Part 2
Chapter 4—Of Efficacious Grace

Section 10—Acts 16:14.

Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things that were spoken of Paul.

The heart of man is naturally shut up against God and Christ, and every thing that is spiritually good; and nothing less than divine power can open it, nor any other but he that have the key of the house of David, that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth (Rev. 3:7); which proves that conversion is God's work, and wrought by the power of his grace. In answer to which,

1. It is owned,[1] that "God inclined Lydia to do this; but the only question is said to be, whether he did it by any extraordinary and irresistible influence? This it seems reasonable to deny." But, why should it seem reasonable to deny it? Surely, that action which overcomes resistance, and takes out of the way every thing that obstructs, must needs have an irresistible influence. Now, such is this action of opening a poor sinner's heart; it overcomes the opposition within, and removes that which shut, and kept the heart shut to every thing that is spiritually good, and, therefore, must be done by an irresistible influence. Our author proceeds, and reasons thus: "Either she alone was ajxi>a, prepared, disposed, and fitted to receive this influence, and then she had done something already towards her conversion; or if it were absolutely necessary that; she might believe, and yet she alone, though no more fitted or prepared for it than the rest, received it; the other auditors for want of this extraordinary influence, must lie under a necessity of not believing; and so it could not be blame-worthy in them, that they did not believe." I reply, whether Lydia was the only person or no converted, at this time, is not certain, no mention is made of any other; and that she was fitted and disposed to receive this influence does not appear, no not from her being sebome>nh to<n Qeo<n, one that worshipped God; for in Antioch there were many of these sebome>nwn gunai~kwn, devout and honorable women, who were so far from being fitted and disposed to believe, that they raised a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts (Acts 13:50). And had she been fitted, prepared, and disposed to receive this influence, it does not follow that she had done something towards her conversion, since this might be, and yet no conversion; and, besides, this disposition might be of God, and not of herself. On the other hand it is urged, if she was no more fitted for it than others, and yet received it, the rest, for want of it, must lie under a necessity of not believing, and so could not be blamed for their unbelief. But it should be observed, that though such is the condition of man by the fall, that he cannot believe in Christ, without the powerful influence of divine grace, which God is not obliged to communicate; yet, it is not the withholding of that influence, or denying that grace, which lays him under a necessity of not believing, but it is the corruption of his nature that lays and holds him in the chains of unbelief; and, therefore, his unbelief is not to be imputed to the want of this powerful influence, which God is not obliged to give, but to the vitiosity and wickedness of his heart, on which account he is justly blame-worthy.

2. It is alleged,[2] that "to open the heart,and to open the ear,are Scripture phrases of like import; for the effect of both is the same, namely, the rendering the person willing and inclined to do the thing. Now this God sometimes does by his afflicting hand, and sometimes by the preaching of the word; so that they, who have their hearts affected with, and inclined by it to what is good, may be said properly enough to have their hearts opened by it." To which I reply, that both the opening of the ear and of the heart are God's acts, and not man's: and, though God sometimes does these things by afflictions, and by the preaching of the word, as moral instruments, yet neither the one nor the other will ever produce them, without the mighty power of his Spirit and grace accompanying them: and, whereas it is said, that such who have their hearts affected with the word, and inclined by it to that which is good, may be said to have their hearts opened by it. But who, or what is it that gives and produces this affection and inclination? All that hear it are not affected with it, and inclined by it: to what else can this be ascribed, but to the powerful and efficacious grace of God?

3. It is observed,[3] that "God is here said to open the heart of Lydia,not to believe, but only prose>cein, to attend to the things spoken of Paul; that is, to weigh and seriously consider of the greatness of the blessings promised to believers, namely, remission of sins and eternal life; and that attention produced faith in her." I reply, that it is true, that faith comes by hearing,and attending to what is heard; but it is neither hearing nor attention that produces faith, but the grace and power of God: hence it is said to be the work of God, and of the operation of God (John 6:22; Col. 2:12). And, if such an act of God's grace and power, as the opening of the heart, is necessary, to a proper, profitable, and useful attention to the word, and to a serious consideration of the blessings of it; how much more necessary must it be to the work of conversion, to true saving faith in Christ?


[1] Whitby, p. 285; ed. 2. 278.

[2] Whitby, p. 285, 286; ed. 2.279.

[3] Ibid.

Gill Index