Text.--Phil. 4:6: "Be careful for nothing."

In this discussion, I design to show,

I. What carefulness, as used in this text, is.

II. That this state of mind is sin.

III. How to avoid it.

I. I am to show the meaning of the word carefulness.

The terms care, and carefulness, are used in two different senses, in the Bible--one good--the other bad. The one kind of care is virtue--the other kind is vice. I will quote a few passages, to illustrate both these senses. In some of the passages, the words care and carefulness are not used in the translation; but in every instance the same word is used in the original, that in the text is translated careful. In 1 Cor. 12:25, the Apostle says, "the members should have the same care one for another." In Phil. 2:20, he also says, "For I have no man like minded who will naturally care for your estate." In 1 Pet. 5:7, care is spoken of as being exercised by God.

It is manifest, that the state of mind described in these passages, is a virtuous state--it is that degree of wakeful desire and solicitude for our own, or the happiness of others, that begets due attention, and produces that prompt and diligent use of means necessary to obtain a desirable end. This state of mind does not imply doubt, distress, corroding anxious suspense, and concern. This kind of care, however, may be very intense, and in its degree, amount to real travail of soul; and even to those "groanings which cannot be uttered," and yet be a virtuous, and highly commendable state of mind. For this, instead of being the peevishness of unbelief, and the corroding anxiety and carefulness which are the result of unbelief, is faith mightily wrestling with God, for promised blessings.

But in the following passages, we have the term used in a different sense: Matt. 6:25, "Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body what ye shall put on." And in the 27th verse, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" And v. 28, "Why take ye thought for raiment?" &c. And v. 31, "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?" Luke 10:41, Christ says, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and troubled about many things." 1 Cor. 7:32-34, "But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." And in the text, the Apostle says, "Be careful for nothing."

Now it is manifest from these passages, in which the same original word is used, as in the text, that the term is used in a bad sense. It implies doubtfulness, anxiety, absorbing and anxious concern, and unhappiness. This state of mind is but too common, and needs very little description to be understood by almost everyone.

II. I am to show, that this kind of carefulness is sin.

It is just so in matters of religion. Multitudes suffer themselves, in the peevishness of their unbelief, to be so distracted and confounded with carefulness about their spiritual state, or the spiritual state of those around them, that they are forever whining, complaining, and murmuring, as if it were the most difficult matter in the world to persuade God to be good, and kind, and gracious. They seem to act as if it were as difficult a matter to get hold of the grace of God, as to be saved by the law. And not withstanding all the declarations in regard to the freeness of gospel salvation, it would seem as if they supposed the wells of salvation were infinitely deep, and their waters infinitely beyond their reach; and the promises of eternal life were infinitely high above their heads. Indeed, they are in that state of mind, that from its own nature excludes the grace of the gospel, and sets aside all the promises of God. Now let me ask, did you ever find that this kind of carefulness has resulted in any thing else than evil to your own souls? Why then indulge in it? Persons in this state are very apt to think their circumstances, and condition deserve commiseration. They look around for sympathy, and pity; and often secretly blame God for not pitying them, when they have so carefully sought him. Now this is a state of horrible rebellion against God. Here is an ocean of the waters of eternal life, flowing at your feet--here is a table spread before you with infinite provisions for your souls, and as free as the heart of God, and yet you stand and distress yourself, and complain, and are filled with vast cares, and anxieties, lest you should lose your soul--starving, thirsting, dying with these provisions and waters of eternal life before you. Precious soul, lay aside your carefulness, I beseech you, and believe, or you must perish.
Just so with the servants of God, if their hearts are right. They perform every thing for him, and consider nothing as their own business--are prompt and energetic in the discharge of their duties; and calmly and quietly leave all the results to the disposal of his providence. It is just so with them on all religious subjects. They know that themselves, and all they have, are his, for time and eternity. And they can as cheerfully submit their spiritual, as their temporal interests to His disposal without carefulness, "always rejoicing in the Lord."
III. I am to show how to avoid carefulness. REMARKS.

1. This requirement extends to every thing, temporal and spiritual. Many persons think themselves to do well, in being perpetually filled with great carefulness about their spiritual concerns. But this spirit is just as inadmissible and wicked in spiritual, as in temporal things. It is God-provoking, and dishonoring unbelief, on whatever subject it is exercised.

2. How seldom is this state of mind looked upon as a sin, even by the Christian himself. Many persons claim and receive as much sympathy in this state, as if it were a dire calamity instead of a sin. Nay, they make it a matter of self-righteousness; and pride themselves in their great anxiety and trouble about spiritual things. To "rejoice in the Lord" is wholly out of the question with them. They lament over themselves, and are mourned over by others, as if they deserved infinite pity, rather than to be blamed for their unbelief.

Now, beloved, you ought to know, that your carefulness is sin, and nothing but sin--that it no more calls for commiseration, sympathy, or pity, than the crime of adultery, or drunkenness, or any abomination whatever. It is unbelief. Away with it. It is the enemy of God.

3. This carefulness is as ridiculous as it is wicked. What would you say, should you see the children of a great and mighty prince, filled with carefulness and anxiety about their daily food, when millions were at their disposal? You could account for it only upon the principle that they were monomaniacs. But what shall we say of the children of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, whose Father is not a mere temporal prince, but possesses all the attributes of God--every where present with them--ever wakeful to their interests--whose infinite resources, moral and physical, are at their disposal; and yet they are weighed down with care. What is the matter with you, my dear soul? Are you deranged? What do you mean? What ails you? Surely you dream and disquiet yourself in vain. "Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint." [Isa. 40:28-31]

4. How destructive to your peace and growth in grace, is the indulgence of this spirit.

5. What advantage it gives Satan. It is just cutting yourself loose from your moorings upon the promises of God, and giving yourself up to the merciless buffetings of the prince of hell.

6. It is our duty freely and frequently to admonish one another upon this point. There is a great fault among Christians in this respect. Whenever care is depicted upon a brother's or sister's countenance, inquiry should instantly be made into the cause. They should be reproved for the sin; and admonished, and entreated to desist from it immediately. They should be conjured by every consideration that is lovely and of good report, to entertain no carefulness for a moment.

7. From this subject, it is easy to see how important it is for husbands and wives, and those associated in the more intimate relations of life to bear each other's burdens; and as far as possible to diminish the amount of temptations to carefulness.

8. It is very important to resist the beginnings of this sin. Many Christians, and I have reason to believe, some ministers have fallen into great trouble by not resisting the beginnings of this "evil and bitter thing." They have begun perhaps by indulging carefulness about temporal things, and having by this grieved the Spirit, they are plunged into darkness in regard to their spiritual state. And as you pass by, you may hear their groanings; but there is no relief, because they will not "encourage themselves in God."

9. This truth is very applicable, and very important to indigent students, who are often so straitened in their temporal circumstances as to indulge a degree of carefulness that is very destructive, both to intellectual attainments, and to growth in grace. Such persons should remember, that their carefulness will in no instance help them. But if they indulge it, it will defeat the very ends of their education. Who can study? Who can pray? Who can walk with God in such a state of mind?

10. This requirement is applicable to all persons in all circumstances, and at all times.

And now, beloved, will you put this sin away? Shall it be from this moment the fixed purpose of your hearts, in the strength of God to overcome it forever? Will you confess it, and repent of it as a sin before God? Will you be as much ashamed of it as you would be of committing adultery, or being guilty of theft? Will you consider it as really disgraceful, in the sight of God, and as injurious to the interests of his kingdom, as other sins and abominations are? Do, I beseech you, spread this whole subject, in tears of deep repentance, before the Lord. Put it away from you forever. Let the deep repose, and patience, and gratitude of your soul shed a balmy, and a holy influence on all around you.