ETERNITY - Have You Ever Wondered, Where Will You Spend Eternity?
ETERNITY - Something we should all consider.
Psalm 39: 1 - 7.
I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth; and mine age is nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them. And now Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.
This is the story of Arthur Stace, who was dubbed the Eternity man.
He was born in Redfern, Sydney in 1885 and grew up in the slums of Balmain. He died in 1967, aged 83. He was born into abject poverty and made a ward of the State at age 12 - at 14 he was an habitual drunk, reduced to drinking methylated spirits at sixpence a bottle and was pretty much homeless. Can you imagine drinking metho at 14? As a petty criminal, he was in jail at 15. In 1916 at age 31 he enlisted in the army for WW1, (he put his age down as 26) where he was almost blinded by a bomb blast. On returning home to Sydney his alcoholism only got worse.
One day in 1932 and now 47, he ran into a mob of down-and-out misfits hurrying along Broadway and one said to him - come on, there's a free meal at the church, so he joined them. And along with others of his falling, he attended that church meeting before being given a free meal - attendance of the meeting qualified you for a cup of tea and a rock cake. It was during this meeting the preacher was preaching from Isaiah 57: 15 and was shouting, Eternity, Eternity, Oh where will you spend eternity? This message of eternity had a very profound effect on him and after the meal he was sitting in a park opposite and broke down in tears. It was then he decided to turn his life over to God.
He either found or had a stick of yellow chalk in his pocket and there and then, he knelt down and wrote the word Eternity on the sidewalk. Bear in mind he had no schooling and was illiterate, he couldn't read let alone write his own name properly, yet the word Eternity was written in a beautiful Copperplate Script, which he couldn't understand how? From that moment, his life was to change.
Every morning very early, long before most had risen, he would get up and walk the streets of Sydney and surrounding suburbs, sometimes he would catch a train to Parramatta - and even as far away as Newcastle and Woolongong. And he would write the word Eternity, always in yellow chalk, on street corners, sidewalks, station platforms - everywhere. Hence he became known as 'the Eternity man'. As it was an offence even then and it attracted the attention of the police who nearly caught him 24 times. I doubt if there were many who never saw it, even today if you ask those of my generation about it, they all remember it. There was even a song and a poem about him - here is the song:
When I was child and walking down the street
I'd see a strange word written at my feet
Eternity is what it read, I asked my Dad just what it said
And it meant forever, and ever and ever . . .
And Mr. Eternity
the man whom we never see
in the early light of day
with his chalk he'd write away
Eternity, Eternity . . .
What to a young child could this strange word mean
A day, a week, a year, to some it might have seemed
another year to Christmas seemed an eternity
and a week to Saturday's pictures was like forever to me.
The City streets he wrote on no longer seemed the same
where Mr. Eternity left this life Eternity to claim
and when the word in yellow chalk faded from my view
I knew a part of childhood disappeared too
And it went forever and ever and ever
Always, always . . .
And the poem:
On the stroke of twelve, from midnight on,
Fantastic fireworks display
And Sydney Harbour glowed and shone
in red of fire and gold of day!
in celebration the bridge did don
a smiley face to light the way . . .
To where? ETERNITY?
Twas half past midnight, when at last,
the copperplate word burst aglow,
unique to Sydney's heritage past
in chalk on footpaths long ago,
and yet the memory holds fast
of Arthur Stace's bending low
to write . . . ETERNITY.
He'd been a lowly, drunken man,
but overtaken by God's power
to be part of His great plan
to write in Sydney's dark night hour,
and even generations span
and then from Sydney's bridge to tower,
that word . . . ETERNITY!
On Sydney's footpaths, end to end
that written word could oft be found.
for forty years it did commend
passers-by to who-knows bound -
to the message that he penned
to pose the question, where will you spend
It could have been because of the beauty of the writing that won the attention and wonder, if it was in his own illiterate scrawl it wouldn't have gained a second look, or thought. At times, Arthur tried to write other Godly messages but couldn't, the only word he could write legibly - and beautifully - was Eternity. It was a One Word Sermon and was intended to make people think. He began writing this word in 1932 and continued every day for nearly 34 years! Almost to his death.
I saw this word many times in my 'teens' and I remember on many trips to town on Saturdays, walking up to a pedestrian crossing and waiting for the lights to 'walk', I'd look down and sure enough, there it was at my feet - Eternity. Sometimes it was almost faded from so much foot traffic, other times it was as if it was written that morning. Like so many I always wondered who he was until one day late in his life, someone saw him writing it and said to him - you're the Eternity man!!!
His reply was, "guilty your honour" and at last his secret was finally revealed. I have never forgotten the word Eternity, nor would many Sydneysiders who saw it. In the new year's eve celebrations, as everyone knows, the Sydney fireworks displays are spectacular, particularly on the Harbour Bridge and in the year 2000, the single word Eternity was emblazoned in the arches of the bridge - a fitting tribute to Arthur Stace and his One Word Sermon. Just after the fireworks finished there was a pause - then came a surprise that no-one expected, the word Eternity - brightly illuminated, would have evoked a fond memory to many and with curious questions from the young.
It is estimated two billion people around the world saw it on the bridge.
Over the years I would often recall that word and it moved me so much that I once considered doing a similar thing because of my own thoughts of so many who are just drifting towards a lost Eternity without a care on a windswept ocean. I knew what I wanted to write and I would have also written it in yellow chalk in the very same Copperplate Script but because it is still an offence to deface sidewalks etc and the fact that there are so many surveillance cameras everywhere these days, it wouldn't be too long before I was before the courts. So perhaps there is a better way to get my message out there and that is what I am trying to do here. There is also another way that might spark interest and that is I could get a bumper bar sticker printed as in the same Copperplate script below this text and if others would do it too it may generate a similar interest as Arthur's message, which is perfectly legal.
As Arthur's message contained just one word, and he kept doing it for almost the last years of his life, which I can only imagine the impact that word had on his life that caused him to do what he did.
I sincerely hope we would all think on the word Eternity and what it means.
Where Arthur just used one word - I'll use three.
You may be skeptical of my words and I can understand that but please remember I am NOT talking about the return of Jesus, no-one knows that day except God but scripture has left some compelling clues to the start of Tribulation and if you're prepared to look for them, you will find them. And as Arthur's single word sermon was designed to make you think - so is mine.