Poor, miserable, paltry works of a polluted worm!

(J.C. Philpot, "The Loss of All Things for Christ's Sake")

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"We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall; and our sins, like the wind, sweep us away!" Isaiah 64:6

We once thought that we could gain heaven by our own righteousness. We strictly attended to our religious duties, and sought by these and various other means to recommend ourselves to the favor of God, and induce Him to reward us with Heaven for our sincere attempts to obey His commandments.

And by these religious performances we thought we would surely be able to make a ladder whereby we could climb up to Heaven. This was our tower of Babel, whose top was to reach unto Heaven, and by mounting which, we thought to scale the stars.

But the same Lord who stopped the further building of the tower of Babel, by confounding their speech and scattering them abroad on the face of the earth; began to confound our speech, so that we could not pray, or talk, or boast as before; and to scatter all our religion like the chaff of the threshing floor. Our mouths were stopped, we became guilty before God, and our bricks and mortar became a pile of confusion!

When, then, the Lord was pleased to discover to our souls by faith, His being, majesty, greatness, holiness, and purity; and thus gave us a corresponding sense of our filthiness and folly—then all our creature religion and natural piety which we once counted as gain, we began to see was but loss. We then saw that our very religious duties, so far from being for us, were actually against us; and instead of pleading for us before God as so many deeds of righteousness, were so polluted and defiled by sin perpetually mixed with them—that our very prayers were enough to sink us into Hell, had we no other iniquities to answer for in heart, lip or life.

But when we had a view by faith of the Person, work, love, and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ—then we began more plainly and clearly to see with what religious toys we had been so long amusing ourselves, and what is far worse, mocking God by them.

We had been secretly despising . . .
  Jesus and His sufferings,
  Jesus and His death,
  Jesus and His righteousness,
and setting up the poor, miserable, paltry works of a polluted worm, in the place of the finished work of the Son of God.