(Arthur Pink, "A Legal Spirit" 1942)
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 "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-righteous 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.
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