We need to lay aside every weight that hinders us in running the spiritual race. Previously, we considered what things help our spiritual progress. It is just as important to identify what holds us back, otherwise we will not make best use of the helps.
These are personal observations from James Fraser of Brea and reflect his own experience. It is helpful to learn from those that have been many years in the Christian life making particular effort in exercising themselves to godliness. Perhaps some of Fraser’s observations are surprising or disturbing to us – they will certainly make us think. We need to engage in our own self-examination to consider our own ways.
1. A legalistic spirit
Satan sometimes urges me violently and boastingly to engage in duties in my own strength, overdriving me with thunder and lightening and laying more upon me than I am able to bear. This is like putting new wine in old bottles, seeking such and such duties, and so much, exacting them by weight and measure. It weakens my hands, irritates me and makes me do nothing, seeing I cannot get what is urged done. It makes me act slavishly (Genesis 33:13; Romans 7:11; Hebrews 10:12-13; Luke 19:21).
2. Unspiritual company
The company of carnal, unregenerate people, and graceless, nominal professing Christians has been a hindrance. This has been especially the case if I have been familiar with them, living close to them, or have not challenged or instructed them. When near, they have dispersed their poison and infection and turned my heart carnal. It is like some diseases that are not contracted unless you come near those that have them (1 Corinthians 15:33).
3. Godly company with no spiritual benefit
When it has not been used to best spiritual advantage, I have even found godly company damaging, drawing away my heart from God and rendering it carnal. If we have not sought the Lord through mutual prayer and have had no spiritual conversation or I have stayed too long with them. Hardening takes place when we are not exhorting one another (Hebrews 3:13).
4. Careless talk
I have had my spirit turned out of frame, and quite distempered by loud, violent, hasty and much talk even in good things. I have found “the talking of the lips tend to penury” (Proverbs 14:23) and a breach made in the spirit by perverse speaking (James 3:5-6; Proverbs 17:27; Matthew 15:8).
5. Being out and about too much
I have found going away from home and being in public too much to be damaging. These have been like the devil’s market-days. Let me prepare, pray and watch as much as I will, this still happens. My spirit has been put out of a spiritual condition, especially if I have gone out without great necessity. Going here and there is good for neither soul nor body.
I have found excess in the use of food, drink, and other recreations, very prejudicial, and to be the ordinary inlet of many evils. This makes the body is not in the right condition and the spirit utterly indisposed to any good exercise (Luke 21:34; Proverbs 25:27 and 23:20-21).
7. Carelessness about devotions
Omitting private duties or doing them in a careless way. This includes duties such as prayer, self-examination, meditation, and reading (Matthew 26:41; Proverbs 23:21).
8. Neglecting spontaneous silent prayer
Neglecting spontaneous silent prayer when conversing with others; for this is the fountain of waters that drops from heaven, and makes the heart fruitful (Matthew 26:41).
9. Vain thoughts
Vain thoughts in the morning, when riding, and in private spiritual exercises. Even though they are not bad thoughts, I have found these to put my spirit wrong as much as anything and to make me utterly unfit for duty (Jeremiah 4:14).
10. Not keeping the heart
Unwatchfulness and not keeping the heart while in the world. Not being “in the fear of God all the day long,” not keeping guard, or neglecting the continual oversight of my heart, tongue, and actions, but growing careless. I have found that when my heart is unwatched it runs away and engages in sins and temptations. There are many disorders in a city while there is no government and this is the state of my heart at such times (Matthew 26:41). This has done extreme evil; through this I lose in public what I gain in private.
11. Unbelieving discouragements
Unbelieving discouragements arising from feeling of what I lack, sins and trials. These have weakened my hands (1 Samuel 12:20; Lamentations 1:9; Jeremiah 2:28; Hebrews 12:12-13). It was when Peter started to be afraid that he began to sink.
12. Being Too Absorbed in Temporal Things
Being highly engaged in outward affairs and business and eagerly pursuing them. These have distracted me and made me utterly unable to serve God (Luke 10:4 and 21:34).
Pride and thinking much of myself, self-boasting of myself, seeking the praise of men and seeking to exalt myself by being careful in duties. Seeking to share the glory with Christ in the matter of salvation. This has made the Lord reject me many times, withdrawing me from my resolution to “hide pride”. This made the Jews not obtain righteousness, because they sought it “as it were by the works of the law” (Romans 9:31-32).
Slothfulness in sleeping too long and trifling away the time (especially in company) has “clothed me with rags”.