Train Up a Child
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.