What Saith the Scripture?
Carefulness A Sin
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
May 8, 1839
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
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.
- 1. It is sin because it is expressly forbidden by God himself. Not only does
the text forbid it; but it is expressly, or impliedly forbidden in all the texts
I have quoted, where it is used in a bad sense. It is, therefore, as much a violation
of the law of God as profanity, drunkenness, or any other abomination. It is as expressly
forbidden, and as diametrically opposed to the command of God, as a lustful, covetous,
thievish, or licentious state of mind.
- 2. Because it is distrust of the wisdom and benevolence of God. Who that believes
in a divine providence can suffer himself to be exercised with carefulness, without
directly impeaching, or denying the wisdom and benevolence of the blessed God. If
God exercises a universal providence, then whatever comes to pass is in some way,
directly or indirectly, brought about by the providence of God. To suffer ourselves
then to be made unhappy--to be filled with anxiety, solicitude, and suspense, is
either to deny that God is wise and good, in bringing about these events, or is a
virtual declaration on our part, that, however wise and good he may have been in
producing them, we are very far from being pleased with his providence. So that carefulness
is either infidelity in regard to the providences of God, or downright rebellion
- 3. Because it is setting aside all the evidence which God has given that He cares
for us. He has given us the most ample assurances, by his providences--in his Word--and
by giving his only begotten Son to die for us, that he cares for us, and all our
interests with all the tender solicitude of an infinitely benevolent Father; and
yet we set aside all His declarations, and all these evidences, and refuse to cast
our care upon him. We suffer our minds to be corroded, and borne down, and banished
out of the presence of God, by carefulness.
- 4. Because it can do no good. It is a waste, and worse than a waste of time,
and energy, and life. Who among you ever found yourselves benefitted, in any respect,
by this kind of carefulness? Does your worldly business prosper any better for indulging
this state of mind--do you pay your debts, or manage any part of your business any
better by suffering your mind to be borne down with care? Do you get along any better
in religion? Are your prayers any more prevalent--do you use any better directed,
and successful means for your own, or the spiritual improvement of others, when oppressed
with carefulness? And let me ask, can you in any instance recollect, that this kind
of carefulness ever resulted in any good?
- 5. Because it is highly injurious to yourself. I beseech you to reflect upon
your past history. Have you not found, in multitudes of instances, that this kind
of carefulness was a real obstruction to your worldly business? And have you not
found that the more you indulged this state of mind, the more embarrassed and perplexed
your secular affairs became? And no wonder, for in this state you are in some sense
a maniac, and not qualified to manage business of any kind. How many persons there
are, who, instead of keeping calm, and preserving a state of mind, in which they
can act with discretion and wisdom, will become so filled with carefulness as to
incapacitate themselves for superintending their affairs with discretion; and they
wonder, that, after all their attention, and carefulness, and anxiety they do not
succeed any better. They seem to think that the providence of God is wholly adverse,
and is designed to perplex them, while in reality nothing uncommon has happened in
the providence of God; and their foolish and wicked carefulness is that to which
they may ascribe their failure.
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.
- 6. Because your carefulness is a great stumbling block and injury to those around
you. Are they professors of religion--they are emboldened to exercise this same temper
because they see it in you. Are they impenitent sinners--they wonder what religion
is good for. They see you fretted with the same cares and anxieties that others are
who have no hope in Christ. What inference can they draw from witnessing your state,
only that religion is a name that has no consolation or salvation in it.
- 7. Because it grieves the Spirit of God. What would a husband say should he observe
that his wife had no confidence in his providence, and was perpetually exercised
with great carefulness, lest he should not fulfill to her the duties implied in his
relation to her? And suppose that your children should groan about the house, under
the distressing apprehension that their wants would be overlooked. Would not husbands
and parents feel themselves grieved and insulted by such a course? How, then, must
this shameful carefulness appear to the Spirit of the blessed God? He is your comforter,
but you refuse to be comforted--he cares for you, but you refuse to cast your care
upon him, and insist upon bearing your own burdens. Do not, I beseech you, thus grieve
the Holy Spirit of God, "whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
- 8. Because it is as highly dishonorable to God, as it is grievous to the Holy
Ghost. What can be more dishonorable to the father of a family, than for its members
to be filled with carefulness through distrust of his providence. And how does it
gratify hell to see the children of God weighed down with carefulness, as if their
heavenly Father were unable or unwilling to provide for them.
- 9. Because it is selfishness. Persons are never filled with carefulness unless
they have some selfish interest in that which excites their care. You see the most
diligent and efficient clerks, and those employed in other people's business; and
while they have a sufficient solicitude to be prompt and energetic in the business
of their employers, yet they are not filled with care about it. When they have performed
their duty they can eat, and sleep calmly, and quiet themselves without corroding
carefulness, with regard to the results of their business.
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.
- 1. Consider the reasons against it. Many persons are so inconsiderate as never
to avoid any sin of heart, or life to which they are strongly tempted. But without
consideration it is not to be expected that sin of any kind will be avoided. Consideration
might and doubtless would have prevented the sin of our first parents. And it is
not probable, that any being does or would sin with all the considerations against
sin fully before, and subject to the attention of the mind. Let a mind fully consider
the moral character of this state, and all the reasons against it, even should it
go no further than I have described in this discourse--that it is forbidden of God--that
it is infidelity--that it is rebellion--that it is setting aside all the evidences
of God's love--that it can never benefit you, nor any one else--that it destroys
your own happiness, and the happiness of those with whom you are connected--that
it is a stumbling block to the Church, and an occasion of blasphemy to the world--that
it grieves and dishonors the blessed God--and is one of the most loathsome and detestable
forms of selfishness--let the mind, I say, consider these things, and it would put
away this sin from the heart.
- 2. Consider the reasons for an opposite state of mind--that you may, and ought
to be in a state of cheerful serenity, and calmness and peace--that God's providences,
and promises, and grace are such a sure foundation, and afford such infinite reasons
for repose in God, that calmness, quietude, a deep unbroken repose in God, is the
most reasonable state of mind that can be conceived. Consider that God requires you
always to rejoice in him; and has made such infinite provisions for your help, consolation,
and eternal salvation--and to meet the necessities of the Church, and the world,
that there is no room left for carefulness, except it exists in the form of downright
rebellion against God.
- 3. Cultivate a considerate state of mind. Let no temptation to carefulness prevail
without taking time to consider the reasons against it, and for an opposite state
- 4. Put away selfishness. If selfishness is suffered to reign, carefulness will
be a thing of course. Examine yourself, therefore, attentively, and exclude selfishness,
under every form. You may find sometimes, that to decide what is, and what is not
selfishness, will require considerable thought and attention. Your neighbor may make
a selfish demand of you, or selfishly ask you for a favor, that it may not be your
duty to grant, and yet he may attribute your refusal to selfishness. In all such
cases you are to weigh the matter well, and decide in the presence of God, whether
the law of love requires you to act in one way, or in the other. Persons are very
apt, in this matter, to fall into a mistake, and to suppose themselves to be doing
as they would be done by, and to censure others for not doing as they desire, because
they are unacquainted with the circumstances, e.g. I ask a favor of a man, which
perhaps I have no right to ask. I think that in asking it I am doing what, under
the circumstances, I should be willing to grant myself; and yet were I to know all
the circumstances, I should perceive that I had no right to make the request and
should heartily approve of his refusal to comply. In a world where there is so much
selfishness, a truly benevolent mind needs to be wide awake, to avoid, on the one
hand, the appearance of selfishness, which will, after all, in some cases be impossible;
and on the other hand, to avoid being devoured by the selfishness of others. But
whenever selfishness does exist, it must be sought out--it must be put away; and
wherever this kind of carefulness exists there is selfishness. Of this you may be
certain. Search, then, for this leaven of wickedness. Bring it forth to the light;
and go and cast it into the valley of the son of Hinnom, among the abominations that
defile that image of hell.
- 5. Put away unbelief. Unbelief is always the cause of all this kind of carefulness.
This may easily be seen, by a moment's reflection. Confidence in God would instantly
banish all this distrustful carefulness from the mind.
- 6. Dwell much upon grace received. Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness. Instead
of reflecting much upon what they have received of temporal and spiritual mercies,
many persons reflect much upon the things which they yet need. Being taken up with
their wants, instead of their mercies, they naturally fall into a state of repining.
Now it is of great importance that you should dwell much upon your temporal and spiritual
good things, and spend much time in blessing and thanking God for existence, life,
health, sickness, poverty, or wealth or whatever his providence has allotted you--that
you were born in this age--in this land--under such circumstances--and, in short,
you ought to realize that God is equally good in every thing, and that all things
are subjects of thankfulness, and praise to God. Go over, then, and over again, often
and often, your mercies; and cultivate such a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness
as shall naturally beget a spirit of trust in God for future blessings.
- 7. Reflect much upon the fact that God has always been better to you than your
fears--how your former anxieties, and fears proved in the end to have been all uncalled
for. In how many instances can you look back upon your former carefulness, and say,
"how have I been disquieted in vain?"
- 8. Commit everything to God in prayer, and know assuredly, that the result will
be just what you would wish it to be, when you know all the circumstances and reasons.
The Apostle says in the verse of which the text is a part, "In every thing by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto
God." Now many persons, instead of carrying any thing that lies upon their minds
to God, and committing it all to him, undertake to bear their own burdens--to work
it out by their own thoughts and exertions, without committing their way unto the
Lord, with the assurance that he will bring it to pass. Nothing should be undertaken
without prayer; and any thing, and every thing that cannot consistently be made a
subject of prayer, is to be avoided of course, as you would avoid the Devil. Now
observe what I say, I do not advise you merely to pray about every thing; but to
commit your way in all respects unto the Lord--so to give up your affairs to his
guidance, and control, as to render all this carefulness impossible--so commit them
to him as to leave the event cheerfully with him, and make up your mind to be satisfied
with the result, be it what it may. Be solicitous to do your duty, leaving consequences
most cheerfully and joyfully with him who careth for you.
- 9. Trust in Christ for grace in this thing. Do not suppose that by any unaided
efforts of your own you are to avoid carefulness. Selfishness is one of your most
powerful enemies; and you may as well attempt to grapple with Satan in your own strength,
as to put down selfishness without the aid of Christ. Remember that he is your life,
your strength, your righteousness, your salvation and redemption, not only from the
curse of the law; but from every form of sin. Cleave to him, and whenever you find
yourself tempted to carefulness, be sure to lay all your cares upon him. He is able
and desirous to bear all your burdens.
- 10. Be sure to give up your own will. While you have a will of your own, separate
from that of God, you will of course be often filled with care, lest you should be
disappointed. Lay aside your own will, and make up your mind to be joyful always
in the will of God.
- 11. Cultivate a calm and quiet state of mind. If temptation assail you to ruffle
and disturb the deep repose of your soul in God, be quiet--keep calm--lift up your
heart to God--keep still, and if possible suffer yourself not to speak until your
mind becomes composed--let it be the fixed purpose of your heart not to suffer yourself
to be thrown into a state of carefulness and anxiety on any occasion whatever.
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
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.
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
- Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart,
is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character
in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are
as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they
are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is
due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE
- Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not
mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit,
but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake
of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good
because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its
own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures
happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their
happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting
the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own
gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).
- Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence
of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection
of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of
God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).
- Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved,
were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification
of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation
by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a
means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really
as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).
- Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses:
(1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and,
(2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire
sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established,
confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration
to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).
- Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation.
The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE III).
- Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will,
not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of
moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not
moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible
choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral
law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity,
because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect...
it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act
in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
- Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every
subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit
or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).
- Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without
any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they
never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God
of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it.
The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).
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