thus part with your old friends, is it not?" "Well, no," was the reply. "I cannot hope to require them long, and I do wish to see them settled where they may be of service to others."
It was not our good fortune to know Mr. Kelly intimately, but as we did know him he was ever the cultured gentleman, a profound scholar without a shade of pedantry, whose knowledge was freely bestowed when sought, and whose friendship must have been a privilege.
"There is," said an old writer, "one chapter in the biography of distinguished persons - in the biography of a great genius, an eminent saint or seer - which has for us generally special interest, into which we are often most curious to dip - the chapter entitled "Closing Days", curious to learn how he bore himself, or what fell from his lips during those days in the shadow of the approaching end, to see something of the thoughts that then expressed his mind, or to hear something of his latest words. What of his behaviour, his expression, we ask, in his latest hours? The favourite pursuit - was its influence upon him then exemplified? The ruling passion - was it strong with him in death?"
The spring of 1905 brought to William Kelly some experience of what the sacred writer alluded to as "the grasshopper becoming a burden." He was in his eighty-fifth year at the close of a very active life, and by several indications seemed to feel that journey's end for him was not far distant. His doctor ordered rest and change of scene. So at the invitation of Dr. and Mrs. Heyman Wreford of Exeter to take a prolonged rest at their home, he gladly accepted it, and so speedily recovered a good measure of health and began to long to return to work. The two months spent in Exeter seemed to fill him with renewed energy so that immediately upon his return to Blackheath he resumed the weekly lecture at Bennet Park Hall with a new series on the Epistles of John. These were delivered with such power and unction that many regular hearers regarded them as being probably the most valuable ever given by him at Blackheath.
In the autumn at a Conference held in Southampton Mr. Kelly again took his full part to the profit and spiritual enjoyment of many from all parts of the country. Incidentally in a private letter to a friend he expressed his own joy at the fellowship shown throughout the long weekend spent together there. He made a point at being present at all the meetings day after day except the early morning at 7 a.m. from which he was debarred by reason of distance and lack of transport. The freshness, too, of his ministry then was remarked upon by some who had heard him for many years.
In addition to oral ministry, William Kelly, during that last year, maintained the "Bible Treasury" at its usual high level, as also his other literary work, the "Epistles of Peter" being the only volume he was obliged to leave uncompleted. His correspondence with clerical friends and other scholarly men showed the same keen interest in translation work, critical reviews and exegesis as in earlier days. Indeed, some learned correspondence on an unusual Greek formation in John's first Epistle as to its exact meaning, may well remind the reader of the epitaph on the tomb of John Richard Green, the historian, at Mentone, "He died learning".
The Southampton Conference over, and the last series of his Blackheath Lectures on John's Epistles completed, Dr. Wreford again kindly insisted upon a further stay with them. But it was not until the New Year that Mr. Kelly arranged to go down to Exeter, although he was badly needing rest from the round of activities which he still enjoyed. It was therefore on January 11th 1906 that he left Black-heath never to return. The complete change of air and scene with three or four weeks of loving care and attention again seemed somewhat to restore his wonderful constitution that in the last week of the next month, February 25th, he felt able to address a vast company in the then great Victoria Hall, Exeter. It was a special lecture on the subject dearest to his heart, the "Doctrine of Christ", and was regarded by many as a magnificent effort, coming as a crown to a long life of ardent devotion and loyalty to the Person of the Incarnate Son of God.
It was his last public testimony, and the end of sixty years of faithful ministry and service to Christ and His people. A month later he was called to his rest, Tuesday, March 27th being his last day when toward eventide he quietly fell asleep, and being "absent from the body was present with the Lord."
One who knew him well, himself a Christian scholar, on hearing of his death, wrote, "His supreme delight was in ministering in spiritual things to those whom he described as the few despised ones of Christ's flock." Some words of the late Bp. Francis Paget in "Hallowing of Work" recur to one's mind as the self-effacing life of William Kelly is reviewed. He says, "In this strange and tangled business of human life, there is no energy that so steadily does its work as the mysterious, unconscious, silent, unobtrusive, imperturbable influence which comes from a man who has done with all self seeking."
Fifty years after his passing, William Kelly's books are still being sought alike by scholars and simple believers all over the English-speaking world. This is significant. One of his very latest remarks expressed his life-long conviction and spring of action, "The hatred of the world is a real thing; the Cross is a real thing; and the love of God is a real thing."
His body was brought back to Blackheath, and on Saturday, March 1906 reverently laid to rest by loving hands in Charlton cemetery, Few who were present on that bright spring afternoon will forget the impressive scene as devout men carried William Kelly to his burial. The hundreds of mourners, the solemn strains of the hymn, "For ever with the Lord", the hush as the plain casket was lowered into the earth, broken by the voice of Dr. Wreford reading two portions of Scripture (Acts 20, 25-38} 1 Thess. 4,13-18) in tones charged with deep emotion. Then a heartfelt tribute to the departed brother, friend and leader, whose face here we should see no more, with great emphasis based on two thoughts suggested by the Scripture read, namely, "Sorrowing because they should see his face no more, " and the hope of the Lord's coming which prevents our sorrowing as those that have no hope. Dr. Wreford then gave thanks to God for the long life and ministry; and a hymn frequently used by the departed brother followed:
"Saviour before Thy face we fall,
Our Lord, our life, our hope, our all,
For we have nowhere else to flee,
No sanctuary, Lord, but Thee."