Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Hymns #10, 19, 37, 62, 94, 103, 105, 125, 126, 129, 138, 142, 168, 175, 183, 190, 198, 221, 226, 233, 241, 242, 247, 256, 258, 262, 263, 280, 285, 290, 312, 314, 317, Appendix 6, 20, 64, 81 (total 37).
It has been said that “the Green Isle has never furnished a greater or more prolific hymn writer than Thomas Kelly.” Nor is it a question of quantity, but good quality, as the 37 of his hymns found in the Little Flock amply testify.
This author was born July 13, 1769 in Kellyville, near Athy, County Queens, Ireland. His father was a judge and he was to be trained as barrister (lawyer). However, thoughts of eternity pressed in upon him early in life. This was brought about as he studied Hebrew. He was so deeply affected that he withdrew from worldly pursuits and gave himself up to the study of theology. He was so thoroughly awakened as to the need of his soul that he was in great distress, and in various forms of self-punishment sought to merit salvation. He really endangered his health by his ascetic practices, but soon the Lord led him to the truth of justification by faith and in this he walked to the end of his days.
In 1792 he was ordained in the Church of England, being associated with Walter Shirley, a cousin of Lady Huntington. Because he preached the gospel faithfully, the archbishop of Dublin closed the pulpits in his diocese against Mr. Kelly, as well as that other earnest evangelist, Rowland Hill. He left the Established Church so as to more freely preach the gospel. Crowds flocked around him wherever he lifted up the standard of the cross.
When he was about thirty years of age Mr. Kelly married a lady who also believed the gospel. She was a great help to him in the work of the Lord. It is important to marry “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:3939The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:39)).
He was a good musician and prepared a book of music for his hymns which numbered over 750. Only 37 are included in the Little Flock, and what a happy variety they provide! #10 celebrates the grace that removed our fears; #19 is praise; #105 is a soul-stirring hymn of glory to the Lamb; #6 in the appendix sets an object before our hearts to affect our ways practically.
In 1854 he had a stroke of paralysis while preaching, but lingered until May 14, 1855; at 86 years of age the Lord took him to that land where we “hear of war no more” (#312). Someone at his bedside repeated “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and he replied, “The Lord is my everything!”
His last words were “not my will, but Thine be done!” and thus he dwells in that rest and peace, that better home of which #258 speaks so happily. “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Num. 23:1010Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! (Numbers 23:10)).
“Jesus, Thy head, once crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now;
Heaven’s royal diadem adorns
The mighty Victor’s brow.”