“There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world…” so begins Thomas Chalmers in his classic work “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” newly released in a ‘short classics’ edition by Crossway (with an excellent introduction by John Piper).
So what are these two ways? Chalmers goes on:
“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, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon not to resign an old affection, which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one. ” (1)
The point of the rest of the text is to argue that the former method is insufficient by itself and that only the latter is effective for believers. This is because the human heart must love something. That’s how people work. If you convince me that my love of donuts is wrong I might be able to set aside the next donut that falls into my hands (because that’s how donuts work, right?), but if I don’t replace it with something better that holds my affections more I’m either going to go back to donuts or switch to cookies or cake or pie or whatever other thing.
Or, to use the Biblical imagery,
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”” (Matthew 12:43-45)
Houses will not stay empty and people will not remain unattached to the objects of their affections. What we need, if we truly want to get rid of our love for the world, is a greater love in something better. This is found only in our love for God through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chalmers again:
“…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.” (51)
This short work is by turns convicting, encouraging, and absolutely worth your time. Highly recommended.