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THE DOCTRINE OF HOLY SCRIPTURE RESPECTING THE RICH AND POOR, AND THEIR DUTIES TO GOD, AND TO ONE ANOTHER.
[Preached for the Salop Infirmary.]
PROVERBS xxii. 2.
“ The rich and poor meet together : the Lord is
the maker of them all.” Of the various distinctions which subsist in human society, that disparity of conditions which arises from the unequal distribution of wealth, is wont to be most thought of and observed. We all mind “earthly things” too much ; and in proportion as we do so, the temporal consequences of this disparity are, of course, more felt, till they come at length to be looked upon as vastly more important than they really are. And then, much that is evil is sure to follow. One class are tempted to repine at the orderings of God's providence ; another to forget their obligations to the Giver, in their idolatrous admiration of his gifts. And society is a grievous sufferer. The rich and poor meet together in jealousy, and not in love ; the poor regarding the rich with envy, and the rich looking upon the poor with contempt: and sometimes advantage is taken by ungodly and ill-designing persons to aggravate the discontent, and widen the breach, and thereby to produce “confusion and every evil work.”
These things, however, would not be so, if all would search the Scriptures, and yield themselves to the light thence to be obtained. For so they would learn that “God is no respecter of persons,” but good and kind to all; and that whatever differences there may be at present in favour of some beyond the rest, God has ordained them most mercifully and most wisely, to no man's real detriment; but in order to the general good, and to the bringing of many sons to higher degrees both of holiness and happiness, in that everlasting kingdom to which he calls high and low alike in Jesus Christ.
This is implied in the text which is to be the subject of my discourse. Solomon admits that inequality which has been spoken of, and intimates that it must continue. But for the solution of all difficulties respecting it, he thinks it
sufficient simply to observe of the parties severally concerned, that “the Lord is the maker of them all.” I shall take occasion from the saying,
I. First, to set before you the doctrine of holy Scripture respecting rich and poor.
II. And then to explain and enforce the duties which the two classes severally owe to God and to one another.
The application to the special occasion of my address will be obvious.
I. First, then, let us hear the doctrine of holy Scripture respecting the rich and poor.
inay be right, however, before we enter upon this, briefly to state who these parties are: for all, perhaps, are not quite agreed on this point. Some do not choose to be classed among the rich, because they see many much wealthier round them, and they possess, as they say, themselves no more than is enough to support them in their proper rank of life to which they were born. . And again, these same persons will not class some others among the poor, because, though they know their means to be far smaller than their own, they have, nevertheless, at present, “ food and raiment ;" they are not starving, and therefore they ought to be content.
This statement, however, cannot be admitted with a view to our present discussion. The question is now, who are the rich in that sense and measure, that it
that it may be accounted their bounden duty “to do good and to communicate" of their substance to the needy; and who are the poor
in that sense and measure, that they may reasonably expect assistance, at least in some degree, and under some circumstances, from those whom God has made his stewards. And here I say, all who have a property or capital of their own, ought to reckon themselves the rich, in this view, though that property be not large ; provided only it be such as to make it possible for them, after supplying their households with the absolute necessaries of life, to help the distressed also, more or less, through denying themselves some conveniences. And such, on the other hand, as, having nothing to maintain them but their labour, are liable at any time to be brought to want by any of the various accidents which may interrupt their earnings,—they are the
poor, whom it is the duty of the other party benevolently to watch over always, and liberally to assist often
And now, respecting these parties, the text declares two things : “ The rich and poor meet together;" or are mingled and associated as members of the same community,--and further, " The Lord is the maker of them all.”
i. I take this latter intimation first. And we shall easily perceive how much is necessarily im
plied in it, and deducible from it, both for the correction of men's evil surmisings, and for their instruction in the
way 1. The words mean, of course, in the first place, that God gave to every one, without exception, his natural life and being, bestowing upon all thereby the self-same gift. He made all men of “one blood.” One man, first, out of the dust of the earth ; one woman afterwards of that man; and the whole race of that pair. So that all are of one stock, all one family, his children alike, and one another's brethren. None nearer to God or further from him than another, naturally; none better or worse than his fellow, naturally; none having more claim than another upon the one Author and Giver of all good : and, accordingly, we find it set down in scripture, that God does not admit any claim of one beyond another; for, “ He accepteth not the person of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor;" and the reason assigned is, that “they are all the work of his hands.” And the same impartiality is manifest from his actions ; for, while the wide difference of men's worldly lot is admitted, it must be borne in mind that it was not for this world that man was made. His treasure is in the world to come ; his real “ life is hid with Christ in God.” And with reference to this, all ranks are upon a level. Through one Christby one Spirit-all have