William Kelly - The Irish Saint and Scholar

Edwin Cross

Precious Seed

Hardback, 180 pp, Published by Chapter Two, Fountain House, Conduit Mews, London SE18 7AP. Price £19.95. ISBN 1 85307 130 7.

It is clear from the very outset that this book, which charts the life of William Kelly, is thoroughly researched and the fruit of extensive reading. As the author states of Kelly, ‘Like his mentor Darby, he left no diaries for our study . . . Kelly would rather we learnt more of our Bibles and Christ, since the prime and constant theme of his written and oral ministry was to this end’.

Edwin Cross writes about the life of one of the foremost scholars of his day and, yet, one who used that ability to defend the truth of scripture from fierce attack. Whilst the Oxford Movement may mean little to many today, it was then a powerful force for evil. Together with social and political factors, the author seeks to paint the background of the life of a man who was undoubtedly used of God. Few have been as prolific a writer and distributor of literature as Kelly. Even his mentor, John Nelson Darby, owed much to the work of William Kelly in seeing his collected writings published.

This is a fascinating book and one that demonstrates the author’s obvious affection for his subject. However, the divisions of the system with which Kelly had become associated cast a shadow over a life which had, otherwise, achieved so much. Being part of that system the author is at pains to support the stance that Kelly took and the weakening of testimony that ensued. This reviewer also found the writer’s acceptance of the sectarian title of ‘Brethren’ disappointing.

Overall, this is an interesting book that is recommended as one from which we can learn a lot about the early days of a movement that restored so much of New Testament church principles and the truth of the rapture that had been lost to generations.