Thomas Kelly

Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) wrote over 700 hymns over a period of nearly 60 years. His father was a judge and he had prepared to sit for his bar exam. Edmund Burke was a family friend and he frequently stayed in the Burke home during his studies. At this time, he developed an interest in theology and the study of Greek and Hebrew. To the disappointment of his family, Kelly changed his study from law to theology.

He was ordained into the Church of Ireland at the age of 23 along with three other men, Henry Marturin, Walter Shirley, and John Walker. These four men shared a strong Evangelical understanding of Scripture. That is, salvation comes only through the blood of Christ and faith in Him. Mixing their theology with the over confidence of young men and they soon found themselves in conflict with the established church. Eventually the Archbishop of Dublin, Rev Fowler banned them from preaching at any sanctioned church in Dublin.

They eventually found several homes and small chapels where they could hold their services and meetings. In 1794 these four were joined by two dissenting pastors and a Moravian (also a non-participant in the official church). They were able to raise enough funds for a small chapel on York St in Dublin. However, the nature of “non-conformist” is well… a bit fracturist. Each man developed their own following which were known as Kellyites, or Walkerites. Mr. Kelly had enough money from his own inheritance and by marriage he was able to finance the building of several chapels for his followers to meet in.

Just as the Wesley’s didn’t intend to start a new church but rather preferred to work within the existing structure and reform it from within, Kelly never set out to establish a completely independent church and only did so after his was banned by the established church. Even after officially leaving the Church of Ireland, he would seek out sympathetic clergy to work with.

His theology was typical of Evangelicalism of the time. It started with a close and careful reading of Scripture to learn of God and grow to love Him. This was to the exclusion of “received wisdom” of the Church of Ireland or the Roman Church. In other words, sola scriptura of the early reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin.

His rhetorical skills made him a popular minister. This popularity often brought him into conflict with both and Church of Ireland and even more significantly the Roman Church in Ireland. The Roman church prelates engaged in a over 20 year “pamphlet war” with Kelly. He was accused of essentially poaching or actively converting Catholic parishioners into his Protestant Evangelicalism. His response was that he didn’t actively recruit anyone from Catholic Church, but rather welcomed them as they came in seeking answers they were unable to get from their local priests.

Kelly’s approach to worship was flexible and some may even say liberal in the best sense. He didn’t insist all ties had to be severed between his members and the Church of Ireland or the Roman Church. They were free to attend both as they transitioned or until their questions were answered. This proved both a strength and a weakness. While it could provide a nurturing environment, it didn’t establish a strong level of loyalty to a particular church or leader. By the time of Kelly’s death his church had largely dissolved and dissipated. The same experience followed his school friends and their churches.

Even if his church didn’t survive, Kelly’s hymns most certainly have. Here are just a few of his hymns with various settings. Most of these are still in use wherever traditional hymns are still sung.

Title Tune YouTube Composer
Come, See the Place Where Jesus Lay Exeter Samuel Wesley
Come, See the Place Where Jesus Lay Innsbruck Heinrich Isaak
God of Our Salvation, Hear Us Wilmont Carl M von Weber
Hark, Ten Thousand Harps and Voices Harwell Lowell Mason
In Thy Name, O Lord Assembling Alvan Lowell Mason
Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious Coronae William H Monk
Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious Cwm Rhondda John Hughes
Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious Cwm Rhondda John Hughes
Look, Ye Saints, the Sight is Glorious Hail the King Unknown
On The Mountain Top Appearing Zion Thomas Hastings
Praise the Savior, Ye Who Know Him Praise the Savior traditional German melody
Savior, Come, Thy Saints Are Waiting Regent Square Henry Smart
Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted Autumn Louis von Esch
Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted Passion John H Spielman
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted O mein Jesu, ich muss sterben Geistliche Volkslieder
Th’ Atoning Work is Done Christ Church Charles Steggall
The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns St Magnus Jeremiah Clark
The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns Burlington John Freckleton Burrowes
The Lord is Risen Indeed Rialto George Root
The Lord is Ris’n Indeed Pentonville Thomas Lindley
Thro’ the Day Thy Love Hath Spared us Evening Hymn George A MacFarren
Through the Day thy Love hath Spared Us Albert Heinrich Albert
Through the Day thy Love hath Spared Us DANA Anton Peter Berggren
Through the Day thy Love hath Spared Us Lewars J F Ohl
Through the Day thy Love hath Spared Us Through the Day Joseph Barnby
We Sing The Praise of Him Who Died Bow Brickhill Sydney Nicholson
We Sing The Praise of Him Who Died Breslau Unknown
We’ve No Abiding City Here Andre unknown
Who is This That Comes From Edom Edom Albert Peace
Zion Stands With Hills Surrounded Mt Zion John Spielman
Zion Stands With Hills Surrounded Zion Stands Thomas Hastings

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Here are some of my favorite Hymnals:

Presbyterian 1955 Hymnbook:

Episcopal 1940 Hymnal: 

Broadman 1940 Hymnal:

Methodist 1939 Hymnal:

Pilgrim 1935 Hymnal:

Now Sings My Soul, New Songs for the Lord by: Linda Bonney Olin:

Choice Hymns of the Faith 1945

Book of Psalms for Singing    (1912 Psalter is unavailable)

Here are my new projects:

Hymns Ancient and Modern

J S Bach Riemenschneider 371 Harmonized Chorales


Dictionary of Hymnology:

American Hymns Old and New