The Queen, in her 1988 Christmas Message stated that centenaries
like the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the 300th
anniversary of the Glorious Revolution (which assured freedom of worship),
as well as Australia's own bicentenary, cause us to reflect on the past.
GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY OPERATING IN HISTORY
In 1588 the Netherlands minted a coin with one side showing the Spanish Armada sinking and the other side showing men on their knees in prayer, with the words "Man proposeth God disposeth".
What did the Netherlands have to do with England and the Armada? Elizabeth I of England had been helping the Dutch Protestants against Catholic Spain, and Phillip II of Spain hoped that his invasion of England would fulfil three major aims - (1) to restore England to the Catholic Church, (2) to restore the Netherlands to Spanish rule, and (3) to defend Spain's Atlantic and American empire.
On the 20th July 1988 beacons blazed across the English countryside, commemorating the 1588 bonfires which carried the long-awaited news that Phillip's great fleet ('armade' in Spanish) had been sighted off the Cornish coast. Richard Hakluyt, a Christian geographer who died in 1616 and whose name is honoured in the "Hakluyt Society", the famous English Geographical Society founded in 1846, praised the Sovereign God for what he saw:
"Whereupon it was most apparent, that God miraculously preserved the English nation. For the L. Admiral wrote unto her Majestie that in all humane reason, and according to the judgement of all men (every circumstance being duly considered) the English men were not of any such force, whereby they might, without a miracle dare once to approach within sight of the Spanish Fleet: insomuch that they freely ascribed all the honour of their victory unto God, who had confounded the enemy, and had brought his counsels to none effect... While this wonderful and puissant navy was syling along the English coasts, and all men did not plainely see and heare that which before they would not be persuaded of, all people throut England prostrated themselves with humble prayers and supplications unto God: but especially the outlandish churches (who had greatest cause to feare, and against whom by name the Spaniards had threatened most grievous torments) enjoyned to their people continual fastings and supplications, that they might turne away from God's wrath and fury now imminent upon them for their sinnes; knowing right well, that prayer was the only refuge against all enemies, calamities, and necessities, and that this was the only solace and reliefe for mankind, being visited with afflictions and misery..."
Edward John Eyre
GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY OPERATING IN AUSTRALIA'S HISTORY
The same truth was recognised by the explorer Edward John Eyre:
"Such are the mysteries and inscrutable ways of Providence and so impossible is it for man's private comprehension to estimate the result even of his own simplest actions, still less to judge of the more general ordinations of Divine Wisdom. In my progress thro' life I have frequently found trivial circumstances conduce to important events, and influential occurrences take place when least expected; an experience no doubt shared in by others, but which I think ought to teach us to distrust ourselves and our own judgement and to place full reliance in the wisdom and goodness of God, who can, and in his own good time often does, make plain and clear what once seemed dark, inexplicable or unimportant." (E.J. Eyre "Autobiographical narrative 1832-1839" portion of epilogue)
Eyre's journey along the coast
When Eyre crossed overland from Adelaide to Western Australia his life had been saved by his aboriginal companion. His difficulties and dangers were real enough and at a dinner held in his honour in Adelaide in August 1841, Eyre declared :
Captain Charles Sturt
"It was well remarked by our late Governor, Colonel Gawler, at the commencement of the Captain Charles Sturt Northern Expedition, that man may indeed propose, but that it is God above who can dispose. In this instance, my kind friends, it has pleased His Almighty Wisdom to bar our progress into the interior; but I still feel that I have much reason to be most sincerely grateful to that merciful and protecting Providence which has guided me through so many difficulties and guarded me through so many dangers."
That dinner was chaired by Charles Sturt who had opened up the South Eastern portion of the mainland for settlement, and who had also acknowledged God's sovereignty (see CHRI Journal, No. 1 pp. 22-28). In turn much of Northern Australia was opened up by Ludwig Leichhardt, whose letters often dealt with deep theological issues reflecting his Lutheran background. In later years he could state "I believe in Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Aust. Dictionary of Biography, ~2, 1788-1857, page 104).
Yet another Australian Christian, Rev. John Flynn of the Australian Inland Mission, founded the Flying Doctor Service which gave protection to much of inland Australia as well as providing essential communication through the peddle wireless.
Two of the more surprising newspaper articles during the Bicentenary appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, on the 16th July. The first was an article in connection with the 400th anniversary of the Spanish Armada, "to protestant Europe these winds were visible proof of God's favour for his persecuted people and they drew encouragement and new strength from this manifestation of His greatness". The other article was entitled "Ho~L Phillip's 'miracle' ruined it for others", and quoted David Collins in 1798:
"Thus under the blessing of God was happily completed, in eight months and one week a voyage which, before it was undertaken, the mind had ventured to contemplate... We had sailed five thousand and twenty one leagues, had touched at the American and African continents, and had at last rested within a few days of the antipodes of our native country, without meeting any accident in a fleet of eleven sail, nine of which were merchantmen that had never before sailed in that distant and imperfectly explored ocean."
ONE PEOPLE, ONE DESTINY OR MULTICULTUREAL ETHNOCENTRICITY
Sir Henry Parkes, Father of Federation, whose well known call for Australians to be "One people, One destiny" stated:
"As we are a British people - are preeminently a Christian people as our laws, our whole system ofjurisprudence, our Constitution... are based upon and interwoven with our Christian belief, and as we are immensely in the majority, we have a fair claim to be spoken of at all times with respect and deference." (Sydney Morning Herald 26th August, 1885).
Similar words were expressed years before the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald on 26th May 1854. John West, the editor and Congregational Minister stated:
"The people of Australia are one people; they speak one language; their views are substantially the same; they worship one God; their moral standard is formed by one rule and beyond this life they hope for one destiny.
The derivation of the word culture comes m the Latin word "cultus" meaning worship. nation's culture is significantly derived from religion.
John Howard (occasional leader of the Fed.1 Liberal Party [Now Prime Minister] ) speaking of his One Australia philosophy stated in his column in the "Auslian" 22nd July 1989, entitled "Diversity Yes, Vision Never":
"More importantly it was based upon my unshakable belief that irrespective of one's ethnic background, all of us as Australians must be bound together by a set of common Australian values that take precedence over all other values and loyalties.
and concludes by saying:
"If multiculturalism is only about making people who choose Australia as their home feel welcome and guarantee that they are given a fair go, then I am all for it. If, as I suspect, it is another exercise in social engineering, its deficiencies should be trenchantly criticised."
We need to come to a realisation that a Christian culture is indeed, the best culture. It is my prayer in this second volume, that our identity and destiny as Australians can easily be seen in the infinite wisdom and providence of God in this great majestic land. "All the ends of the Earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and He rules over the nations." Psalm 22 verse 27 and 28