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 now take up the truth taught us by the leaf into the higher regions of the experience of the soul. There, too, the reality may be other than the seeming. There, too, to rectify our view of life will be to rectify our view of death. What is the life of the leaf? The child replies: To dance in the sun, to play with the breeze, to listen idly to the song of birds. What, then, is its death! The loss of all for which it lived, faded beauty, a broken form, hurled from a proud and peaceful height into the mire of the street, a dishonoured and pitiable wreck. Nay, what is the life of the leaf? The teacher tells the child: To nourish the stock that bore it; to prepare abundant supplies for the life and the labours of man; the fuel that warms, the fruit that feeds, the roof that shelters, the vehicles of commerce by land and sea, that draw the nations into one, the sanctuaries vocal with a nobler praise than that which is warbled through the forest arches. It is to cleanse and vivify the vital air, and thus preserve in healthy vigour the blood of man and beast. It is to send the rain upon the pastures, that feed the cattle on a thousand hills, and on the cornfields that nourish the great family of mankind. What, then, is its death? It is the fulfilment of the good end it lives for, a growing hard and brown in beneficent work, a ripening through constant usefulness into the many-coloured tints of splendid autumn, a putting on of the God-given decorations of ennobled labour; it is a settling into an honoured grave all purpled like a king; it is a resigning of an outworn form to that Providence which treasures up each particle of faithful dust to enter into fresh forms of life and beauty in coming springs. How plainly we see here that different ideas of the purpose of the life lead to different ideas of what the death really is. If we would transform our thought of death, we must transform our thought of life.
(J. M. Whiton, D. D.)
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.