Australia Day – the Good News amid bad news

Australia Day – the Good News amid bad news

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Australia Day – the Good News amid bad news

Renewal Journal – a chronicle of renewal and revival:


They sailed into Sydney Cove on 26 January, 1788, bringing the Good News about Jesus Christ to Australia.

Amid the bad news of broken agreements and local wars, the Gospel of God’s everlasting Kingdom for all people took root in Australia. One of it’s strongest revivals occured among Aboriginal people.
See Australian Aboriginal Revival

Australia Day and Psalm 116:12-13

Article by Rev John Wyndham

At 11.00am Sunday 3 February, 1788, a young Church of England clergyman stood under “a great tree” beside Sydney Cove [probably near what is now the junction of Bridge & Pitt Streets]. His name was Richard Johnson.

He was sponsored by the Eclectic Society led by John Newton and John Venn (eventual founder of the Church Missionay Society) amongst others.  In 1786, Richard Johnson was appointed chaplain by Royal Charter of what was to become the settlement of New South Wales a year before the First
Fleet sailed for Botany Bay.

Seated before Richard Johnson as he led the service of Morning Prayer on that Sunday were
Governor Arthur Phillip and other leaders of the new settlement. Standing behind in ranks were the
convicts, the soldiers of the NSW Marine Corps, and the sailors, all spruced up, according to the
records. So began the first Christian service on Australian soil.

Richard Johnson took as his text, Psalm 116:12-13
What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.  [KJV]

It was particularly appropriate for the occasion as the verse reflects the experience of someone who has undergone severe and repeated sufferings but has survived to give thanks to God for his safe deliverance. From verses 1-9, it is obvious David had been through a time of great stress and danger that drove him to despair. But, as he cried out to the Lord, God delivered him.

1 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
4 Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

So, eight days after the eleven ships of what we now call the First Fleet anchored in Sydney Cove
with everyone full of questions about the future, without a church or a pulpit, Richard Johnson
offered thanksgiving to God for their safe delivery from the tempestuous seas.

The largest ship, HMS Sirius, at 464 tonnes was less than half the size of the old Manly ferry South Steyne.  The eight-and-a-half-month voyage had been a tough one with wild seas and strong winds. The ships had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Rio de Janeiro, then south east across the same ocean to Cape Town. From Cape Town the route had been across the southern Indian Ocean with the wild Roaring Forties to south of Van Dieman’s Land [modern Tasmania], up the east coast of the mainland to Botany Bay and then on to Port Jackson. Richard Johnson’s wife Mary became so sick it was feared she would die. Her unborn child did. Yet, 96% of the nearly 1500 passengers and crews survived.

Johnson would very likely have drawn his congregation’s attention to the way in which the
experience of those who had arrived in the First Fleet was parallel to the experience of the psalmist. His passion for souls would have urged them to respond to God’s benefits in the way David did as he answered the question of verse 12 with verse 13 –
I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.

Marine officer and future author Watkin Tench wrote that the behaviour of both the troops and
convicts was “equally regular and attentive”. He further wrote that “at the conclusion of the service,
the entire congregation knelt and dedicated the new colony to God in prayer.”
So, what does this all mean for us?  Despite the distress many are feeling, despite the mess that the world is in and the instability around us, despite the fact that some of us are struggling with health and family issues, we are so blessed by the Lord. Surely, our response should be that of the Psalmist – “I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.“

To take the cup of salvation is an act of worship and so in further worship, like David, we are to call
upon the name of the LORD. We should utter praise, thanksgivings and prayers, and drink of the
cup which the Lord has filled with his saving grace. On His table of infinite love stands a cup full of blessing. It is ours to take in our hand by faith, to make it our own, to partake of it, and then with joyful hearts to praise and magnify the gracious One who has filled it for our sakes that we may drink and be refreshed.

We can do this figuratively at the Lord’s Table as we partake of Holy Communion. We can do it
spiritually every time we grasp the golden chalice of the covenant, realising the fulness of blessing
which it contains, and by faith receiving its divine contents into our inmost soul.

As verses 16-19 of the Psalm say,
O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD – in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.

Beloved, let us take a long and deep draught from the cup which Jesus filled, and then with devout
hearts let us worship God afresh.
Let us call upon the name of the Lord
And, let us rededicate our nation in prayer.



The Australian flag from Federation in 1901 includes four crosses: three in the Union Jack plus stars of the Southern Cross. The Union Jack has:
The red St George’s Cross of England
The white diagonal St Andrew’s Cross of Scotland
The red diagonal St Patrick’s Cross of Ireland

See also

Australian Aboriginal Revival


Eternity – Arthur Stace


From Hatred to Love: 10 guns to kill Billy Graham in Melbourne
How God transformed a brutal Australian gang leader


The Life of Jesus – Blog
The Life of Jesus – free PDF eBook













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