From:  A Legal Spirit by Arthur Pink

Though the Gospel is exactly suited to the dire need of fallen man–yet it is far from being suited to his proud heart! It calls upon him to reaching-hands“Behold the Lamb of God”–but in order to do so–he must look away from himself. That is, he must renounce himself, deny himself, repudiate all “imagined goodness” in himself–and this is something which he is very far from being willing to comply with. The Gospel is a revelation of pure grace, of sovereign mercy, unmerited favor–offering to enrich spiritual paupers, to clothe the spiritually naked, to save Hell-deserving sinners–but that is something the self-righteous and independent heart of fallen man cannot tolerate!

Being completely under the dominion of the Devil–fallen man is puffed up with pride. Instead of humbling himself beneath the mighty hand of God, and confessing his ruined condition–he foolishly imagines that he cannot only do that which will meet with God’s approval–but actually make God his Debtor, so that justice requires God to reward him for his excellent performances. He refuses to acknowledge that he is a fallen, depraved, lost sinner, “without strength,” and without a spark of spiritual life. He refuses to acknowledge that he is utterly incapable of recovering himself, of bettering himself, of doing anything which can meet with the approval of a holy and sin-hating God.

Thus, the unsaved are so deceived by their own hearts and so deluded by Satan–that it is impossible to disillusion them–until a miracle of grace is wrought within them!

But even Christians themselves, have the ‘root of legality’ still left within them, and are to a greater or less degree, infected with a self-legalism1righteous spirit to the end of their days! Though a Divine work of grace has been wrought in them, enabling them to see, feel and know they are depraved, polluted and vile creatures–causing them to close with Christ as He is presented to them in the Gospel, and cast themselves upon Him as their only Hope, their Deliverer, their all-sufficient Savior–pride still works within them, and as it does, they are ready to give heed to some of Satan’s lies–and imagine that they are now in themselves something more, something better than Hell-deserving sinners!

This ‘root of legality’ is constantly bringing forth its foul and poisonous fruit, though for the most part–we are quite unaware of its so subtle and secret activities. Whenever we are pleased with ourselves and our religious performances –a legal spirit is at work within us. Whenever we are less conscious of our deep need of Christ–pride is to that extent, possessing our hearts. Whenever we feel that God, in His providences, is dealing severely with us–a self-righteous spirit possesses us, and we are guilty of this sin. This is sure proof that we think more highly of ourselves, than we ought to think.