There are several gems in the midsts of this long paragraph from John Owen.
False and corrupt interpretations of the law do countenance many in various lusts and the neglect of manifold duties. The Pharisees of old, representing the design and sense of the law as regarding outward acts and practices only, laid an ax to the root of all true holiness and religion in the apostatizing church of the Jews. Under a pretence of establishing a false legal righteousness, they destroyed the true righteousness of the law. And these things go together always. Those who plead for a righteousness of their own, “as it were by the works of the law” [Rom. 9:32], do constantly by false glosses and interpretations destroy the spirituality and all animating principles of the law itself. For rightly to understand the sense of the law and to seek for righteousness by it, or as it were by its works, are altogether inconsistent. Whereas therefore, many men, partly by their natural blindness, are not able to discern the spiritual sense of the law, and partly out of their dislike of and enmity unto it, will not comply with the light which is tendered unto them. They have fought by false interpretations to accommodate the law itself unto their own lust and inclination. So evidently was it with the Pharisees of old. Nor are the present apprehensions of many about these things much different from theirs. For such expositions of the law are embraced, wherein there is little respect unto the spiritual frame of the heart, or the internal actings of the adverse principles of sin and obedience. The extent of the command is also by many exceedingly straitened, nor will anything scarcely be allowed to be commanded or forbidden in it, but what the letter does plainly express. And it is evident how such apprehensions will insensibly weaken the sense of a necessity of universal mortification, and abate the diligence of the mind in endeavoring after a renewed spiritual frame of heart. By such means a declension from all true holiness and piety will be effectually promoted. For when men once begin to satisfy themselves in the outward duties of divine worship and righteousness, which, if alone, are but a dead carcass of religion, they will not long abide in a conscientious observation even of them.John Owen, To the Christian Reader, The law unsealed: or, A practical exposition of the Ten Commandments by James Durham (1675; under re edit for a new edition).