S E R M O N  2.

 Of excessive thoughtfulness about worldly things.

 On Matthew 6:31.


Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be cloathed.

A Christian's carriage is not only to be Christianly regulated in reference to spiritual things more immediately, as when they read God's word, or pray, or receive the holy supper, or when they are employed in any other duties of God's worship or service; but they are to be christianly disposed even with respect to external external things, and there is no small part of the practice of true godliness in these, how a man is denied in his affections unto the things of the world, and with what vigour he follows them. Our Lord Jesus Christ who was a matchless preacher, and spoke as never man spoke, taught with so much divine power and authority, that the multitudes who followed him were astonished at his doctrine; for he pleased not their ears with curious or useless questions, but explained the whole law, letting them know what murder, adultery, or other crimes were, as we read in the proceeding chapter. – He taught them also how to give alms, how to pray, and fast in a right and acceptable manner, and not to be proud of these, or any other performances, in the first eighteen verses of this chapter. From the twenty-ninth verve to the end, he earnestly exhorts them, to the mortification of worldly-mindedness, and earthly things, to sobriety in respect of creature comforts, and the contentment which flows from this, and a spiritual or heavenly mindedness; and because an inordinate love and desire of worldly enjoyments, slays more souls than murder, adultery, or any gross sins; he spends more time, and uses more arguments to draw them from covetousness and worldly affections.

There are two sorts of covetous persons, and two ways, how men fall into the sin of avarice.

lst, Some mind and seek great things, they lay up treasures for themselves upon earth, and endeavour to heap up a superlative measure of perishing wealth, but are not rich towards God, or rich in good works; with these he begins, verse 19. and draws out the exhortation unto the 29 verse, intimating plainly, that Christians should not be boundless and immoderate in their aims and endeavours to acquire worldly riches, because they are both ill to obtain, and ill to keep; and it is one to an hundred, if they destroy them not who acquire them; for we cannot serve God and Mammon; and though some lay but little weight on these words in this world, yet in the great day it shall be found that the covetous worldlings have chosen a very bad master.

2dly, A second sort of worldlings, are these who are not perhaps much taken up with seeking great things for themselves, but could be content with as much as would carry themselves and their families through the world; but they are overcome and mastered with anxiety in providing for these things. For some folk may have little, and care for little, and yet are daily yearning, and over anxious to obtain these little and trivial things; they are exceedingly glutted with this avaricious carefulness Christ condemns, verse 25. to the end of the chapter, Take no thought for the life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor for the body, what ye shall put on: his meaning is not, that they should not seek these things, folks may want great treasures, and should not seek them, but they cannot want meat, drink, and clothing; and therefore they may lawfully desire, and obtain them; but they are not to be sinfully anxious about them, or covet them as their supreme good; and therefore Christ's reasoning is not intended to restrain them altogether from seeking these things, but to restrain their exorbitant and inordinate seeking, or enjoyment of them; for the life (says he) is more than meat, and the body than raiment; and since God hath given the better and greater benefit, he will surely give the lesser, as we react to the 31 verse: and when he hath given many reasons for this, he repeats again the exhortation, to make it the more memorable and weighty, and to be looked upon as absolutely necessary; and he adds two reasons, and a direction, in opposition to their thoughtfulness for earthly things: the first is this, that the Heathens are taken up wholly with there things; For all these things the Gentiles seek, and therefore it doth not become Christ's disciples, and believers to be like them. The second reason confirms the former, we need not be anxiously careful about these things, for we have a good parent and provider, your heavenly Father who hath all creatures at his command and disposal, and stands in a special relation to you, whom he hath taken into his own family; and is neither idle nor unconcerned to support you, and promote your welfare; nor can be a stranger to your wants and necessities. This heavenly Father of yours knows very well that ye need, and cannot want these things; and then he, thirdly, proposes an admonition by way of direction, wherein he shows them, what he would have them chiefly taken up about, which if they regarded, would guard and keep them from all fretful and inordinate anxiety, in taking pains to acquire earthly things, But seek the kingdom of heaven, and God's righteousness, that ye may enjoy it (for these two things still go together) that is a much better bargain and purchase, and all these things shall be added thereunto, as the bounty given to servants, besides their wages, as if they had never been mentioned in the bargain.

The Lord Jesus Christ's scope and end in all this, is, to slacken that intemperate heat, which is in some men after earthly things, and to sober or moderate them in their pursuit of them, and to stir them up to seek heaven, and our Saviour's righteousness, in order to their being capacitated, or well qualified to enter into life eternal.

We intend chiefly to speak a little unto the latter part of the 32 verse, but for the better understanding of the grand scope and intention of it, we shall draw two observations from this 31 verse. Namely,

Observe: I. That there is a vexing anxiety in reference to temporal things, very incident even to the Lord's people themselves. They are ready to take thought, and be inordinately careful, and perplexed about what. they shall drink, and put on, Martha, Martha; (says Christ) thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful. They are very ready to trouble and cumber themselves about earthly things, and to be excessive in their care to obtain them. They are industriously careful to come to something, to keep it when gotten, and in preventing that which may prejudge them in the possession of it. These two, take up the most part to be anxiously careful how to have; There be many that say, Who will show us any good, Psalm iv, 6. and some are anxious how to prevent that want or poverty, that may come upon them as are armed man. They cannot endure to want, and the fear of want is troublesome unto them, and like to surprise them that are seeking great things for themselves; the reason in part, and the great part, is, their little faith, and exercise of faith in God's promise, in reference to our temporal being, provision; and subsistence. Believers sometimes calk in reference to temporal things, as if the Lord had bounded and confined their faith only to spiritual things, and do not exert or put forth their faith to the promise relating to other things. It is true, it had been a mercy to have had a promise of spiritual things, though we had not had a promise of temporal things, yet seeing promises of both, are laid in his word, it would well become us, to exercise our faith in reference to both. Therefore verse 30, Shall he not much more cloath you, O ye of little faith; where he represents their unbelief, as the cause of their carefulness, when there was no ground for it, they had little or no faith in God's gracious promises. We may add secondly, God's trysting his people with wants; discovers his great wisdom, for he doth so, that they may learn to live by faith. He will not have them to have their barns full, nor their rent great, but will have them from hand to mouth, so to speak, that they may learn the blessed life of faith, and know the necessity of a humble dependence upon him. And when empty handedness comes near them, and their faith becomes weak, anxiety is ready to perplex them; for these people who have much will be free of care to want, and yet it is not the having of faith, but having a sense of want, which is the ground of it. They will say with the rich worldling in the parable, Soul, take thine case and rest, thou hast laid up much goods, for many years, eat, drink, and be merry. But God will not have his people founding their through-bearing upon that, but living by faith, and therefore he punishes them the more in external things; and when he pinches and straiteneth them, they are too ready, through their unbelief, to limit the holy One, as the Israelites did in the wilderness. A third reason, Is our laying too much weight upon these things, as to our being, and well-being, and the having them in our possession; and therefore, when we want them, we are ready to think we cannot live well without them; whereas, God would have us to know, that man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of his mouth. Hence when the staff of the creature is broken or removed, it raises a sort of desperation: But faith in exercise stays the heart against carnal anxiety, as we see in David, when his men were mad and distracted with rage, and were going to stone him, he encouraged his heart in his God.

For Use, We learn that the people of God, even the most eminent believers, should mark and take notice of this inordinate anxiety about worldly things, as a great fault too incident unto them; they are too anxious about their temporal being, and the things which relate to their bodily life and subsistence. Some people may be conscious to themselves, that they are minding or seeking great things; this is not the end of their creation, and upon that ground they may think, that they are not covetous. But there is here some degree of avarice, when this vain anxiety prevails in their hearts, as if they could not be happy, without these things, and as if less confidence were to be exercised upon God, when we want them; and in these things they take a liberty, and make it a cloak or pretext on which they take great latitude, to be thoughtful and perplexed. And it is probable, if they would look in to themselves, they would find that there is something that looks like credit, or something which looks like their being, that cannot be wanted. But God will not allow thee this liberty, to be thoughtful or anxious about thy dinner or supper, though thou wanted them, than he will allow thee to covet great riches; for though it may be more excusable to be thoughtful for things necessary, and though it be a great sin to covet great things in this world, yet it is not agreeable to faith in our heavenly Father's promise and providence; for he will not have his own people more afraid for the want of a dinner or supper, nor the servants of a graceless master, or the children of unnatural parents would be afraid to want their dinner or supper, because it is a reflecting upon; him, as if he were inferior to them, who are called evil.

If it be asked, How may we rid marches betwixt a lawful care, and the seeking of great things, or even seeking things necessary, in that vexing anxiety which is here condemned? Or what is the real difference, between a carking, and the provident care which God allows? To. this we may easily answer.

Answer: 1. That the one is well consistent with faith in God, and marrs not our love unto him, and delight in him; the other weakeneth faith, and marrs our love. to God, and our delight in him, and hath with it a secret grumbling, or murmuring against God, and his providence, Psalm 73:12-13. These are the worldly ungodly men, who prosper. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency; imagining that religion was an idle or vain thing: and if people would look into their own hearts, when a pinch or strait comes, they will find the spurting up of such a thing, If religion be the best thing, why is it thus with me? But we also observe,

Answer: 2. That excessive care and anxiety marrs a spiritual and heavenly frame, and greatly distempers, indisposes, and incapacitates us for prayer, and other religious duties, and makes us so carnal and discomposed, that we are scarce in any frame to hear the word, or join in prayer with others, or to speak to God ourselves, Ezekiel 14.; speaks of some that came to pray, and set up the stumbling-block of their own iniquity before their face, and their heart went out after their own covetousness, how to make such a good bargain, how to go about such and such business; and when thus they exceed in their care, it indisposes them for the performance of their Christian duty.

Answer: 3. Excessive care and anxiety is also vexing and torturing; the Lord allows diligence in our lawful callings, but not to torture ourselves about them, Habakkuk 3. Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts, that the people should labour in the fire, and weary themselves with very vanity. They make the gathering of wealth a torture, or a burden to marr their nights rest; for Solomon says of such, That these to whom God hath given much wealth and riches, yet they are not satisfied therewith, nor have they power to eat thereof; they can neither eat nor sleep; this is what is here forbidden, this is what Martha was charged with by Christ, he allowed providing for him, and serving him, but not that vexation and anxiety, she expressed in the performance of it.

Answer: 4. Care is excessive, when it encroaches upon other duties. Diligence is recommended by Paul, Romans 12:11. Be not slothful in business: fervent in spirit; serving the Lord. But when care shuts out the duties of prayer, reading God's word, or pious meditation, &c. and when people take no time for these duties, when they are so much taken up with other business, it is excessive. This also appeared in Martha, Luke 10:41-42. and Mary's choice in opposition to this, is preferred. Some people who, having callings, are mastered and overcome with the power of them, the world is their master, and they are slaves to their carnal affections: and when they are exhorted to pray in secret, and in their families, their answer is, They cannot get time to pray, they are so much taken up with the world, as if God had not red marches betwixt moderate and lawful care, and excessive care and anxiety. There are some of you that have so much business, that in a year ye will not be found in the church at a week days lecture, or sermon; this surely is not the good part that ye have chosen. Some have as much or more business than you, who will both follow their calling, and attend upon God's ordinances, and slip few or none of them; they attend upon God without distraction.

Answer: 5. Care is excessive and immoderate, when it weakeneth and extirpates our love to our neighbours, and marrs that charitable disposition of spirit towards them, and their best interests. As for instance, When an object of charity, and a case of necessity is presented unto us, and we cannot part with any thing wherein often the richest are farthest behind; and some are ready to excuse themselves, that it is much for them to live themselves, which may indeed have some weight, as to the proportion, and may be one reason why they should not be so liberal as some others; but it should not both marr the affection, and the reaching out of the hand to the thing, so as the very proposal of it will anger them; and some are like that churlish Nahal, who said to David's servants, Shall 1 take my meat and drink, and give them to such an idle man as David, who has fled from his master.

Answer: 6, Excessive care or anxiety is always prognosticating hard things to come; for a soul having entertained distrust, and not founded her life upon God's promise by faith, it is always speaking ill of God's providence; Can God provide a table in the wilderness? Can he give us flesh to eat? It will either be poverty or shame in some great measure; and it is just with God it should be so, when we reason our well-being consists in the enjoyment of these outward worldly things. These are but a few evidences, amongst many of excessive care; and ye would look upon it as too great thoughtfulness, when it encroacheth upon any duty God calls you to perform, or hath such effects, and, when it prevails, look on it as your sin, and be humbled for it.

We now proceed to, another observation from the text, viz.

Observe: II. ‘That excessive thoughtfulness or anxiety, in reference to temporal things, is a very great sin that God's people should, in a special manner, eschew and avoid.' It is not for nought that the Lord twice says, Take no thought what ye shall eat or drink; and presses it with so many arguments; it is a thing exceeding sinful in itself, and hurtful to believers and others, and occasioneth many more sins, 1Timothy 6:9-10. They that would be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish, and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition, for the love of money is the root of all evil.

1st, Its exceeding sinful in itself, for it reflects upon the majesty of God exceedingly, and places more happiness in the creatures than in him; for though God and his promises are unchangeable, and always to the fore, yet in giving way to our anxious humours, we say or think, Because we want such a creature, we cannot be well, and can there be a greater wrong done to the majesty of God, than thus to undervalue him?

2dly, It is exceeding sinful, as it reflects upon all God's attributes. 

1. It thinks nothing of his power; a fretting anxious person is very ready to say, Can God provide a table for us in the wilderness? Can he open the windows of heaven? Can such plenty be, as if the holy One were to be limited? But

2. It reflects upon God's justice, as if he had dealt the world ill; something of this Jeremiah expressed, while he said, Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper. 

3. It reflects upon God's goodness, and entertains some suspicion of him, as if some other thing was better than him; as these people said, When we worshiped the Queen  of Heaven, we had cakes in plenty, it says, we would be better if we had another master; and this is implied in what the Psalmist says, Psalm 83:1. Truly God is good unto Israel, and to such as are of a clean heart; as if before he had been suspecting or disputing this. 

4. It reflects upon God's all-sufficiency, and fullness; as if he had not provision and store enough, to satisfy the need of his people. It was Moses' infirmity, Numbers 10:22. to say, Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together to suffice them? How will all that be gotten that we stand in need of? whereas, if it were believed, that God could presently make up a want, the mind would be calm and quiet, without questioning.

5. It reflects upon God's faithfulness in the accomplishment of his promises. (1.) As if he had not promised all things, that pertained to life and godliness. (2.) As if he keeped not his promises; and so it says, The promises are not a right good enough to rest upon; and that cannot but be a great reflection upon him that is holy, true, and singularly faithful, and makes it his honour to keep his word to his people; for if one could believe that the promise is a good enough ground to rest upon, he cannot be in as great anxiety as if there was no such promise; there is a notable word to this purpose, Hebrews 13:5-6. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid what man can do: And can we then say, that God hath not said enough for sufficient ground of quietness and confidence to us, or that his sayings are not much worth. But we may also observe,

3dly, That this inordinate thoughtfulness is not only sinful in itself, as it reflects upon God's majesty and attributes; but it is prejudicial to believers themselves, and to others, and reflects upon the way of God with his people, By this vain anxiety and carefulness, we do what in us lies, to make men think, that God is a hard master, and to preferr other masters unto him. This is a very grievous sin, and it lays a stumbling-block before others, and makes them love the way of holiness the less, Ps: lxxiii. 19. Therefore do his people turn in thither. And when people begin to dispute God's wisdom in governing the world, that some wicked men have much, and some that fear God are straitened, they are ready to take the way the wicked takes: and it is even prejudicial to believers themselves, for it exceedingly indisposes them for all the duties of religion, and marrs them in whatever promotes the spiritual life, and what a prejudice is that, when an excess of care about our temporal being, indisposes us to provide for our eternal happiness and well-being.

4thly, It occasioneth and openeth a way to many other sins; it breeds fretfulness, impatience, cangling103, and discord; it takes the soul off its feet, and renders it obnoxious to every snare; for readily the soul in this bad temper, will take some evil course, and cannot easily stand against a temptation, but yields to it. One day, says David, I shall fall into the hand of Saul, and upon that he slips down to the Philistines. And instead of calmness and peace, it puts the heart in great confusion, and to quarrel with God and the promises; the thoughts of sin do not trouble them, repentance is marred in its exercise, and all things go wrong in the soul's condition.

You may take two uses from this point, and we may. observe, 1st. That it serves to reprove our entertainment of this evil. It is like the keeping of a serpent in our bosoms, and yet some people are not aware of it. It makes our Christian life unprofitable, and our natural life uncomfortable, and so we had need to be guarded against it, as well as murder, theft, oppression, or drunkenness, and the like; for it weakeneth us for duty; and mars our communion with God, as much as any of these gross sins; it puts the soul in such disgust and confusion, that it knows not what it is doing, as to any distinct exercise of faith, and those who knew the exercise of faith, and how unchristian like it is to be anxious about temporal things, they will see more of his evil than in a short time can be spoken unto. May we not then propose these considerations to dissuade you from it. And I would have you notice, 1st. That it is heathen like, this is the argument in the text, to be as desperate and impatient about your believing, as if you had not had a promise to be cared for, this makes you like heathens, for what difference is there betwixt a Christian and a heathen 'in such a condition? 2dly, What use is there for all the promises of outgates, or deliverances from temporal straits, or calamities, when this evil is given way unto? Hath God said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, but who calms themselves upon that promise, or will boldly say, The Lord is my helper. Besides, it will he much if we make use of faith in spiritual things, or of the promises relating to these, when we make not use of faith in temporal things, and of the promises which relate to them, and we are sure the one will require as strong a faith as the other. 3dly, It makes us inferior to the very beasts and fowls; they have no garnal104 or store-house, and yet they are without anxiety; they have a natural trust and dependence upon God, so to speak, therefore the young ravens are said in scripture, to cry when they want food, and the young lions seek their meat from God; and are not believers much better than they. I would have you also, 4thly, consider how unsuitable this is to that relation which is between God and his people; is he not thy Father that begat thee? and doth not even nature teach heathen parents to provide for their children? and will your heavenly Father be behind them in providing for his own children? which of you, if your child would ask bread, will you give him a stone, or if he ask a fish, will you give him a serpent, or for an egg, give him a scorpion? If ye then which are evil, give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give his holy Spirit, and every good thing to them who ask them? and how much more will he give these things that are needful for the bodily life? By this in effect, we rob our heavenly Father of that glory we would give to an earthly father, or even take to ourselves. We know the bowels of a father, who will not put a stone in the hand of his son for a dinner, and will we make a beneficent and holy God to be behind a creature, that is a great absurdity, and the most injurious reflection that our anxiousness puts upon the majesty of God. If some of your children, who have means and wealth, should come out to the street, crying for a piece of bread, ye would be ashamed of it, as if they had unnatural parents, and this is the language of every anxious and peevish person, I have an evil parent, or else it says, Ye stand not in that relation to him as his children. 5thly, Consider, that it is unnecessary and unprofitable; therefore our Lord says, Which of you by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature; can any of you make yourselves by your care one foot longer? can your thoughtfulness provide your dinner? or when it is given you, can you bless it? and what a foolish thing is it, when it is to no purpose, to give way to a fretting carefulness; we, by this mean, make no progress in that which we would be at, but rather retard our motions; yea, God. is much more ready to give, when the soul is quiet, and in dependence upon him, nor when all this noise is made. We observe only, 6thly, there is not a creature, nor even a pile of grass that we look upon, but it may strengthen us in the faith of God's providence and care; and why then should we have any carking care? Look to the lilies, they neither toil, nor spin, and yet I say unto you, that Solomon, and all his glory, was not arrayed like one of them. If God then cloath the grass, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast unto the oven, will God cloath them as fine, and brave, as any thing which lives, and will he not much more you, O ye have of little faith, if ye will but credit him, and rely upon the care of his beneficent providence.

Let the then commend this to you, to study stayedness and composure of heart, in reference to your being provided for in temporal things, especially at this time, when pinches and straits are growing, and some people are ready to take a liberty to themselves, in their anxious and thoughtful way of forecasting these evil things; and there is perhaps an underhand fretting and unbelief, in some that stand in a near relation to God, as a Father, for things necessary, which should be watchfully guarded against. Is it not much more criminal for people to work away their own strength, and time, in seeking to get much, to satisfy their covetous humour, that will never be satisfied, though they had three times as much? It may quiet believers, that the Lord hath promised to give them that which is good, and will perform every promise he hath made, and may it not strengthen your faith, that the Lord, as he hath told you, cloaths the lilies, and feeds the ravens, and your relation is nearer to God than theirs; are ye not of much more value than many of them? Unbelief, my friends, is a shameful thing; your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of these things; and is always ready to supply your need. Should not then these things commend religion and godliness; it is a good bargain, and God's family is a good family to live in; they, who are his children, may look for a heavenly inheritance, and they shall have meat, drink, and all other necessaries by the way, and they may sleep without a vexing thought, God be thanked it is so; and to his name be praise.