Several years ago I heard the story of Australian, Arthur Stace. During a visit to Sydney I was able to verify the legitimacy of the account. The story of this man, who became known as Mr. Eternity, so affected me that I began to share it across the country. Recently some friends reminded me of this amazing testimony and I would like to pass it along to you as it was given to me. May God help us all to live with eternity in view…

It was New Year Eve, at the dawn of the new millennium and the eyes of the world were on Sydney. January 1, 2000 and 2 billion people from around the world watch transfixed as the city, that was soon to host the Olympic games, ushered in the new millennium. Sydney celebrated this momentous occasion long before any of the other great cities of Asia, Africa, Europe or the Americas and it did so in the midst of the ‘Y2K’ computer bug fear. Sydney put on a display of fireworks that night like never before.

The world marveled at the mesmerizing sight of our southern skies ablaze with color with an exploding harbor bridge engulfed in a spectacular fireball…but 30 minutes later, it ended. The smoke cleared, and through the haze, the distinctive illuminated copper-plate lettering style of the word Eternity appeared, right there, in 60 foot high letters on the national icon. The Sydney crowd, realizing its significance, cheered in delight as the rest of the world looked on rather perplexed and still rather bewildered.

For those that did not understand the significance of that New Year’s Eve millennium celebrations in 2000…here is the story of  Mr. Eternity – the Sydney Legend.

For nearly 25 years, from 1932 to 1956, Sydney residents woke each day to a city that had already been visited by a phantom of the night. A phantom that was to become the most famous graffiti artist in Australia’s history. For there on the sidewalks, on the train station platforms and on the many walkways that linked the city’s buildings was that one word Eternity, etched so beautifully with yellow crayon in the fine Copperplate lettering style.

Where it came from, how it got there, what it meant and who was behind this phenomenon was a mystery to all. The mystery turned to fascination and eventually obsession. For decades leading newspapers and letters to the editor debated who or what was behind the mysterious appearance of the word Eternity each morning. It was an enigma, a one-word sermon that had Sydney columnists speculating often about the author. But in spite of the intense interest, the author remained a phantom for those 25 years.

Arthur Stace was born on February 9, 1885 and grew up in the slums of Sydney. His parents were alcoholics and his sisters operated a brothel. He would frequently sleep under the house just to escape the wrath of a violent, drunken father. His parents and five siblings had all eventually died as drunkards and derelicts.

One day, Arthur bumped into a mob of men moving along Broadway on their way to a ‘free feed’ at a Church. With Sydney being in the midst of the depression, and food being a difficult commodity to procure for the alcoholic, he decided to join in with the throng. The 250 ‘needy men’ that gathered at the church that day had to firstly listen to a sermon before they were given any free food.

Arthur recalls the six friendly people at the front of the church who were in stark contrast to the assembled and hungry crowd of ‘needy men.’

Stace said to the man sitting next to him: “Who are they?” 

“I’d reckon they’d be Christians,” the man replied.

“Well look at them and look at us. I’m having a go at what they have got.” 

Arthur received Christ that day after the free meal. On November 14, 1932 he went to listen to a noted “fire and brimstone” preacher, the Rev. John Ridley in the Burton Street Baptist Church.

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 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 that word “Eternity” I could hardly write my own name. I had no schooling and I couldn’t have spelled ‘Eternity’ for any amount of money if I was offered the challenge. But it came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script. I could not understand it and I still cannot.”

It is estimated that this sermon in a word was written on the streets of Sydney some 500,000 times.  His daily routine for nearly 25 years was to rise at about 4:00 am, pray for an hour and have breakfast. He would then set out for the inner-city suburb he had in mind or had felt led to and arrived there before dawn and started writing his famous one word sermon “Eternity.”

As he walked every so often he would stop, pull out a yellow crayon, bend down and write on the pavement in large, elegant copperplate – the word Eternity. He would move on a hundred meters or so and write it again, Eternity, nothing more, just one simple word. His one-word message could weather three to six months.

After lunch he would set out to do a round of good works at the missions and rescue societies. He helped down-and-out men, led open-air meetings in the city, and visited the Callan Park mental hospital. Saturday nights would see him with a loudspeaker on a makeshift podium outside Sydney Town Hall preaching to the derelicts and the down-and-outs.

Long before the giant word “Eternity” was emblazoned across the Sydney Harbor Bridge on New Years’ Day 2000, it was first written by the hand of one man as a witness to his fellow citizens of Sydney.

Enjoying the Journey

Enjoying the Journey exists to evangelize the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ, encourage pastors and local churches, and equip believers to walk with God and serve Him each day. Through audio, video, and print resources we are seeking to preach the gospel, teach the Word of God, and reach this generation for Christ.

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