Remember the story Mutiny on the Bounty? Contained in the story are the essentials of the true account, which occurred in the late 1700s. In 1768 King George III of England decided that certain uninhabited South Sea islands would be more useful to the empire if they could serve as sources of fresh food for His Majesty’s sailors. So in 1787 the crew of the Bounty was ordered to transplant certain fruit-bearing trees from Tahiti to various South Sea islands.
The Bounty arrived in Tahiti on October 26, 1788. Just a few months later, some of her crew, led by Fletcher Christian, mutinied. They were no longer willing to submit to abusive treatment from the ship’s captain. In time, most of the mutineers were brought to justice. However, nine of them escaped on the Bounty taking with them 17 natives, including six men, 10 women and one 15-year-old girl.
In their desperation to escape the hangman’s noose, they fled to a small, little known place called Pitcairn Island. Only two miles long and one mile wide, this rugged 88-acre island would become their home. Nine hardened English sailors and 17 Tahitian natives created one of the most diverse and unlikely groups imaginable.
Brave new world
Having escaped the oppressive rule, they hoped for an island paradise of peace and happiness. Instead, what came about was just the opposite. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the society that sprang from this small group as “hell on earth.”
They created their own culture with no rules or regulations. History is unclear on the details, but some have said that Mr. Christian was murdered attempting to steal another man’s wife. Living without even the most basic rules of society, and after years of lying, cheating and stealing, only one man, Alexander Smith, remained on the island with a harem of Tahitian women and a brood of children.
The Rest of the Story
Finally, nearly 20 years later in 1808, an American ship, Topaz brought news of the fate of the mutineers to the rest of the world. What did the crew of the Topaz discover? Bruce Barton made the following observation in his book entitled The Book Nobody Knows; “There was no jail. There was no hospital. There was no insane asylum. There was no illiteracy, no crime, no disease. The people had no doctors, took no medicine, used no liquor... Nowhere on earth were life and property more safe.”
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As this small group of people began to follow the precepts of God’s Word, a new society began to emerge
Alexander Smith had stumbled across the Bible. As this small group of people began to follow the precepts of God’s Word, a new society began to emerge. They took the Bible literally, and began to pattern their little island world after the model they found in the Bible. As a result, God poured out abundant blessings.
What caused this dramatic change? First, they put themselves in God’s hands, totally and without reservation. They trusted God to speak to them through the words of His Bible, by prayer and study. They prayed together every morning and evening. They studied the Bible and considered it to be their authoritative guide for living.
They followed the example of the Bereans. In Acts 17:11 we read, “They received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
They trusted God to speak to them through the words of His Bible, by prayer and by study.
Finally, they were motivated to take action. They zealously embraced the principles they discovered in God’s Word, sometimes, perhaps, too enthusiastically. When they discovered fasting, for a while they fasted twice a week. After coming to understand foot-washing as a symbol of humility, they washed each other’s feet every week. Upon learning of the seventh-day Sabbath, they zealously embraced it. In short, to the best of their ability they obeyed what was revealed to them.
Abundant and impressive faith
In his book Pitcairn Island, David Silverman wrote, “Evidence of the modern Pitcairners’ faith is both abundant and impressive. Their close observance of its tenets involves not merely the practice and rituals; it requires many material sacrifices. The Sabbatarian restrictions on labor frequently proved galling [from the author’s point of view], as when on one of their all-important trips to gather miro-wood, unfavorable winds landed them at Henderson Island on the Sabbath. The Pitcairners chose to return without the prized wood rather than cut and load it on the Sabbath.”
These people energetically embraced the Bible as the literal words of God, a blueprint on which to base their lives. It worked with awesome results. Even when outsiders severely criticized them for their strict adherence to biblical principles, they followed the Bible anyway.
Think about it! They were being called legalistic, yet no one could argue with the results.
What an awe-inspiring example for us today! The Pitcairners used the Bible, the power of God speaking through His Word, to overcome the worst kind of dysfunctional background and physical trials.
The next time you are discouraged or depressed, the next time you are faced with what seems to be an impossible trial, turn to the Answer Book. Look for God to reveal the answer through the textbook of life, the Holy Bible. Expect God to help you just as He helped them.