A New Affection

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a minister in the Church of Scotland, in Volume 6 of his Works, wrote a discourse on the text in 1 John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The title of the discourse was “the Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” He began by saying, that there are two ways that we can deal with the love of the world, which so often fills our hearts and leads us to do things that are not pleasing to God. We can either renounce the world (just stop doing that stuff) or we can replace love for the world with a new love that is even stronger.  It is this latter method that he emphasizes because he believes that renouncing an old affection leads to nothing but legalism and disappointment.  In fact, he says that the love of the world cannot be expunged from our hearts by a mere recognition of its worthlessness or by an act of renunciation. It has to be replaced by a love of that which is more worthy than itself. Chalmers very perceptively acknowledges that our human nature is such that it must have a Master; even if the tyrant that sits on the throne of our hearts leads us to self destructive behavior, we will try and keep him there rather than face the prospect of being empty. It is “impossible… for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness…the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one.” And what is this new affection that has expulsive power? It comes to us in the Gospel. “It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ…when He stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended lawgiver and when we are enabled by faith, which is His own gift, to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and to hear His beseeching voice, as it protests good will to men, and entreats the return of all who will to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance. It is then, that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerated bosom.” It is as we see the extent to which God the Father loved us in God the Son that God the Spirit pours a greater and more predominant affection into our hearts. Such a new affection delivers our heart from the tyranny of its former desires. As Bernard of Clairvaux wrote in the last verse of the hymn we will probably sing on Good Friday, “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end. O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for Thee.” Amen.

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