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…
Let us follow the suggestions which our text furnishes upon —
I. THE CAUSES OF HUMAN DECAY. Why should not man, and everything connected with him, be immortal?
1. His present state seems to support a date to its existence. He is a member of a mortal world, and its entire economy seems to suppose and inexorably to work out his mortality. Everything announces its own dissolution. The granite rock, which you would look upon as indestructible, at length gives way, and crumbling down, forms the very soil you till. So, too, in the vegetable world, whether among the frosts of the polar regions, or amid the unvarying warmth of tropical climes. Thus, also, is it in the animal kingdom. Here, everything is limited in its capabilities of life and growth.
2. Life has its friction which tasks its powers and wears them out.
3. Then, with the friction of a life of toil comes often the severe discipline of a life of care, vexation and disappointed hopes.
4. But more common and trying than even this is the discipline of pain to which life on earth is subject.
5. But there is still one more waster of life on earth. Sinful pleasure sets its saddest seal upon the swollen or wasted, the scarred and the disgraced form that comes under its blighting touch. 'Tis sad to see the beautiful plant, which you have nurtured with care, struck with frost before its time; but how much more saddening to see the human form disfigured even in the days of its south and strength by sinful excesses!
II. THE CERTAINTY OF HUMAN DECAY. How certainly our life on earth fades and decays, we may learn from the variety and the constant action of those causes of decay which we have now noticed. The law of nature under which we live is an inexorable law; and this law works out our decay.
III. THE RESULTS OF THIS UNCEASING, THIS INEVITABLE PROCESS.
1. Human beauty decays.
2. Human activity flags.
3. Human strength fails.
4. The human intellect fails. The intellect we believe immortal; yet it is true that in this world that intellect is dependent upon physical organs for its successful exertions, and still more so for the manifestation of its power. All old men arc obliged to show, if not confess, that they can no longer think and plan as they could in the days of their strength.
5. Human affections feel and show this withering process.
6. One other step only is yet to be taken in this journey of decay. That leaf, which for days has been turning pale, clinging still, though tremblingly, to its hold on life, at last falls, not only faded, but dead. And so, too, is it to be with us.
(E. B. Huntington.)
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.