Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where we're heading

This is raw material from what will be chapter six or seven. This chapter focuses on new congregations, new workers and the character of the early fellowships. The two men we profile below appear only once in Zion's Watch Tower, but they're representative of many who read the magazine and who carefully considered its contents. We lack detail. That's an constant issue. The story is in the detail. We can't tell you what we do not know.

Please read the following. If you have details to add, please do so. Comments are welcome.

Amon Hipsher and Lorenzo Jackson Baldwin

Amon Hipsher was a resident of Ames, Story County, Iowa. Born in Pennsylvania about 1820, he was a successful and wealthy farmer.[1] Hipsher was active in Church of God (One Faith) conferences. He was elected conference president in December 1874.[2] At a subsequent conference someone objected to him being placed in sole charge of future arrangements, describing the arrangement as Hipsher acting as a “little pope.” This seems to have been an objection only to the arrangement, not a comment on his personality. He declined re-election for the next year at the December 1875 conference. By 1884 the conference was renamed The Christian Conference of Iowa, and Hipsher was elected vice president.[3]

We know little of his religious background prior to 1874 beyond the fact that he subscribed to The Heretic Detector, an anti-Universalist magazine published in Middleburg, Ohio.[4] He lived in areas reached by Stetson and his closest associates, and there is an obvious connection on that level. He was one of the first readers of Zion’s Watch Tower, and in the March 1881 issue Russell addressed a question sent in by him, writing, “Bro. A. Hipsher, for answer to your question: see ‘Unpardonable Sin,’ page 3.”

It appears that Russell wrote his article on unpardonable sin specifically to answer Hipsher’s questions. His approach was interesting [continue]

Lorenzo Jackson Baldwin was another Iowa resident. He was born March 2, 1823, in Vermont and died in Madison County, Iowa. He was a small-time farmer in the Mackenburgh, Iowa, area. In 1883 he wrote to S. A Chaplin, editor of The Restitution, seeking “a boy between 15 and 20 years old” to live with them for “two or three years.” He promised “to send him to school winters and pay wages for eight or nine months in the years.” Baldwin and his wife specifically asked for “a reader of The Restitution and a believer in the gospel of the kingdom.”[5]

Baldwin was also active among One Faith believers in Iowa. We find him attending a One Faith conference in September 1875 with an Elder Baldwin, apparently a relative.[6] We find him noted in the same "questions and answers" article in which we met Hipsher. He apparently asked a flood of questions. Russell’s response was: “Bro. J. Baldwin: It would require the entire space of Z.W.T. for a year or more to answer all your questions in full. We commend to you the reading of all the tracts 3 or 4 times; then read ‘day dawn.’ You need not expect to obtain all the truth on so great and grand a subject at one swallow, it is a continuous eating. You must seek. ‘He that seeketh findeth.’ ‘Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord.’ (Hos. 6:3.)”[7]

Based on Russell’s recommendation of Bible Students Tracts numbers one and two, we believe that Baldwin’s questions centered on issues of “second probation” and the reason for and manner of Christ’s return. These were issues that would have raised questions among Russell’s One Faith readers.

It is evident that some considerable interest came from Ohio and Iowa which were strongly Age to Come and had been one of the focus points of Barbour and Russell’s early ministry.

[1] The 1860 Census returns for Story County, Iowa, say his real estate was worth five thousand dollars and his personal property worth five hundred dollars.
[2] Conference Report, The Restitution, January 6, 1875.
[3] “Little Pope”: Report of the Conference Held Near Alden, Iowa, The Restitution, July 25, 1875. Declines Nomination: Iowa, The Restitution¸ December 20, 1875. Vice President: Iowa Conference Report, The Restitution, October 15, 1884.
[4] His subscription is noted in the November 1840 issue.
[5] Mr and Mrs. L. J. Baldwin to Editor Restitution, The Restitution, October 24, 1883.
[6] Mrs. M. V. Duggar: Iowa Conference, The Restitution, September 22, 1875.
[7] C. T. Russell: Questions of Correspondents, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1881, page 8.

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