The following piece is about legalism, in it's finer points. I struggled with this piece and had to read it a number of times before I fully understood it. He addresses how we can get lost in defensive Christianity, where prohibitions and conservative limits can shrink our vision and become the bulk of our faith, missing the greater picture of "walking in love."
"Spiritual blindness may befall a far worthier class than the votaries of pleasure or self-interest: it is the penalty of all who concentrate themselves upon the present; who live for the moment, even though it be the momentary Duty.
Conscience also has its narrowness; its scrupulous, microscopic gaze, that looks for the animalcules of obligation till it grows blind to the stars of faith, and the free heaven swims dizzily before it. The anxieties of the merely dutiful mind show that there is yet a barrier leaving it outside the union with God.
Those cautious steps betray the deterring fear, and are unlike the free movements of a confiding love.
I know at once whose steps they are: they belong to one who appreciates religion as the means of good morals, instead of morals as the germ and condition of religion; whose very faith therefore is a worship of prohibition, a conservatism of limits, an apprehension of the escape of some fugitive desires; and can never fling itself in pure enthusiasm and with fearless trust upon a large career where no rule can guide it but only love impel.
The small scale of affection in these honest and rigid minds shows itself in censorious thoughts: they cannot see beyond the circumference of their own rules: they have no sympathy for other types of life; no large eye for good if God should hide it under strange costume: and so, as the world will grow into unexpected shapes, they are amazed at the perverseness of the world; treating it indeed with no greater rigor than they would severely apply to themselves; only forgetting that the Lord of Omniscience gathers himself not into their center, but rather calls them out into his circumference." Martineau.
One of the ways I apply this is, in our world, where the "strange costumes" of the youth and rebellious, grow into unexpected shapes, we fail to see it as symptoms of loss and alienation. We gasp at the actions of our culture, when to my way of thinking, they are merely symptoms illustrating the break-down of the family, the epidemic of abuse and the inability of the church to meet the needs of our lost and hurting acted out in simply extreme attempts to make sense of life and find happiness and pleasure.