By John Hames
"Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him: on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him" (Job. 23:8, 9).
One does not go far up the royal highway before awaking to the fact that a thoughtless word or deed will instantly bring darkness and take away spiritual liberty. It does not have to be some great act of misdemeanor, but a trifle.
On reflecting a moment, no doubt, we can all remember a certain time and circumstance when we expressed our opinion concerning a matter, delivered a message, gave a reproof, made an excuse, mailed a letter, opposed an individual, closed a bargain, made a promise or cast an uncharitable look and immediately after doing so the blessed Holy Spirit put us under arrest and proceeded to place the handcuffs of distress and darkness upon our souls.
We did not fully realize, however, how tightly we were bound until we got to meeting where the pilgrims were happy and rejoicing. We, of course, proceeded to take part in the services by singing, clapping our hands, patting our feet, saying amen and also by testifying. But in spite of all this we felt inwardly bound. Our heart and spiritual nature would not respond or beat with the time of the meeting or with our external motion. At last we awoke to the fact that we were really tied up and reluctantly took down our flag of external religious hurrah.
Then with the telescope of the soul we looked this way and that, we pondered this and pondered that, we also reflected on where we had been, whom we had met, what we had done and what we had said during the last twenty-four hours. But in spite of this hasty retrospect we failed to locate the thing that was holding us fast. Finally, we betook ourselves to prayer but could not shake off those viewless fetters. We read the Bible, sang hymns, visited the sick, gave to the poor and fasted but none of these things would disperse the gloom or break the fetters. A sacred covenant had been broken, a sacrifice polluted, strange fire offered upon the altar, the Spirit grieved and communication with heaven cut off.
"How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus no longer I see!
Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers,
Have all lost their sweetness to me."
I will attempt to inform the convert how to locate the trouble and bring his soul out of prison.
Closely, carefully and prayerfully look the field of past conduct over and see if you at any place yielded to self-will and thus let your will come across the will of God. It may be that you at some point said, "I will not do this," or, "I will not do that," when requested to perform some duty. In doing so you forgot, however, that you were not your own and could not have your way at any point only as it harmonized with God's will and way. Hundreds of Christians get tied up at this point.
2. Search carefully your consecration and see if you have taken even the smallest thing off of the altar. See if your consecration on all lines is as complete as it was the day you were filled and is as perfect as you hope it to be on your dying day. Of course, this includes home, family, money, reputation and all, for time and a whole eternity.
3. Get quiet before God and look the field over and see if you at any point have trifled with temptation or gone too near that one thing about which the Spirit has so often reproved you.
4. Reflect carefully and see if you have at any time rushed ahead of the Spirit and taken matters into your own hands.
5. Carefully examine the back track of conversation and see if you at any place strained the truth, exaggerated, used a slang phrase or byword, made a false impression or expressed yourself in a proud, pompous manner when being introduced to some worldly person.
Now as you prayerfully run the keyboard of past conduct the Holy Spirit will press the button when you reach the thing that is tying you up.
It does not always necessarily mean that you have committed a sin in this transaction since sin is a willful transgression but the Spirit is using this method to make you more careful and watchful in the future. Now when you have succeeded in locating the trouble, you must make no delay in adjusting it and asking God's forgiveness, which will be freely granted. However, you must sincerely promise Him that you will try to be careful and never grieve Him at that point again.
Almost instantly after this is done you will discover that the fetters have slipped off, the darkness is dispersed and your soul is again in Edenic bloom.
Always remember, reader, whenever you awake to the fact that something is tying you up, go immediately over the track of past conduct for the last twenty-four hours and adjust and tighten up everything you think might be causing the trouble. This will save you from many a joyless meeting, dry testimony, heavy heart and powerless sermon.