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to be blamed for undertaking in any proper way to open the heart of his child to just impressions of his duty. But this is just the case of all the stout-hearted towards God. It is not inability, but willfulness-it is not ignorance, but selfishness, that leads them to shut their hearts against the voice of God. Let this be remembered, and who will think hard of any one but themselves, if
"The transformation of apostate man
From fool to wise, from earthly to divine,
Is work for Him that made him."
III. But another important fact appears in this history of Lydia's conversion, relating TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES in which this opening of closed hearts is effected.
When this is declared to be the work of God, it is regarded by some as justifying the inference that human effort in the case is useless; and that the opening, as it depends on God, can be made in one place as well as another. But this is the language of a thoughtless, if not a bitter caviller. So the truly thoughtful never reason. It is forbidden by the clear light shed over the whole subject from the circumstances attending Lydia's conversion. WHERE was it that her heart was opened?—and, by what MEANS? It was at a PRAYER MEETING, and by MEANS of the truth that Paul preached there. In all this can you discover any violation of the laws of free agency, or any thing justifying the inference in regard to the uselessness of means?
Let us recur to our former illustration-the case of a froward child. Why is he so disobedient? It is because he loves his own selfish pleasure more than the duty he owes to his parents. This is precisely the state of feeling which every sinner cherishes towards God. He loves the gratifications of self-indulgence, and intensely dislikes the healthy self-denials of Christian duty. He is unwilling, therefore, to conform his will to the infinitely better will of God. Now in the case of the child, it is obvious to all that if the father undertakes to open his heart and subdue his stubbornness, he must do it by the use of appropriate means; and yet, that whatever the means, whether the application of the rod, or the voice of persuasion, or the cutting language of reproof, the child was active and voluntary through the whole process, though the father opened his heart. In the day of the father's power, if I may so use the language of Scripture, the child was made willing to do his duty. Now it is precisely thus that God deals with the rebellious and froward in opening their hearts-by the judgments of his rod, or by the melting voice that comes from Calvary. And all the while they bear about the consciousness that they can open or shut their hearts to truthful impressions, just as they please; that they can read the Biblego to the place of prayer and be thoughtful, or they put the
Bible aside, and go to places of mirth, and be thoughtless, just as they please. And when, go where they will, they do not succeed in drowning the still small voice, and hushing the terrible voice of guilt; and when this pressure on the conscience becomes at length so great as to bring them openly to ask, What shall we do? there is still the clear consciousness of acting freely. And when they bow to the supremacy of God, and their hearts are opened to receive the pardon and justification of free grace, they never complain of any forceful influence, nor do they say, Our own arm hath gotten the victory-but, "Not unto us-not unto us, but to thy name give glory for thy mercy and thy truth's sake." Thus all along was there an awakened, active mind, conscious freedom, while the Spirit of God begat them unto a lively hope with the word of truth.
Still God is not confined to one method of operation. In Lydia's case, the means seemed like the gentle rain-in Paul's, there was the sterner voice of the storm; in the Jailor's at Philippi, the earthquake that shook the prison, combined its voice with the truth that shook his soul. In every conversion recorded in the Bible, there was an apprehension of danger-great seriousness, and earnest inquiry after the way to be saved, while the caviller as such, and the disputer of this world, and the thoughtless infidel continued as before dead in trespasses and sins, thus proving that though God begets us of his own will, it is always with the word of truth; and that, too, in such a way as to demand the active co-operation of those who do not receive the grace of God in vain.
It was thus with Lydia. She went to the prayer ineeting and heard Paul preach; and there the Lord opened her heart with the truth which had been commended to her judgment and conscience. Oh, if she had been a trifler there; or if she had been engrossed with a fascinating novel, or if she had stayed away, do you not fully believe that her history would have been as dark with selfishness as now it is radiant with the light of truth and love?
IV. And now we come to the CONSEQUENCES of this opening of her heart.
The first noticeable effect was, an earnest attention to the word.
"Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the things that were spoken of Paul." If listless before, she was attentive now. She heard as for her life. The word met a felt want of her soul. The same effect is seen wherever divine influence is felt. The Gospel all at once is heard, as it was never heard before. It is heard as a message of life or death to the soul. It is impossible to be indifferent when the hope of heaven first dawns on the soul. When the Lord opens the heart, evil passions are driven out, and a satisfying good enters. A new world opens
new thoughts are awakened-new joys speak. No wonder the eye is attentive to the publisher of such good tidings; no wonder the ear is greedy of the ravishing sound of praise and salvation.
This breathless attention to the word we have all witnessed; and it was marvellous in our eyes. O come the Sabbath day, and the solemn assembly, where the like attentiveness shall attest the presence and power of the Holy Spirit!
The next effect of Lydia's conversion was her public profession of religion, and the baptism of herself and her household.
She entered in due timeinto covenant with God and his people, and had the seal of the covenant applied to her children.
Such an effect should follow in every case of conversion. The heart, which the Lord has opened, will pine if kept too long away from the ordinances of his house. It will begin to close, and continue to close its door to the truth, if there be a thoughtless refusal to appoint a suitable day for the public espousals to Christ. The sacramental bread and wine are needed for its nourishment in the divine life. "My flesh," said Christ, "is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." Yes, every converted soul needs to take into his own hands the memorials of that broken body and shed blood-needs the restraints as well as the stirring influence of a public profession of religion! Else, being disobedient, the light of hope will soon become dim-the prospect will be cloudy, and lacking the usual enjoyment-the soul will begin to backslide the cravings of a still very imperfectly sanctified heart after worldly good will again be felt, and thus years of decline and comparative uselessness will come and go, and perhaps death ensue, and there be no illumination of hope around the death shade. How much better for every convert to do as Lydia did, and join the church of Christ, resolved henceforth to be a shining light!
And may I not appeal to some of my readers who have for years indulged the hope of pardon without confessing Christ before men, for proof that you are losers by it on the score of growth and activity in the divine life? Do you not find the light for which you were waiting, moving farther off, and the evidence of your piety becoming more indistinct, and the joys of your first love seeming like a dream, and temptations to go astray multiplying and gaining strength? Indeed, how can it be otherwise? Not to do the things that Christ commands is to play into the hands of the evil one-it is to fill the mind with doubt and the heart with unbelief, and to paralyze the energies of the soul in the way of well doing. Does not all this prove that the Lord has a controversy with you? O think of it, lest a deeper darkness gather around you, and the sorrows of a hopeless death-bed be yours. Think of Lydia, and imitate her promptness in obeying the calls of duty.
And here let us thank God that the children of believers are
not forgotten in the provisions of his mercy, and that they are permitted to be associated with their parents in the privileges of the everlasting covenant first made with the father of the faithful. Believers in Christ are described as the children of Abraham, and of course have an interest in the covenant which spread the wing of its grace over his household. This privilege Lydia and those who acted with her seemed to appreciate. Not a word is said about her children's conversion; and yet no sooner was she converted and baptized, than her household were baptized also. It seemed to be regarded as a matter of course-an effect sure to follow the cause supposed. And indeed who would wish to have it otherwise, and thus to divide households and separate parents and children-an idea abhorrent to the Jewish mind, and, as it seems to us, to the mind of God. Is this promise nothing "I will be a God to thee and to thy seed after thee?" So Lydia did not feel; and so may we never feel.
Another consequence of the opening of Lydia's heart to Christianity, was the manifestation of a benevolent, self-sacrificing spirit.
"If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord," she said to Paul and his associate, "come into my house and abide there." And the historian adds, "She constrained us." Yes, faithfulness to the Lord always brings with it largeness of heart. She so prized the gospel as the regeneration of society, as well as of individual hearts, that she cheerfully gave bed and board to its preachers at Philippi. She would not be denied the privilege— "She constrained us." The religion that does not make men benevolent and self-sacrificing for the general good, is not the religion of Lydia--it is not the religion of Christ. It is only profession without principle--it is a name-not a power. And herein is a test, by which we may know whether we are in the
And here I should close, were it not that two inferences are presented so clear, and at the same time so important that I cannot forbear the statement and a brief illustration of them.
1. The one is, that God moves first in regeneration.
Nothing is said as to the nature and source of the impulse that led Lydia to that prayer meeting by the river's side; it may have been the force of early education-it may have been mere curiosity-and it may have been the persuasive, though unconsciousinfluence of the Holy Spirit. But when there, she made no advance in a Christian education till the Lord opened her heart. He moved first in the change, which ever afterwards was her chief joy, and is now the crown of her rejoicing in heaven.
So now God moves first in the regenerating process. heart is of its own accord opened to Christ, though he stands at the door and knocks till his hair is wet with the dews of night. And it was not till after a thorough and conclusive trial had been
made that he publicly declared the fact, and the reason. will not come unto me that ye might have life." "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." And then he endorses the truth which came out so clearly in Lydia's conversion-that God moves first-by the words, "No man can come unto me except the Father which sent me draw him."
Let any impartial man who doubts this try his own heart, and see if it will yield to the strongest religious motives that he can bring to bear upon it. Let him say to his soul, in view of the judgment and its final issues, "Yield now to the just supremacy of thy Maker, and to the grace that is in Christ Jesus, forsaking every sin. Thy race will shortly be run, and every hour thou art in danger till thy peace is made with God." Now what is the effect of an appeal so truthful, so impressive as this? Does his heart cheerfully yield the throne to God, and crucify its lusts? O no. It still lies heavy there, just like a rock of ice-its idols are all retained, even while it quakes with its fearful looking-for of judgment and the fiery indignation which is to follow. No. He will not come unto Christ that he might have life.
So the Bible exhibits the fact in the parable of the Supper, from which the invited guests all with one consent begged to be excused, and that, too, for reasons the most frivolous, though the real reason was not given-that they did not wish to come.
Hence it is evident that God, and not man, moves first in the work of regeneration, and the necessity for it is the sinner's own fault, since it is only his own stubbornness and intense aversion. to truth and purity that makes the help of the Holy Spirit so indispensable.
2. The other inference to which I alluded, as clearly springing from the history of Lydia, is, that it is not a matter of indifference, as is sometimes alleged, whether we attend religious meetings or not.
What if Lydia, on the morning of that day in which the Lord opened her heart to the impressions of the Gospel, had reasoned, as many since have falsely reasoned, on this wise-"If I am elected to be saved, the event is certain, do what I will; if not, I shall be lost, do what I can to prevent, and therefore I will not attend the prayer meeting this morning by the river side. I will rather seek for gratification in such scenes of amusement as this city affords;" is it not morally certain that the effect would have been widely different from what it was? Bearing in mind this general principle laid down by James, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," we cannot but think that her conversion turned on her hearing the Gospel; and hence that it was not a matter of indifference whether she attended religions meetings or not, or whether she trifled or not while there. To shun the place of prayer--to avoid that hearing of Christianity, by