On Friday our local member suggested that Australia is the land of opportunity where it’s possible to achieve anything you want. Not likely, you may be able to do much better than you think with determination and hard work, but ‘anything’ is a word we should never use without thinking.
Humans do not have free will. Free will implies infinite choices and by implication that denies the restrictions placed upon us all by time, space, intelligence, culture, knowledge and a million other things that shape us, our world and impinge on our ability to do what we want.
What humans have, is the ability to make choices between presenting, reasonable options. From a moral point of view choices can be broken into two camps those that God would approve of, and those that he wouldn’t.
For those who have not been born again, the problem is greatly complicated by the fact that they neither know or have concern for God’s preferences, so in a sense every choice they make whether it be good or bad will be displeasing to God because God does not feature in it.
What is intensely frustrating for the non-believer is that God’s children are capable of pleasing God with their choices, even if at times those choices are foolish or morally wrong. That’s because God is more concerned with attitude and intention than he is with outcome.
So it is possible for a Christian to do something really stupid and damaging to others and yet please God because he had genuinely sought to do what he thought was right. Naturally, the proof of the pudding will be seen in the way he acts the next time such a circumstance presents itself. If he is a child of God he will also be teachable and learn from his previous mistake.
Having said all that, Australia is still a land of opportunity. However it did not look that way to the convicts in 1788. For them it was a place of condemnation a constant reminder that they had transgressed the moral code of their country and were thus cast out. They had every reason to think of Australia as Hell on earth. Many remained bitter and recalcitrant, others gave up in despair and died without leaving a trace of their existence.
Edward and Anne Goodin came to Australia because they were thieves. He stole over 100 shillings worth of cloth and she stole three shillings worth of silver. They met in the colony and were married in St. James by Rev. Richard Johnson.
They would have cause to give thanks to the Judge at the Old Bailey many times because Australia presented them with a fresh start. They became successful farmers and respected citizens of the community at Kissing Point, near Ryde. Their graves now hold pride of place at St. Anne’s Ryde and their death certificates record them as ‘free settlers’.
The reason for their success is found in a tiny entry in the journal of the evangelist William Pascoe Crook. He records an evening of fine hospitality and “pleasing Christian conversation” had at the home of the Goodin’s on April 24th 1814. They would be a positive influence in our fledgling nation because they discovered that the grace of God presents sinners with opportunities to make better choices, no matter what their circumstances are.
They weren’t able to do anything they wanted, but they were able to do what God wanted and that made all the difference.