He was a little man with a weather beaten war scared face.
He was bowed low to the pavement of the city street hard by a parked motor car. He appeared to be writing and one was moved to draw near with watchful eye. turning swiftly at the sound of passing feet, one caught sight of his rugged face and of the well nigh finished word which his crayon had formed on the pavement.
It was a wonderful word, full of immense meaning and immeasurable mystery - Eternity!
Yes that was the large word the little man had written so boldly and so well.
Eternity! Why had he written such a word on the pavement of a busy city street in the early hours of the morning? Ah! why had he being writing it in different parts of that same great Australian city for 25 years? Why! Well thereby hangs a tail worth telling.
Some 25 years before that same little weather beaten man had listened to one of the few sermons preached from Isaiah 57: 15, "Thus said the high and lofty One who inhabits Eternity. Whose name is Holy"; and had heard the preacher cry out "Eternity! Eternity! Oh, that I could go out into the streets of this city of Sydney, and say to every person, Eternity! Where will you spend eternity?"
At that dramatic moment of the message, the little man, Arthur Stace, felt the force of a Divine challenge, and decided that he would do that very work by means of a crayon writing all over the city of his sinful past.
Yes, for well over 40 years, Arthur Stace had sown to his flesh in filthy sin in the streets of the same city. Drink and debauchery had dogged his steps from the sad, sordid home of his childhood, down through World War 1, when he served as a stretcher-bearer in the first A.I.F.1, right on into the Depression days of 1930. He was then, according to his own words , "always drunk, always broke, just one of a bunch of no good derelicts." Then when body and mind were giving way to utter disaster, he attended a meeting at St. Barnabus' Church, George Street Sydney, where a great hearted Archdeacon Hammond preached the Gospel and cared for the poor.
At that meeting Arthur caught a glimpse of the possibility of deliverance from sin and shame, via that same Gospel of Christ and he cried like one of old, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"
At the very moment he was met by the marvellous mercy of God in Jesus Christ. He realised that Christ had "suffered for his sins, the Just for the unjust, to bring him to God"; and he accepted and confessed the once crucified, but now risen and living Jesus Christ, as his personal Saviour and Lord.
Arthur was transformed by Grace Divine and began to attend church for the worship of God and the enrichment of his own soul in the Scriptures. It was there that he heard that ever memorable sermon on "Eternity!", which shaped much of his future witness in the city of his sinful past.
Thus, for 25 years or more he has blazoned the banner of that boundless word of God - "Eternity!" - before the eyes of his fellow citizens.
Eternity!... you have got to meet it!
Eternity!... where will you spend it?
Eternity!... saved or lost according as you have excepted or rejected the Christ of God!
Eternity!... As you must yield to its province at last, why not prepare for its portals now?
WHAT IS Eternity?
"It is the life time of the Almighty."
So wrote a deaf and dumb child years ago. Yes, it is the realm of the High and Lofty One. He inhabits Eternity , and He is the eternal One. He provides Eternal Life in His only begotton Son "He that believes on the Son (of God) has everlasting life." "This is life eternal that they should know Thee , the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent" Jesus Christ, accepted into the heart, is eternal life begun.
Eternity! How vital is the word! Not only is this the viewpoint of lowly Arthur Stace, but also of scholarly Andrew Bonar: " The vastness of the word Eternity impressed me... I strive to keep the feeling of Eternity before me."
So it was with one of the greatest scientists the world has known. "We make a nothing of Eternity , and an Eternity of nothing." Thus wrote Blaise Pascal, in rebuke to the ungodly people of his day. Further, Pascal declared, "we can know God only through Jesus Christ. Without this Mediator all communication with God is disrupted... Jesus Christ is therefore the veritable God of men."
How strange that poor mortal man should despise this Holy Saviour and so trifle with Eternity!
William Pope, the infidel, did this very thing, until death's dark shadow caused him to cry out: "I know the day of grace is passed - gone - gone never to return. Oh Eternity! Eternity! To dwell with devils... must be my portion and that justly."
Contrast such a cry with the last words of the Christ trusting, God honouring Edward Payson, in his final moments: "The battle's fought, the battle's fought and the victory is won for ever ! I am going to bathe in an ocean of purity and benevolence and happiness to all Eternity! ."
Which end would you choose, my reading friend, Pope's or Payson's ?
Eternity! WHERE ?
Think for a moment ! Your attitude to God's Son decides your destiny. Turn not your back on Jesus Christ, who was crucified for you; Who paid the price of your sin, to give you an Eternity of peace and joy in His Heaven.
A great preacher once cried out to his congregation: "Hark! did you hear that cry, `O Eternity, release me! I never believed in thee, never thought of thee, banished thee from all my reckonings and conversation. Let me go this once, and all shall be changed !` ? Then from the vast abyss comes the answer: `Thou should have thought of this before; tis now to late; thou art mine.` O friends, he of all fools is the greatest fool who ignores a fact he must at last acknowledge. Laugh at Eternity , but you laugh not away its reality. Turn your face from it, and it will leap upon your back. Say it is an unpleasant subject to think about - it will be more unpleasant to endure. Let this thought be branded upon the minds of all : we must meet Eternity!."
Yes, so we must. Joseph Conrad's words regarding the sea
- "It always gets you at last" - are more true of Eternity
. Without doubt, it will get every one of us at last. When
it gets you, my friend will it be in Christ - an Eternity of salvation;
out of Christ - an Eternity
condemnation? Where will you spendEternity
Turn and believe this very hour,
Trust in the Saviour's grace and power,
So shall your joyous answer be,
Saved through a long Eternity ."
And think again : "Eternity! is the lifetime of the Almighty."
by JOHN G. RIDLEY M.C.
1) A.I.F. - Australian Infantry Forces