Eternity and Arthur Stace

For 37 years Arthur Stace, a poor and uneducated man walked the streets of Sydney Australia leaving what would become his legacy and a mainstay in Australia’s rich history. From 1930-1967 Arthur Stace walked before dawn to dusk and wrote one word on footpaths in yellow chalk; “Eternity”. People were mystified by this word. As it popped up more and more, it became an enigma. Columnist wrote about it , people respected it and street sweepers went around it. In all, Arthur wrote this word over 500,000 times. What is just as compelling is the story behind Arthur Stace.

Arthur was born in Balmain just 3 miles west of downtown Sydney, Australia in 1884 and was raised in poverty by his alcoholic parents along with his two brothers and two sisters who were also alcoholics. His sisters were brothel operators. He grew up living in constant friction with the law looking after himself by stealing what he needed and at age twelve he was made a ward of the state. At fourteen he found his first job, in a coalmine, by which time he was well on the way to alcoholism himself.

In his twenties he lived in Surry Hills in Sydney’s inner south. By then he was running liquor between pubs and brothels, and was connected with gambling and house robberies. During World War One he served in France, returning partially blinded in one eye, and suffering the effects of poison gas.

From then until the middle of the Great Depression he became a derelict and lived on the edge of insanity with alcoholism. On August 6th, 1930, he attended a meeting for men at St Barnabas’ Church. Most of the men were there for the food but there was a message first.

It was there that Arthur heard his first inspirational sermon. It was preached by a Reverend Hammond and right then and there he converted to Christianity. After that Arthur was subsequently able to give up drinking, and he said, “As I got back my self-respect, people were more decent to me.” He eventually became a cleaner and prayer leader at the Burton Street Baptist Church and he also married.

Sometime after that in the Burton Street Baptist Church he heard a noted “give-’em-Hell” preacher, the Rev. John Ridley speak, or rather shout: “I wish I could shout ETERNITY through all the streets of Sydney!” Arthur Stace, recalling that 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 from the Lord to write “ETERNITY”. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket and I bent down there and wrote it.” Even though he was illiterate and could hardly write his own name Arthur, legibly, “the word “Eternity” came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script. I couldn’t understand it, and I still can’t.”

Eternity Sydney Harbour Bridge Australia

For the next 35 years Arthur would leave his wife, Pearl and their home around 5am to go around the streets of Sydney and chalk the word “Eternity” on footpaths, train station entrances and anywhere else he could think of. He did this completely anonymously until the Reverend Lisle M. Thompson, who preached at the church where Arthur worked as a cleaner, saw him take a piece of chalk from his pocket and write the word on the footpath.

Many times Arthur avoided arrest for defacing public property by responding to the police officers “But I had permission from a higher source”.

The word Eternity continues to find its way all over Sydney, Australia and all over the world . One can find his word on posters, t-shirts and artwork. The word Eternity was featured on the Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Years Eve 2000 and up to 4 billion people saw the word at the end of the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

It’s rather ironic that Arthur’s “legacy” would be with one simple word “Eternity” as they are both a “gift”.

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60 Responses to “Eternity and Arthur Stace”

  1. Olly Gordon says:

    Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.

  2. Nancy says:

    He will never be forgotten from me,,I’ve read his incrediable story,What a wonderful Heart he left us all to share,,I can feel every pain he had suffered,,thank God for being able to read about such a wonderful man,,Thank You

  3. Mary Ulivi says:

    And we think one person cannot make a difference.

  4. Salma Aitcheson says:

    What a wonderful way to live, as that is truly what we are all looking forward to in our final days.

  5. Lynne says:

    This just reinforces my motto of “Never discount a person because you do not know what God has designed them to do or what path they must take in order to do it!. We all have a purpose and plan designed by God. We don’t always stay on the path that He has chosen, but that does not mean that we will not get there. This story truly touched my heart.

  6. Alicia says:

    …Go rest high upon that mountain, where at last you drink from the life giving fountain.
    …my friend, you left so suddenly,
    though, life is not such a tragedy
    …for in ETERNITY now you roam.

  7. luisa says:

    Awesome. . . . We must all be aware of our GOD and creator. Honour HIM and Love our fellowmen. . . Let us all be grateful for this chance of ETERNITY.

  8. joyce beebe says:

    Thank God we have an eternity in HeavenThank God he paved the way for us.

  9. marea says:

    A truly moving story that moved me to tears. Praise God for a life dedicated to our mighty God

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