But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities…
I. THIS LEAF TEACHES US THE GOSPEL OF SERVICE. It has lived, it has had its day. It falls to perish by the wayside, but it has not lived in vain. When that leaf breathes it takes up carbon and exhales oxygen. When we breathe we take in oxygen. You could not live without the leaf. It keeps the atmosphere pure. It prevents it from becoming poisonous. You are indebted to the leaf for your life. But you say, "That, after all, is but a selfish life; the leaf takes up what it requires, and it throws off what it does not require. Where is your gospel of service in that?" Yes; but it does something else; while feeding itself, it also feeds the tree upon which it grows. It is making the timber as well as satisfying its own needs. Without leaves we should have no wood for our houses, our furniture, or our fires. They die, leaving others to carry on their uncompleted work, but they always build firm, and straight and beautiful. So this little preacher says to us, "Live for great purposes, build for the future. You are but one unit in the great mass of living, toiling men, but remember that you can do a work for the generations to come. Leave the world fairer, and better, and stronger, and sweeter because you have lived. Men die, but man remains. You will go as your fathers have gone before you, but Society will remain behind." And then there is such a thing as service continuing after death. "Dead and done with is not true of a leaf, much less of a man. The scientist tells us how by its decay the leaf is changed into vegetable mould, indispensable for the life of other leaves. Thus the decay of vegetation prepares the way for a new vegetation, and death prepares for life. So also is not a man done with when he is dead. There are many who rule from their graves.
II. THIS LEAF ALSO PREACHES TO MEN THE GOSPEL OF A TRIUMPHANT DEATH. How beautiful Nature is, even in decay i Like an Indian warrior chief, she gathers around her her finery in order to meet death. So the gospel that the leaf has to teach us is a hopeful and a bright one. It is the lesson of triumphant death. After this life, another. "How are the dead raised, and with what manner of body do they come?" is an old question. Where will the leaves of next spring come from T Is it a more wonderful thing to clothe the living soul with a new body than to clothe the apparently dead tree with a new and beautiful foliage?
Parallel VersesKJV: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.