Robert Baird

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A Para-church Presbyterian Evangelist

There can be no doubt that Robert Baird has both the gift of administration as well as the gift of  teaching.

Born on October 6, 1798 near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in Fayette County, Robert went first to nearby Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.  Graduating from that undergraduate college with high honors, he then studied theology at Princeton Theological  Seminary.  His senior year at the seminary also saw him at the College of New Jersey, serving as a tutor. After graduation from the seminary, he stayed in the area, serving at the pre-college school known as Princeton Academy, for six years.

Licensed and ordained by the Presbyterian of New Brunswick in 1822 and 1828 respectively, he took the first of a series of mission agencies engaged in ministry to the masses. For seven years, he served at a General Agent of the New Jersey Missionary Society. Following that, he became the General Agent of the American Sunday School Union for six years, seeking to organize Sunday Schools in destitute areas of our country.  This ministry continues to exist today under another name.

In 1835, Rev. Baird traveled all through Europe to promote evangelical religion on the Continent of Europe. He turned the latter into speaking engagements in America, as well as the authoring of  six books on religion in the old country. At that time, those who had emigrated to America before the American Revolution were only one or two generations removed from the old countries from which they had come. And since many of them had come to America because of persecution of their faith, they had a great interest of what had become of their old lands and people.

Robert Baird died in the middle of the Civil War, on March 15, 1863.

Words to live by:  In a number of our Presbyterian circles today, we would say that Rev. Robert Baird was laboring “out-of-bounds.”  That is, his ministries did not fit the usual rule of laboring in ministries organized and overseen directly by the Presbyterian assembly, synods, or presbyteries. But that doesn’t mean these ministries were not effective instruments for the gospel in their own right.  They were similar to the “para-church” ministries of our day and age.  Both then and now, such ministries can be effective works for the Lord in areas where the Church either has not yet been organized, or, in some cases, where the Church, as the Church, cannot minister. As long as there is a priority of financial and prayer support to denominational approved agencies, it can be legitimate to also support a well-selected para-church ministry. Just make sure that they have a doctrinal statement which is biblical, and  an outreach ministry which does what it claims to do, with no more than ten or fifteen per cent reserved for operating expenses. It must be transparent, with nothing to hide from Christian inspection. That need of accountability is one of core reasons the Presbyterian system works as well as it does.

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A Para-church Presbyterian Evangelist

There can be no doubt that Robert Baird had both the gift of administration as well as the gift of  teaching.

Born on October 6, 1798 near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in Fayette County, Robert went first to nearby Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.  Graduating from that undergraduate college with high honors, he then studied theology at Princeton Theological  Seminary.  His senior year at the seminary also saw him at the College of New Jersey, serving as a tutor. After graduation from the seminary, he stayed in the area, serving at the pre-college school known as Princeton Academy, for six years.

Licensed and ordained by the Presbyterian of New Brunswick in 1822 and 1828 respectively, he took the first of a series of mission agencies engaged in ministry to the masses. For seven years, he served at a General Agent of the New Jersey Missionary Society. Following that, he became the General Agent of the American Sunday School Union for six years, seeking to organize Sunday Schools in destitute areas of our country.  This ministry continues to exist today under another name.

In 1835, Rev. Baird traveled all through Europe to promote evangelical religion on the Continent of Europe. He turned the latter into speaking engagements in America, as well as the authoring of  six books on religion in the old country. At that time, those who had emigrated to America before the American Revolution were only one or two generations removed from the old countries from which they had come. And since many of them had come to America because of persecution of their faith, they had a great interest of what had become of their old lands and people.

Robert Baird died in the middle of the Civil War, on March 15, 1863.

Words to live by:  In a number of our Presbyterian circles today, we would say that Rev. Robert Baird was laboring “out-of-bounds.”  That is, his ministries did not fit the usual rule of laboring in ministries organized and overseen directly by the Presbyterian assembly, synods, or presbyteries. But that doesn’t mean these ministries were not effective instruments for the gospel in their own right.  They were similar to the “para-church” ministries of our day and age.  Both then and now, such ministries can be effective works for the Lord in areas where the Church either has not yet been organized, or, in some cases, where the Church, as the Church, cannot minister. As long as there is a priority of financial and prayer support to denominational approved agencies, it can be legitimate to also support a well-selected para-church ministry. Just make sure that they have a doctrinal statement which is biblical, and  an outreach ministry which does what it claims to do, with no more than ten or fifteen per cent reserved for operating expenses. It must be transparent, with nothing to hide from Christian inspection. That need of accountability is one of core reasons the Presbyterian system works as well as it does.

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Train Up a Child

Robert Baird [6 October 1798 - 15 March 1863]Concerning the Rev. Robert Baird, we read in Nevin’s Presbyterian Encyclopedia, that he was born on October 6th, 1798, in the neighborhood of Uniontown, Fayette county, Pennsylvania,; that he graduated from Jefferson College with high honors in 1818 and then studied theology at Princeton Seminary. In his final year there, he was a tutor in Nassau Hall. Immediately upon graduation in 1822, he took charge of an Academy which had just been established in Princeton and oversaw that work for five or six years. He had been licensed to preach in 1822, and in 1828 was ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunwsick and called to serve as an Evangelist. A year later, he accepted a post to serve as General Agent for the American Sunday School Union, a post which he held for six years. Finally, in 1835, he began the work which consumed the remainder of his life, seeking to advance the cause of the evangelical Christian faith in various countries in Europe. For twenty-eight years this was his life’s passion. Finally, returning from London in 1862, his last year was spent at home in New Jersey, and on March 15, 1863, he breathed his last.

Baird’s greatest work was most likely his treatment on Religion in America. Written while he was residing in Geneva, it is a work which remains quite useful to this day. The full title of the work is Religion in America; or an account of the Origin, Progress, Relation to the State, and Present Condition of the Evangelical Churches in the United States. With notices of the Unevangelical Denominations. First published in 1842, Baird continued to rework and expand the book, and the final 1856 edition is the most complete.

Some three years after his death, Baird’s son, the Rev. Henry Martyn Baird, wrote a biography of his father, and in the following passage, Henry speaks of Robert’s childhood and how he was raised in the Christian faith by a father who was careful to catechize his children:

“His father was a man of staunch integrity and of exemplary deportment; and, as such, he had won the esteem and confidence of all his neighbors. Unostentatious, but with very decided views, which he never avoided expressing on all suitable occasions, he was a man who left his imprint upon all with whom he came in contact. His habits of industry and thrift, formed in youth, he strove to inculcate in connection with the higher obligations of religion. Often did his children, in later years, advert with pleasure to the instruction given to them in the Westminster catechism under the parental roof. On Sabbath evenings, when the entire family was gathered around the blazing hearth, the father was accustomed to hear his children recite that admirable summary of the great truths of the Gospel. His memory was extraordinarily tenacious, and he had himself been so thoroughly drilled in his childhood, that he experienced no difficulty in conducting the exercise, and never required a book in order to recall either the form or the order of the questions. He always began at the very commencement of the catechism, and went regularly through it to the last answer with those of the older children who had advanced so far. His son Robert often blessed God for the familiarity which he thus acquired with the matchless compendium of Biblical theology of the Westminster divines; and expressed regret that Christian parents generally are not more faithful in laying in the minds of their offspring, at an early age, the foundations of an intimate acquaintance with the all-important doctrines of the Christian religion.”

Words to Live By:
Catechising your children may not always be easy, but it can be enjoyable, if conducted lovingly and in a firm yet patient way. Start when they are very young, and build a family habit around the time, whether over the dinner table, at bed time or in the morning. Any discipline involves effort, but this is something which will bear a good—even an eternal—blessing.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14-15, NASB)

For Further Study:
Last October 6th, we first looked at the life of Robert Baird. To review that post, click here.

To read The Life of the Rev. Robert Baird, by Henry Martyn Baird, click here.

To read the review of Religion in America written by James W. Alexander, click here.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Para-church Presbyterian Evangelist

There can be no doubt that Robert Baird has both the gift of administration as well as the gift of  teaching.

Born on October 6, 1798 near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, in Fayette County, Robert went first to nearby Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.  Graduating from that undergraduate college with high honors, he then studied theology at Princeton Theological  Seminary.  His senior year at the seminary also saw him at the College of New Jersey, serving as a tutor. After graduation from the seminary, he stayed in the area, serving at the pre-college school known as Princeton Academy, for six years.

Licensed and ordained by the Presbyterian of New Brunswick in 1822 and 1828 respectively, he took the first of a series of mission agencies engaged in ministry to the masses. For seven years, he served at a General Agent of the New Jersey Missionary Society. Following that, he became the General Agent of the American Sunday School Union for six years, seeking to organize Sunday Schools in destitute areas of our country.  This ministry continues to exist today under another name.

In 1835, Rev. Baird traveled all through Europe to promote evangelical religion on the Continent of Europe. He turned the latter into speaking engagements in America, as well as the authoring of  six books on religion in the old country. At that time, those who had emigrated to America before the American Revolution were only one or two generations removed from the old countries from which they had come. And since many of them had come to America because of persecution of their faith, they had a great interest of what had become of their old lands and people.

Robert Baird died in the middle of the Civil War, on March 15, 1863.

Words to live by:  In a number of our Presbyterian circles today, we would say that Rev. Robert Baird was laboring “out-of-bounds.”  That is, his ministries did not fit the usual rule of laboring in ministries organized and overseen directly by the Presbyterian assembly, synods, or presbyteries. But that doesn’t mean these ministries were not effective instruments for the gospel in their own right.  They were similar to the “para-church” ministries of our day and age.  Both then and now, such ministries can be effective works for the Lord in areas where the Church either has not yet been organized, or, in some cases, where the Church, as the Church, cannot minister. As long as there is a priority of financial and prayer support to denominational approved agencies, it can be legitimate to also support a well-selected para-church ministry. Just make sure that they have a doctrinal statement which is biblical, and  an outreach ministry which does what it claims to do, with no more than ten or fifteen per cent reserved for operating expenses. It must be transparent, with nothing to hide from Christian inspection. That need of accountability is one of core reasons the Presbyterian system works as well as it does.

Through the Scriptures:  Zechariah 7 – 10

Through the Standards:  The definition and purpose of marriage

WCF 24: 1, 2
“Marriage is to be between one man and one woman; neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.  Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.”

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