Only a New Love Can Give Victory Over the World

by Thomas Chalmers

Only a New Love Can Give Victory Over the World

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was a preacher for several years before he became a Christian-and when that fundamental change occurred, his message changed simultaneously, and his effectiveness as a minister of the gospel soared He was ordained into the (subsidized) Church of Scotland in 1803, but was more interested in mathematics than he was in preaching or shepherding his flock. But after genuinely meeting Christ in 1811, people began to flock to hear his sermons, and many lives were changed. Such success followed his move to a large industrial parish in Glasgow that at one place where he preached the crowd was so thick that he had to climb in through a window to reach the pulpit. Often on Sundays he would preach to 3,000 people in each of several services. "His most strenuous spiritual exercise was fighting against the pride and vanity that tempted him because of his popularity," noted one biographer.

Increasingly unhappy with the moral state of the institutional church, Chalmers led a revolt in 1843 to establish the Free Church of Scotland, becoming moderator of the Free Church and professor and principal of the newly-founded Free Church College in Edinburgh.

"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).

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, or by setting forth another object-God-so much more attractive that the heart is moved to exchange its old love for a new one.

My purpose is to show that the first method cannot work, and that the latter method will alone suffice for the rescue and recovery of the heart.

Reasoning power alone will never suffice-and this is true even when considering a change in the heart's affections between various worldly attractions. It is thus, for example that the boy ceases at length to be the slave of his appetite, because a more adult taste, such as a desire for wealth, supplants it. And the love of money may be subordinated by the love of power.

But in all these changes, the heart is never left without an object of desire. Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart that it must have something to lay hold of. The heart abhors a vacuum, and removing one desire without replacing it with another would leave a void and vacancy as painful to the mind as hunger is to the body.

The misery of a heart left without a love is strikingly illustrated by those who are so satiated with indulgence that they are fatigued out of all capacity for sensation whatever. Votaries of fashion, for example, may become victims of excess, in whom the multitude of their enjoyments at last extinguishes their power of enjoyment.

It will now be seen, perhaps, why it is that the heart keeps by its present affections with so much tenacity. The strong man will not be driven out of his dwelling-place unless a stronger than he compel him to give way. The heart would revolt against its own emptiness. Thus, one who tries to persuade the heart to give up worldly ways-even if the preacher is able to convince his hearer of the terrors of vengeance coming upon sinners-will in all probability not succeed.

The world, after all, is all that a natural man knows. He loves nothing above it, and he cares for nothing beyond it; and to bid him to love not the world is to pass a sentence of expulsion on all the inmates of his bosom. Therefore, if loving not the world is indispensable to one's Christianity, then the crucifixion of the old man is the only adequate description of the transition which must occur, when all old things are done away and all things become new.

The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world by a simple act of resignation. But presenting that heart with a more worthy and more excellent choice may bring about a great moral revolution. This, we trust, will explain the operation of that charm which accompanies the effectual preaching of the gospel. The only way to dispossess the heart of an old love is by the expulsive power of a new one.

The same revelation of God which dictates so mighty an obedience places within our reach an equally mighty instrument of obedience. It brings, to the very door of our heart, a love which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate or bid it flee. It places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world, so displayed in the gospel that He stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners-and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy by the barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed Mediator.

It is the bringing of this better hope, whereby we draw night unto God It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can evict the world from its ascendency. 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 entreating the return of all who will to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance-it is then that a love paramount ot the love of the world first rises in the regenerating bosom. It is when the spirit of adoption is poured upon us that the heart is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires.

Let us not cease, then to ply the only instrument able to do away the love of the world. Let us, if possible, clear away the shroud of unbelief which so hides the face of God. Let us insist on His claims to your affection. And let us never cease to affirm that nothing but faith and understanding are wanting, on your part, to call forth the love of your hearts back again.

From 20 Centuries of Great Preaching