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THE EXPLORERS

The Makers of Australia. No 1

Hebrews 11:13-16
4th May 2003

We are under attack from secular fundamentalists, atheistic humanists, and intolerant pluralists, who hate the idea of Australia's Christian heritage. They seek as journalists, broadcasters, politicians and academics to remove every trace of Christian heritage in our land. Few Christians know anything of this nation's rich Christian heritage and the fact that it was dedicated to the Lord. They do not know that many of our early explorers, pioneers and politicians were men and women of God. It is largely unknown that Captain James Cook, Captain Charles Sturt, Edward John Eyre, Flynn of the Inland and many others were committed Christians.

Fewer still are aware that one of the men who co-authored our nation's constitution was Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, a man who prayed and was used of God in the founding of this nation. Many of this nation's founding fathers were Christians. However this does not mean that they were without fault, as many of today's critics are eager to point out. We do not mean they were sinless. As the Bible shows, God uses people, despite their shortcomings and faults. Many of this nation's early explorers, leaders and politicians did have shortcomings. They did mess up, like all men. However, most of them had a heart towards God and a will to obey Him. As Iain H Murray writes: "Australian Christian Life from 1788" Banner 1988 "Christian history is a history of surprises. From such unpromising beginnings a heroic form of resolute, self sacrificing yet 'singing' Christianity began to make its way. From among soldiers, convicts, settlers, and Aborigines also, churches came into existence which powerfully affected the greater part of the entire population."

1. THE ORIGINS OF THE NAME "AUSTRALIA."

From 150 AD when Ptolemy showed a south land on his maps, the Latin word australis was used for regions south of the equator. In 1569 the great geographer Gerhardus Mercator used continens australis to refer to the supposed land south of Asia. In 1606 Pedro Fernandez de Quiros discovered Vanuatu, and, believing that the island on which he landed was part of the great southern continent, named it Australia del Espiritu Santo. In his memorial published in 1610, the name Australia incognita appeared on the title page and in 1612 the Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz published a book containing a Dutch translation of de Quiros's Memorial which rendered it as "Australia Incognita;" the earliest printed use of the word Australia.

In literature the words "Australia," began to be used from 1676, almost a century before Captain James Cook.

In the account (1773) of James Cook's voyage in HMS Endeavour, reference was made to de Quiros's discovery, but Cook believed this land to lie to the north east of his discovery, which he called "New South Wales". When Arthur Phillip received his commission as Governor in 1786 his jurisdiction was confined to the territory of New South Wales. Anything West of 135 degrees E. was called New Holland parts of which had been mapped by the Dutch. It was believed that an inland sea separated the eastern and western sides of the continent. Matthew Flinders, in his Voyage to Terra Australis (1814), wrote "Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term Terra Australis, it would have been to convert it into Australia". In April 1817, Governor Macquarie used the word "Australia" officially in his correspondence, thereby giving vice-regal approval.

The early colonist and explorer, W.C. Wentworth in his Statistical Account (1824) advocated the use of the name "Australia". Many books of the time indicate the word "Australia" had been accepted by the colonists. Generally there was an official reluctance to adopt the name in England, except by the Admiralty, the first governmental department to use the name officially in its publications.

2. THE MEANING OF THE NAME.

A Dutch explorer, Willem Janez, is reported to be the first European to have set foot on Australian soil. In 1606, Janez sailed south from New Guinea in the Duyfken "little dove". I have been on board the replica of this little dove. While searching for a southern route, Janez discovered Cape York Peninsula and charted 200 miles of the Australian coastline, without realising he had discovered a new continent. Discouraged by a shortage of supplies and the death of ten of his men in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Janez returned to Java without ever sighting the rich eastern coast. Like the dove that Noah let out of the Ark, the Duyfken caught glimpses of the land but did not find a permanent home. Australia's time had not yet come. It is interesting that the dove is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. As the gentle dove hovered over the waters of Noah's day, the Holy Spirit brooded over the southern continent, named "The Great Southland of the Holy Spirit by Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros in 1606.

De Quiros became the first explorer to lay claim to Australia. He was also a man with a heart for God. Between the 14th and 15th centuries the Spaniards began sending expeditions into the South Pacific.

Their purpose was to carry the Bible to these lands (as well as a quest for riches). This is borne out in a letter from a Spanish diplomat to King Phillip 111: "That no time be lost in discovering that Australia region so far unknown, so these people may have knowledge of the Gospel and be brought into Spiritual obedience." De Quiros gave this continent its name "La Australia del Espiritu Santo" or literally "Great Southland of the Holy Spirit". No other nation has ever been blessed with the name "Land of the Holy Spirit"!

One pre-Captain Cook map shows Australia's fictional east coast . It was a line from Van Diemen's Land to New Guinea including Espiritu Santo. The coastal note translates: "I suppose that the land of Van Diemen can join with the land of the Holy Ghost but this is without proof." An Dutch inscription on what was proposed as the North Queensland coast says "Land of the Holy Spirit discovered in 1606 by Fernandez de Quiros." Fernand De Quiros was a man of faith and great missionary zeal, being firmly convinced that the Lord had chosen him to discover and bring the Gospel to "terra australis". "From his youth he seems to have been caught up in the missionary enthusiasm of the age…He was a gentle spirit, one of God's chosen vessels bringing the gift of his holy faith. For Quiros, all men were the adopted children of God…He began to believe that he had been singled out by God as the vessel through whom the inhabitants of 'terra australis would be received into the church, and that 'terra australis' would be Australia del Espiritu Santo - a land dedicated to the Holy Spirit." (Article on de Quiros in Enciclopedia Italiana (1949) "The voyages of Pedro de Quiros" vol 1, pp 163-5).

Sailing into the waters of the South Pacific and sighting land de Quiros took possession, calling it the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. His actual proclamation was as follows: "Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those here present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in the name of Jesus Christ, hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ's person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of 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 Spirit and this always and forever to the end that to all natives, in all the said lands, the holy, sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly."

After the proclamation the ships' cannons roared and soldiers fired their muskets and de Quiros and his men shouted: "Long live the Faith of Christ!" Professor Manning Clark writes: "Then with a majestic sweep he reminded himself of his subjection to the ordinances of God, His high and sacred decrees, as well as the wishes of man. Whatever it was, whether obedience to the inscrutable decrees of Providence or the use of divine commands to justify the promptings of the heart. de Quiros came within an ace of discovering Australia and not for want of determination or faith. But God's will was otherwise disposed, it was left to other Europeans of another denomination to found and colonise white Australia." Soon the English and Dutch took advantage of his discoveries and launched their own expeditions in their quest to find the "South land of the Holy Spirit".

Many Australians today have a man-centred or humanistic national view. This is one of the main differences between our founding fathers and modern Australia, and is a major reason why our nation has such serious problems. Sir Henry Parkes, the Father of Federation, said: "We are pre-eminently a Christian people - as our laws, our whole system of jurisprudence, our Constitution are based upon and interwoven with our Christian belief." Sydney Morning Herald 26/8/1885

It was a Dutch Protestant, Abel Tasman, "the man who made the longest voyage since Magellan" who was the first European to sight Tasmania and New Zealand. A devout Christian, he sailed from Batavia on 14 August 1642. Instructions to Skipper Commander Abel Tasman reminded him of other famous explorers-Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama-who had preceded him. "What numberless multitudes of blind heathen have by the same been introduced to the blessed light of the Christian religion. May God Almighty vouchsafe His blessings on this work". Tasman made a second voyage in 1644, when he charted the coast of Australia from Cape York Peninsula west to Willems River in the centre of the west coast. If we look at a map of explorers prior to Cook, we see that while all of them headed straight for the Southland, they all sailed right around it! There are natural explanations-contrary winds and currents, but maybe God was waiting for another day, when an English Christian protestant, Captain James Cook should claim the land that became ours. We have a Christian heritage and we forget it at our peril. As Karl Marx wrote: "A people without a heritage are easily persuaded."

The Bible reminded God's people to remember their heritage, and to look to that land God is bringing us to. We have a heritage that shows God led Christians, Catholic and Protestant, to discover this land. We who live in it, have not only a Christian heritage, but a Christian destiny. This great Southland of the Holy Spirit was given to us by God, to prepare us for an even greater destiny, a land and a city yet to come. Our early fathers of the faith understood this promised land with its beautiful harbour and cities was not to be our final abode. For people of faith have a heavenly destiny.

As the Book of Hebrews explains after it mentions the great rollcall of famous believers: "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11.

For all people of faith, God has prepared for us a better land, a heaven for believers and a city of God where we will dwell with Him through all eternity. Do you have the faith to believe this? Will you enter your name on the citizenship list of heaven? We hold to our Christian heritage in Australia, but we look forward to our eternal destiny in Heaven. Join us in the best of both worlds, a citizen of the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit, and a citizen of Heaven.

REFERENCES.

  • South Land Of The Holy Spirit: E R Kotlowski 1994 J. Bell Pty Ltd
  • Discovering Australia's Christian C Stringer; Col Stringer Ministries Inc 2001
  • Australian Encyclopedia; Australian Geographic Pty Ltd 1996
Wesley Mission, Sydney.