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Eternity

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Arthur Stace was born in poverty on 9th February 1884 in Sydney, Australia, the son of alcoholics who himself became an alcoholic by his mid-teens. He joined the army and fought in World War 1, returning home half blind in one eye and having been gassed. He continued his alcoholic habits and eventually all he could afford was methylated spirits.

In 1930 he was in Central Court and not for the first time when the magistrate said: "Don't you know that I have the power to put you in Long Bay jail or the power to set you free?" "Yes Sir" , he replied, but it was the word power that he remembered. What he needed was the power to give up drink.

Leaving the Court he heard of a meeting where cups of tea and food were available, so he joined the crowd of about 300 men and went to the meeting held by Archdeacon R.B.S. Hammond. Whilst enduring the preaching which went on for over an hour, he noticed six people seated at the front who were clean and well-dressed - in stark contrast to most of the men present and certainly to the alcoholic, enemployed and unemployable Stace. He said to the man sitting next to him, a well-known criminal, "Who are they?" "I'd reckon they'd be Christians", he replied. Stace said: "Well look at them and look at us. I'm having a go at what they have got", and after the meeting he went across to Victoria Park, slipped down on his knees and prayed, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour.

He found the power he needed to give up the drink, and he said: "As I got back my self respect, people were more decent to me". So he won a job on the dole, working on the sandmills at Maroubra one week on, one week off at three pounds a week.

Later in the Burton Street Baptist Church at Darlinghurst he heard the evangelist, the Reverend John Ridley. Ridley was a Military Cross winner from World War One and a noted "fire and brimstone" preacher. He shouted: "I wish I could shout Eternity through the streets of Sydney". Stace, recalling the day, said: "He repeated himself and kept shouting 'Eternity, Eternity' and his words were ringing through my brain as I left the church. Suddenly I began crying and I felt a powerful call from the Lord to write Eternity. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket and I bent down there and wrote it. The funny thing is that before I wrote I could hardly have spelled my own name. I had no schooling and I couldn't have spelt Eternity for hundred quid. But it came out smoothly in beautiful copperplate script. I couldn't understand it and I still can't".

From that day he would rise at 4am, pray for an hour, have breakfast, then set out. He claimed that God gave him the name of the suburb into his head the night before and he arrived there before dawn. He wrote his simple message - Eternity - every 100 yards or so where it could be seen best then he was back home around 10am. First he wrote in yellow chalk, then he switched to marking crayon because it stayed on better in the wet. The City Council had a rule against defacing the pavement and the police "very nearly arrested" him twenty-four times. "But I had permission from a higher source", he said.

He was a very little man, bent, grey-haired, only 5'3" tall and weighing just seven stone. He looked frail enough to blow away. With the formality of another generation he always wore a grey felt hat, tie and prim double-breasted navy-blue suit. Sometimes in the dawn light he would be seen around Wynyard Station. He would nod to the drunks still left on the pavement and he would look at the debris of the affluent society stretched out on the park benches, trying to keep warm under newspapers. If he detected any movement there would be a pat on the head or a warm greeting. He had the air of a man who understood.

He did not like publicity. He regarded his unique style of evangelism as a serious mission, something between Arthur Stace and his Maker, so for a decade these Eternity signs mystified Sydney.They were an enigma. Sydney columnists wrote about it, speculated on the author, and several people walked into newspaper offices and announced that they were the author. The real man kept quiet.

Arthur Stace died of a stroke in a nursing home on July 30, 1967. He was 83. He left his body to Sydney University so that the proceeds could go to charity. The remains were finally buried at Botany Cemetery more than two years later.

Amongst all the festivities and fireworks that greet a New Year in Sydney, a large display is mounted on the side of Sydney Harbour Bridge. As the year 2000 was ushered in, the single word Eternity appeared for all to see.

And you can guess where I'm going. Where will you spend eternity? Only Jesus holds the key to eternal life, and that life can begin now for you as it did for Arthur Stace on the 6th August 1930.

Sources: Mr Eternity and Wikipedia.

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story | by Dr. Radut