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Amidst the splendid improvements which now dazzle the world, it is our glory to behold the Bible traversing the globe, till the “ Sun of righteousness” irradiates, alike, the palace and the cottage. But while every talent is roused into action, to “prepare
way,” while every hand is extended to “exalt every valley, and level every mountain and hill,” is it not pardonable to suggest, that, even among those who are ambitious to promote the magnificent design, there are many who are but superficially acquainted with the contents of that invaluable book?
Incredible as it may seem, there is certainly an erroneous indifference to the study of the Old Testament, especially to the writings of Moses, in many persons who venerate the Scriptures as the volume of inspiration.
They reverence the New Testament as “the gospel of glad tidings,” without considering, that if one is the casket, the other is the key which displays the treasure in the clearest point of view.
The value of Scripture history, as the only authentic account we possess of the earliest ages, and the most instructive mirror of man, is not yet estimated as it ought to be; for in it alone, we contemplate characters and events, recorded without prejudice or partiality. To invite young persons, who yet are unapprised of the pleasures and advantages within their reach, to begin the delightful study, the following elements are offered, with the unaffected diffidence which becomes so imperfect a work. A connected view of the principal narrative of the Scriptures, with very brief illustrations from authors of acknowledged credit
, is all that is attempted. It will be perceived, that the genuineness and authenticity of the sacred volume is admitted, not argued, in the following “Conversations.” Objections
which have been so often repeated that few persons have not heard them, are sometimes incidentally thrown in, either to furnish the uninformed with an answer, or to give spirit to the dialogue.
To talk in our social circles of Scripture doctrines, is now as fashionable as it is to be a member of a Bible Society; for in this age of wonders we are all philosophers and all philanthropists. The title, therefore, of this book will lead some to expect that sort of discussion to which they are every day accustomed. They will be entirely disappointed. The flippancy and temerity with which the most abstruse questions of Scripture are introduced into familiar conversation, is as irreverent as it is absurd, and ought to be discouraged. Let us endeavour to ascertain, with a seriousness corresponding to the magnitude of the subject, the authority on which these truths are given to us; and if we find, as we certainly shall, that they will bear the severest scrutiny, let us acquiesce in silence, while we humbly feel their superiority to our limited reason.
That faults may be discovered in this performance, there exists not a doubt in the mind of the author. They might, perhaps, be extenuated by apology; but those who take upon themselves the office of instructors, have little right to insist on the lenity of the public. An anonymous work may anticipate candour, because it owes nothing to the adventitious weight of reputation. Nor is there, in our liberal times, any hostility to a female pen, to be deprecated. The moral and intellectual sphere of women has been gradually enlarging with the progress of the benignant star of Christianity. But it was reserved for the nineteenth century, to honour them beyond the circle of domestic life,—to form them into societies, organized, active, and useful in the most excellent pursuits. Still let them ever remember, that bilst here, they may be permitted to emit one invigorating ray, —there, it is their duty, and their privilege to shine.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
ENCOURAGED by the favourable reception of the first edition of the “ Conversations on the Bible,” and especially by its introduction into some very respectable schools, the Author has ventured to continue her work to the end of the Old Testament.
Whether religious education is promoted by putting the Bible into the hands of children as soon as they begin to read, has been made a question. Some pious persons have thought that the incorrect manner in which it is read, may have a tendency to diminish that respect for the sacred writings, which is intended to be inculcated; and that the incitement of curiosity would enhance the interest of the study, should it be withheld until the intellectual powers were so far advanced that the Scriptures might be better understood. To these objections it is answered, that the bazard of postponement is much more to be dreaded, than the injury which might arise from a contrary course. Whilst children are at school, they read whatever is prescribed by their teachers. Should they remain ignorant of the Bible until they have in some measure escaped from the control of their parents and preceptors, other cares and other studies may perhaps wholly supersede this. To obviate the difficulties on either hand, the use of compilations would be the more judicious plan; and to these might be added the more simple parts of the Bible itself. There can be no question, of the utter inability of children to comprehend the fall of man and the gracious plan of his redemption, as they are delineated in the Scriptures; the poems, the prophecies, and the epistles, are far beyond their reach; but the beautiful stories that everywhere abound, may be read with advantage.
It will readily be perceived, that the pupils in the following Conversations are not supposed to be mere children, but young persons whose minds have been prepared to receive a connected scheme, or to detect an obvious objection. On the other hand, the writer has sought to avoid an error too common in the best fictitious works in our language. To fascinate the imagination of the reader with the most engaging pictures of youthful beauty, their heroes and their
heroines are in the very earliest bloom of life, yet they are all Mentors and Minervas. Gifted with a prudence that is never surprised, and a perception that never deviates, their ready faculties are equal to every event, and to every occasion. How far the “ Conversations on the Bible” succeed in exhibiting young persons, instructed, yet not wiser than their teachers, the public will decide.
Catherine. Have we not your promise, mother, that you would converse with us on the history of the Bible ?
Fanny. I join you, Catherine, for conversation. It is to me more impressive than reading; and in this instance especially, it will diminish the trouble of travelling through so large a book.
Mother. Trouble, my dear daughter! It should be the greatest pleasure, as it is your unspeakable privilege, to possess and be able to read that book. Your curiosity should be awakened, to desire a more intimate knowledge of a record, which speaks truth without error, and opens to man his origin and destiny. You will find it not less entertaining than instructive.
Fanny. That is all very true, I confess. I never fail to find entertainment in the Bible as well as instruction. Yet whenever I undertake to read it regularly through, I am interrupted by many things I cannot understand. What I want, then, is a simple connected narrative of the story, with its general relation to the several parts of the Bible.
Mother. I will endeavour to give you such a view, though I may not accomplish it so well as I could desire. The subject is exceedingly interesting ; for the Bible is not only the oldest book in existence, but it contains an account of the creation of all things, and a history of man. kind from the beginning. To read it regularly through, however, is not the most advantageous manner of col. lecting its substance or design ; for the books are not all placed in the order of time in which they were written, and in some instances they are so arranged as to interrupt the narrative. Yet no part is irrelevant as you have sus. pected, but everything contributes to one ultimate end. You have been habituated to the reading of this invalu.