To people in the United States, Australia has ever been the land that is far off. As a matter of fact, it is as far away as any country on earth can be, on account of its being nearer antipodal to us than any other land. In our atlases its map generally occupies a small portion of one of the back pages, and the description is meager and incomplete. Consequently, in the minds of very many people it has, up to a recent date, existed in a vague, indistinct form. Its name caused visions of kangaroos and naked savages to arise in the mind. But within a few years the perfection of the means of travel and intercommunication has brought the remote portions of the earth very much nearer the centers. Indeed, it does not require so great an outlay of time and comfort to reach Australia, or even to circumnavigate the globe, in these days, as it did to cross the Atlantic in 1850. In consequence, the volume of travel is very greatly increased. Multitudes are going hither and thither all over the earth. To go around the world in these days does not present as formidable considerations as it did to go from Chicago to California in the days before the iron horse had crossed the plains.
The results of this remarkable revolution in modes of conveyance are notable in many respects. Formerly generation after generation lived and died without going out of sight of their native hills. Under these circumstances, the languages were molded into dialects peculiar to the various localities. It was quite easy by the speech of an Englishman to distinguish the county in which he was born, if he happened to stray from it, and even in America the peculiar talk of a Yankee, a Southerner, or a Westerner might easily be discerned. Under the present state of things, these distinctions are disappearing, gradually, it is true, but yet perceptibly. Then, too, the different portions of the earth are becoming acquainted with each other, and this will certainly result in a more brotherly feeling between those of various nationalities, and this, too, we already very happily discern. It manifests itself in a greatly increased interest in missionary affairs. Nor is this manifestation confined to Christendom, for, strange tosay, within the last few years the Orient has caught the same spirit, and the religious systems of the East are seeking to reciprocate the efforts of Christianity by sending their messengers to our shores. Already we have in various centers of Christian light the representatives of the teachings of Mohammed, Gautama, Confucius, and other earth-born philosophers.
Under the prevailing circumstances, our knowledge of the world is greatly increasing, and new avenues of thought and investigation are opening up. As we contemplate this state of things, the mind irresistibly goes to the words of the prophet Daniel, where, speaking of the time of the end, he says that “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Dan. 12 : 4. There never was a time when these words were so strikingly fulfilled as in what we witness everywhere to-day. In every direction trains and steamers are rushing with ever-augmenting crowds of people running to and fro. This commingling of men, this free intercourse between different and distant parts of the earth,- produces necessarily an extraordinary activity of mind, and an increase of knowledge is the necessary result. Upon no other topics is investigation more active than upon those themes which are directly connected with the Bible, and far greater light surrounds the sacred Word to-day than ever before. This fact in its turn promotes the spirit of brotherhood, for as men come to know more of the Bible, they will better realize the claims which their fellow-men have upon them. The spirit of the Bible is a spirit of helpfulness and uplifting. God in his providence has led the minds of men to invent and improve the means of travel, as the spirit of Bible philanthropy leads Christian men and women to utilize these means for the spread of scriptural truth and the knowledge of the way of salvation in Christ. At the same time, Satan seizes his opportunity to scatter darkness, sin, and crime by the same means, and he does not fail to improve it.
The first glimpse we obtain of anything that belongs to Australia, as we approach Sydney will soon include the famous light-house that stands at the Heads, or entrance of the harbor. Its light is one of the most celebrated in the world, and can be seen fifty miles out on the sea. When on shipboard, the only desideratum is to get to land, and when at last the headlands appear in the distance, there is an early preparation made for the happy disembarkation, in order that not a moment may be lost in getting the feet on terra firma. Having made the aforesaid preparations, let us take a seat upon the upper deck, where we can watch the rapidly developing outlines of this new land.
Numerous craft are passing in and out of the harbor. A few miles to the south is the entrance to Botany Bay, which has the unenviable, world-wide reputation of being the home of the penal colony. As a matter of fact, all the notoriety given it by common report does not belong to this particular location. The first party of criminals deported from Great Britain to Australia reached Botany Bay in 1787, but it was supplanted in a very short time by the discovery of Port Jackson, now Sydney Harbor. Still, the name of the penal settlement remains identified with its first location, and not only so, but Botany Bay has become a generic term, in which is embraced the entire enterprise of criminal deportation to Australia. As soon as the country assumed sufficient strength to protest, it raised such a cry against this unfortunate practice that it was in a short time discontinued, but it has left its reproach upon Australia. Most unwisely was it inflicted, and it is unjustly perpetuated in the minds of some who thereby entertain false impressions of Australian society.
The entrance to Port Jackson is a narrow strait between high walls of rocks. From the south cliff may be seen the fortifications and cannon which guard the harbor, and in case an enemy attempted to enter, several similar forts and cannon, for there are a number of them, would no doubt wake up to take a hand in the reception. But we enter peaceably, without a challenge from the sentinels upon the ramparts, and now a beautiful scene opens to view. The harbor broadens from the entrance to an irregular width of perhaps two miles. On either side are deep indentations and bold promontories. The banks are not lofty, and often slope to the water carpeted with living green. Here and there beautiful villas and gardens appear. It is six miles to the city, and the stranger almost wishes he had eyes in every side of his head, because he wants to look every way at once. The harbor is full of crafts great and small, some are putting out to sea, some, like ourselves, are coming in from distant ports, some are ferries and pleasure boats. On the shores are the suburbs of Paddington and North Sydney. Here and there are islands and beautiful bays, and on the left is the ever-luxuriant Botanical Gardens, covering many acres and containing the government residence. The ship glides to its pier in Circular Quay, and we are soon in Australia. A crowd is gathered on the wharf, they look just like the people we have left, and among them we soon discern our own dear friends.
The uninitiated traveler is generally filled with a feeling little short of amazement as he views these Australian cities. Having started from some of the world’s great centers, and now reached the antipodes, he expects to find many things q uite the reverse of what he is accustomed to at home. So he will, but generally he expects to find crudeness, an absence of civilized thrift, and towns that are following, afar off, the fag-end of progress and enlightenment. His very first view of any of the half-dozen leading cities of Australia will scatter that idea, and drive it so far from his mind that he will almost declare that he never entertained it.
He finds Sydney a busy city of over four hundred thousand people. This, of itself, is a great surprise to the new comer: As he traverses the streets, he finds them beautifully paved, and many times cleaner than any street he ever saw in New York, Chicago, or many of the other great cities in the United States. The buildings are modern in style, and though not as lofty as many seen in American cities, they are ornate, attractive, and very substantial. He will find streetcars in Sydney, though the streets are crowded with omnibuses running on regular lines, all carrying passengers at fares that are graded according to the distance, from a penny to a threepence. If his point of destination is any of the distant suburbs, he goes to the railway station, where a system of steam trains is found by which he may comfortably and cheaply reach his destination. As he passes though the retail business part of town, he notices that more pains is taken in arranging attractive displays in windows than he has been accustomed to witnessing, and also that more time is taken by the passers-by to -view exhibitions than is done in rushing America, where a man, if he should be seen going leisurely along, looking at pleasant sights, would almost lose his reputation of being a man of business, and perhaps be looked upon as a very undignified person, on account of condescending to such trifles. All classes do it in Australia, however, and especially upon Saturday evenings, when the principal streets of every large town are literally packed with people, and everybody, with his wife and children, is out, seemingly simply bent on seeing what he can see.