How I love William Kelly! Without a doubt, he’s one of my all-time favorite grace writers in the entire history of dispensationalism. He inspires me. He stirs my soul about the fundamentals of grace like no one else. When I was studying for my series on Philemon and reading mountains of books, Kelly’s Philemon commentary alone still lingers in my mind with its gorgeous paragraphs like this one:
“This then is the key-note. The apostle acts in a practical way on the incomparable grace of Christ. It Is not merely that God despises not any, or that human compassion flows out toward the misery of one's fellow, even if a slave, yea so much the more because he was. There is the finest and liveliest field for the affections; but the spring is from above, and the power is in the Holy Spirit, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, Whose is the glory and the dominion unto the ages of the ages. The title of the master is frankly admitted not only by Paul in word but also by the returning slave in deed. There is no glossing over the wrong done. Whatever was due positively or negatively, Paul will have it set to his account and becomes absolutely responsible for all. For true grace never enfeebles law nor shirks righteousness, but on the contrary establishes it, while itself rises far above and flows out freely and immeasurably beyond.”
William Kelly was born in May, 1821, in Millisle, County Down, Ireland. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was left fatherless at a young age and supported himself by teaching the family of Mr. Cachemaille, Rector of Sark. He got saved in 1840 and became a staunch member of the Plymouth Brethren. He was the right-hand man to John Neslon Darby until they parted ways and he formed his own branch of the grace movement, which bore his name.
He edited The Collected Writings of John Neslon Darby and the writings of John Gifford Bellett who was an early influence on dispensationalism and premillennialism. Kelly himself was one of the most prolific, if not the most prolific, writer in the history of dispensationalism. Because of his brilliant mind and passion for the doctrines of grace, he was known to be a “a controversialist of formidable caliber.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon once praised Kelly as “a leading writer of the exclusive Plymouth School; an eminent Divine of the Brethren School who sometimes expounds ably, but with a twist towards the peculiar dogmas of his party… We are sorry to see such a mind as Mr. Kelly's so narrowed by party bounds…” So said the popular orator whose own mind was narrowed by the errors of Calvinism. LOL
William Kelly’s writings are so voluminous that it’s just impossible for us to post them all, although everything is available here thanks to Stem Publishing. So we’re going to post his commentaries on Paul’s epistles and about 100 other works, which doesn’t even reflect half of his body of work.
Just before Kelly died on 27 March 1906, he said “There are three things real — the Cross, the enmity of the world, and the love of God.”
- Joel, FBC Librarian
01 - Romans 1-7
02 - Romans 8-16
03 - 1 Corinthians
04 - 2 Corinthians
05 - Galatians