Bible Stories For Children
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IT is admitted on all sides that the Bible is less read than formerly. There can be no question that this is to be deeply regretted. From the religious, the literary and the historical point of view, it is deplorable. Experts in pedagogy have been compelled to devise means of directing the development of the imagination of the child; yet there can be no means better than the steeping of the imagination in these old and ever new stories. And there is, too, the additional advantage that the qualities of reverence and truth must accompany them. Again, from the very beginning—from the moment that the Angel Gabriel informs the spotless maid of Galilee that she is blessed among women—to the piteous death of the God-man on Calvary, the highest feelings of which the human heart is capable are brought into play. For a young child to be deprived of this experience is a fearful loss to his head and heart.
As no new author has arisen to do for the sacred stories what Hawthorne did for the profane myths in "The Tanglewood Tales," the editor has done his best to arrange the best English text that he could find so that they come reasonably within the comprehension of children. His difficulties have been great, for no version of the Scriptures is easy reading for young persons, and the critic, who may be inclined to be censorious or scrupulously and verbally accurate, should remember this.
Children are not interested in the symbolism of the Old Testament stories, or in the interpretation of them, unless a good mother should add a gloss here and there. The tales of the Little Samuel, and of the Big Daniel in the Lions' Den, of David and Goliath, of the Fall of Jericho, of Noah and the Ark, of the triumph of Esther and the love of Ruth and Naomi, of Gideon—should precede all mere fairy stories and the dazzling myths of the Arabian Nights..
The Bible stories have become part of the fibre of our thoughts and of our language. There was a poet, admired by many, who had one deep regret. The Old and New Testament were kept, as sealed books from her, until she was past her childhood.* She never ceased to deplore this ; she had lost what no knowledge of Greek or Roman literature could replace. From the theological point of view, it is unnecessary that a layman should speak ; but from the point of view of the educator who sees that the loss of the Bible in the training of the heart and the imagination would be a wretched loss, an irreparable loss, there can be only one thing to be said. Every effort should be used to encourage a taste for the reading of the Bible. If the Old Testament stories nourish the best qualities of the imagination, the episodes in the Life of Christ must appeal to the heart of every normal child. We of the older generation who loved them never grew tired of the story of the Little Jesus and his sinless mother
"Our tainted nature's solitary boast"
who found Him in the Temple, who heard His stories of pastoral life in Palestine, who rejoiced in the raising of Lazarus and the curing of Jairus' little girl, must feel pleasure in knowing that they are here presented, as examples of the highest and truest literature, to children who will love them as we loved them.
The modern father or mother may naturally say, "Prescribe us not our duty." Without attempting that impertinence, I should like to say that one of the greatest pleasures of home life is missed in these busy times through the neglect by parents of the telling or reading the sweet and sublime old Bible stories. God has made the father and mother the teachers of the child; all other teachers, no matter how well equipped, are substitutes,—as the best school is only a substitute for the home. The boy who hears the story of David at his father's knee, the girl who listens, with intent eyes, to the wondrous tale of the first Christmas by her mother's side, tastes delights which no sorrow or loss in the future can take away-. These stories of won-der and glory are for parents and children,—in the "children's hour," when the family circle is complete.