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When, in the year 1831, the duties and responsibilities involved in the care and management of a convict ship were, for the first time, in the ship “ Surrey,” imposed upon me, my inexperience of the nature of the service caused me no small degree of anxiety.
On my second charge, in the ship “Arab,” in 1834, I entered prepared with a system of instruction and government, the result of my experience, and in which some improvements suggested themselves during our progress to the colonies. As my third voyage, in the “Elphinstone,” advanced, my plan received still further improvements. Its fitness for the management of female convicts was ascertained in the year 1840, when I accomplished, in the ship“ Margaret,” my fourth voyage.
The narrative of the CONVICT SHIP depicts the happy results of this system in operation among 264 convicts in my fifth voyage on board the “Earl Grey;” and a still more abundant blessing attended my sixth, seventh, and eighth voyages, in the “Theresa,” the “ Pestonjee Bomonjee,” and “ Hashemy.”
Several persons, experienced in the Christian instruction of the neglected masses of our population, consider this volume calculated to be useful, not only in convict ships, but in emigrant ships, and even in ships-of-war, as well as in all places where human beings are congregated together.
We hear much in our days of the separate, silent, and solitary systems of discipline; but unless the CHRISTIAN system be brought to bear with Divine power on the understandings and consciences of men, every other system professedly contemplating their reformation must, to the disappointment of its projectors, prove an utter failure.
If we would see efficient moral discipline prevail, we must provide for the effectual instruction of the people in the great facts and doctrines of Christianity; and must take care, not only that those intrusted with their religious instruction, but all connected with their management and control, are spiritual and con
sistent Christians, fitted by their temper, habits, and general demeanour, to commend the gospel of Christ to all around them.
We willingly concede to various systems of discipline their just measure of importance; but to expect that human machinery, however perfect, can take the place of God's own prescribed method of reformation, involves not only ignorant presumption, but practical infidelity.
To all who are intrusted with the education or government of human beings, in any rank or condition of life,-at sea or on shore; in the army, navy, or in civil society; in schools or in private families,the narrative contained in this volume may afford matter of interest, stirring them up to fervent prayer, and unwearied exertion in the work of scriptural instruction and Christian discipline, seeing that their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord: while the boundless riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, here displayed towards guilty transgressors, may encourage sinners of every class, not to give themselves up to recklessness or despair, but to hasten their flight to the blessed Redeemer, the one and only Refuge provided for the guilty and the lost.
It may be worthy of remark that, on review and comparison of my eight voyages, I find the amount of reformation among the prisoners strikingly to correspond with the degree of diligence and zeal with which the gospel, in its Divine simplicity, was brought to bear, from the hour of embarkation, upon their understandings and hearts. During my first voyage, there was less of Christian instruction, and much less of apparent improvement. As experience grew, and practical Christianity was from the beginning relied upon, coercion in any form became less and less called for; and, during my last three voyages, not only were no lashes inflicted, but not a fetter was used, nor a prisoner placed in confinement, or under the charge of a sentry.
This little volume is a record of the happy effects wrought, under the blessing of God, by scriptural instruction and prayer, among a class of men for the most part wholly ignorant, hardened, and demoralised. The tendency, however, in the present day, we believe, is to depreciate this instrumentality, and to substitute for the pure Word of God, another teaching, which is the teaching of men. We would, therefore, take the opportunity of reiterating our deep and settled conviction that inspired truth, purely and prayerfully taught, is the one great means which the
Holy Spirit owns and blesses for promoting true holiness and real happiness in the world.
We are persuaded, both on the testimony of experience and the testimony of revelation itself, that this only “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” believe that on this depends the efficacy of the public ministry and of private instruction; the conversion of the sinner and the edification of the believer; the prevention of crime and the reformation of the criminal; and all else that tends to the furtherance of Christ's cause upon earth. We believe that from this, as from its proper root, grows the righteousness that exalts the nation, and establishes the throne, and forms the true safeguard of both from outward dangers and inward degeneracy. We believe that from this, as from its proper source, comes the wisdom that guides to right legislation on the part of our rulers, and the virtue that leads to right obedience on the part of the people; also the social order and security that result from both.
Especially, we are persuaded, that by this only can we hope to withstand that great and growing peril of the times, the mystery of iniquity," whether in its more hidden working within our Church, or in its