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The period of childhood is one of trust. Children must believe implicitly; and it was evidently intended that they should receive instruction from their parents in this way on religious, no less than on other subjects. On this point the Bible is very explicit. Parents are made responsible for the correct belief of their children, just as they are for their good character; and they may generally control the one as effectually as the other.
Christianity may be, and often is, thus received for a time, and may work its appropriate effects; but to every thoughtful mind, the period of doubt, or, if not of doubt, of questioning, must come; and happy is the child that is judiciously led from this point to the firm ground of an intelligent belief. With very many this is a turning-point in their moral history, and practically, it would seem to be here that the evidences of Christianity are most needed.
The age at which doubts may arise will vary with the capacity and circumstances of the child. It would not probably be wise to induce an early habit of questioning on subjects of practical moment, because these can produce an effect on the heart only as they are fully received. It is "with the heart” that man believeth to righteousness," and where this belief is strong enough to preclude or repress the questionings of the intellect, we would not ordinarily suggest difficulties for the sake of removing them; but when these arise, a full statement of them should be encouraged, and they should be candidly and fairly met, before any habit of distrust is formed.
It is just here that we believe there is a great work for Parents and the Church yet to do; and here it is that a book is needed, containing a statement of the chief points of the Christian evidences in their simplest and most attractive form. Such a book would be a great blessing to many parents themselves. It would confirm their own faith, while enabling them to resolve, far better than they otherwise would, those doubts which even children will often entertain and suggest. It may not be possible—it is not to bring the whole subject within the reach of very young persons; but the best answers may be given to such objections as they will be likely to make, and an adequate ground may be erly furnished for a positive and rational belief.
But while there is evidently so much need of a work of this kind, the common treatises on the evidences do very little for its supply. They were written for another purpose,are too elaborate and extended.
The following Work, intended to supply the want indicated above, was commenced some years since. It will be found to possess, in their full vigour, all those qualities which have given so wide a circulation to the previous works of the same writer. Ill health has prevented its completion until now. It is from the continuance of this ill health that these prefatory lines are written by the hand of another, who is confident that it is from something more than the partiality of friendship that he anticipates for this Work an extended usefulness.