Chalmers: The Expulsive Power of a New Affection

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15-17)

There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world-either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment. . . .

Love may be regarded in two different conditions.

The first is, when its object is at a distance, and then it becomes love in a state of desire.

The second is, when its object is in possession, and then it becomes love in a state of indulgence….

Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart that it must have a something to lay hold of-and which, if wrested away without the substitution of another something in its place, would leave a void as painful to the mind as hunger is to the natural system. It may be dis- possessed of one object, or of any, but it cannot be desolated of all….

We know not a more sweeping interdict upon the affections of nature than that which is delivered by the apostle in the verse before us. To bid a man into whom there has not yet entered the great and ascendant influence of the principle of regeneration, to bid him withdraw his love from all the things that are in the world, is to bid him give up all the affections that are in his heart.

The world is the all of a natural man. He has not a taste nor a desire that points not to a something placed within the confines of its visible horizon. He loves nothing above it, and he cares for nothing beyond it; and to bid him love not the world, is to pass a sentence of expulsion on all the inmates of his bosom. . . .The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness….

But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascen- dency?.. . This, we trust, explains the operation of that charm which accompanies the effectual preaching of the gospel…

Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world, and with this peculiarity, which is all its own—that in the gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners—and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy, by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed mediator. It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw nigh unto God—and to live without hope is to live without God; and if the heart be without God, the world will then have all the ascendency. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendency.”

-Thomas Chalmers, from the sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.

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