- INTRODUCTION -
A SMALL man only 5 feet 3 inches, nearly 40 years of age, stood before the magistrate of the Central Drunks Court in Sydney. The little man had been before the court many times for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. The magistrate tried a threat. "Don't you know I have the power to put you in Long Bay Jail or the power to set you free?" he said.
"Yes, sir," replied the small man in the dock.
The little man groaned within his heart for he knew he needed something which the magistrate didn`t have the ability to give - power to stop drinking, power to overcome a vile heredity, power to throw off the effects of a slum environment with its evil companions, power to break ingrained habits of sin and crime - power to make the crooked straight.
Science and Psychology says heredity and environment combine to make us what we are.
Listen to the story of this little man, Arthur Stace, of Pyrmont, Sydney, and see the power that conquers heredity and environmental influences.
Arthur Stace was born in a small slum dwelling at Balmain. The family consisted of the father and mother, both drunkards. There were two sisters who also became drunkards, and two brothers who likewise became drunkards. It is solemn history that they all died derelict drunkards. This family were all in and out of jail throughout their whole lives, and both sisters ran houses of ill fame for many years; one of them was ordered out of the State of N.S.W. three times. The police abandoned the usual prohibition order against the brother Sam becaube he snapped, "I'll get it and drink it until I die." He did. Arthur Stace inherited this heredity, and was brought up in an environment as vile. Sleeping in bags under the old house he awoke in the morning to steal milk from verandahs because there was no breakfast when mother and father were on the drink. Picking scraps of food out of garbage tins he learned to live by his wits, stealing bread, cakes and lollies from shop counters, bakers' carts or wherever food could be found.
Arthur Stace was hardly schooled at all by 12 years of age, and was taken trom his irresponisible parents and made a State ward, but, already he was confirmed in crime and evil. Arthur tasted his first strong drink as a small boy, from his father's bottle, his first so-called man's drink came at the age of 14 years when he started work in a south coast coal mine. With his first pay he hurried off to buy his first counter beer from a hotel. Drinking strong drink became the regular habit, and as early as 15 years of age he was carted to jail drunk, and charged. Pleadings and threats by the police were of no avail. No employer would keep him, so he moved from job to job, from town to town - always finding a new job - a new hotel - a new policeman - and a new jail!
Arthur Stace moved to the city in his twenties and lived in Surry Hills,
where he became a tout for a local pub, carrying drink from the pub to
houses of ill-fame located in this area. Arthur carried drink to the various
two-up schools, one of which was run in an upstairs room of his sister's
house of ill-fame. Arthur was employed as a scout to warn the two up school
of any approach of the police - one night he was severely cautioned and
let go. In three years of employment with the City Council he lost half
of his time off work through the effects of alcohol. The power of evil
companionships led him into breaking and entering gangs where, because
of his small stature, he was chiefly spy and watchman. Sacked from the
City Council, Arthur Stace abandoned himself to the underworld where
he lived for eight years, and he was known to and knew the criminal population of Sydney.
In this eight years many crimes were done which cannot be printed here, but slowly bad heredity and evil environment led down-beer drinking becamie wine drinking, wine drinking became whisky drinking, whisky led to gin and rum and rum finally to methylated spirits. This is the last link in the chain of dereliction, and showed a beaten man. Mind now going as well as body there followed some years of attempts to stop on the downward path before sanity went. Homes - Institutions - Hospitals, all failed! Broughton Hall, a voluntary psychiatric clinic, failed, and the authorities very nearly led Arthur Stare through the little gate which connects Broughton Hall from Callan Park Mental Asylum, from which he would probably never have returned.
True a man like this needs power, power to overcome hereditary forces within him, power to break with evil companions, power to control the mind and body's cravings for drink - power to conquer environment. Is there such a power? Yes, and it really works!
A Christian once met a free thinker who twitted him for putting any trust in God and the Bible. He scoffed, "The authorship of some of the books of the Bible is uncertain. How can you believe in it if you don't know who wrote it?" The Christian replied with another question, "Who wrote the multiplication table?" "I don t know," answered the scoffer. "Yet you believe in it and use it," the Christian said. The unbeliever hesitated for a moment, then thinking he saw a way out, said, "Yes, but the multiplication works." "True," said the Christian, "and so does the Gospel which is the power of God unto Salvation to every one that believeth."
Arthur Stace, dirty, ill clad, a methylated spirits derelict, wandering from pub to pub, living by cunning, walked into a meeting for men conduded by Archdeacon R. B. S. Hammond, of St. Barnabas Church, Broadway, on August 6th, 1930. A cup of tea and a rock cake were given by the workers to the down and outs. Sydney was then in the grip of the depression which followed World War I.
Arthur Stace says, "I went in to get a cup of tea and a rockcake but I met the Rock of Ages." Three hundred men of all classes were present - mostly down and outs. There were six Christian workers sitting in the front seat - clean, well dressed and looking happy. Arthur Stace pointed them out to his companion, a criminal, and said: "That's what I want to be like." The service was finished but the gospel, the good news that Christ loves sinners, that He died for them, that He rose again and has power to save had entered into the sin-soaked mind. So Christ was alive. The little man parted with his companion and slunk into University Park where the municipal swimming pool now is. Under an old fig tree, tears streaming down his face, the little man stood and cried unto that Living Christ: "God," he said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Here a wayward soul touched God by simple faith - here was sincerity and reality! Here was human strength and pride broken. Here was helplessness and despair. Here was a sinner surrendering to God, and from Heaven came a power - a power - stronger than a vile heredity, a power stronger than an evil environment, or habit or evil companions - a power which gave mental peace and independence and freedom - it was the living Spirit of God who entered Arthur Stace's life. The Word of God, the Bible, says, "If any man has not the Spirit of God (dwelling in him) he is none of His (Christ's) (Rom 8:9). Arthur Stace went out of the park with the Spirit of God in his heart (Eph 1:13).
Now listen to the story of the new man. In a little while after his conversion, Arthur Stace learnt what he calls the two secrets of success in the Christian life. These, says Arthur, are Prayer and Obedience. Arthur Stace rises early to read the Bible and pray simple sincere prayers. At midday hour he prays again and when evening falls prayer arises again, for cleansing and help. Much prayer, says Arthur Stace, keeps the channel clean, keeps us in touch with God. The second secret is obedience. To Arthur Stace God is the power. Arthur Stace, Arthur declares, is weak, unclean, and powerless, but God has all power so obey God in everything, small and great, and His Spirit will break sin's power and make the crooked Will straight.
The result after twenty-five years is no swearing, no lying, no stealing no drinking, no gambling - a bad heredity has been conquered by a new power.
Thirty five years of untiring service for his Master began almost as soon as the change came - a house was rented and a five-bed hostel in Ultimo was the first attempt to reclaim men for Christ. This led to being appointed to the R. B. S. Hammond Buckland Street Hostel (now pulled down) where Arthur shaved and issued canteen supplies to 300 down-and-out men in order to tell them his story.
Realising that he most go out into the open air to reach men, Arthur Stace led an open air meeting on the corner of George and Bathurst Streets, Sydney, for 24 years.
Every Wednesday evening until June, 1965, he visited the Methodist Hostel in Francis Street and preached Salvation through God's power to the derelicts who seek a bed for the night.
Years of visitation to the inmates of Callan Park, and also to the Lazaret among lepers, has brought cheer and hope to desperate cases.
Always glad to tell what God has done for him, Arthur Stace has preached in many churches of most denominations and much fruit has come from this Gospel sowing.
Arthur Stace teamed with Cairo Bradley's tent missions and thousands heard the story of God's power to save. During World War II many military camps heard the story of his salvation.
Feeling the need to "belong", and have a spiritual home, Arthur Stace was baptised and joined the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle where, as a humble member, he led a church prayer meeting and assisted in the open-air work of the church until June, 1965, when he entered Hammondville C. of E. Aged Peoples Homes. Very few people in the city of Sydney know that the famous footpath message Eternity is written by Arthur Stace. This one word sermon has challenged thousands and thousands.
Reader, the power of God can make a badman good, overcome the power of inborn heredity and environment, evil companions, and habits. Yes, the power of God can make a crooked man straight. You may not (and we hope not) have gone the downward path like Arthur Stace but we have all sinned. Will you repent of your sins, and call upon God to save you and then cling to God in earnest prayer and obedience? This guspel is true for it works. Behold a modern miracle in the life of Arthur Stace and take heart, for the God that can save Arthur Stace can save you, too.
Rev Lisle M. Thompson, the author of this tract, was called Home to be with the Lord he loved and served on 18th January, 1963.
This tract has been used widely by church workers and ministers of the
Gospel, and a Sydney doctor uses it to assist some of his patients if it
suits their problem. Because of the blessing that has accompanied its use,
we send it forth on its third edition with the prayer God will use its
contents to lead many to the knowledge of the power of God that can make
a crooked soul straight.
Christian Broadcasting Association Ltd
420 Lyons Road, Five Dock, NSW 4th Edition