“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Thomas Chalmers’ sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” has proven to be extremely helpful to Christians who are eager to overcome sinful desires. In it, Chalmers suggests that all men live in a state of constant desire. It is impossible not to desire something for even a single second. In our fallen condition, the object of our hearts’ desires will always be the sinful allurements of the world. We may come to know the vanity of these things, but we will inevitably turn from one empty desire to another until a power outside of us enables us to desire God as the object of supreme value.
Chalmers illustrates this with the picture of a boy running after the childish desire of pleasure until he grows discontented. He turns from pleasure to run after the more sophisticated desire for money. Having grown disillusioned with the emptiness of riches, he sets his heart on the quest for power. In this endless transition from one desire to another, the heart is left empty. Nevertheless, the boy — now a man — is still left with desire. He cannot simply stop desiring. Chalmers then writes, “The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by that which is more worthy than itself?”
Proverbs 7 is one of the ten father-to- son talks found in the book. A father counsels his son with respect to the danger of going after the adulterous woman. Interpreters have sometimes understood this to be a warning against adultery and sometimes as a warning against evil in general. The latter interpretation is supported by the fact that, in Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a woman who calls out to young men, in contrast with the adulterous woman of Proverbs 7. Whether the adulterous woman of Proverbs 7 is understood to be a specific sin or evil in general makes little difference; the same warning is being sounded. There is something attractive about sin, but in the end it is deadly.
One of the striking features of this talk is that in counseling his son about the dangers of the adulterous woman, the father goes to great lengths to describe the attraction of sin. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that sin is not attractive. We can speak about it as if it had no power to draw our hearts after it. But the testimony of Scripture (and our own experience) is that there is a very real “pleasure” to sin, though it is a “passing pleasure.” If sin were not pleasurable, we would never run after it.
The father warns his son of the subtle way in which the woman allures a young man. He walks his son through the steps by which she seeks to draw him into her bed of sin. She dresses to attract, makes herself accessible, allures with a kiss, and even presents herself as religious (vv. 9–14). The allurement is summed up when she finally says, “I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (vv. 17–18).
While there is a very real attraction, the consequences are devastating. The father explains that the young man “does not know that it will cost him his life” (v. 23). He exhorts his sons to listen to him. He encourages them to turn away from her paths. He finally reminds them that many strong men have been slain by her; that “her house is . . . going down to the chambers of death” (v. 27). But is this alone enough to keep them from her?
It is likely that King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7. It may have been something his father, King David, taught him when he was a boy. Sadly, both David and Solomon fell into adulterous relationships. But there is a significant connection between the language of Proverbs 7:17 and the language of Psalm 45. Psalm 45 is a messianic psalm of David. It is a meditation on the glory and beauty of the Messiah. Hebrews 1:8–9 explicitly links it to Christ. At the height of the meditation, the psalmist writes, “All Your garments are scented with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.” This is the exact language used in Proverbs 7:17 to highlight the allurement of the adulterous woman.
Jesus Christ allures His people with His beauty. He is the only One who can draw our hearts away from sin. We avoid the pleasures of the world by turning to Jesus instead. When we are tempted to sin, we must remember that there is another who is altogether lovely. We must remember the words of Hebrews 12:1–2: “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely . . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” When we desire Him, we will find that we have experienced the expulsive power of a new affection.