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We all do fade as a leaf.- Isai. Ixiv. 6.
The inspired writers often send us to the ani. mal, and even to the vegetable world, for instruction: and it must be confessed, that they are wonderfully adapted to strike, and to admonish .
The misfortune, however, is, that “Seeing. many things, we perceive not.” The means of instruction are plentifully dispensed, but a mind to use them is rarely found.
Such a mind, however, it behooves us to cultivate. And when the attention is awakened, and we are willing to learn, every thing becomes a teacher or a moniter. “ The heavens declare the glory of God; all his works praise him.” The ravens encourage us to trust in him for food, and the lilies for clothing. His voice is heard in the thunder. He whispers also in the breeze-and even a falling leaf preaches a lesson to man.
From our window or in our walks, we may now see the trees shedding their honours. While we gaze, Isaiah tells us, that this is an emblem of ourselves—6 For we all do fade as a leaf.” It is observable that he does not compare
life to a tree. An oak, by slow degrees rises to perfection, and long maintains its glory. For ages it defies the fury of the elements, and at last, after long and repeated assaults, it gradually deca ys;
or sullenly submitting to the axe, sinks slowly, and crashing upon the ground. Many trees are much less solid and durable than the oak. But man is compared to none of thein—his image is a leaf.
A leaf, while it hangs on, adorns the branches, and looks beautiful: it is the shelter of the fruit, and the dress of the tree: it waves to the wind, and murmurs many a sound to the ear. But how weak, how frail is it! By what a slender bond does it retain it situation! How little force is required to bring it down to the ground, where it soon mixeth with the earth, and is no more to be distinguished from it!
A leaf does not always endure a whole season. It is exposed to a thousand disasters; and is often crushed in its prime-insects gnaw it off, the beasts of the fields may devour it; winds may scatter it; or it may be shaken down with the fruit. And between the diseases and accidents to which human nature is liable, few of the human race, comparay, atttivelain old age. The Jews formerly reckoned up nine hundred and three diseases; but accidents are absolutely innumerable. A vapour may chill us to death.
Our houses may bury us in their ruins.
Our food may poison When we consider the extreme delicacy of the human frame, and the multiplicity of fine and tender parts of which it is composed, the derangement of one of which brings on the dissolution of the whole, the wonder is, that we ever live a single day to an end! Accordingly, many are carried to the grave as soon as they are born. They open their eyes on a vale of tears, weep, and withdraw. Others grow in stature, become lovely in form, engaging in manners, ainiable in
temper, and promising as to wisdom and virtue; these live long enough to engage the affections of their relatives, and then leave them weeping and refusing to be comforted, because they are not. Others advance farther; form connexions, and enter on their busy schemes-but in that very day, their thoughts perish.—Sometimes wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, receive a commission to destroy. These may be compared to storms, which desolate a whole forest at once, and cover the ground with leaves.
When a leaf falls, it drops irrecoverably. It is otherwise with the tree: “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water it will bud and bring forth boughs like a plant." But the leaf has no second spring;
it can never be revived. And man is like it. 6. Man dieth and wasteth away, yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is heMan lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no: more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” (, could prayers and tears bring him back, and rejoin him to the living! But all in vain!—And equally vain are all our wishes, and our endeavours to prevent the doom! “0, remember, that my life is wind; mine
eye more see good. The eye of him that hath seen me, shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon me, and I am not. As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away; so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.”
But the main thing intended in the image, is the short continuance of its being, and the still shorter duration of its vigour and verdure. Be favourable, ye winds, and ye beasts of the field come not to devour-let the leaf remain and flourish. How contracted the measure of its existence—and of its glory! When Jacob was asked how old he was, he answered, “ The days of the years of my pilgrimage, are a hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years my
life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage"-but if he fell short of the longevity of his ancestors, we come vastly short of his. That man is old.-Ask him how many annual periods of time he has passed through? Threescore
and ten. Ask him how life looks in review?
As a tale that is told; as a dream when one waketh. Ask him how it passed away? As a flood-swifter than a weaver's shuttle. Ask him where now are the companions of his youth? How many will he reckon up, who have gone down to the grave, and have seen corruption: and how few remain to be the associates of his hoary hairs! “Behold, thou hast made my days as a handbreadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee; verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity.”
And how often does a leaf fade sooner than it falls! And is it not so with man? If spared, how soon does he begin to discover infirmities! “ The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength, they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow;" Jabour in the preserving, and sorrow in the possessing. The body decays; the head bows down; the beauty consumes away; the hands cannot perforin their enterprise: the grinders cease, because they are few, and those that look out at the window are darkened.” The powers of the mind partake also of the declension. Sir Isaac Newton, before his death, could not comprehend one of his own axioms! The memory drops its treasures. The vigour of fancy fails. Judgment is dethroned, Man at his best estate is altogether vanity.
Such is the representation of human nature. For this extends to all; whether old or young, poor or rich, despised or honourable, foolish or wise, yea wicked or righteous-we all do fade as a leaf.-And who is not ready to say with David, wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? But, to enable us to judge properly in this case, and to vindicate the divine perfections and providence
Let us remember, first, that this state of frailty and vanity, was not the original state of man; but the consequence of transgression. God made man upright and inmortal; but " By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath passed upon all men, because all have sinned.”
Nor, secondly, is it his only state. There is another life to which the present is introductory, and in connexion with which it should always be considered. The one is the way; the other is the end. The one is the seed time; the other is the harvest.
Thirdly, the vanity and brevity of the present life, if wisely improved, is advantageous with regard to the future.
It furnishes us with no inconsiderable proof of a world to come. Every thing in such a state as