[I]t is a terrible and detestable blindness and a demonic presumption when a person has the audacity, as all work-righteous and hypocrites do, to attempt atonement for sin through works and tries in this way to earn the grace of God. It is wretched arrogance. . . . This is like a poor beggar–lice-ridden, syphilitic, leprous, filthy, stinking, and crawling with maggots and worms over his whole body, but nonetheless proud and arrogant–who vauntingly says: ‘Just look at me, a handsome fellow!’
. . . Therefore we have no right to indulge in much bragging and boasting when we step before God. Even if we were members of the highest aristocracy on earth and were prone to take pride in this, before God we would still be nothing but bags of worms or bags of manure, infested with lice, maggots, stinking and foul. . . .
The healing alternative:
But if we do want to boast, then let us boast that we receive from the fullness of Christ, that we are enlightened by Him, attain forgiveness of sin, and become children of God through Him. For this is the sum and substance of it all: Whoever wishes to be safeguarded from the devil's might and to escape sin and death must draw from this well, Christ; from Him flows all salvation and eternal bliss. This fountain is inexaustible; it is full of grace and truth before God; it never fails no matter how much we draw from it. Even if we all dip from it without stopping, it cannot be emptied, but it remains a perennial fount of all grace and truth, an unfathomable well, an eternal fountain.
The more we drink from it, the more it gives.
–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 22:132-34