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The Christian Repository
By S. H. Ford, 1859


Robert Kirtley is now in his seventy-fourth year. He is one of those venerable and godly men who link the present generation with those fathers who were imprisoned in Virginia for the testimony of Jesus.

He was born in Culpepper county, Va., May 30th, 1786. His father, Jeremiah Kirtley, emigrated to Kentucky in 1796, when Robert was but ten years of age. His father was for many years a deacon in a Baptist church, and a licensed preacher, so that the recollections of Robert's earliest years are filled with incidents of Baptist history, of which he possesses a stock more full and accurate than perhaps any of our aged brethren, except George Waller.

All acquainted with the state of society in Kentucky sixty years ago, will know what kind of opportunities Robert had for obtaining even the most elementary education. And yet Bro. Kirtley is, in many respects, an educated man -- that is, his mind is stored with knowledge; and the Bible and its glorious language are as familiar to him as household words.

He was married in early life to Miss Mary Thompson, whose father was for years a deacon of Bryant's Station Church, Fayette county, Kentucky.

Bro. Kirtley was set apart to the ministry in 1819, and was associated with those men of God whose names will ever live in the memories of Kentucky Baptists -- Absalom Graves, John Taylor, and James Dickens.

Since their death, he has been the acknowledged pastor of the Bullittsville Church -- a church which has sent forth more preachers than perhaps any church in Kentucky. This, and other churches which have shared his labors, have enjoyed many interesting and extensive revivals. Several churches have grown up, and have been constituted under his ministry. Among them, Burlington, Big Bone Lick, and Middle Creek, have shared his labors ever since he commenced his ministry. His labors have also extended into Ohio and Indiana, and the counties along the Ohio river.

With other brethren he met and sustained the shock of Campbellism, and afterwards, almost single-handed in the ministry, grappled with the Antinomian and Anti-mission errors, which caused such ruin among our churches in Kentucky.

But this is not the time for an extended sketch of this father in Israel. We know him, and love him. A man, is Robert Kirtley, whom none know without loving. Gentle and kind, a true friend, without one grain of envy, but a lover of good men, there is a something about him which calls forth, even from a stranger, a tender affection for the man of God.

He is gently descending the steps of the tomb. Loved and respected by all, he is a full shock of corn, ready for the garner. But amid the decay of nature, his mind is clear and vigorous, and his heart generous and warm. We saw him last at the North Bend Association, of which he has been, for years, Moderator. His noble and talented son was by his side (formerly pastor of the church over which the writer of this now presides). The aged patriarch spoke of his departure being at hand, and as each eye was wet with weeping, each heart rejoiced that God had given to the churches James E. [A.] Kirtley, to fill the place which might soon be vacated by the death of the father.

[From Samuel H. Ford, editor, The Christian Repository, February, 1859, pp. 77-78. A portrait of Robert Kirtley that I have never seen before accompanies this article, but the microfilm copy is so dark that it cannot be used on the Internet with this article. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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