And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us…
Whose heart the Lord opened. Describe the joy that St. Paul must have felt in this first sign of the Divine blessing attending his labors in a new sphere. If God was with him, opening the hearts of the people, then his labor could not be in vain. Review the circumstances under which the apostle had been brought to Philippi - the night vision at Macedonia, etc. Explain that Philippi was the first city, regarded geographically, not politically. Show the distinction between a synagogue and a proseucha. Commend St. Paul's sabbath habits; and describe the scene at the river's side. It is interesting to note that the first Christian convert made in Europe was a woman, and a most important part of the work of Christianity in Europe has been the elevation of woman. Fixing attention on the sentence taken for a text, we notice -
I. THE BRINGING OF A SOUL TO CHRIST IS THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT. The Lord, the Spirit, is the Opener of hearts. Such opening is the necessary beginning of the work of grace. Mother, friend, minister, have the simple power of agency; none of them can, by any endeavors, reach to the heart and effect the saving change. Illustrate by the way in which the florist produces new colors and new varieties of flower. He carefully puts the pollen grains on the top of the pistil, but he cannot get them down the pistil to fructify the seeds below. The mysterious power of nature can alone accomplish that. Or illustrate by the peculiar kind of stone which may be smashed to pieces, but, if set aright to the blow, will split into useful slabs. God alone can set men right for the influence of the preached Word. It is our duty to bring saving truth and sinful souls together, but with the Lord alone is the opening to receive. Show how this may become an encouragement to all Christian workers who can see that God is working with them, and that in some of those whom they seek to bless the work of grace is evidently begun.
II. GOD THE SPIRIT HAS VARIOUS WAYS OF BRINGING SOULS TO CHRIST. That which describes the work of grace in the heart of Lydia is not said of any one else it was just the way in which the Spirit was pleased to deal with her. We find that in creation God always acts on fixed principles, but he is never trammeled by the necessity for expressing those principles in fixed forms. Landscapes, plants, trees, countenances, minds, all take form upon definite and invariable vegetable, or animal, or mental laws; but no two of them are alike in their form. Infinite diversity is quite compatible with vital unity. It is equally true in the new creation. God has laid down certain principles on which the return of souls to him must be arranged. There must be
but the exact way in which these are to find expression is left undefined. Show, then, how improper it must be to make any one man's experience a necessary model for another man; and consequently how injurious Christian biographies may become to young seekers after God, if such seekers take up the idea that they must think and feel and act precisely as others have done. The workings of the Divine Spirit in man are divinely free.
III. THE GENTLENESS AND THE GRACE OF DIVINE DEALINGS ARE SEEN IN THE ADAPTATION OF METHODS OF CONVERSION TO INDIVIDUALS. Some can only hear God when he speaks in the loud tones of earthquake, storm, or fire. But it is equally true that others pay no heed until there comes to them the "still small voice; "and therefore the voices of God are so graciously varied to men. Illustrations of the variety and adaptation of God's methods may be taken from Scripture. Shepherds from the Bethlehem plains were guided to the infant Savior by direction of the holy angels; and star-gazing Magi were guided by the sign of the heavenly light. Godless and persecuting King Manasseh was humbled in the dust, put in a prison-house, and prepared by affliction to listen to his fathers' God. The eunuch of Queen Candace was led by Divine providence, and prepared by studious and meditative habit, to see in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah-Savior of Old Testament prophecy. St. Paul was brought to faith by a sudden and overwhelming revelation suited to convince a man of so impulsive a character. The jailor at Philippi was broken down by terror, and plucked from the very edge of a self-inflicted death. And Lydia felt the constraining power of the story of the Crucified. In each case the grace of Divine dealing may be shown in the adaptation to character and circumstances. Apply to:
1. Those who have long known the power of God opening their hearts to the truth. What is now needed is the full acceptance of faith.
2. Those just conscious of new feelings and desires. Whence do they come? They must be the Spirit working in you. Whither do they tend? Surely to the faith in Christ that saves.
3. Those who fear that they have had no inward movings of the Spirit of God. Perhaps they are only unnoticed. Maybe that even now you are ready to hear of Christ, the living Savior, who wants your love and trust. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.