Seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came, if haply He might find any thing thereon: and when He came to it, he found nothing but leaves.@Mark 11:13

Lu­cy E. Ak­er­man, in the New York Chris­tian Ob­ser­ver, cir­ca 1858. The words were sug­gest­ed by a ser­mon giv­en by M. D. Con­way.

Si­las J. Vail (🔊 pdf nwc).

The hymn was a sp­ecial fa­vo­rite at the ear­ly Moody and San­key meet­ings. I oft­en sang it as a so­lo for Mr. Moody’s le­cture on The Ho­ly Spir­it.

While sing­ing it in Birm­ing­ham a la­dy was con­vinced, as she told me af­ter­wards, that her life had been no­thing but leaves; and she then de­cid­ed to de­vote the rest of her life to res­cu­ing her lost sis­ters. She se­cured a build­ing, which she called The Res­cue Home, and for years she ga­thered in poor, wretch­ed girls from the streets of the ci­ty, gave them em­ploy­ment, and taught them the way of life

Through her ef­forts hun­dreds of girls were saved. Af­ter her death the ci­ty of­fi­cials took up her work, em­ploy­ing oth­er women, who are still en­gaged in seek­ing the lost ones. On my last vis­it to Eng­land I had the plea­sure of vis­iti­ng this res­cue home and sing­ing for the in­mates.


During the mis­sion in 1884, writes M. C. Broad­man, of Stra­tford, East Lon­don, the hymn ‘No­thing but leaves’ was oft­en sung. It brought con­vic­tion to one of the ste­wards. He said that this song dis­turbed him. For years he had been a pro­fess­or of re­li­gion, but with pe­rson­al in­ter­est in view.

He said he trust­ed that hence­forth there would be fruit as well as leaves in his life. From that time he has been an ar­dent Chris­tian wor­ker.

Sankey, pp. 206–07

Nothing but leaves! The Spirit grieves
O’er years of wasted life;
O’er sins indulged while conscience slept,
O’er vows and promises unkept,
And reap, from years of strife—
Nothing but leaves!
Nothing but leaves!

Nothing but leaves! No gathered sheaves
Of life’s fair rip’ning grain:
We sow our seeds; lo! tares and weeds,
Words, idle words, for earnest deeds—
Then reap, with toil and pain,
Nothing but leaves!
Nothing but leaves!

Nothing but leaves! Sad mem’ry weaves
No veil to hide the past;
And as we trace our weary way,
And count each lost and misspent day,
We sadly find at last—
Nothing but leaves!
Nothing but leaves!

Ah, who shall thus the Master meet,
And bring but withered leaves?
Ah, who shall, at the Savior’s feet,
Before the awful judgment seat,
Lay down, for golden sheaves,
Nothing but leaves!
Nothing but leaves!