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I. OBJECT OF THE BOOK.
THIS book is intended to explain and illustrate, in a simple manner, the principles of Christian duty, and is intended, not for children, nor exclusively for the young, but for all who are just commencing a religious life, and who feel desirous of receiving a familiar explanation of the first principles of piety. As it is a fact, however, that such persons are generally among the young, that is, from fifteen to twenty-five years of age, the work has been adapted in its style, and in the character of its illustrations, to their mental habits.
I have, however, looked more towards childhood than towards maturity in choosing the form in which I have presented the truth, and the narrative or dialogue by which I have illustrated it. A young man of twenty-five will look back to his boyhood, and understand an illustration drawn from one of its scenes, far more easily than the boy can look forward to future life, and comprehend and appreciate allusions to the pursuits of the man. I trust that the reader of mature mind, into whose hands this book may fall, will excuse this partiality for the young.
II. STYLE AND LANGUAGE.
I have made no effort to simplify the language. It is ot necessary to do this even for children.
understand the language of maturity easily enough, if the logic and rhetoric are theirs. I have attempted, therefore, to present each subject in such an aspect, and to illustrate it in such a way as is adapted to the young mind, using, however, such language as has suggested itself spontaneously. It is a great but a very common error, to suppose that merely to simplify diction is the way to gain access to the young. Hence, a sermon for children is seldom any thing more than a sermon for men, with easy words substituted for the hard ones. This goes on the supposition that the great difficulty is to make children understand religious truth. Whereas there is no difficulty at all in this. The difficulty is in interesting them in it. They will understand readily enough, if they are interested in the form and manner in which the subject comes before them.
These principles will explain the great number of nar ratives and dialogues and statements of facts which are introduced to give vividness to the conceptions of my readers. Many of these are imaginary-cases supposed for the purpose of illustration. Where this is the case, however, it is distinctly stated; and all those accounts which are introduced as statements of facts are strictly true. I am not certain but that some individuals may object to the number of imaginary incidents which I have thus introduced. If the principles stated above are not considered satisfactory, I must appeal to authority. This book is not more full of parables than were the discourses of Jesus Christ. I shelter myself under his example.
III. REQUEST TO PARENTS.
Every parent knows there is great danger that children will run over the pages of a book where narrative and
dialogue are introduced to illustrate religious truth, and that they will, with peculiar dexterity, find out and read all that has the interest of a story, and skip the rest. There will, perhaps, in this volume be less danger from this, from the fact that the whole is so intimately interwoven as to render it in most cases difficult to separate. A mother can, however, effectually prevent it, if she pleases. If her children are young, and she fears this danger, let her read the book to them, or let her assign a distinct and a limited portion for each reading; and after it is read, let her examine them in it, asking questions in regard to the plan and design of the chapter, the circumstances of each narrative, and especially the purpose for which it is introduced. This, however, must be done, not in the suspicious manner of hearing a lesson which you fear has not been learned, but with the winning tone of kindness and confidence.
IV. THEOLOGY OF THE WORK.
As to the theology of the work, it takes everywhere for granted that salvation is to be obtained through repentance for past sin, and trust for forgiveness in the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is not, however, a work on theology. It is designed to enforce the practice, not to discuss the theory of religion. Its object is to explain and illustrate Christian duty; but it exhibits this duty as based on those great principles in which all denominations of evangelical Christians concur.
V. OTHER BOOKS OF THE KIND.
There are already several most interesting and useful books before the public, whose object is the same with this to give Christian instruction to the young. This
work appears not as their rival, but as their companion Most young Christians have, in the course of half a dozen years, time to read a great many pages; and as each writer discusses different topics, or presents them in new aspects and relations, it is well that books of this class should be multiplied. If twenty different individuals in various parts of our country, whom Providence has placed in such circumstances as to interest them particularly in the young, would write for them, the books would all be read if they were properly written, and would all do good. They would be different, if they were the results of the independent reflection and observation of the authors, and each would coöperate with and assist the others.
The absent son-The father's promise-Its implied limitations-Improper