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. I HAVE TO DESCRIBE THE VIEW WHICH EVERY TRULY GRACIOUS SOUL WILL TAKE OF HIMSELF.
1. Every gracious soul who is truly enlightened by the Spirit has a clear sense of the root of all his guiltiness. He knows the plague of his own heart, and cries, "We are all as an unclean thing. He discovers that not merely his outward acts, but his very person is essentially sinful in the sight of God.
2. The spiritually enlightened man then perceives that all his actions are evil. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." If our righteousnesses are so bad, what must our unrighteousnesses be?
3. The enlightened heart into which the candle of the Lord hath shone, is led to see the failure and futility of all its resolutions to be better. "We all do fade as a leaf." Our best professions, hopes, resolutions, and pretensions — all of them fade like shadows, dreams, and fancies of the brain.
4. But the truly awakened soul knows a fourth thing, namely, that he is not in himself able to stand against the invasions of temptation, for the text has put it — "Our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. When men find that their vows wither, yet they will still hang to their hopes, and to their moralities; but some strong temptation comes unexpectedly upon them just at the moment when their mind is susceptible of its power, and where are they? The temptation comes like a howling north wind at an unexpected moment, and where is your man now? Unable to resist, carried away by the very vice which he thought he had renounced.
5. Those souls upon whom God's sunlight had once shone are also painfully aware of their own natural weakness and slothfulness in prayer. "There is none that calleth upon Thy name,' etc.
6. That soul which has once perceived itself in the black colours of its iniquity, has discovered that through sin it has lost all the favour and love of God which might have come if it had been without sin, for so saith the text, "For Thou hast hid Thy face from us, etc. it is no thing to play with that hiding of God's face. When the prophet says, "Thou hast consumed us, it is a dreadful word.
II. There is a danger I must warn you of, and that is — DO NOT BE CONTENT WITH THE MERE KNOWLEDGE THAT IT IS SO. You must not merely know that you are lost, but you must feel it. Do not be content with simply feeling that it is so, but mourn before God that it is so, and hate yourself that it is so. Do not look upon it as being a misfortune, but as being your own wilful sin, and look upon yourselves, therefore, as being sinners, condemned already, not only for all this, but condemned because you believe not on Christ, for that after all is the crowning condemnation. And when you really feel your sinfulness, and mourn it, do not stop here; never give yourself any rest till you know that you are delivered from it.
III. THE TEXT SEEMS TO SUGGEST SOME PLEAS. Poor troubled soul, I am afraid thou canst not use the first one mentioned in the text — "Thou art my Father! " I am half afraid you have not faith enough for that, but if you have, what a prevailing plea it is! "My Father, I have sinned, but I am Thy son, though not worthy to be so called; my Father, by a father's love forgive, forgive Thine erring one; by the bowels of Thy compassion have mercy upon me! " You who have backslidden can plead this, for you know your adoption. But if that should be too hard for you, take the next plea. Say, "Lord, I am the clay and Thou the potter; I am helpless like the clay which cannot fashion itself; I am worthless like the clay that is of no value; I am filthy, Lord, like clay! I am only worthy to be trodden under foot, but Thou art the potter, and potters can make fine things even of clay. Here I am, Lord; I put myself into Thy hand. I am nothing; make me what Thou wouldst have me to be.' Will not that plea suffice? But hark thee, sinner. There is a sweeter plea than any in the verse before us, for this is an Old Testament text; but I must take thee to the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for the plea that never fails. It is this, "Lord, it is written that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; if there was never a sinner in the world but one, that sinner I am. I trust myself in His hands to save me." It is done, it is done. You are saved; you are "accepted in the Beloved."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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.