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TO THE OLD FOLKS.
Many persons will be surprised, as the compiler of this little book was, to learn that there is no such work already in use. There are, it is true, many children's books containing Bible stories told in modern language, but the objections to Bible stories so told are manifold. No language is so simple or so condensed as Bible language, and any paraphrase of it must either spread the same amount of matter over a larger surface, or lose some portion of the matter itself in keeping it within the same limits. Either one or two only of such amplified paraphrases suffice to fill a child's book, to the exclusion of others, or the book contains a number of stories which are only half told. Again, it is almost impossible, in rewriting a story, not to tinge it with the cast of mind and peculiar religious opinions of the rewriter. Parents have not infrequently, therefore, objected to such paraphrases, that their teachings were not such as they believed were to be found in the story itself, or were sometimes not in accordance with their own views of religious truth.
There are other children's books containing one or more Bible stories, or parts of stories, given, as in this book, in Bible language; but the compiler of the present collection has been able to find none which aimed at the same completeness.
In the following pages the Bible stories have been given in the language of the Bible, not amplified, nor abbreviated, nor paraphrased, but simply as the Bible tells them. Nor have there been “morals” tacked on to the stories for the children to skip, but each story has been left to impress insensibly with its own teachings.
This book is what it professes to be: a collection of stories only. So much of the words of Scripture have been quoted, therefore, as told the story, and no more. Neither the whole of Sacred History, nor the whole body of Christian doctrine come within the scope of this little book, or can be expected to be found within its pages; for them the whole Bible alone suffices.
And since the Bible is not simply a story book, it has been necessary, carefully, after repeated readings, to eliminate each of the stories from other matter with which it was interwoven. Some of the stories which occupy but two or three of the following pages will be found in the Bible itself, scattered through as many chapters. Again, frequently, matter which might be considered a part of the story, is of such a nature as not to be interesting to children, and sometimes such as they could not understand. Where such matter could not be omitted without injuring the completeness of the narrative, so much only has been retained as was absolutely necessary to such completeness. In other cases, where the thread of the story was complete without it, such matter has been omitted altogether. Occasionally it has been necessary to supply a word or words to tie the different parts of the story or fragments of sentences together. This, however, has been much less frequently done than at first sight would be supposed; and in no instance has a sentence, or, it is believed, any considerable portion of a sentence, been so supplied.
Sentences, or fragments of sentences, or even larger portions of the story, have sometimes been transposed to make the thread of the story clear, or, where it was necessary, to perfect the sense. In no case, however, has such transposition altered the sense, yet it may sometimes give to a person comparing the stories as they stand with the Bible itself, the impression that words or sentences have been supplied, when a more careful examination will show them in the text, but mingled with other matter. In one instance the same passage has been used in two of the stories, because each of the stories would have been incomplete without it. In a few instances a general term
has been substituted for a specific one, as in the story of the Prodigal Son, where the word sinners is substituted for the name of a particular class of sinners.
Still, after the greatest care and diligence have been used, it cannot be expected that all will be satisfied with the result. And if this is the case with respect to the manner in which individual stories have been prepared, still more will it be the case with respect to the selection of the stories which form the collection. Some will have particular favorites, which they will be disappointed not to find here; yet so large a portion of the Bible is of a narrative character, that all the stories in the Bible given in full would make a book nearly as large as the Bible itself. Others will think that many of the stories might much better have been omitted. Some stories which will be interesting to the elder children, will not be so to the younger ones. It is necessary to think of and provide for all. Many of the stories have been repeatedly read over to children, and amended and reamended as then proved desirable, and the selection of stories, and whole character of the book is based on a long experience in telling stories to children, and consequent knowledge of their tastes, and on an extended series of inquiries which have been answered by many mothers, who have said, “It is just such a book as we want."