Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The Passing of "Mr. Eternity" By John G. Ridley MC

His real name was Arthur Stace but the Sydney Press gave him the honourable title of· “Mr. Eternity” and most people will remember the little man as such.

Yes. he was only a “little” fellow just clearing the five-foot mark· by two or three ·inches, and probably that was the reason why he was appointed to the perilous post of stretcher-bearer in World War 1. The writer recal1s another little handful of a fel1ow doing famous exploits in the same service in his own Battalion where he was known as "Little H ---".

Strange, then, that "little Stace" should have been introduced to wounds, dying and death in those distant days of warfare, long before his introduction to and association with that big and boundless word Eternity. Yet who can tell if stretcher-bearing did not, at odd times, bring before his mind the transient nature of this life and the trenchant mystery of the life to come.

The Dark Background

There is no virtue in veiling the grim fact that Arthur Stace had a very dark background. He was his own expositor in that shadowed realm. He frankly admitted that he was a cockatoo (a lookout against police) for two-up schools; a scout for brothels: a petty criminal and an alcoholic. In his own words: "I was always drunk; always broke; a derelict; a no-hoper". So steep was his descent into the waters of wickedness that, ere long, he found himself on the edge of insanity and near to the gates of a mental asylum.
On one occasion, he told how he had gone to the police station and asked to be put in gaol, to save himself from the pull of drink and methylated spirits; but the police refused. Said Arthur, as he staggered away: "'When I don't want them to put me in, they do it: now, when I want them to put me in, they shut me out”. So he stumbled on in his downward pathway; a wanderer in city streets and a scavenger among its rubbish bins.
Yet, surely. even in those hopeless days, eternal eyes of Love were upon him and a far Voice was calling to Arthur Stace:
"From the land of hunger, Fainting. famished, lone,
Come to love and gladness,
My son! My son!
"Far off thou has wandered;
Wilt thou farther roam?
Come, and all is pardoned, My son! My son!
"Thou art friendless, homeless, Hopeless, and undone;
Mine is love unchanging,
My son! My son!"
(Rev. H. Bonar, D.D.)

Depression and Deliverance
An old proverb tells us “It is an ill wind that blows no-one any good". A war has often awakened a sleeping soul to seek "'the Prince of Peace". A sudden death has sometimes stirred a mourner to seek eternal life from Him who is called "'the Prince of Life". Yea, and an economic depression may bring Divine deliverance to a defeated and desperate man.
On 6th August 1930, when Sydney was in the stranglehold of the depression which followed World War I. Arthur Stace made his way to St. Barnabas' Church, Broadway, where Archdeacon R. B. S. Hammond conducted a "'Meeting for Needy Men" to be followed by a cup of tea and a rock cake.
About three hundred men gathered that night, but our concern is only with "little Stace" the broken-down derelict near the end of his tether.
There is no record of the Archdeacon's sermon that night, but, knowing him as we did, it is safe to say he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His divine love in dying for the redemption of fallen mankind. Perhaps he mentioned the love of the Father for the sin-sick prodigal in "the far country", and His longing to meet the repenting man, with his cry: "Father, 1 have sinned against heaven, and before Thee", with a wondrous welcome.
Perhaps, on the other hand. he mentioned about Jesus Christ, as a "Rock in a weary land". smitten by the rod of Moses (the rod likened to the Cross) and then opening to give "a river of the water of life", freely. for thirsty souls who would "stoop down. and drink. and live", Then, maybe he gave forth the blessed invitation of the Lord Jesus, "If any man thirst. let him come unto me and drink", Archdeacon Hammond knew the thirst of needy men, Then, one wonders, if the service finished with the hymn:
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee,
Let the water and the blood
From Thy riven side W'hich flowed, Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power,"
What followed the service is somewhat uncertain. but one seems to recall Arthur telling this writer that there was a call made to come to Christ, there and then, and to kneel down in humble repentance and faith before Him, Yes. if memory fails not. Arthur spoke of being moved. and thinking: “I may as well give it a go, In any case. there is a cup of tea and a rock-cake to follow",
Later, he was to testify to many: "I went in to get a cup of tea and a rock-cake. but I met the Rock of Ages".
That very night, so the late Rev, Lisle M. Thompson tells us, in his excellent tract. "The Crooked Made Straight". Arthur Stace later entered, University Park and under an old fig tree. with tears of repentance, cried to the Lord
with the old-time plea of an ancient publican:
"God, be merciful to me, a sinner"
In the great grace of God. Arthur Stace found mercy. forgiveness and pardon via the Gospel of Christ that memorable night. In the depths of depression, "Little Stace" cried to God and the once-wounded hand of Jesus lifted him "from sinking sands (of sin) to plains of light" in the Lord,

When the Lord Jesus Christ lifts a sinking sinner from "an horrible pit (and) out of miry clay and sets his feet upon a rock", He goes further. and "establishes his goings". Yes, as He Himself has told us, He gave "authority to his servants. and to every man his work". Thus. General Booth's words “We are saved to serve.”
Arthur Stace was quick to tell others what the Lord had done for his soul. He witnessed at the Buckland Street Hostel for Men: he conducted an open-air meeting for many years at the corner of Bathurst and George Streets: he often gave his testimony at the Francis Street Night Refuge and carried the glad tidings of a Saviour's love to Callan Park and the Lazaret. He also attended various Churches and gave his telling testimony to many congregations. In his own home Church, Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle, he assisted in open-air work and led a Church prayer meeting,
As one who had been forgiven much. he tried to show his grateful love to the Lord Jesus by “much service" Lacking even a normal education. yet he did what he could to repay a debt of love
to his dear Redeemer; remembering, perhaps, what that brilliant scholar and saint of God. Dr. Andrew H, Bonar, once said: "God will take the service of a child, just as well as the service of an angel".

In the story of Arthur Stace, we venture to suggest that he had two dates of undying memory, The first and foremost would doubtless. be 6th August, 1930, when he wept his way to God. through Christ, under the old fig tree in University Park.
The other one, second, but little less vital in its issue, was 14th November, 1932, when he sat in Burton Street Tabernacle, listening spell-bound to a message on "The Echoes of Eternity", preached by an evangelist during a special evangelistic Crusade in that Church.
The solemn message was based on a Biblical gem in Isaiah 57: 15, "For thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Stressing the word Eternity and its mighty meaning, the preacher suddenly raised his loud voice and cried: "Eternity! Eternity! I wish I could sound, or shout, that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. Eternity! You have got to meet it. Where will you spend Eternity?"
There was rapt attention from the large congregation, but no one was more stirred than Arthur Stace.
"Eternity went ringing through my brain", was his own statement, "and suddenly I began crying (as under the fig tree on August 6, 1930) and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write 'Eternity'. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket and, outside the Church, I bent down right there and wrote it ... The funny thing is, that before I wrote it I could hardly write my own name. I had no schooling and I couldn't have spelled 'eternity' for a hundred quid. But it came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script. I couldn't understand it and I still can’t."
Such was the telling testimony from Arthur's own lips thirty-three years later: after he had been writing that wondrous word from God's Book on the pavements of Sydney and other cities, at his own estimated rate of "at least 50 times a day", and about "500,000 times" all told.

The Unique Witness Thus the call of the Lord, Arthur's Saviour, to give his own city a peculiar and unique witness as to the reality of Eternity was readily and faithfully answered.
For some years, the little man had a real battle to prevail against the warnings of the police on one hand and the wet-blankets of scoffers on the other, Once, in early days, a policeman apprehended him with, "What are you doing writing that word on the pavement?"
"Well", answered Arthur, "it is a word from the Bible, which I want the people to read, and don't forget that when you were sworn-in to the Police Force you placed your hand on that Book."
With that, the officer turned away and Arthur continued his silent, sacred ministry.
"I have been questioned 23 times" (by the police) he said in 1965. "but I’ve never been arrested .. The police have been very good to me. I know there's a rule about defacing the footpaths. but I’ve got permission from a higher Source".
The scoffers and mockers were more difficult to deal with. There was scornful laughter and. doubtless, some sought to wipe out the wonderful word of his witness.
At one time "a bloke". as Arthur called him. "was chasing me around writing 'm' in front of my “eternity"· so making it into ·meternity·. I couldn't have that. so tricked him by using the great big ·’E’.
So through three long decades and more "Little Stace" went on doing the thing the Lord had told him to do. His fame for faithfulness reached far and wide, so far, indeed, that when he passed away on 30th July, 1967, at the age of 83. the Press in tw0 cities at least, gave him honourable mention, and even in far-away Taiwan a correspondent in 'The China Post" paid rich tribute to the "One-Word Preacher”.
Mr. Ian Pratt opened his article with these warm words:
"Although only a handful of Sydney's two million people knew Arthur Stace, there is literally no one 0ver the age of six to whom he has not preached his one-word sermon. 'Eternity',"
Missionary friends in Taiwan were thrilled with delight to read Mr. Pratt's praiseful words.

The Wonderful Warning Word
Why did Arthur Stace cling to his one-word sermon, "Eternity", for 37 years?
Because from November 14, 1932, that same wonderful warning word clung to him and would not let him go. It kept on thril1ing his redeemed and rescued life day and night. The words "Saved for Eternity" must have pulsated through his soul and service thousands of times,
Asked by one, if he had ever thought of extending or changing his "sermon", he replied: "No. It's always been the same. I did write 'Obey God' sometimes, but not often. I think 'Eternity' gets the message across; it makes people stop and think",
How true' It makes people think high or think low. It brings before them the vast issues of "the life to come or the death that follows physical death-"the second death". (Rev 20: 14.)
"There is a death, whose pang
Outlives our fleeting breath;
Oh. What eternal horrors hang
Around man’s second death!"
Yes, it is indeed a word that makes some people stop and think.
About the year 1793, a young man in a state of irreligion and infidelity "calling good evil, and evil good"- was walking alone in a field near a forest in the United States, Suddenly, he was brought to a halt by what seemed an awful voice proclaiming tIle words " Eternity! Eternity ! Eternity!" Then, the wayward winds, the rustling leaves and the buzzing insects were all whispering,
and carolling, and then shouting the same wonderful word-"Eternity". As by a flash of lightning his inner eyes had caught a glimpse of a glorious world; as by a peal of thunder his sinful, slumbering soul had been awakened to "a gulf of everlasting destruction (which) seemed to yawn before him, and he in danger of falling into it."
Pierced to the depths of his whole being by that solemn, sword-like word, he cried out, "If there is no God, doubtless there is a hell." He now seemed to be in the midst of torment and for a long time it seemed as if the thundering proclamation of that awful voice was yet sounding in his ears-"Eternity! Eternity! Eternity!"
Swiftly his awakened heart turned to prayer, and then to the Bible, which, up to that time, he had never seen.
Ere long, he, who was overwhelmed by the thought of his sins, had found quiet rest and peace in Jesus Christ-"the Lamb of God. which taketh away the sin of the world".
Then came the words: "Stephen Grellet, proclaim to others what the Lord has done for your soul.”·· This he did, far and wide in the world, for upwards of forty years, as an evangelist of Eternity and Eternal Life through the Saviour.
Yes, "Little Stace" was right: "It makes people stop and think".
Who can tell how many have stopped and given thought at the sight of that majestic and measureless word "Eternity", in beautiful copperplate, on the pavements and pathways of Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere?
On the day of Arthur Stace's funeral service,
Tuesday, 1st August, 1967, this writer noticed, near the Burton Street Tabernacle (where Arthur had heard his call and where his funeral service was to be held), a half-faded "Eternity" in his copperplate with two lines drawn through it. Why crossed Out? Perhaps to refer to the passing of "Mr. Eternity"; or perhaps to refute the royal truth of his one-word sermon to the city of Sydney.
Whatever was intended by the one who crossed out the word on the pavement, the truth still stands. Men and women have got to meet Eternity, do what they will: say what they wish. Every death-notice in the daily papers; every funeral cortege moving to the cemetery or crematorium; every fatal air or road disaster. sounds the solemn warning-"Eternity! You have got to face it." Sooner or later, we shall all be embraced in its ageless arms for weal or woe.
Oh, reading friend, stop and Think for a few moments! Eternity is drawing nigh for you. For woe. if like William Pope. the famous infidel, you must cry, as he did in life's latest hour: "I know the day of Grace is past-gone-gone never to return. Oh, eternity, eternity! To dwell forever with devils ... must be my portion, and that justly".
For weal. if, like the noble Andrew Fuller, great missionary pioneer and minister of God, you can testify in dying moments: "I have no other hope of salvation than through the Atonement of my Lord and Saviour. With this hope I can go into eternity with composure".
"Mr. Eternity", Arthur Stace, uneducated, from a dark, sinful background, wondrously saved by Jesus Christ, and called by Him to sound a solemn word of warning to his fellow-men, dared
to write "Eternity' some 500,000 times before the ever-inquiring eyes of his generation.
'Foolish'" did you say: "Only the action of a fanatic, lifted from the lowest strata of society".
No! Faithful to the Saviour Who had lifted him to forgiveness, life and glory: Who had told him to sound forth that Bible Word. ‘The lifetime of the Almighty”, Eternity-to all people.
Many years before Arthur Stace put his chalk to the ground to witness to Sydney, another man, well educated, from a godly background with the reputation of being the greatest preacher of his own generation or any other performed a similar humble ministry. Charles Haddon Spurgeon. of The Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England, when urging his people to do more to influence the neighbourhood for good, said, “I cannot go visiting, but I will try to do my share in another way”. He then read' some lines he had written, which were then printed on large posters and were to be put up wherever a suitable space could be found.
His message was akin to the one placarded before Sydney by "Mr. Eternity," who had he known it, was but treading in the illustrious steps of one of the greatest preachers and soul-winners of the Christian Era,

"Where wilt thou spend eternity?-
Nay, don’t tear down the bill;
The question means but good to thee,
And will be answered still;
To Shun the light or shut the sight,
Thy cup of wrath may fill,
Where wilt thou spend eternity?-
Don’t say, “I cannot tell”;
The life thou leadest now will end
In heaven – or else in hell,
Oh friend, bethink thee well.”
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Stephen Grcllet, great evangelist, Charles H. Spurgeon, "prince of preachers", and Arthur Stace, humble believer, have all passed into Eternity, counting upon their great Saviour, Jesus Christ. Whose word cannot be broken: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36
Think well reading friend! Remember you cannot escape Eternity. It must be faced. In Christ, a saved and blessed Eternity! Out of Christ, a lost and baneful Eternity!
What will it be with you?

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Free Hit Counter