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Serious objections have been made to a majority of books designed for Sabbath Schools, on the ground, that, although they inculcate useful moral and religious truths, they wear too inuch the appearance of fiction. Children, it is said, being unable, in many cases, to distinguish between what is truth, and what is fiction, in these works, are found to give the same credit to the latter, as to the former; or, to reject the whole, as unworthy of belief.
In the following work, an attempt has been made to obviate this objection. Whether the Author has succeeded, must be left to the public to decide. He has adopted a dialogistic style, on account of its many obvious advantages. These reasons are stated to the child. He is told, moreover, what is well established, and what is still unsettled—what he may confidently believe, and about what he may hesitate. Thus, an atteinpt has been made to guard the young mind, against confounding truth with error, or adopting opinions for well established facts.
In his explanation of the Scripture account of the Creation, as well as in reference to certain theories in Natural Philosophy, the Author is well aware, that he has differed from some; but he has aimed to speak with modesty and caution. On several topics touched upon in this work, widely different opinions have been, and are still entertained. In a case so obviously difficult-where so much is unsettled, and will probably long remain unsettled, each one is at liberty to adopt the opinions, which appear to him, to be sup
ported by the greatest amount of evidence. In the delicate office of attempting to instruct children, on such unsettled points, it is expected, and indeed justly demanded, that the teacher lay aside the spirit and appearance of the dogmatist. This, the author indulges the hope, he will be found to have done.
NOTE TO SECOND EDITION.
In the first edition of this work, it was stated to be the Author's intention to continue the series, should this little volume prove acceptable to the public. The several favorable notices taken of it, and the very unexpected call for another edition, at this early day, will induce him to proceed in his design. The next volume, which is in progress, and which is designed to precede the series, will have for its object to tell children, why they should believe the Bible to be the word of God, in preference to any other book in the world.
To the CHILDREN of the United States, to whose instruction and amusement, by'means of other works, the Author has devoted not a few of his leisure hours, this work is affectionately dedicated. And to them, let him say, as that which he inculcates upon his own children-that were they able to gain possession of the world, which we inhabit
of the wide universe, which circles around us, and of whose creation this little volume tells—could they gain it all-enjoy it all, while time shall last—and then lose their soulsLazarus, in his poverty, before the door of Dives, would be inf. nitely richer than they. Lazarus, with nothing of this world, which he could call his own, ascended to glory!- Dives, clothed in purple and faring sumptuously every day, sunk to endless woe!
The picture before my readers represents a scene, not uncommon in the United States,—a family met for family prayer.
I will describe the picture, as it will aid me, in my present design.
You observe a gentleman and lady, whom I shall call Mr. and Mrs. Mather.
They are the parents of the four children, who appear to be seated around the room, and whose names, I will suppose, are James and Thomas, Harriet and Sophia.
Each one of this family appears to be holding a book. I will suppose it to be the Bible.
They have been reading a portion of the sacred volume, previous to family prayer; which Mr. Mather is about to offer to Him, who has promised to bless the families that call
His The chapter, which Mr. Mather had selected, was the first chapter of Genesis.
It was the practice of this worthy man, now and then, to spend an evening with his family, in conversing upon religious subjects. And, whenever he could promise hinself and them that pleasure, he would select some portion of Scripture, which he designed should form the subject of such useful and interesting remarks, as he found himself able to make. To heighten the interest and pleasure of his children, he would sometimes ask them a question. And, for the same purpose, he would encourage them to put such questions to him, as tended either to increase their
knowledge of sacred subjects, or to gratify their rational curiosity
My little readers will understand, that what I have here said of Mr. Mather and his family, I have said for the sake of convenience. I do not know of any family by that name,—but I can suppose such a family, and I can suppose them acting, as I have represented, and conversing together, as I shall by and by represent.
This course will enable me to interest my readers far more than if I spoke myself. What they will say will be the truth; and, therefore, my readers may believe what is said, as firmly as if they existed; or, if any thing is said by way of conjecture, it will be stated as such.
But something like what I have here supposed, i trust, actually exists, in many families in the United States. There are thousands of parents, who daily read the Scriptures, and daily pray to God, in their families. There are thousands, too, who instruct their children from the Bible,-not, perhaps, just in the manner here represented, but in a manner similar.