A few months ago we shared excerpts from 1001 Questions & Answers On The Christian Life, a small but broad book outlining Amish beliefs.
I think many readers appreciated that look at Amish Christian thought and practice. For example, one reader commented on 1001 Questions that “These answers are not just for the Amish. Every Christian should read this book.” Another described it as “a wonderful book to help on our Christian walk.”
With that in mind, I thought I’d bring to your attention another important little book called In Meiner Jugend: A Devotional Reader in German and English.
Like 1001 Questions & Answers On The Christian Life, it’s produced by Pathway Publishers, and sold at a very low price (I recently got one for $1.00 at Gordonville Bookstore).
Another reader shed some light on the significance of this book in a previous comment:
I specifically went to Pathway to ask which books would they recommend for the Amish wannabee/seeker. The man staffing the store said to start with two I mentioned. He said that the Amish churches subsidize those 2 books to lower the price and increase readership. The books are sold at below printing costs but the prices are what they are for all people, not just the Amish.
The other book referred to here in addition to In Meiner Jugend is 1001 Questions.
What’s the purpose of In Meiner Jugend?
Joseph Stoll in the introduction to In Meiner Jugend describes the need to preserve and promote “the rich heritage of German reading material that has come down to us”.
The 220-plus page book contains the German and (on the facing pages) English versions of important prayers, formularies for baptism and marriage, hymns, and the Dordrecht Confession, a 17th-century text containing fundamental articles of Amish Christian belief.
In Meiner Jugend also contains the full Rules of a Godly Life devotional which we’ve looked at here before.
From the introduction:
In our worship services, we Amish and most Old Order Mennonites use the German language. Our hymns, sermons, prayers, and church ceremonies are in German. In addition, we speak a German dialect at home. And yet, we have increasingly turned to the English language for much of our reading and for writing.
Unless we make a serious effort to become more familiar with the rich heritage of German reading material that has come down to us, we will lose much of the blessing that could be ours. This book is a sincere attempt to encourage our young people (and those who are older) to a deeper study of some of the doctrinal and devotional materials that are being used in our churches today. By providing an English translation on each facing page, it is not our intent to have it replace or supplant the German. Quite the opposite. The English version should be used just as one would make use of a German-English dictionary–to clarify the meaning of the German.
Stoll continues by briefly describing what is found in the book and covering a few explanatory notes.
He closes with the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12): Niemand verachte deine Jugend; sondern sei ein Vorbild den Gläubigen im Wort, im Wandel, in der Liebe, im Geist, im Glauben, in der Keuschheit.
Stoll doesn’t provide a translation, but here it is: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
Contents of In Meiner Jugend
Below, you’ll find a brief description of each section found in In Meiner Jugend.
1. The Dordrecht Confession
The Dordrecht Confession is a statement of belief laid out by Dutch Mennonites at a meeting in the city of Dordrecht in the year 1632.
Donald Kraybill writes that “Although many Mennonite groups over the years have adhered to the Dordrecht Confession in principle, the Amish have attempted to follow its teachings literally, especially in regard to shunning and footwashing…The Swiss Brethren never adopted the Dordrecht Confession, which was likely a source of difference between the various factions of Alsatian and Swiss Anabaptists during the division of 1693” (see The Riddle of Amish Culture, p. 344-345 footnote #2 Chapter 3).
Baptismal candidates review the 18 articles of the Dordrecht Confession at instructional classes leading up to baptism (these meetings take place with the ministers in a separate room while opening singing is happening at church service).
Here are the titles of the 18 articles:
- Of faith in God and the creation of the first man and all things
- Of the transgression by Adam of the divine command
- Of the restoration and reconciliation of the human race with God
- Of the coming of our Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ
- Of the advent of the New Testament through our Lord Jesus Christ
- Of repentance and amendment of life
- Of holy baptism
- Of the church of God
- Of the choosing of ministers in the church
- Of the venerable Lord’s Supper
- Of footwashing
- Of holy matrimony
- Of civil government
- Of revenge and defense by force
- Of the swearing of oaths
- Of excommunication or separation from the church
- How to shun those who are banned and separated from the church
- Of the resurrection of the dead
The translation of the Dordrecht Confession in In Meiner Jugend is described as “an entirely new one, and adheres closely to the wording of the German and original Dutch.”
Stoll notes that the Confession “is not easy to understand in any language” and explains that “We have tried to simplify the sentence structure where it was possible to do so without affecting the meaning.”
You can read another version in full online here.
2. The Apostles’ Creed
The Apostles’ Creed is given on a single page, with the German on the facing page.
3. Rules of a Godly Life
As described here, Rules of a Godly Life is
a popular Pietist devotional source for the Amish. Comprised of 47 proverbs, this text was originally written in the early 18th century by a non-Amish author. The proverbs are intended to guide the Amish on how to center their daily life on God through their everyday thoughts, words, and deeds.
Accordingly, this devotional is divided into three sections: 1) Thoughts, 2) Words, and 3) Works.
Here’s a closer look at some rules from the devotional:
- Section 1, Rule 1 (daily thoughts)
- Section 1, Rule 8 (humility)
- Section 1, Rule 15 (making decisions)
- Section 2, Rule 6 (speaking evil)
- Section 3, Rule 8 (serving Christ)
- Section 3, Rule 11 (physical appearance)
Rules of a Godly Life is also viewable online in full here.
4. Prayers from Christenpflicht
Christenpflicht or Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht is described as “the first complete and self-contained German prayer book for Mennonites”, with the earliest edition dating to 1708.
An article in GAMEO (Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online) briefly details how the book came to be:
In general, Mennonites practiced free, extemporaneous prayer at church and at home. Soon after 1600, however, Dutch Mennonites seem to have felt a need also for printed prayers, mainly for home devotions, and a few short collections of such prayers were published. Yet it was not until the early 18th century that the “Swiss” Mennonites in South Germany (Palatinate) took the decisive step of producing a complete prayer book of their own, a modest but independent publication of far-reaching influence.
Over the centuries it has been produced in various editions with different numbers of prayers. Six of those prayers are found in In Meiner Jugend, including “A Reminder Of Certain Things For Which We Should Sigh And Pray to God”, “A Prayer For Christian Discipleship”, and “A Prayer Of Devout Parents For Their Children”.
The book was published in a modern English translation in 1997 as “A Prayer Book for Earnest Christians.”
There is a selection of 18 hymns in the book, including “Humility Is The Most Beautiful Virtue”, “Be Encouraged, You Pious Ones”, and “There Are Two Ways In This Time”. The hymns are given without musical notation, and with one exception are not metered or rhymed.
6. Baptism & Marriage Formularies
The formularies consist of vows taken at baptism and marriage ceremonies and in some cases a brief description of the sequence of events. There are a number of examples from different Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities.
In Meiner Jugend contains separate baptism and marriage formularies for Old Order Amish in 1) Ohio, Indiana, etc.; 2) Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, etc.; 3) Somerset County, Pennsylvania; 4) Allen and Adams Counties, Indiana; 5) Milverton, Ontario, and for Old Order Mennonites in 1) Ontario, etc. and 2) Pennsylvania, etc.
To give one example, here are the baptism questions and answers for the Old Order Amish in “Ohio, Indiana, etc.”:
A Copy Concerning Baptism
1) Can you also confess with the eunuch: Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Answer: Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
2) Do you also recognize this to be a Christian order, church and fellowship under which you now submit yourselves?
3) Do you renounce the world, the devil with all his subtle ways, as well as your own flesh and blood, and desire to serve Jesus Christ alone, who died on the cross for you?
4) Do you also promise before God and His church that you will support these teachings and regulations [Ordnung] with the Lord’s help, faithfully attend the services of the church and help to counsel and work in it, and not to forsake it, whether it leads you to life or to death?
Then the prayer, with the applicants kneeling and the members standing.
Then the baptism is administered: Upon your faith which you have confessed before God and many witnesses, you are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Thereupon they are taken up: In the name of the Lord and the church, my hand is extended to you, stand up. Handshake and holy kiss and God’s blessings wished. And that they are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.
And here is the marriage formulary for the Amish of the Milverton, Ontario area:
Now, you young people, if it is your heartfelt desire to be confirmed in the state of marriage, you may come forward in God’s name.
You have now heard how God the Lord established the institution of marriage. You have heard how you are to conduct yourselves one to the other. You have also heard what more God has commanded you. Are you then willing to live in the state of marriage as you have now been instructed, before God and His Christian church? And is it your desire that your marriage may be established thereon? (Answer, “Yes.”)
So may our dear Lord God sanction your holy endeavor; your beginning has been made in the name of the Lord who created heaven and earth. And now, ____________, do you believe and confess that you wish to take ____________, your spiritual sister here in your presence, to be your wedded wife? And do you promise never to forsake her, faithfully to support her, affectionately to love her, to live with her in godliness, be loyal and faithful to her as a pious and God-fearing husband is obligated to be toward his wife, according to the Word of God and the holy gospel? (Answer, “Yes.”)
And you, ____________, do you believe and confess that you wish to take ____________, your spiritual brother here in your presence, to be your wedded husband? And do you promise to be obedient to him and never to forsake him, affectionately to love him, to live with him in godliness, be loyal and faithful to him as a pious and virtuous wife is obligated to be toward her husband, according to the Word of God and the holy gospel? (Answer, “Yes.”)
Though there are common elements, there is interesting variation of wording and emphasis across the various formularies.
For example, none of the Amish marriage formularies besides the Milverton one above include an explicit reference to “obedience” from wife to husband. The two Old Order Mennonite marriage formularies both include questions asking if each party is “free, single, and disengaged from all other [women/men] as far as marriage is concerned.”
It’s also unclear how the creators of In Meiner Jugend decided which communities’ formularies to include here. These may simply reflect the largest groups and/or groups for which there are distinct differences.
Where to find In Meiner Jugend & Enter to Win a Free Copy
Towards the end of his introduction, Joseph Stoll writes that “It is our prayer that this little booklet may indeed be a means of spiritual blessing to those who earnestly study it.”
If you’d like a copy of In Meiner Jugend, there are various places you can get one, including at Amish bookstores.
It’s also offered for $1.50 plus shipping at this online seller of Pathway Publishers books (Scroll Publishing – I’ve never ordered from them, but everything I’ve found about them online suggests it’s a legitimate outfit). It’s the sixth title down the page.
It’s also available at Amazon, but for a lot more $$.
I’m also going to give away a copy at random to one reader. Just leave a comment below to enter.
Image credits: In Meiner Jugend cover- scrollpublishing.com; Christenpflicht image- liveauctioneers.com