Volume 6 No. 1 (2000)

  • God's History Makers - Discovering Australia's Christian Heritage


(Extract from Col Stringer's book "Discovering Australia's Christian Heritage")

For some time God has been speaking to me about my Australian Christian Heritage. Some Christians feel that heritage has little relevance in our Christian lives today, but this is far from the truth. If God is not interested in heritage and ancestry how come He devotes the entire first 18 verses of the New Testament to the very subject? Within those first 18 verses of the Book of Matthew the word “begat” is mentioned no less than 40 times!

Iain Murray in his book “Australian Christian Life from 1788” says: “the Christian past of Australia has largely vanished out of sight. Not surprisingly, many have drawn the conclusion that the country has no Christian history of which it is worth speaking…. ‘What does Australia owe to Christianity?’ That it was Christians who established schools, hospitals and an honest press, ….. are virtually erased from the ‘history of Australia’ represented by modern secularism….”

Is this really a Christian nation? Where have we come from as a nation - what are the nation’s foundations? Where are we going - what is our destiny? It may come as a shock but many of our early explorers and pioneers were men and women of God. Captain James Cook, Charles Sturt, Edward John Eyre, Flynn of the Inland, Governor Macquarie, Carolyn Chisholm - are but a few of our forefathers who were men and women of faith. This is our nation’s heritage but few Australians know it!

Why Wasn’t Australia Colonised By The Muslims, Hindus or Chinese?
"What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen for his own". (Psalm 33:12. New Living Translation).

Have you ever wondered why Australia was not colonised long before it was? Why didn’t the Muslims colonise this place, after all they were visiting our shores for hundreds of years before the Europeans came? And what about the Hindus? They came and colonised Bali, which is but a few hundred kilometers across the Arafura Sea from Australia’s north coast. Doesn't it seem strange that this huge, almost vacant continent was left untouched for thousands of years? It’s almost as though this massive continent, situated in the most populated area on earth, was invisible. I believe, again like many of my ancestors, that God has kept this nation for Himself, for such a time as this.

Southland Of The Holy Spirit - An Honour Bestowed On No Other Nation
In the year 1606 Capt. Pedro Fernandez de Quiros gave this continent the name “Australia del Espiritu Santo” or literally “Southland of the Holy Spirit”. In the Bible Hebrew names not only indicate character but also happenings and even the destiny of those granted that name. What does this suggest for the destiny of Australia? No other nation on earth has been blessed with the title "South Land of the Holy Spirit"!

In fact de Quiros’s actual proclamation was as follows: “Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros…..in the name of Jesus Christ ...... hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which His (Jesus Christ’s) person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of all the human race…. on this Day of Pentecost, 14 May 1606….. I, take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of Jesus…. Which from now on shall be called the Southern land of the Holy Ghost…. and this always and forever ......and to the end that to all natives, in all the said lands, the holy and sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly.” (Michael de Looper, Fernandez de Quiros, Understanding Our Christian Heritage).

Following on de Quiros’s heels came Captain James Cook, who brought the Word of God here to Australia. Cook came from a Godly family and he himself conducted divine services for his crew on Sundays. His wife presented him with a prayer book before he sailed for the South Seas, out of which a number of places discovered were named such as Trinity Bay, Pentecost Island, the Whitsundays, Providential Channel, Easter and Christmas Islands. And I believe he even named a group the Holy Spirit Islands.

The First Fleet Brought Not Only Convicts But The Word Of God To Australia
Despite what many historians teach, convicts were not all that the First Fleet delivered to Australia, with them came a man of God to deliver the Word of God - The Reverend Richard Johnson. "On Sunday 3rd February, Johnson preached his first sermon under a great tree to a congregation of troops and convicts…" (Professor Manning Clark - A History of Australia). The sermon he chose to be the first preached in this new nation was not something taken from some dead “religious” ceremony but the Living Word of God - Psalm 116 verse 12. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” Within a week of the arrival of the First Fleet the Gospel was preached on Australia’s shores!

Richard Johnson - Australia’s First Preacher
The Rev. Johnson was the product of the evangelical revival in England, a man who would ensure that the nation would be founded on Evangelical Christianity! Johnson was the first of a number of ministers "through whose work evangelical Christianity dominated the religious life of Protestant Christianity in Australia throughout the whole of the nineteenth century." (ibid).

Captain Charles Sturt - Man Of Faith And Prayer
Sturt, another of our famous explorers, was not only a man of great courage, but of faith and prayer. This is obvious from reading his journal in which he wrote of his faith and how he constantly took all of his plans and problems to the Lord in prayer. “Sturt, like most Australian explorers faced with a hostile environment, leaned hourly on God’s mercy. At night he slept with a Bible that had belonged to his father-in-law under his pillow. When he had to jettison almost all of his possessions in the remote Australian desert, he refused to get rid of his Bible in preference to an oil lamp.” (Charles Sturt, edited by Jill Waterhouse, Journal of the Central Australian Expedition 1844-45).

Professor Manning Clark had this to say about the man: "… one of Australia's greatest and most heroic inland explorers. He was a man of courage and prayer, for ‘A simple faith’ sustained him through all the changing scenes of life: by one way only was peace to be found, and that was through prayer... Prayer was his comforter. In many a scene of danger, of difficulty, and of sorrow he had risen from his knees calm and confident. A man who believed did not need any human mediator between himself and the Almighty. His was a faith for a man to whom much had been given". (Manning Clark - A History of Australia).

Governor Lachlan Macquarie
Macquarie has sometimes been referred to as the “Father of Australia”. Upon his arrival in 1810, one of Macquarie’s first goals was to bring stability to families of the colony, for he believed the main purpose of education was “to educate the young in the principles of the Bible... To instruct the rising generation in those principles which, he believed, could alone render them dutiful and obedient to their parents and superiors: honest, faithful and useful members of society; and good Christians." His beliefs proved correct as the morals of the colony began to dramatically improve.

Alfred Deakin - Australia’s Second Prime Minister
Alfred Deakin is one of our most famous politicians, he was Australia's second Prime Minister and we have him to thank predominantly for the passing of the Australian Constitution. Deakin had grown up in a Christian home and had strayed off in spiritualism, however before he became Prime Minister of Australia “He soon recognised the silliness of much of the matter in the Spiritual Diary” (page 65 - Alfred Deakin, A Biography by J.A. La Nauze). Manning Clark says of this great Australian: "Alfred Deakin was glorying in his God and Saviour... He believed the knowledge and love of God to be the foundation of all life and love and power. Apart from God, man's life was 'selfish mainly and sensual mainly - narrow, hard, harsh and discordant. Alfred Deakin, a man who agreed with the Galilean that man did not live by bread alone....."

In 1891 the nation’s first Commonwealth of Australia’s constitution was being drafted. Deakin prayed many hours to get the mind of God for the precise wording and was "delighted when the Constitutional Convention unanimously carried the preamble inclusion 'humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God". After the Constitution was approved Deakin offered this prayer of thanksgiving; “Father of nations, receive our psalm of thanksgiving. Enable us to pursue the cause of unity in spite of the obstacles which at present appear to beset our path elsewhere……. Aid us to purify ourselves by our labours for the general well and to invoke spiritual and moral principles so as to link us with our brethren on the highest plane to which we can at present attain. God preserve these people and grant its leaders unselfish fidelity and courage to face all the trials for the sake of brotherhood. Thy blessing has rested upon us here yesterday and we pray that it may be the means of creating and fostering throughout all Australia a Christlike citizenship.” (Prayer 235 on 16/6/1899).

Few Christians in Australia are aware of the fact that we too, like the USA, had our “pilgrims” who ventured around the world to start a new life for the sake of religious freedom. The state of South Australia was the only state in Australia that was founded by Christians. All of the original founding politicians were Lay Preachers. The vision for Australia as centre for the spreading of the Gospel was also shared by Sir James Stephen. It was written of him: “He told him of the importance of his mission to establish a Christian, virtuous and enlightened state in the centre of the eastern hemisphere and within reach of the Chinese, Hindu and Mohammedan nations which surround him…” (Manning Clark - A History of Australia).

Revivals “Down - Under”
Most Australian Christians are unaware that the Holy Spirit has been poured out in this nation. For instance a powerful revival came to Melbourne during the mid 1800’s where every house in Melbourne was visited twice: “God’s people were in earnest, the Holy Spirit was given His way… and believers greeted each other with: ‘The big revival has begun. Glory to God.’ Attendances totaled a quarter of a million each week when the population of the whole of Victoria was only one million.” (Re-Visioning, Australian Colonial Christianity by Iain Murray).

“The first revival in Parramatta that I know of was in 1840 “…… and I knew they had hold of God. We could hear sighs and suppressed sobs all around us…. And oh! The power of God that came upon the people, who were overwhelmed by it in every part of the room! And what a cry for mercy! It was heard by the passers-by in the street, some of whom came running in to see what was the matter, and were smitten down at the door in great distress…. (ibid).

“The 1902-3 tent meeting crusade in rural New South Wales, which resulted in the conversation of 25,000 was nowhere more wonderful in its manifestation than in the coal-mining villages of the Illawarra…. All the churches report, greatly increased congregations and increase in the membership.” (ibid).

The Danger In Forgetting Our Christian Heritage
If a nation forgets her Christian heritage and history and is ignorant of the Bible principles upon which it was founded, that nation is like a ship without a rudder. Many Australians place little value on their Australian Christian heritage, their birthright, selling it for some short term gain. These are critical days for our nation, there is a move afoot within segments of politics to strip “The South land of the Holy Spirit” of its Christian (and British) heritage. Make no mistake about it, this has very little to do with the Monarchy, its primary aim is to “sell our heritage”.

Let me quote Dr Graham McLennan in his excellent book “Understanding Our Christian Heritage”: "Some may even be tempted to doubt that anti-Christian humanistic forces could grow so powerful in Australia, even in a republican Australia. But consider what Professor Manning Clark is quoted as saying about the late Lionel Murphy: "it had been one of Murphy's aims to dismantle the Judeo-Christian ethic of Australian society." (page 8 Sydney Morning Herald, 30/10/86).
Esau Sold His Heritage
Heritage is very important to the Lord, we see this in Genesis 25:29-34 where Esau sold his birthright or heritage to his younger brother Jacob. From that moment on God's blessings fell upon Jacob. God is serious about our heritage! He says "I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob", notice not Esau! Many Australians place little value on their Christian heritage, selling it for short term gain and consequently many have lost hope.

Genesis 27:40 says: “… and you shall serve your brother.” Who might the “brother” be that we will be in bondage to? “Big brother”, the United Nations, that’s who! I suggest to you that we would end up with the yoke of a godless, humanistic organisation thrust around our neck.

The problem with most Australian Christians is that we are far too easy going, too complacent, “she’ll be right, mate. If the humanists of this country have their way not only will they change our constitution, but all references to God, allegiance to the Queen (who gives allegiance to Jesus as Lord), as well as changing our flag, our national anthem - in fact they will sell our total heritage. If such a scenario were to take place, (and I believe it is the duty of every born again Christian in this land to pray and work to see that it doesn’t) this nation, like Esau, will have sold its Godly heritage for “pottage”.

Psalm 78 talks about teaching the children about their heritage and ancestry in God. Why? So that they might put their hope in God: "O my people, listen to my teaching, Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past - stories we have heard and know, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did ... He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them - even the children not yet born - so they in turn might teach them to their children. So each generation can set its hope anew in God, remembering his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors - stubborn, rebellious and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” (Psalm 78:1-8 New Living Translation).

The key word here to the parents is to teach them their heritage, while the key word to the children is "remember". Do your children know their Christian heritage? Have you taught them? Or are we leaving it to teachers, schools and unbelieving historians and politicians to tell only a partial truth, leaving out any mention of our founding fathers’ love for the Lord. As Jan and I travel around this great nation I am astounded at just how little Australians know about their Christian Heritage, it certainly is a far cry from the American scene. No wonder Australian youth have such little hope, such horrendous drug and suicide problems, they have no sense of identity - they have never been taught their heritage!

Hebrews 11:1 says:"… faith is the substance of things hoped for." If we analyse this chapter of Scripture we will find that it then goes on to list what we consider our "heroes of faith". Almost the entire chapter is devoted to deeds performed by our Christian ancestors. It records the deeds of Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Samson, David and Samuel. It talks about "By faith they shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength" (Verses 33-34). The next verse in Hebrews 12:1 says "Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..."

The message of Hebrews chapter 11 is that we can look back at the amazing things our spiritual forefathers accomplished by faith. It gives us hope that we too can overcome adversity in life. These “heroes of faith” deeds can spur us on to “run the race”, to fight the fight of faith. But what if I were to tell you that, "by faith" - Pedro de Quiros claimed this great land in the name of Jesus, naming it "South Land of the Holy Spirit". Or, what if I were to tell you that, "by faith" men and women like Captain Charles Sturt, Edward John Eyre, Ludwig Leichhardt and many others conquered this hard, unknown land sustained by their courage and faith in Jesus Christ. Would it impress you if I mentioned that “by faith” many of the “800 Light Horsemen” achieved what no other nation has been able to achieve in 1600 years - liberate Jerusalem, the city to which Jesus will return? And that is without mentioning others like Mary McConel, Samuel Marsden and Alfred Deakin.

For the generations to come to have faith, we must first of all give them hope. For them to have hope we must teach them of their Christian ancestry. If we do not heed the Word of God, not only will we answer for this, but who is there to blame but ourselves? Psalm 11:3 says "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do....." The future of our children and of our nation is in our hands!

If we had been colonised by the Hindus or Muslims then our heritage would be just that, our flag would include their crescent or something similar - but it wasn’t, our heritage is Christian and British. To try and remove such a heritage is not only wrong but it is a dishonest attempt to distort the facts! "That those who framed our Constitution took it for granted that we are a Christian nation is evidenced by three major inclusions in the Constitution.

  • Firstly their expressed humble reliance on Almighty God.
  • Secondly their expressed acceptance of their Christian Monarch as the governing authority of Australia, (and they chose to have our Constitution "enacted by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty" rather than by revolution and rebellion).
  • Thirdly the requirement of section 42 that politicians of whatever variety give a clear guarantee of allegiance to our Christian Monarch - an oath for believers and affirmation for unbelievers." (Richard Eason - Australia is a Christian nation).

Australian High Court Barrister David Mitchell affirms, that Australia is a Christian nation because its laws and government are based on the Bible. He points out that historically the English Monarch and the parliament are both subject to law as embodied in the Bible. ("Origins of the Australian System" David Mitchell - in "Is this the end of Religious Liberty by Ian Hodge). Australia became a Federation in 1901 and that year the First Parliament was opened with prayer as the government established its authority under God. This was the actual prayer that was read on the historic day:

"Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to regard with Thy Merciful favour the points of this land, now united in one Commonwealth. We pray for Thy servants of the Governor-General, the Governor of the States, and all who are or who shall be associated with them in the administration of their several offices. We pray Thee at this time you vouchsafe Thy special blessings upon the Federal Parliament now assembling for the first session, and that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of Thy glory and to the true welfare of the people of Australia, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who has taught us when we pray to say: Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ... The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all, evermore - Amen". (Dr. G. McLennan)

I am not a monarchist, I am a Christian. However let me point out one vital fact that could affect every Christian in this country. If our nation's Constitution is changed or tampered with it may forever reduce our freedom not enhance it as we have been so grossly misinformed! We will have like Esau sold our heritage! Let me quote the Rev. Joseph King as he wrote, back in 1894, of Australia’s divine destiny:

“... Most significant to us is the fact that the very dawn of civilisation Australia has been the scene of missionary activities … Adding to this fact of our geographical position in relation to the teeming Asiatic populations to whom Christ is not known, the conviction is forced upon us that the churches of Australia of every name have a special missionary call.”

This is Australia’s hour, we were born and raised for such a time as this! We are God's History Makers! Have you taught this to your children? How can one remember if we have never been taught? Do your children know their rich Christian heritage? Have you done as the Bible says and taught them? Why? So they might put their hope in God!

This book and other Australia's Christian Heritage products are available for purchase from our online store.