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Self-righteousness, also referred to as sanctimoniousness, sententiousness, or a holier-than-thou attitude, is a sense of smug moral superiority derived from a belief that one's knowledge, will, actions, or affiliations are innately more virtuous than those of others.

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  • The variety of inventive ideas—and ideologies—that people can come up with never ceases to amaze me, especially when they’re stoked by the ultimate drug, self-righteousness.
  • Never have I greater reason for suspicion than when I am particularly pleased with myself, my faith, my progress, and my alms.
    • Christian Scriver, Gotthold's Emblems, translated by Robert Menzies (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1862), CI. The Eye That Does Not See Itself, p. 152

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • A man may as certainly miscarry by his seeming righteousness and supposed graces, as by gross sins; and that is, when a man doth trust in these as his righteousness before God, for the satisfying His justice, appeasing His wrath, procuring His favor, and obtaining his own pardon.
  • Regret not that which is past; and trust not to thine own righteousness.
  • If there be ground for you to trust, as you do, in your own righteousness, then all that Christ did to purchase salvation, and all that God did from the fall of man to prepare the way for it, is in vain. Consider what greater folly could you have devised to charge upon God than this, that all those things were done so needlessly; when, instead of all this, He might only have called you forth, and committed the business to you, which you think you can do so easily.
  • What self-righteous persons take to themselves, is the same work that Christ was engaged in when He was in His agony and bloody sweat, and when He died on the cross, which was the greatest thing that ever the eyes of angels beheld. Christ could accomplish other parts of this work without cost; but this part cost Him His life, as well as innumerable pains and labors. Yet this is the part which self-righteous persons go about to accomplish for themselves.
  • You trust in your own doings to appease God for your sins, and to incline the heart of God to you. Though you are poor, worthless, vile, and polluted, yet you arrogantly take upon you that very work for which the Son of God became man; and in order to which God employed four thousand years in all the great dispensations of His providence, aiming chiefly to make way for Christ's coming to do this work. This is the work that you foolishly think yourselves sufficient for; as though your prayers and performances were excellent enough for this purpose. Consider how vain is the thought which you entertain of yourself. How must such arrogance appear in the sight of Christ, whom it cost so much? It was not to be obtained even by Him, so great and glorious a person, at a cheaper rate than His wading through a sea of blood, and passing through the midst of the furnace of God's wrath.
  • You that trust in your own righteousness, arrogate to yourselves the honor of the greatest thing that even God Himself ever did. You seem not only sufficient to perform Divine works, but such is your pride and vanity, that you are not content without taking upon you to do the very greatest work that ever God Himself wrought. God's works of providence are greater than those of creation. To take on yourself to work out redemption, is a greater thing than if you had taken it upon you to create a world.
  • To depend partly upon Christ's righteousness and partly upon our own, is to set one foot upon a. rock and another in the quicksands. Christ will either be to us all in all in point of righteousness, or else nothing at all.
  • Let us pray God that He would root out of our hearts every thing of our own planting, and set out there, with His own hands, the tree of life, bearing all manner of fruits.
  • Those who err in one direction, always take care to let you know that they are quite free from error in the opposite direction. A boorish man thanks God very loudly that he is not insincere— nobody having ever thought of accusing him even of that small and wretched approach to politeness, which is sometimes flavored by insincerity.
  • The thing of all others that unfits men for the reception of Christ as a Saviour, and for the simple reliance on His atoning blood and Divine mercy, is not gross, long profligacy, and outward, vehement transgression; but it is self-complacency, clean, fatal self-righteousness,and self-sufficiency.
  • God has nothing to say to the self-righteous. Unless you humble yourself before Him in the dust, and confess before Him your iniquities and sins, the gate of heaven, which is open only for sinners, saved by grace, must be shut against you forever.
  • You can always tell when a man is a great ways from God — he is always talking about himself, how good he is. But the moment he sees God by the eye of faith, he is down on his knees, and, like Job, he cries, "Behold I am vile."
  • For when man comes to front the everlasting God, and look the splendor of His judgments in the face, personal integrity, the dream of spotlessness and innocence, vanishes into thin air; your decencies and your church-goings and your regularities and your attachment to a correct school and party, your gospel formulas of sound doctrine — what is all that, in front of the blaze of the wrath to come?
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