And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down…
Though the Lord's people are thinly scattered, and sometimes throughout large cities, yet they have a way of finding one another out. True religion is a magnet to draw their hearts together. Considering the text as descriptive of true conversion, it is —
I. A DIVINE WORK. It is said of the skill of the husbandman in opening the clods, etc., that "his God doth instruct him." How much more in breaking up the fallow ground of the sinner's heart, and sowing the seed of the kingdom! The heart is naturally shut: sin is shut in and Christ shut out. Prejudice, perverseness, and enmity are the bars and bolts that keep it shut. Ministers may knock at the door, but it is God alone that can open it.
II. GOD'S FIRST WORK. Impressions and convictions are common, but the opening of the heart is the effect of special grace and the commencement of true religion. Previous to this the soul is dead in trespasses and sins; and now it is that the Lord passes by and says, Live! Christ in the gospel lays the foundation of a sinner's hope; but it must be Christ in you that gives existence to the hope of glory.
III. AN INSTANTANEOUS WORK. In our apprehension it may be gradual, like Christ's opening the eyes of the blind man, who first saw men as trees walking, and afterwards, upon a fresh touch from His hand, all things clearly; but in itself the change is quick.
IV. A WORK EFFECTED IN A WAY PERFECTLY CONSISTENT WITH HUMAN LIBERTY. God opens the heart by engaging and inclining it to that which is good. The power is His, but the act is our own. Men are not driven but drawn. Divine influence is not compulsive, but attractive. God does not open the heart as man would open a passage into a strongly-fortified place, by planting a battery against it; but by "putting in His hand by the hole of the door," and then "our bowels are moved for Him" (Song of Solomon 5:4, 5; Hosea 2:14; Romans 3:20).
V. AN INTERNAL WORK. It is true, the ears are opened to instruction, the mouth in prayer and praise, the hands in acts of justice and benevolence, and the eyes to sea the odious nature of sin and the transcendent glory of the Saviour; but the opening of the heart is previous to all this, and is the cause of all these openings. God's first and principal work is to win the heart: the sinner's first and principal work is to give the heart to Him.
VI. THOUGH THE WORK ITSELF IS INVISIBLE, YET ITS EFFECTS ARE NOT SO. Grace cannot be seen but by its fruits. Where the heart is changed the conduct will be changed. New duties will result from new principles. Three blessed effects of God's opening the heart of Lydia are here mentioned.
1. "She attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."
2. She manifested her regard to the commands of our Saviour by being immediately baptized.
3. No sooner had she received Christ into her heart than she received His friends into her house; one door being opened, the other did not remain shut.
VII. AN ABIDING WORK. When the heart is once opened Christ takes possession of it, and says in effect, This is My rest: here will I dwell forever, for I have desired it (Hebrews 13:5).
VIII. A NECESSARY WORK. As we cannot be saved without the death of Christ, so neither without the work of the Spirit. More particularly —
1. Satan; that unclean spirit had usurped the dominion of our hearts, and it is necessary to deprive him of his power.
2. Our souls must be cleansed, and this is done by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
3. The heart must be opened in order to its being beautified and adorned with every grace.
4. By all these means the Lord makes us a fit habitation for Himself.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.