The Christian Foundations of Australia

"There must be an amazing and unparalleled progress of the work and manifestation of divine power — to bring so much to pass, by the year 2000…. In the next whole century, the whole Heathen World should be enlightened and converted to the Christian faith throughout all parts of Africa, Asia, America and Terra Australis — and be thoroughly settled in Christian faith and order." All the emphases above are mine — F.N. Lee. Thus the great Jonathan Edwards — already around A.D. 1739!

From the first Britons who reached till the first who colonized Australia During the next decade, the Anglican Yorkshireman7 James Cook (1728-79) went to sea from Whitby.8 This is the very place where the godly Hilda had operated the famous Proto-Protestant Culdee Christian College, back in A.D. 660f.


7 CEANZ, I p. 198. 8 Wood: op. cit., pp. 24f; and esp. G. McLennan's Additional Notes (in his Understanding our Christian Heritage, Christian History Research Institute, Orange N.S.W., n.d., p. 25).


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In 1755, Cook joined the Royal Navy. There, when a captain, he never allowed profanity on board. There, he encouraged his men to wear clean clothes at divine worship on Sundays. Captain Cook's wife gave him a prayer-book, from which he named several places discovered on significant days — such as the Whitsundays, Trinity Bay, and the Pentecost Islands. Their son Hugh was just about to enter the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments — when he suddenly died as a young adult.

James Cook went to Canada in 1758, where he soon showed marvellous skill in mapmaking. By 1768 he was sailing to explore the South Pacific. In 1770, he annexed both the North Island and the South Island of New Zealand for Britain; discovered the east coast of Australia; sailed through the Great Barrier Reef opposite Queensland; and hoisted the British flag on Possession Island off Cape York, claiming the whole of the eastern coast of Australia for Britain. Accordingly, it is from no later than that very moment onward — that British Common Law began to operate 'Down Under.'

During his second voyage (1772-75), Captain Cook almost circumnavigated the World. This time, he bypassed the southern coast of Australia even south of the Antarctic Circle. After exploring the South Pacific, during 1777 he landed in Tasmania (thereby asserting Britain's authority there too). Therafter, he continued to chart the Pacific — and died during 1779 in Hawaii. That place, though now a Republic and part of the U.S.A., still brandishes Britain's Union Jack in the top left-hand corner of its own State Flag, to this very day.

The next year, 1780, the great British Jurist Sir William Blackstone died. This was just three years after Captain Cook had visited Tasmania — and only eight years before the establishment of the first permanent British Common Law Colony in Australia.

Well does University of Queensland Law Professor R.D. Lumb declare in his valuable book Australian Constitutionalism9 that it was left to Solicitor-General Sir William Blackstone — a Judge, Scholar and Parliamentarian — to portray the operation of the rights of Magna Carta. Indeed, it is beyond doubt that they were certainly the rights of eighteenth-century Englishmen — including those who from then on would settle in Australia.

Professor Lumb further explains that the "liberties of Englishmen" were considered to flow from the Common Law, as confirmed by Magna Carta. Blackstone considered that the Common Law reflected in broad outline the Natural Law which gave protection to these rights.10 Significantly, continues Lumb,11 Blackstone's Commentaries were published in 1765. That was less than a decade before Captain Cook proclaimed His Majesty's sovereignty over the Eastern Coast of Australia, and just a little more than twenty years before English Colonists permanently set foot on Australian soil. Blackstone's general outline of                                               

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