Home-Call of Tom Baird, at Arlington, U.S.A.
"WILL you receive a prophet in the Name of a Prophet, and you will receive a prophet's Reward?" (Matt. 10. 41) was our first intimate acquaintance with Tom Baird, as he stood at the door of our home in Glasgow at 11 o'clock one cold night 40 years ago , having missed the last train to his home in Alexandria. It was the beginning of a long and lasting friendship, so suddenly to be ended on receiving a cable from Arlington, U.S.A., on September 20, 1932, intimating that he had a "shock'', on Monday 19th, and died on the 20th without regaining consciousness, in his 71st year.
THOMAS BAIRD was born in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1862, brought up in strictly temperance and religious principles, born again in Alexandria, Dumbartonshire, in 1886, through special meetings being held there, and through the influence of the young lady who became his wife and helpmeet until the end of his journey.
DONALD M'LACHLAN, of Renfrew, who has known Mr. Baird all his life, writes concerning his conversion: "I well remember one Saturday afternoon when four of us were taking a walk in the country, Tom told us that he was reading the Bible at present with a view to confuting those of his workmates who said they had got converted. He had just finished telling us this when a gentleman came up to us and offered us each a tract. Tom entered into discussion with him, and I well remember his words when leaving this man: 'I am serving the Devil just now, but should I see what you say is true and I get saved, I promise you that I will serve the Lord as faithfully as I am serving the Devil now,' and this he assuredly did throughout those many years. After his conversion, he went whole heartedly into the work of the Lord, and there is not a village in the district but what he visited, telling out the sweet story (often standing alone) that had won his own heart and was so dear to him. His conversion caused quite a stir in the town, and a paragraph appeared in the local paper saying that a 'player in the Jamestown Band had given up his cornet for a harp in Heaven.’ "
After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Baird [Annie McLean] had meetings in many places. Mr. Baird, who had been a leader in the Jamestown Temperance Band, used his cornet for open-air work and drew large crowds. He could play any instrument in the Band. In Paisley and other towns, at times the streets were blocked and traffic stopped for a time.
Whilst thus having great favour in missions and churches, he began to study the Word of God more closely, and like the early disciples, and all since who have "gladly received the Word" (Acts 2. 41), he was baptized and joined the Assembly in 1890. His activities in the Shire led to a wider sphere in Scotland, then his heart was turned to the Straits Settlements, and being heartily commended by brethren, J. R. CALDWELL, THOS. M'LAREN, WM. KYLE, and others, he went forth in 1892. Settling first in Singapore, they took up work amongst the Chinese lepers; then moved up the coast to Kuala Lumpor, where a good work was done among the Chinese in the tin mines, and there were many converts. His wife and children came home to England in 1898, whilst he visited Burma, opened a station at Serendah in 1899, and established a good Gospel work.
When the Boer War broke out, he responded to the call for Scripture Readers, and was just in his element with his cornet, his hearty songs, and his cheery manner among the men. Along with HENRY HYND and J. BALL, they suffered many hardships and dangers as they marched with GENERAL BULLER and the troops to Pretoria, and yet they were blessed to the salvation of many soldiers in the ranks, and in the hospitals.
Returned to Singapore in 1901 and put in 6 strenuous years. It was here that he got the shock of his life. Accustomed to baptize converted lepers, he trod the same path to the pool. and usually returned barefooted, so that when certain marks appeared, all judged he had caught this foul disease. After a time, the signs disappeared, and with failing health, he was guided in returning to Britain in 1907.
Receiving a number of invitations to visit America, he went there in 1913, and with the exception of a visit to Britain in 1927-30, has laboured in Canada and the United States. From Arlington, he received his call to the Recompense of the Reward.
His last Lord's Day was full of activities. He visited the Assembly at Irving-on-the-Hudson. and spoke morning and evening. In the afternoon, he went to the great Sing-Sing Prison, and took part in the Gospel service. Returned home, filled with JOY at these opportunities for service. Next morning about 6, he had a "stroke," which left him speechless but conscious. He lapsed into a coma at 3 and never recovered. Knowing his enthusiastic nature and his vigour in movement, it did not come as a very great surprise to some that he thus suddenly entered into Rest. He had often expressed a wish either to be alive at the Coming, or to be called Home whilst in harness.
He was one of the favourite visitors to the Fulton Street Noon Prayer Meeting. G. H. Dowknott, the Chairman, writing of the Home-call, says: "It seems all so sudden, because I was looking for him to come in and pray with us this week, as he had written so sympathetically that he would. Furthermore, we had him down to be our speaker the first week in October, but our Lord has willed it otherwise, and for him, his death has been a gain, and to be with the Lord is 'far better.' "
His pen was ever active. In writing articles for children's papers, many of which appeared in Boys and Girls; outlines for workers in The Pathway, and choice verses were also numerous; and in addition to Answers, Outlines, and Notes, he wrote several "series" of papers for The Witness, greatly valued by Mr. Caldwell. Many readers will remember those papers on "Saints in wrong Places," "The Priesthoods of the Bible," "Fundamental Truths," etc., as well as a great number or original articles, poetry, and gems, covering many years. He had two books to his credit, "Back to the Beginning," and "Conscience," as well as a number of leaflets. Like his preaching, his writing was strong, clear and drastic, and ever bore the true mark of "I believe and therefore have I spoken” (2 Cor. 4. 13).
The local Assembly hall being insufficient for the funeral service, a Presbyterian church was secured. About 700 believers assembled from various parts. Brethren CHARLES YOUNG, of Yonkers; JOHN THOMSON, of Kearney (Mr. Baird' s home Assembly); WM. JELLY, of Newark; GEO. H. COLLETT, of East Orange; and JOHN HILL of Wood Ridge, took part. Some 250 assembled at the graveside in Arlington Cemetery to commit the "mortal" to rest till the day when it shall "put on immortality."
At the funeral service, Mr. JOHN HILL well remarked: "Our brother Baird did not belong to any one Assembly. He was the property of us all, not only in the metropolitan district, but far afield on both sides of the ocean." Other testimonies of esteem for our brother were given.
Tom Baird was unique amongst those who have devoted their lives to the work of the Ministry. Some might at times disapprove or disagree, but none ever question the sincerity, the zeal for God, and beneath the surface, the real brotherly love which ever glowed in the heart of him whom we always addressed as "Tom.''
Now his labours on earth are ended, the church is poorer, but the Song of the Ransomed is louder. With the widow, a son [Eugene Quentin Baird] far from well in America, and a daughter (Mrs. [Diana Annie] Hill) in India, we look for the Reunion Morning when we too, shall swell the Heavenly strain—"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” HyP.
"The Witness" 1932