Thursday, October 23, 2008

Objection 13: Opening the Heart – Whitby’s refutation of Arguments in favor of irresistible grace

OBJECTION THIRTEEN. " 'The Lord opened the heart of Lydia;' therefore conversion is wrought by his immediate impulse and powerful influence." (Acts 16:14)

ANSWER FIRST. That God inclined her to do this, is not denied. The question only is, whether he did this by an extraordinary and irresistible influence. And this it seems reasonable to deny; for either she alone was 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 be under a necessity of not believing, and so it could not be blameworthy in them that they did not believe.

ANSWER SECOND, ' To open the heart', and ' to open the ear' are scripture-phrases of like import; for the effect of both is the same, viz. the rendering the person willing and inclined to do the thing. See 1 Chronicles 17:25, Psalm 40:6.

now this God is sometimes said to do when he awakens men by his afflicting hand; for thus speaks Elihu, ' if they be bound in fetters, and held in cords of affliction, he opens their ear to discipline, he opens their ears in oppression;' (Job 36:8,13,15) and yet these things can only do it by awakening men to consider of their ways.

And sometime., he does it by the preaching of the word: for as they who are taught by the word, or the example of God, are said to be ' taught of God;' so they who have their hearts affected with it, and inclined by it to what is good, may be said properly enough to have their hearts opened by it. Thus our Lord represents himself as ' knocking at the door of men's hearts' by the preachers of his word, and the suggestions of his Spirit; but entering only when men open their hearts to receive him.

In short, God is here said ' to open the heart of Lydia,' not to believe, but only to attend to the things spoken' by St. Paul; that is, to weigh, and seriously consider of the greatness of the blessings promised to believers, viz. remission of sins, and eternal life; and that attention produced this faith in her.

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