The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.
No dispensation of Providence appears, at first sight, more advantageous to mankind than the diversity of conditions. The prince has need of his people, and the people have need of their prince; the politician has need of the soldiers, and the soldiers have need of the politician. This consciousness of the need which we have of our fellow-creatures is the strong tie which binds us to them. Yet, by the depravity of the human race, this useful order has been miserably abused. On one side the great have been dazzled by their own splendour, and hence have become haughty, disdainful, and oppressive. On the other, the low, forgetting the dignity which naturally cleaves to a reasonable soul, have become fawning and mean; have bowed down to imaginary divinities and crouched before phantoms of grandeur. Both parties have acquired their erroneous ideas from neglecting to consider themselves in a proper point of view. The nature of man consists of a spirit united to a body; and this description applies to the whole race. The soul of the poor man, as well as that of the rich, has the power of considering principles, of drawing consequences, of discerning truth from falsehood, of choosing good or evil, of seeking for the most glorious and useful attainments. His body, too, bears the same characters of skill and exquisite contrivance: it is harmonious in its parts, just in its motions, and proportioned in its powers. As their powers are the same, so too are their weaknesses. The soul of the rich, like that of the poor, is subject to the influence of the passions. Nor do their privileges differ more; for though a poor man cannot exercise the authority of the great, nor obtain the reputation of immortal heroes, yet he may aspire to honours infinitely greater. He has a right of raising himself to God by the ardour of his prayers; and he can assure himself, without danger or delusion, that the great God will regard and answer his prayers. Nothing shows so much the meanness of the great as the value which they set on exterior advantages, for thus they renounce their true and proper grandeur. The glory of man consists not in that he is rich, noble, a lord, or a king, but in that he is a man, a being formed after the image of God, and capable of the sublimest attainments. What are the views of God with regard to men? What end does He propose in placing us on this planet, thirty, forty, or fourscore years? He intends it as our time of trial. On this principle, what is the most glorious condition? It is not that which raiseth us in society; nor that which procures us the greatest honours and accommodations of life, for it is more glorious to be a good subject than a wicked king, to be a good disciple than a profligate teacher. There is no profession shameful if it is not vicious. There is, indeed, something more noble in the objects of some professions than of others. There is something much greater in the design of a magistrate making and executing laws for the good of mankind and in that of a mechanic practising the simplest arts. But God will not determine our everlasting state according to the design of our professions, but according to the execution; in that respect all professions are equal, and all men have the same destination. Mankind, then, are essentially equal in their nature, their privileges, and their destination. Above all this, equality is eminently conspicuous in their end. We may labour to acquire a portion of honest fame, to augment our fortune, to establish our reputation, and sweeten, as far as we can, the cares of life, for this the morality of the gospel does not condemn; but still we must carry this labour no farther than it deserves; it must not be our chief care. God has given to the great ones of the earth an exterior glory, transient and superficial; but to the humble and the patient He has given that glory which is real, solid, and permanent; and what is there difficult to a wise man in submitting to this order of Providence? It may, in some respects indeed, be mortifying to lurk in the lowest ranks of society when one feels sentiments of greatness and elevation in the soul. But those things will soon pass away; soon shall we enter on a world where those distinctions shall be abolished, and all that is great in the immortal mind shine forth in full splendour.
Parallel VersesKJV: The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.