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…
This affecting declaration of the prophet may be considered with reference —
I. TO THE NATURAL VIGOUR OF MAN.
II. TO THE MORAL BEAUTY OF MAN. That goodness which natural conscience, enlightened by the words of revelation, produces; that goodness which is the effect of imitation, and the offspring of moral rather than pious principles; and of conviction rather than conversion; is fading as the frailest leaf of the frailest plant, and transient as the morning cloud and the early dew. Let it be exposed to the wintry blasts of adversity, or to the scorching sun of persecution; place it in the cold atmosphere of the world; and let the chilling influence of the world's indifference be felt by it — and what appearance does it assume? It is fading as a leaf. If your goodness fades as a leaf, have you not much need of being born of that incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever? But even then you will feel yourselves subject to a measure of the same instability and decay. For the words of the text and the whole passage in which they are found seem to be a description, not of careless sinners without grace, but of the people of God, in all the declensions to which they are liable in their best estate.
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.