Minister, Old Mennonite Hereford/Boyertown congregations 1863, Bishop, Mennonite Franconia Conference from 1875. Letters translation 1870-1906, Isaac R. Horst.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Isaac R. Horst Translations of the Jacob B. Mensch Letter Collection

 "A project is underway to have the 1603 letters of Jacob Mensch translated and typed, with the possibility of eventual publication. The first phase is estimated to require about $4000.00 for completion of copying, translation labor, and typing. You are invited to send a donation to help defray the costs of the project."
Notice in the Mennonite Historian,Winnipeg, Manitoba March 1982

I did not know of this notice when I wrote to Isaac Horst  21 March 2005 at the end of his life:

Dear Mr. Horst,

I do have advantages from living in Phoenix, practical immunity from winter, but we get pay back in summer. I have benefited from education too, but I can’t read the many German texts that my ancestors did. This immediately concerns my desire to read the letters of Andrew Mack in the Jacob Mensch collection. He is my uncle, brother of Henry Mack, my great grandfather, whose life and time I am trying to explore. I was named after Andrew Mack. I believe that his letters are necessary to understand all their lives, for this also concerns the Bechtels of Hereford. John B. Bechtel ordained Andrew Mack in 1863 and his daughter Elizabeth married Henry Mack. They were Old Mennonite pastors for some four generations. On inquiry the Mennonite Heritage Center of Harleysville mentioned your interest in the Mensch collection. Thus I inquire whether or not you would consider sharing with me any translations you have done on the 49 letters of Andrew Mack.
Sincerely yours,
AE Reiff


He replied 29 Apr 2005:
"In answer to your inquiry regarding the Andrew Mack collection - Jacob Mensch -, I have the complete collection translated into English, and would consider sharing the English translations of the Andrew Mack letters. Any offering to help defray the costs will be appreciated."

My response was instant. I sent a check by return mail based on what might be the photocopy cost multiplied by some factor of ten. It was not much, but there is never a time to deny the ox. His translations are a magnificent work. He responded graciously for my token and sent title with his copies of the translations. "Enclosed find the English of the Andrew Mack letters, as close as I have been able to copy the English letters. Thank you for the efforts you have contributed. I feel these are fully paid, and therefore you are fully entitled to their ownership as far as I am concerned. Thank you again. Sincerely, and God's blessings."




Dear Isaac Horst, July 14, 2005
"I received the translations you so kindly sent. The letters are gracious in themselves and your idiomatic translations reflect this. Producing these from microfilmed handwriting or copies thereof seems to me heroic in itself. You did say that you have translated the entire collection of 1600 letters!
I infer you followed the microfilmed order of the letters arranged by the catalogers in 1972 who cited 49 letters in all, 1871-1907. If I arbitrarily number them there are in fact 49 letters. By this sequence though, as you implicitly observe, in order to reach 49 the catalog must identify Enos S. Gehman’s (August 9, 1885) as Andrew Mack’s, but is not explicitly aware of the first letter, 1 Aug 1870. These cancel each other out making 49 again.
Many insights must have occurred to you about the styles you encountered. Was Andrew Mack’s the most fluid? Does Mensch’s diary meditate upon life, death, suffering and sin and health the way Mack does, esp. in the earlier letters, or is it just a record of people, places and dates as I suspect? I observe that the bishop intended some of his letters to be read aloud in public and private settings. I don’t really expect you to respond to any of this, but I wanted to again convey my thanks. Sincerely,
AE Reiff"

I was amused in later communications with his son Osiah to learn that Isaac Horst had sent me the only copies of  the Andrew Mack translations!  I feel mightily blessed to have pulled this off, for it doesn't matter in the slightest any more that the Mack letters are missing from the Mensch collection. They are online and cataloged for the world, sometimes annotated with links. People in Germany, Russia, France, UK, Ukraine, Netherlands, Slovenia, Latvia, Brazil have accessed them times over. As said in a 2011 New Year greeting,  "you immensely dignify these proceedings with your presence. May the Lord lift up his face to you."

I wrote to Osiah Horst to inquire after the rest of the Mensch letters after the Mack materials were posted and learned that "my father passed away in November 2008 so we have been going through his files, looking for the entire collection. The Mack letters are, of course, missing, but so are some of the Ressors as well as everything at the end of the collection, including some Wengers and all of the Zimmermans. I am still hoping to find the missing letters since we know the translation work was completed" (1 June 2010). He suggested that the Muddy Creek Farm Library at Ephrata and the Mennonite Heritage Center had expressed interest in these. If I had them I’d put them all online (if possible), a huge task, but it would also make a superb dissertation for someone. We always have to decide what is the truth and the whole truth with love.

An inventory of the compete Mensch Letter Collection here includes #190 and #192.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In the Early Letters and Ministry of Old Mennonite Bishop Andrew Mack 1836-1917

Mennonite Meeting House, Hereford, c.1876
 Jacob Mensch Letters.  Jacob Mensch corresponded with every Old Mennonite community (Ruth, Maintaining, 395) and  "kept records of meetings from 1880 to 1907"  (Wenger, History, 52). I obtained the Mack letters in just the fashion suggested below, eagerly donating to defray costs. Mr. Horst is now deceased. Anyone interested in contributing to translations of the completed archive is welcome to do so:

 "A project is underway to have the 1603 letters of Jacob Mensch translated and typed, with the possibility of eventual publication. The first phase is estimated to require about $4000.00 for completion of copying, translation labor, and typing. You are invited to send a donation to help defray the costs of the project."
Notice in the Mennonite Historian,Winnipeg, Manitoba March 1982

Not to reveal the names in these letters of the elders, brothers in law, fathers, mothers, sisters would prevent understanding of the benefits and difficulties of strict rule. It was in order to survive in this tiny community. Relations were pretty much for life. Is the maid of Ihst moving away? No. But mistaken identity is possible. Familiar fraud and cover up with nobody taking account of their sins, perpetuated in a sea of self infatuation where nobody at fault is familiar. Spiritual wickedness occurs in high and low places, at King David’s court and the barn.

How to get the hair shorn from these religious? Spare the names. Does rehabilitation overcome the sins of Lot? There is no answer in good taste. Content neutral writing shows that the passion of a character trespass the moral universe. There is no avoiding what Ezekiel saw through a hole in the wall, the elders making pact and sacrifice. Sordid inglorious sins, not the “heart became proud on account of its beauty” (Ez 28.17), but "The Spirit lifted me up…I dug into the wall and saw a doorway…I went and looked. I saw portrayed on the walls all kinds of crawling things and detestable animals… In front of them stood seventy elders of the house of Israel, and Jaazaniah son of Shapham was standing among them  (Ez 8.11)." The were worshiping the walls, burning incense.

The sins of world in all their sickness stain Andrew Mack who saw these things with tears and mediated them with weakness and pain. It’s not wit, it’s heartbreak. Ezekiel writes with outrage and judgment, but his knowledge is by revelation, caught up. Andrew Mack writes with sorrow and unbelievable contradiction that he has to decide such things. But he was also a farmer. When the weeds are rank in their growth the husbandman is going get the moist blades and severed roots on his clothes. Weed puller! He was a stone puller.

The circumstances of his early life as a pastor formed the career he was to have as a peacemaker and bishop. These took principally two forms in the problems he faced in his own church and in his dire sickness when elevated to Bishop.

The first six letters, from 1870 to 1876 preoccupy pastoral problems that the young minister needs to air: discord, adultery and immorality leading to disfellowship. In spite of the custom that Mennonites would confess their sins before the whole congregation, he is among the last to learn, hearing only secondhand of the discord and adultery. The problem with digging around in the past is that we might find things that have been buried.

The young preacher does not believe his own advice to the parties of discord and does not send the letter. Are we to take it literally when he says he writes “partly in tears?” He says, “I have heard that discord has taken place” and feels that he must act, “write.” Perhaps the reason he does not believe even himself is that he assumes their guilt in such language that they might “sooner return to your first love.” What are you going to say to gossipers, “I heard that you were gossiping?” That doesn’t work. That’s gossip too. He senses that his counsel is flawed. His strategy in the letter he doesn’t send is to display his feelings, “tears,” followed by his reasoning.

This is all the more strange since this letter is not cataloged with the other 49! As though it had fallen through some crack and ended up in the Mensch collection.

He admits things are "sometimes made worse by writing.” But this leads in the second part of the letter addressing his own self doubt as if he were seriously thinking, “I will lay down my office” rather than intervene this way. He includes himself with them in a triangle, “consider with me where we stand.” Their disagreement is emotional, fueled by false beliefs about themselves, each other and of the nature of discord, “the old Adam,” who threatens in this. His solution is humility, his own as he has said, but theirs too, but are they hardhearted or tender? And whose spirit is it that “will make us believe this or that, which often has no significance?” Satan.

The solution is one he sought in his own life with his own tears, “take each other’s weaknesses upon yourself,” that is, bear one anothers'  burdens to the sea of forgetfulness, the “ocean of oblivion.” They should be like Jesus “and hear Him say, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It doesn’t sound like this is going to work if they want to continue. The letter would make it appear he is taking sides. What is the flaw? Nothing except that he is still learning to feel his way in such matters. But he learns that the solution is not argument. His wife feels this too and gives the writer the best counsel, stop. Later in life he will have learned how to bring the disagreeable together, but also he will know when not to speak.

With the second issue, adultery, he only learns of it at the 11th hour and there is little to do except try to heal the injured by counseling, but he is counseling his own family, daughter, cousins, aunts. The offender is John L. Gehman who has confessed himself an adulterer “several weeks ago,” an act that transpired “several years ago, with the maid who was with Ihst.” This raises two issues, first that Ihst “did not wish to say anything; yet he talked about it so much it made me wonder; then he told me about it himself.” It sounds derelict of Ihst first not to have defended the maid better after “she told Ihst about it,” but further, when she had confided in him, not to have properly reported it, instead gossiping the news all over so that Mack heard it from others before ever Ihst said a word.

John L. GEHMAN
12 SEP 1819 - 3 MAR 1892
BIRTH: 12 SEP 1819 [24459]
DEATH: 3 MAR 1892, Hereford, Berks Co PA [24460]
BURIAL: Old Hereford Mennonite
REFERENCE: LKG
MARRIAGE: 25 AUG 1844 [61708]
MARRIAGE: 4 APR 1847

Another and more serious problem for him is that this John L. Gehman, ordained deacon in 1858,  is the son of the preacher  John Z. Gehman (Noah Mack, 4) who had grown up in the church and community. He was about 50 when taken with the maid. But Gehman had married Elizabeth Stauffer in 1847, Mack's cousin. Mack had both sisters and daughters named Susanna and Elizabeth, but with different birth dates than Gehman's wives. Gehman had previously been married to Elizabeth’s sister, Susanna Stauffer in 1844. He had one child with the first wife, a daughter, and three sons with the second, two of whom became deacons. [see Noah Mack 10, the number of sons and daughters is in question.] No wonder the “church is in a sad situation.” 

Mack's relation to the Stauffer family and because Gehman had married both daughters is the cause of him saying, “you wouldn’t believe how much trouble this caused for me and also for many others, especially the family." Gehman’s “wife thinks she can bear it with the help of God,” meaning that she can go on living, “yet for the rest of life can have no more joy,” more than a sad situation.
As with the previous discord of the “old Adam,” “the flesh still feels its weakness” and nobody can correct those who will not correct themselves: “verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Later he says that “Gehman also desires that all faithful ones should pray for him. He is quite depressed because of this sin,” but that is not altogether to the point since, “what is man when he flees from the Lord? He is as the prodigal son. He must arise and go to the father, but no man can come to him except the father draw him.” Mack bears the lesson himself as always and mutually exhorts Mensch, “dear brother, let us seek to accomplish our office faithfully,” always realizing that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities…the rulers of darkness of this world…”

 The extraordinary closeness of these Mennonite communities is illustrated in that Gehman’s own daughter was married to the same (John M.) Ihst (1844-1923) with whose maid Gehman conducted the affair! Andrew Mack had visited upon him a vision of the sins of the world which his weakness enabled him to bear.
           
In a third, even greater personal tragedy, reported in these first letters, his own brother-in-law is disfellowshiped. This is more poignant because it comes with the first report of his severe ensuing illness which was to last years, “I write tonight as I have never written before.” Taking his lead from “the saddest part,” he writes that “brother John Gabel fell into an abominable sin and is discharged from the church.”
 John L. Gable (1837-1887) had first been married to Leah High who died 23 Aug 1873 at age 34. Andrew Mack preached the sermon at her funeral. He had eight children with her. A sawmiller and merchant, he then married Elizabeth, sister of Andrew S. Mack and had four more children.  Gabel had been ordained a deacon at Hereford 17 Oct 1872.

The thing cannot be named. This letter comes two and a half years after the death of Gabel's first wife. That the transgression had occurred while he was, past tense, still a widower, we would say “single,” indicates perhaps that he was remarried at the time of this report. Mack writes that “this took place while he was still in the state of widowhood.” “You can’t imagine how my poor heart often feels, especially at this time while I am weak and unwell.” Gabel’s father, who died at age 86 in 1885, with his son J. L. Gabel bought the Gleason company machinery and had begun production in 1871.

Everybody knew everything about everybody else, “old father Gabel was here today and he wept over his son.” While he says nothing about the pain of his sister in all this, he does say “pray for J. Gabel. He is in great sorrow yet there are those who press him farther down.” Depression and gossip, the reward for sins, “when I see the church and how I labored these 12 years that I served, my courage would often sink.”

Not To Do

Like the first account where writing could have been misconstrued, he says to his friend Mensch as relief from pressures is to be curtailed, “I could still write much of what is on  my mind, but too much writing isn’t good for me either.’  This is because of the sickness he has first reported,  “I am not well…my nerves are also weakened.” Those things which had been his escape from the ministry are now denied to him: “I am not to do any heavy physical work, not preach, not indulge in deep thoughts and not read. The latter is the most difficult for me. I couldn’t keep up with reading much anyhow.”

This sickness is to vex him off and on the rest of his life. It increases his humility so that when “our pilgrimage is over, we may all enter into that heavenly home where no sickness nor sorrow may overtake us.” He recommends his solace, “I will seek to totally surrender myself to my dear Jesus and as He decides for me is right.”
These letters must only be a sampling of those six years; they are low spots. This period of his life comes to an end. Never again does he address such dire straits, either because they don’t happen, other issues are more urgent, or simply that he says nothing. His health continues to be difficult, both from the burden of his accountability and from the physical weakness. He writes, “how serious it often appears to me when I consider what we are accountable for, if we have not been found faithful stewards.” This does not refer to finance, but moral leadership, compassion, wisdom, judgment in administering his office. He would always feel this deeply. He says, “I find myself so weak, physically and spiritually,” “I am still not supposed to preach and cannot work much yet.” It has only been six weeks since he had released the doctor’s report in his last letter, but it shows how much he wants to continue his vocation.

Former Bally Mennonite Cemetery, courtesy Bud Gross
Whether to Resist 

He has opportunity to be accountable. About a year after being ordained bishop by acclamation in 1875, a dispute arises between the old and new Mennonites at Boyertown, formerly Colebrookdale. This corporate discord had its roots in the original split of 1847, the Oberholtzer controversy.  He was not a minister then, but was the first ordained after it at Hereford in 1863. His jurisdiction as bishop now includes the problem, so  immediately his care of the larger Mennonite community impacts both Old and New Mennonites as it was also to do later in his life when he “approved the organizing of the Mennonite General Conference, even though the majority of his conference did not” (The Mennonite Encyclopedia, III, 432).

Mennonites had shared buildings a long time. After their initial division between old and new in 1847 the two groups shared the Hereford meetinghouse until the new Mennonites built their own in 1851. The old group then bought out the new’s half share in the old building. There being also a building at Boyertown, then Colebrookdale, about six miles from the Hereford church, “built for the convenience of the Hereford Mennonites in and near Boyertown” (Wenger 366), but with no pastor separate from Hereford, this building had been used by both groups until 1876 when the old purposed to build anew on the original 1819 building, first tearing down the old. In the midst of the demolition the new “served an injunction against the building committee, enjoining them against the tearing down of the meetinghouse, and sued for equal rights as tenants in common” (Wenger 122).

Andrew’s son Noah says that his father “always upheld the idea that the old Mennonite Church should not have made any defense but when the sheriff came and placed an injunction on the church building the brethren just should have left and built a meeting house outside of the town” (Mack,   ) A question as to why he could not overrule the building committee as bishop does not understand the conditions applied. Neither could he introduce footwashing or missions when he wanted. Pressed on his first trip to Kansas in 1881 about missions by some Prussian Mennonites at Beatrice, Nebraska, he could only reply that “he had to wait until the time when such support could be had” (5). The injunction about the building not only resulted in a lawsuit that lasted seven years, ultimately decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but it caused a scrutiny of the conditions of the original Oberholtzer controversy of 1847.

“However, he was somewhat relieved in heart when the judge of the supreme court called the old Mennonites the defendants still to the close of the litigation but from a pure non-resistant standpoint he considered the true way would have been to leave all when and flee to another city as Jesus says Matt. 10-23.” (Mack,   )

Andrew Mack would of course know nothing of this when he wrote, before the fact, the letter of 27 Feb 1876:
 “For some time there have been quite a few communications among us regarding the building of a meeting house in Boyertown. The new (Mennonites) wished to build with us and we did not want that. Then our members decided that we would build a house, but they [the New] would have nothing to say to the building, but after it was built they could donate to the costs voluntarily and then have meetings in the new house as before in the old house. The new (ones) wished to have meetings in the new house as before in the old house. The new (ones) wished to have a written agreement drawn up so they could show that they had their rights, but ors did not wish to commit themselves. Now this is as it stands and I haven’t heard anything more. I heard that in Matdege they built in a similar way. If you know how they did in Matdege then write to me as soon as you can. I did not intend to be concerned with the building, but I would like to tell the brethren how they did it there.”

For one who “did not intend to be concerned with the building,” his concern is prescient. The original differences between the two groups in 1847 were part substantive, one being the whole subject of legality, which traditionally Mennonites rejected. That is, “that litigation was a downright violation of the New Testament ethic and was contrary to the historic practice of the church” (Wenger, 353).  But Oberholtzer, of the New Mennonites, testified, “our conference was not opposed to go to law in a just cause” (cited by Wenger, 353). Outside of the Bible and the Dortrecht Confession, traditional Mennonites shunned legality, creeds, written ordinances, constitutions, even minutes of their meetings at that time. 
The two factions in Boyertown fought all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. When the old group referenced in Andrew Mack’s letter decided to rebuild they offered tenancy to the new, on condition of their using no objectionable musical instruments. This demand initiated a series of conundrums that lasted six years. When demolition had already partly removed he old building, the New Mennonites sued for tenancy in common before the Berks County Court.  That suit, denied in 1879, was subsequently reversed. Then, on appeal in 1883, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, reversed it back, finding for the Old, a truly contradictory procedure for people who did not believe in such legal remedies (see Wenger, 122-23 and Ruth, 366-67) and a betrayal of principles held by traditional Mennonites.

The disagreement between old and new at Boyertown was similar to a similar one in Skippack except there the old Mennonites surrendered the meetinghouse and built anew. This was celebrated by John F. Funk as “one of the most glorious examples of self-denial and devotion to … religious principles, presented to us in modern times. The new factions claimed the old meeting-house and were determined to have it at all events. The property was one of considerable value and justly belonged to the Old Church, and any impartial judge or jury would have, without any scruples, freely accorded it to them, had they presented their claims, but instead of doing so, they chose rather to obey the scriptural injunctions 'not to resist evil, and of him that taketh away thy goods, not to ask them again,' and quietly, leaving the new factions in possession, they purchased other grounds and built themselves a new house.”  (Funk, 128.)

Andrew Mack’s thinking on all this was reported much later by his son, Bishop Noah Mack in 1939. This eleven page biography of Andrew Mack never got much circulation since it was solicited by Noah’s own biographers and served only as background for their work.

John F. Funk. The Mennonite Church and Her Accusers. Elkhart, Indiana: Mennonite Publishing Company, 1878
Revised 20 June 2013

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Life of Andrew Mack

II. The Andrew Mack Letters

It is a little surprising how German sources preoccupy the Pennsylvania Dutch into the 20th century. Noah Mack says that all his father’s speaking “reading and meditations were in German” (Mack, 4): “In preaching Bro. Mack used the scriptural German language well which the German people enjoyed to hear much better than the Pennsylvania German’ (Mack, 7). the lateness of this non-English use was a product of age and place especially, age because he was a youth in the beginning of the free school movement and place because “in the community where his family grew up the Pennsylvania German language was so generally spoken than no one who remained in that section at the time learned to speak the English fluently” (Mack, 11). 
But “another cause for him not attempting to learn English was his deep sense of correct speech and definiteness of expression. In himself he had developed well the real German” (Mack, 12). A good comparison is his younger brother Henry who spoke and wrote English fluently from the start, but Henry was 18 years younger. It’s not as though Andrew Mack did not see the need to speak English, for he sent oldest son Noah to a school where everyone spoke English. Further, “he never lamented much, but it was noticeable that he much regretted the fact that in many places his services were no more practicable nor desirable because of the German barring him from being understood.”
The expectations of speaking and understanding German among these people were very strong. Even writing in 1939, the undertow of the German so strong on Noah that he lapses into incomprehension:
“At a time the remark was made in the home; had we begun to talk English when there was one member of the family who could talk it and who taught it in school, who was in the home yet at the time; then father you could talk English too now. For he was only about forty years old when he sent his oldest son [Noah] to the English school.”
  Noah gives his father’s response to the English question in untranslated form, assuming his readers understand it: “Yah over the Leut hette ghsawt, seht overmowl der Hochmuth, der Mack un sei Buva schwetza Englisch” (11). [Yes, but the people said, 'look again at the attitude (that's too colloquial, but you get the point), Mack and his boy are talking / talk English.' (Courtesy of Joseph Salmons)] It seems evident that prior to 1900 it would be impossible to find a Pennsylvania Dutch native who did not speak and understand some species of the German, and a surprising percentage who used only German, making them in Weygandt’s terms, “the most conservative people in America” (5), meaning that “people are doing there what they did in the days before the Mexican  War” (5).
Fancy
This background of time and place was accentuated by religion, even from 1880 to 1900,  “so it was the opposition to the English language sixty years ago [from his time of writing, 1939] was so strong in the plain  churches and others too. In the mind of the older people in the church, English was considered almost a synonym for pride’ (Mack, 11). The reasoning was that to speak English was to pretend you were something you were not. The thinking seems to have been, first English then comes fancy dress. Fancy language equals fancy thought. For a man such as Andrew Mack, forty four years old in 1880, with a ministry, but invested also with a farm, a trade and a family, learning English well enough to suit his own standards seemed unnecessary: “He seemingly would not muster courage to attempt to use a language which he knew he could use but very poorly to begin with. In the five years above referred to, Father Mack and the rest of the family could have gotten a good start in the English language but sentiment from without and fear from within prevented all of the family from thinking about such a thing as talking English to the family….” 12)
These specifics support Weygandt’s general point  that “old ways, however, in household economy, in family government, in allegiance to church and political party, did persist among us longer than in almost any part of the country. Down to 1900 the standards and the ways of living were about what they had been for a century. We were still largely a farming people, with nearly all the old-country crafts demanded by a farming people descending from father to son among artisans who were also something of artists” (Weygandt, 5-6).
But the pull of the past did not prevent Andrew Mack from being an innovative leader. Such traits  can only be attributed to his intelligence and deep thought. His life gave him  profound opportunities to develop these gifts. His niece Anna Mack, Henry’s daughter, who lived with him in 1886 and 1887 after her mother died,  remembers  it was his habit that “each day, after the noon meal, he would retire to the room where he had a roll-top desk, get out his Bible to study and read for an hour before he went back to the farm work” (Best Foot Forward, 6). Noah Mack says that “his main reading book was the Bible.” Perhaps the most significant aspect of Mennonite education consisted in the handing down of materials in families from one generation to another, so “he had presented to him Starks German Commentary which had come down the years from one generation of ministers and bishops to another. He however made little use of it” (3).  No doubt there were other books in his possession. A classicist in a way, “all his reading and meditations were in German,” but  he read original sources, derived his insight from the text and not from criticism of it. “He was heard to say, ‘when scriptures are deep and difficult to interpret then commentators are cloudy and express themselves in many words and oftimes have no clear interpretation and are undecided as to the real meaning of the Word’” (3). Hence, “his conviction was rather that commentaries are not of much help to those [for] whom preaching was primarily by the power of the Holy Ghost and who depended on the Spirit for interpretation and for revelation.” His main aid in this was Buchner’s concordance. “He made much use of his concordance in finding references in searching the scriptures for references bearing on the subject upon which he was meditation.”
When in his youth he had apprenticed for “two to three years” as a carpenter with his uncle in cabinet making and in preparation of sashes and doors for houses built the coming year, which he “followed it a few years but when he had a family, a small farm and the ministry he no longer followed the trade” (2), even in all these activities “he would carry a little pocket testament while at work and would refer to the Scriptures at spare moments” (3). His study habits give a sense of  mental acuity. His simple folk education of the eighth grade had been enhanced by his father, Jesse  Moyer Mack, who “had taught during the transition period from the old subscription school to the free school system.”  The  “deep sense of correct speech and definiteness of expression” (11) in his sermons  and public appearances  that had handicapped him in the learning of English,  was fully applied to his sermons and their preparation.
This seems important for the verbal facility it implies and for the scholarship needed for such an effort. We infer from this an intelligence which communicated itself in everything he did, from seeking out “the benefit of the instruction of a well gifted and qualified teacher who taught in one of the public schools” (1) to his “developed vocal music in which he had a great delight and taught several singing classes which prepared him to be chorister for a number of years in the Hereford congregation, where he worshiped and served all his life time” (1). The balance he applied in his sermons we also see in his letters, not to speak of his life long diplomacy and innovation.
 “Papers with notes and references might be found about his place of meditation and study but he was not known to take any notes or outline along into the pulpit.” He used the principle of induction to teach: “He would read his text, rarely mentioning the theme of his mind or subject upon which he was going to speak but generally those who could follow him would clearly understand at the close what his theme was.” Again it is his grasp of detail,  “he possessed a distinct sense of definiteness” that measures his intellect. “He would not preach on any scripture or theme on which he had not a clear vision.”  Thus, “his sermons were mostly textual.”
This vision and grasp of detail is illustrated by his refusal to promulgate the Millennium reign. This idea was a function of the dispensationalist theology of Darby, (d. 1882)and especially for Andrew Mack who felt the commentators opaque when the subject was difficult. All the Anabaptist sects were supposed to be chiliastic in general, but the Old Mennonites considered the concept less than proven. The Rules and Discipline of the Franconia Conference of 1933 urges that leaders “not speculate on unfulfilled prophecy as the doctrine of the Millennium” (Wenger 431). Andrew Mack had considered this doctrine among many others all of his life. Noah says: “In his later years he once remarked in reference to this disputed question I am too old now I cannot get the points together to think it through. This was the last known word that he expressed on this question, but this was his rule in general.” The point here is the deliberateness of his intellect, not choosing a direction for its own sake or to go along with a fad, the mark of a true leader. Noah further spells out this “rule in general,” He would not decide for himself nor for any other before he had found the answer himself to the satisfaction of his own mind.” And again,  “he would not reject nor accept before the question involved was cleared up in his own mind.” Reflection, meditation, study, self examination, prayer, depending “on the Spirit for interpretation and for revelation” were his means of inquiry and decision making.
Why were “early European and American Mennonites (until recent years)…generally free of any doctrine of a millennium” (Wenger, 459)? Especially since this view with its counterparts of the tribulation etc. are the substance of so much talk in all other Prostant denominations. Shall we blame inertia, that the millennium was only invented in the later 19th century by John Darby (d. 1882)
In North America dispensationalism made deep inroads on Mennonite churches through non-Mennonite literature and prophetic conferences, and through non-Mennonite Bible colleges and seminaries, leading to considerable dissension and controversy. Today relatively few Mennonite scholars espouse dispensationalism and it is advocated mainly by teachers and preachers who received their theological training in non-Mennonite schools.
Ewert, David. "Dispensationalism." Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. Retrieved 6 Oct 2005
On non speculative matters Mack formed early conclusions. He advocated and practiced Footwashing, missions, Sunday Schools well in advance of his own congregations but waited until for signs of readiness before introducing these practice

Andrew S. Mack (1836-1917), first ordained at Hereford 15 Sept 1863 by John B. Bechtel, was elected bishop by  acclamation 6 November 1875. He married Elizabeth P. Haldeman December 4, 1859. Always on the go, near and far, he was a man of much fluent thinking and speaking. but there is an overt sense of mortality and humility in the letters. He continually refers to his weakness. This has several meanings, first, when he began as bishop he was physically incapacitated for more than a year (1877), but further, sensibly so, he feels weak to pass judgment, but that is his strength, as he himself quotes, “my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
The 49 letters extant are only a sampling of what must have been a much wider correspondence, not only with Jacob Mensch, but with others. Years pass between letters so it is merely accidental when the letter hits a high spot. The Andrew Mack who emerges from these 49 letters is a good writer, a fluent speaker and a gracious man. Jacob Mensch, his correspondent, ordained minister of the Skippack Mennonite Church in 1867, is said to have been strong willed, par for a Mennonite perhaps, but if the two had different dispositions they were likeminded and traveled extensively together. Mack’s sincerity and courtesy served him well in this friendship. The letters tell much of his travels near and far in the performance of his duties. He is concerned that he exercise his office, as he calls it, diligently.

One of the operating assumptions held by his niece Anna Mack that was probably shared by his correspondents was that after a letter was received it had served its purpose and was disposed of. Jacob Mensch’s unique antiquarian insights for a Mennonite made him save these letters. There are a great many scriptural citations in the letters, often of familiar texts, recognizable when read aloud  Together they show that an imagination thoroughly imbued. 
Sources
J. Paul Graybill, Ira D. Landis, J. Paul Sauder. Noah H. Mack: His Life and Times, 1861 – 1948. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, The Board of Bishops of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
In 1939, Noah H. Mack wrote a rather extensive biography of his father, Bishop Andrew, for John D. Leatherman, now of Upland, Calif. This is now deposited in the Goshen College Library.
Anna Elizabeth Reiff Young. Best Foot Forward. Manuscript of the life of Anna Mack Reiff.
Cornelius Weygandt. The Red Hills. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1920.


 IV.


IV.
Andrew S. Mack (1836-1917) was bishop of the Old Mennonite church for 37 years, ordained at Hereford by John B. Bechtel, 15 Sept 1863, elected bishop 6 November 1875. His letters give a  picture of what humility might look. He had two brothers also in this crucible, Peter and Henry, but as the oldest he experienced it early, as he puts it, the “abundant grace, love and peace through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, our Lord.” At acclamation he was stricken with illness. We find in his letters all of him that remains. Immediately hampered, he mentions it first in a letter of 11 Jan 1876.
“ Since you were with us we have had many dreary hours. First, because I am not well. My sickness is in the kidneys and bladder. My nerves are also weakened. I am a little better. The doctor said if I will listen to him then I can grow well again. I am not to do any heavy physical work, not preach, not indulge in deep thoughts and not read. The latter is the most difficult for me. I couldn’t keep up with reading much anyhow. Light work agrees the best and being out in fresh air. The doctor says I shouldn’t preach for 2 months, but once I have my strength back I will likely begin to preach again, if the Lord would have me preach again.”
That he is not to engage in “deep thoughts” begs us to ask, what thoughts? This is answered partly by the “duties” of the office, pacifying division, scheduling appointments with visiting dignitaries, conducting funerals, visiting the sick, including both his brothers and presiding over the contentious Conference, but more of his own study.
He is  a classicist in this crucible. There is no defense against God. He reads original sources, takes insight from the text and not from criticism. “All his reading and meditations were in German,” but  “he was heard to say, ‘when scriptures are deep and difficult to interpret then commentators are cloudy and express themselves in many words and oftimes have no clear interpretation and are undecided as to the real meaning of the Word’” (3). The many words, says his son Noah,  “are not of much help to those [for] whom preaching was primarily by the power of the Holy Ghost and who depended on the Spirit for interpretation and for revelation…He made much use of his concordance in finding references in searching the scriptures for references bearing on the subject upon which he was meditating.”
All of his preaching was in German, presented, like these letters in a reflective and meditative fashion. His niece Anna, Henry’s daughter, who lived with her uncle in 1886 and 1887 after her mother had died, remembers that “each day, after the noon meal, he would retire to the room where he had a roll-top desk, get out his Bible to study and read for an hour before he went back to the farm work” (6)
March 12, 1876  “I can now do a half day’s work in a day and also preached today and was quite well afterwards, but I must really take it easy. I will likely still be lacking in strength at times, as well as by preaching, but I must remember that whom the Lord loves He reproves, and it will likely serve for the best. Although there are still times when I feel depressed, that I can‘t see to my office and normal business better. But, the apostle says, Ye have need of patience, so I shall commit myself and all else to the dear Savior.”
He took this period of incapacity and enforced meditation as providential because it taught him patience (March 12, 1876) What does that mean, but putting another ahead of himself. He cites “whom the Lord loves he reproves,” the doctrine of a gardener who prunes his vineyard to improve productivity. The sign of love is the reproof, read here that he is still “lacking in strength.” When you lack strength who do you call? That’s the point.
Instances like these can be multiplied times over  in his letters. His spirit is seen further in his pleas to fellow minister Mensch, referencing again his weakness and imperfection.
“What shall I write to you in my great weakness and imperfection? Should I write only from the holy Scriptures? My thoughts ramble on; it is more familiar to you than me. Since I read the letter which you wrote to Gehman and what was the incident with brother Gotwals and then again between the brethren Detweiler and Deis, thinking how they are in disunity; but I still had this hope that they would perhaps stand in unity with each other again.
 And again he writes: “Oh dear brother, I wish we as ministers and ambassadors in Christ’s stead could all be a true light and salt of the earth, that the people could see our good works and praise our Father in heaven. But in this I always find myself so weak and imperfect.”
This appeal to his weakness is no sham, for he is physically weakened, but perseveres anyway: “Dear brother, when I think of my weakness and shortcomings, which so often make their appearance, but which I don’t want, then I wonder how I can stand before my God. But I hope He may have patience with our shortcomings. If not, who would or could stand before Him?”
Maybe we wish there were more men like him who did not so abruptly sail their plans over our heads. His conclusion is that “The dear Savior said, My strength is made perfect in weakness,” so it is his vocation to lead with humility, from the physical discomfort with which he started as bishop, to its conclusion: “We are quite healthy physically, but spiritually we are weak.”
These are consistent themes in his life. There are two ways to the Mennonite idea of renewing the image of God. One way is to give up your life without compromise in death. The other way is to live in a constant attitude of humility and servanthood to others, putting their needs ahead of your own.
It sounds a lot like the Martyr’s Mirror when he says that“if everything went well we would possibly grow forgetful of what is the most necessary, but our sorrow of which Paul writes doesn’t cease.”
He embraces sufferers of all kinds in his letters: for “often we plan something and the loving God thinks differently. But the Lord’s ways are right and good although we often don’t understand it. If we love God, we know that God does all things for the best, even when we must go through sorrow here in this earthly life. But we have the promise that sorrow brings forth the peaceable fruit. So we want to walk in the ways of the Lord, that we can enter heaven and we don’t wish to miss Jesus’ call or be left behind.”
He gives deep thought to these things, what is a man’s destiny, his duty, his hope, his explanation of suffering, “so Dear brother, I will ask you a question. Can man prepare his own garment of righteousness or not?”
On the one hand we see his writing as personal, but sometimes it is heuristic, not only  to his fellow pastor who must obviously share his thoughts, but some of his letters were meant to be read aloud, no doubt from the pulpit as a greeting and instruction from the bishop.
Bally, Berks Co., Pa., September 18, 1889
“Dear brethren and all who hear this read.”
            Honesty, humility and love, with a recognition of what can be done, where faith starts and work stops. For surely these people faced death, accident, sickness and difficulty at an incidence many times our own. So he says: “we value our physical health so highly, for we value it above all earthly treasures, but when we read the Scriptures we find that a child of God must suffer much and Christ had to suffer much for our sake, for if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry?”
When his comrade in spirit, Jacob Mensch, loses his wife, coincident with the last letter of Andrew Mack’s in the collection, he writes in sympathy and faith. We read this letter considering that we are about to see Henry Mack also lose his wife.
 “I can get around in the house and in weakness write to brethren and sisters, although my nerves are still weak for writing, but I hope if the Lord will I can look after my duties again by spring. Dear brother, I regret that the sister left us…attend her funeral. However it was Lord’s will, so what shall we say? The poet says, What God has done is rightly done, His will is always fitting, whatever He has once begun, myself I’ll be submitting. Yet when it comes to the point where one must give up one’s dearly beloved our help, our support in difficulties and distress, and one may say, half of our lives, this causes a deep wound. But we have this comfort in the Scriptures, the one who strikes the wounds can also heal them. To you, dear brother, I can say what brother J. Clemmer said to me when he departed when Eli died; the words with which you have comforted others shall now be your comfort. I will say the same to you, although you have likely found that it is easier to comfort others as oneself. I must close. Writing makes me weaker. Our of love, from your weak brother,
 Andrew & Elizabeth Mack. Write again.” (2/13/1906)


The majority of his “deep thought” concerned others, his duties to them and his insufficiency before God. But his mediation also involved a more visionary sort of compassion. Not only, for example, upon the effects of the “fire of love” on families and communities, but also upon destines and fate, many of which he suggests are not just optional, but they need not be at all, for “many difficult tasks would not need to be done.” But he is not a fatalist. He holds to the power of good and of choice that would prevent “the many things would not make their appearance:”

These events seem to reinforce his desire to mediate and not dictate, for Mennonites had suffered many divisions over details. Andrew Mack did not want to add to the division by his own behavior. He is celebrated as a conciliator, a most notable instance much later when he prevented schism over whether to recognize in November 1897 the formation of a General Conference in the west, something the “Old” congregations distrusted. Even though there was such portent of schism, he supported this recognition with the statement that
“If the congregations in the west were in such circumstances that they needed a general Conference, he said, we are ready to let them have it, and no need fear a division or separation in fellowship form us because you vote for something that you stand so much in need of. We know that you need I and why not vote for it” (quoted in Ruth, 406).
It’s as if his humility were the solution to all their pride, so followed an almost unanimous vote in favor. So his weakness or humility was inclined by temperament but reinforced by this affliction. Thus when he refers to it in his letters it is more than rhetorical.

His education of the eighth grade had been enhanced by his father, Jesse  Moyer Mack (1812-1892), who “had taught during the transition period from the old subscription school to the free school system.” A “deep sense of correct speech and definiteness of expression” (11)  communicated itself in everything he did, from his  seeking out “the benefit of the instruction of a well gifted and qualified teacher who taught in one of the public schools” (1) to his “developed vocal music in which he had a great delight and taught several singing classes which prepared him to be chorister for a number of years in the Hereford congregation” (1). The balance he applied in his sermons we also see in his letters, and in his long life of diplomacy and innovation.“ Papers with notes and references might be found about his place of meditation and study but he was not known to take any notes or outline along into the pulpit.” By induction, “He would read his text, rarely mentioning the theme of his mind or subject upon which he was going to speak but generally those who could follow him would clearly understand at the close what his theme was.” Again it is his grasp of detail,  “he possessed a distinct sense of definiteness” that measures his intellect. “He would not preach on any scripture or theme on which he had not a clear vision.”  Thus, “his sermons were mostly textual.”
What his deep thoughts consisted of.is illustrated by his refusal to promulgate the Millennium reign. Can you imagine a more universally accepted doctrine today?  At that time a function of the dispensationalist theology of Darby, (d. 1882 for ), but for Andrew Mack a commentator opaque,  the Anabaptist sects were supposed to all be chiliastic, but Old Mennonites took the concept as less proven. Rules and Discipline of the Franconia Conference as late as 1933 urge leaders “not speculate on unfulfilled prophecy as the doctrine of the Millennium” (Wenger 431). Noah says: “In his later years he once remarked in reference to this disputed question I am too old now I cannot get the points together to think it through. This was the last known word that he expressed on this question, but this was his rule in general.” The reference to his thought here is the deliberateness of his intellect, not choosing a direction for its own sake or to belong to  a fad, the mark of a true leader. Noah further spells out this “rule in general,” He would not decide for himself nor for any other before he had found the answer himself to the satisfaction of his own mind.” Reflection, meditation, study, self examination, prayer, depending “on the Spirit for interpretation and for revelation” were his means of inquiry.



From before his election to bishop his sensitivity is displayed in a letter of 1870 he sends to Mensch and encloses a letter he did not send:
“To brethren Detweiler and Deis:
My spirit is saddened and partly concerned so that I must write these lines partly in tears …. I have heard that discord has taken place between you and brother John Deis; and it came to the place where I felt that in my great weakness I should write to you…one often wishes for the best, and it will not be accepted as such, and is sometimes made worse by writing; which I hope for God’s sake will not be the case with these lines…
[To Mensch]  I wanted to write more, but my wife thought I better leave it at that. Then I became scared to send this to them; so I thought I would send this letter to you. You may read this, then you can see a bit how my heart felt when I wrote this. Don’t give this letter to brother Detweiler and Deis. Keep this letter to yourself. I am afraid they won’t accept it in love.”
 His references to “great weakness” are not rhetorical. He is weak. He is nervous. He traveled a great deal as well, as far west as Nebraska. He does not want worsen a situation so that because of his own error another’s course would be made more difficult, thus he says it “is sometimes made worse by writing.” Not a dictator, he shows sensitivity and judgment, not only because he accepts his wife’s and Mensch’s counsel, but that he decides himself that  the letter might endanger the situation.
We have already seen above (Chapter II) how deeply disturbed he was by the behavior of his two elders, one his son-in-law. In that same letter (l/11/71) he admonishes both Mensch and himself, “that we accomplish our office faithfully.” He is always concerned about others’ health and peace of mind. He speaks of the agony of  adulterer Gabel’s wife, “his wife thinks she can bear it with the help of God.” He almost always signs his letter including his wife’s name. He is solicitous of her health as much as he is of his own health and the health of others.
“ My wife is in a way better than earlier and in other ways not. The doctor says she should not be out in the sun, and not exert herself more than her strength allows. So, I will stay at home more and not make any long trips this summer, although I would gladly do so, but one must care for his own first. If I did go I wouldn’t have any peace with myself so I shall stay at home.”
“Lizzie is not so well today; we hope she will soon be better. Eli’s wife is also not so well so we have plenty of work and see how it will turn out”
He looks after his mentor’s spouse after he dies: “The old sister & widow of preacher John Bechtel is quite weak, if she is still living.”
 He undertakes healing efforts himself.
 “Emma Rickert is already 4 weeks at home and we give her a treatment daily. We have something by which we take one of her limbs at a time and put it in, then we heat it up with a light. The limb is wrapped up and the heat is increased until the thermometer shows 300 and more, as hot as she can stand it. Then, when we take it out, it must be rubbed vigorously and the joints exercised. It takes us 3 hours daily to do this work, but it has already somewhat improved, but slowly.”
Instances like these can be multiplied times over  in his letters. His spirit is seen further in his pleas to fellow minister Mensch, referencing again his weakness and imperfection.
“What shall I write to you in my great weakness and imperfection? Should I write only from the holy Scriptures? My thoughts ramble on; it is more familiar to you than me. Since I read the letter which you wrote to Gehman and what was the incident with brother Gotwals and then again between the brethren Detweiler and Deis, thinking how they are in disunity; but I still had this hope that they would perhaps stand in unity with each other again.
 And again he writes: “Oh dear brother, I wish we as ministers and ambassadors in Christ’s stead could all be a true light and salt of the earth, that the people could see our good works and praise our Father in heaven. But in this I always find myself so weak and imperfect.”
This appeal to his weakness is no sham, for he is physically weakened, but perseveres anyway: “Dear brother, when I think of my weakness and shortcomings, which so often make their appearance, but which I don’t want, then I wonder how I can stand before my God. But I hope He may have patience with our shortcomings. If not, who would or could stand before Him?”
Maybe we wish there were more men like him who did not so abruptly sail their plans over our heads. His conclusion is that “The dear Savior said, My strength is made perfect in weakness,” so it is his vocation to lead with humility, from the physical discomfort with which he started as bishop, to its conclusion: “We are quite healthy physically, but spiritually we are weak.”
These are consistent themes in his life. There are two ways to the Mennonite idea of renewing the image of God. One way is to give up your life without compromise in death. The other way is to live in a constant attitude of humility and servanthood to others, putting their needs ahead of your own.
The majority of his “deep thought” concerned others, his duties to them and his insufficiency before God. But his mediation also involved a more visionary sort of compassion. Not only, for example, upon the effects of the “fire of love” on families and communities, but also upon destines and fate, many of which he suggests are not just optional, but they need not be at all, for “many difficult tasks would not need to be done.” But he is not a fatalist. He holds to the power of good and of choice that would prevent “the many things would not make their appearance:”
It is truly as the prophet had already said, a bruised reed shall He not break and the smoking flax shall He not quench. He will not break the repentant sinner. He, namely Jesus, wants us to repent, then He will accept us, even though our faith is weak and only like a spark. So, He will not quench it, but rather ignite it. I am come to send fire on the earth and what will I, if it be already kindled? Yes, if only the fire of love in all our hearts were truly ignited that we could all walk together in love. The many things would not make their appearance and many difficult tasks would not need to be done and many dark clouds would not appear over us. But sin has twisted all this around and sin has penetrated through to all mankind because they had all sinned.”
It sounds a lot like the Martyr’s Mirror when he says that“if everything went well we would possibly grow forgetful of what is the most necessary, but our sorrow of which Paul writes doesn’t cease.”
He embraces sufferers of all kinds in his letters: for “often we plan something and the loving God thinks differently. But the Lord’s ways are right and good although we often don’t understand it. If we love God, we know that God does all things for the best, even when we must go through sorrow here in this earthly life. But we have the promise that sorrow brings forth the peaceable fruit. So we want to walk in the ways of the Lord, that we can enter heaven and we don’t wish to miss Jesus’ call or be left behind.”
He gives deep thought to these things, what is a man’s destiny, his duty, his hope, his explanation of suffering, “so Dear brother, I will ask you a question. Can man prepare his own garment of righteousness or not?”
On the one hand we see his writing as personal, but sometimes it is heuristic, not only  to his fellow pastor who must obviously share his thoughts, but some of his letters were meant to be read aloud, no doubt from the pulpit as a greeting and instruction from the bishop.
Bally, Berks Co., Pa., September 18, 1889
“Dear brethren and all who hear this read.”
            Honesty, humility and love, with a recognition of what can be done, where faith starts and work stops. For surely these people faced death, accident, sickness and difficulty at an incidence many times our own. So he says: “we value our physical health so highly, for we value it above all earthly treasures, but when we read the Scriptures we find that a child of God must suffer much and Christ had to suffer much for our sake, for if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry?”
When his comrade in spirit, Jacob Mensch, loses his wife, coincident with the last letter of Andrew Mack’s in the collection, he writes in sympathy and faith. We read this letter considering that we are about to see Henry Mack also lose his wife.
 “I can get around in the house and in weakness write to brethren and sisters, although my nerves are still weak for writing, but I hope if the Lord will I can look after my duties again by spring. Dear brother, I regret that the sister left us…attend her funeral. However it was Lord’s will, so what shall we say? The poet says, What God has done is rightly done, His will is always fitting, whatever He has once begun, myself I’ll be submitting. Yet when it comes to the point where one must give up one’s dearly beloved our help, our support in difficulties and distress, and one may say, half of our lives, this causes a deep wound. But we have this comfort in the Scriptures, the one who strikes the wounds can also heal them. To you, dear brother, I can say what brother J. Clemmer said to me when he departed when Eli died; the words with which you have comforted others shall now be your comfort. I will say the same to you, although you have likely found that it is easier to comfort others as oneself. I must close. Writing makes me weaker. Our of love, from your weak brother,
 Andrew & Elizabeth Mack. Write again.” (2/13/1906)
 Mack was always on the go, near and far, a man of much fluent thinking and speaking, but always with an overt sense of an acceptance of his mortality, and humility. He continually refers to his weakness with several meanings, first, his physical incapacitation when he began as bishop, but further, because since he feels weak to pass judgment, he conciliates, but that is his strength in weakness throughout the exercise of his office, conciliation and bringing others together, as he himself quotes, “my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
The 49 letters are only a sampling of a much wider correspondence that must have taken place not only with Jacob Mensch, but with others. Years pass between letters. It is merely accidental when a letter hits a high spot. Jacob Mensch, his correspondent, ordained minister of the Skippack Mennonite Church in 1867, is said to have been strong willed, par for the day perhaps, but if the two had different dispositions they were likeminded enough to travel extensively together. They were also intellectual friends:  ”I will be in the Schwenkfelder harvest meeting and if you could also be there we could have a discussion with each other which I would greatly enjoy before you go on your journey.” Mack’s sincerity and courtesy served him well in this friendship.
One of his continual injunctions to Mensch is that they both are
“laborers together in the Lord’s vineyard.” The metaphor is not of the shepherd but of the gardener, fitting because he was himself a farmer and knew the salutary effects of pruning the vine. The metaphor directly relates to Mack’s lifelong difficulties and trials out of which, as he might say, “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” came. This shall also shortly be seen of his two brothers.
 There are a great many scriptural citations in the letters, often of familiar texts, recognizable when read aloud  Together they show that an imagination thoroughly imbued with the defenseless way. Together they show the immense depth of vintage produced in this vineyard. It is what they like to call gelassenheit.
 But, as if the need for understanding of this virtue were so great that it must be repeated, there were two more Mack brothers to make an appearance in the teaching.
This is not so enviable a state unless it is for the advanced class. The evidential thing about purgation is that we can see it.. When he has tried me I shall come forth as fine gold. The trials for what Mennonites call the  “crown”  are for bishops, martyrs, saints and Mennonites. 

Some Notes:
 Among the leaders in the same period who held the amillennial view in the Mennonite Church were John F. Funk (1835-1930), John M. Brenneman (1816-1895), John S. Coffman (1848-1899), Daniel Kauffman (1865-1944), John Horsch (1867-1941), Andrew S. Mack (1836-1917), Abner G. Yoder (1879-1942), and E. L. Frey (1856-1942). The premillennial view made rapid progress in the (Old) Mennonite group only after World War I. In the 1950s probably nearly half of the (Old) Mennonites (MC) held this view. By the mid-20th century premillennialism was receding somewhat.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Introduction to the Letters

The originals in the Jacob B. Mensch letter collection number 49, 1871-1907. Some of the letters are out of chronological order, numbers 1 and 9 are here corrected. One is included from Andrew Mack's son Noah to Mensch about his father's health (11) that Mensch #192 catalogs separately. The microfilmed order arranged by catalogers in 1972 transposes a letter of Enos S. Gehman into the Mack collection, what would have been number 24 is included here at the end. As Isaac R. Horst says in his translation, "how this letter found its way into the Mack group is beyond me!" There are still 49 letters however. While the catalog identifies Enos S. Gehman’s letter of August 9, 1885 as Andrew Mack’s, it does not identify the first letter, 1 Aug 1870. These cancel and make 49. The numbered letters count 50 with the inclusion of Noah Mack's.

It would be hard to find one better suited to translate these than Isaac R. Horst, a writer of Old Mennonite life and customs. He has written 23 books, including his Separate and Peculiar: Old Order Mennonite Life in Ontario (2001) and has translated the entire Mensch archive from German to English. These number in excess of 1100 single spaced typed pages. The Mack translations begin on page 616 of the entire collection. I inquired of him 21 March 2005 and received the Mack translations thereafter. His idiomatic translations reflect the graciousness of the letters. Producing these from copies of microfilmed handwriting seems heroic itself.

As the Mennonite Archives of Ontario indicate, Jacob B. Mensch (April 24, 1835-Feb. 17,1912) received and kept some 1600 letters. The son of Abraham Mensch and Mary Bechtel, he married Mary B. Bower and had three children. He lived in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, but had a wide correspondence and apparently saved the letters he received. He was a fellow minister, traveling companion and confidant of Andrew Mack.

The 49 letters here sample what must be a much wider correspondence.  Years pass between letters so it is accidental when one hits a high spot.  Mack emerges as a good writer, fluent speaker and gracious man. Mensch, his correspondent, ordained minister of the Skippack Mennonite Church in 1867, had an edge, but if the two had different dispositions they were like minded enough to travel extensively together. Mack’s sincerity and courtesy served him well in the friendship. The letters tell of travel near and far in the performance of his duties. He is concerned that he exercise his office, as he calls it, diligently.

One of the operating assumptions held by Bishop Andrew's niece Anna Mack, a chief informant of these matters, probably shared by his correspondents, was that after a letter was received it had served its purpose and was disposed. Mensch’s antiquarian insight in saving the letters sets him apart. There are a great many scriptural citations in these, often of familiar texts, recognizable when read aloud. It was the purpose of some letters that they be read publicly from the pulpit.

Andrew S. Mack (1836-1917) was bishop of the Old Mennonite church for 41 years. Ordained by John B. Bechtel, 15 Sept 1863, elected bishop 6 November 1875, his letters give a picture of how humility might look. He had two brothers also in this crucible, Peter and Henry, but as the oldest he experienced it early, as he puts it, the “abundant grace, love and peace through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, our Lord.” We find in his letters his remains.

Names and places are bolded for easy recognition. Annotations by this editor appear [italicized in brackets]. Biographical notes of the life of Andrew Mack's brother, Peter, a Lutheran pastor of Hummelstown occurs at the end.

Letter Sequence

 There are a couple out of sequence.

1. Upper Hanover, August 1, 1870 (occurs out of sequence after that of 7/30/1872)
2. Upper Hanover, January 11, 1871
3. July 30th, 1872
4. June 2nd, 1874
5. October 8th, 1874
6. Upper Hanover, January 11th, 1876
7. Upper Hanover, P.O., Montgomery Co., Pa., February 27th 1876
8. Upper Hanover, March 12th 1876
9. Upper Hanover, September 4, 1876 [Out of sequence, occurs at the end of translations with Horst's (?)].
10. Upper Hanover, P. O., Montgomery Co., Pa., Sept. 3rd, 1877
[11.] Clayton, October 8, 1877 (From Andrew Mack's son Noah to Mensch detailing his father's health, cataloged separately in Mensch # 192.)
12. Upper Hanover, Montgomery County, October 27th, 1877 [postcard]
13. Upper Hanover, Montgomery County, November 4, 1877
14. Upper Hanover, Montgomery County, December 19th, 1877 [Postcard]
15. August 15, 1879 (visits brother in Hummelstown)
16. August 19, 1879, postcard
17. Upper Hanover, P.O., Montgomery Co. Pa., December 8, 1879
18. January 24, 1882
19. Clayton, Berks Co., October 25, 188
20. Clayton, Berks Co. Pa.., August 31, 1883
21. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., October 20, 1884
22. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., May 13, 1885
23. Bally. Berks Co., Pa. May 26, 1885
24. Bally, Berks Co., Pa, August 10, 1885
25. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., January 25, 1886
26. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., May 9, 1886
27. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., Jan. 8, 1888
28. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., 1/ 10, 1888
29. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., June 29, 1889
30. Bally, Berks Co;, July 24, 1889
31. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., Aug. 26, 1889
32. Bally Berks Co., Pa., September 18, 1889
33. Bally Berks Co., Pa., May 10, 1890
34. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., July 17, 1890
35. Bally Berks Co., Pa., October 9, 1892
36. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., October 17, 1892
37. Bally, berks Co., Pa., Nov. 2, 1892
38. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., May 23, 1893
39. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., July 29th 1894
40. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., May 19, 1895
41. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., Nov. 30, 1896
42. Bally, Berks co., Pa., June 29, 1897
43. Bally, Berks Co., Pa., April 7, 1898
44.Clayton, Berks Co., Pa., June 27, 1899
45. Pennsburg, Pa., August 27, 1903
46. Pennsburg, Pa., Sept. 2nd, 1903
47. Pennsburg, Pa., July 18, 1904
48. Pennsburg, Pa., Feb. 13, 1906
49. Pennsburg, Pa., March 9, 1906
  
50. Bally, August 9th, 1885 [Enos S. Gehman] This would have been #24.

1. August 1, 1870

Upper Hanover, August 1, 1870

Dear brother and sister,

I will let you know that we are quite well physically and I hope this may also find you the same. I have considered and talked with my wife regarding your going to Canada and came to the conclusion I would go along, Lord willing, although I consider myself too unworthy to make such a trip with you and I still find my lot rather heavy. If I understood the dear brother Gander correctly, you wish to bear my costs for me. If I could do it myself I would rather go and if I misunderstood this, let me know, and how long you intend to stay. We can’t come to Madege when you have your harvest meeting. We would be glad to come if we could, but it doesn’t suit. May the good God grant us grace, love, and mercy and hearts which are willing to serve Him and will entrust to us His good and holy Spirit, through whom we may say, Abba, Father. So much from us,
Andrew S. and Elisabeth Mack.

A hearty greeting, written in haste. Have patience.

[The following, enclosed, concerns discord between Detweiler, a minister, and Deis, a member of his flock, a letter however which Mack does not post, but sends to Mensch.]

To brethren Detweiler and Deis:

My heart feels like writing a bit. First I wish as the apostle did: God grant you and us abundant grace and peace through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our Lord, that we in our brief time may all be drawn through this same grace to Jesus, and learn meekness and humility from Him, that we may find rest for our souls.

Oh dear brother and fellow laborer in the Lord’s vineyard: my spirit is saddened and partly concerned so that I must write these lines partly in tears; but if it could be as the Lord said to Hezekiah, I have heard your prayer and saw your tears. Perhaps you may wonder why I am in such narrow straits. I have heard that discord has taken place between you and brother John Deis; and it came to the place where I felt that in my great weakness I should write to you, to give occasion in my humble exhortation that you might sooner return to your first love; and this is so dangerous, one often wishes for the best, and it will not be accepted as such, and is sometimes made worse by writing; which I hope for God’s sake will not be the case with these lines. Receive them in love; it was written with love. I hope that through the power of Jesus Christ it may also cause love. Oh brethren, consider where we stand before God and man, who are expected to proclaim peace, to feed the flock, as the dear Savior said to the apostle: Feed my lambs. Consider the fact that the dear Savior asked the apostle three times, Lovest thou me? Lord, thou knowest that I love thee, he answered. Feed my sheep.

If we do not love those whom we see, how shall we love Him whom we can’t see? And, if we think, I will lay down my office, and will no longer labor, how shall we answer before God, if we are found as the one who wrapped his talent into a napkin? Oh, dear brethren, consider with me where we stand; and when it comes to the point as it is between you, that we do not give way to the old Adam, and that Satan might not through us, who should destroy his kingdom, and erect God’s kingdom, erect his kingdom instead, then when something takes place between us we can expect that he will make us believe this or that, which often has no significance. Therefore, pray in faith to the loving Lord that He may give you such hearts that you can come together and take each other’s weaknesses upon yourself, and that you may bring all of it into the ocean of oblivion. Yes, we are all weak, therefore we want to be of such a mind that if discord shows up and we do not forgive each other, we want to try to draw very near to Jesus. Then we can see Him on the cross, and hear Him say, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. We should do as He did, and travel the same road.

I wanted to write more, but my wife thought I better leave it at that. Then I became scared to send this to them; so I thought I would send this letter to you. You may read this, then you can see a bit how my heart felt when I wrote this. Don’t give this letter to brother Detweiler and Deis. Keep this letter to yourself. I am afraid they won’t accept it in love.

[What he says here of weakness is a quotation from the apostle Paul in the same vein, but you should be careful what you wish for, for it is not too long after he is made Bishop that he is in fact made weak.]