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to retire, the effects would be of a very different kind, but they would be equally melancholy. The destruction of the social fabric would be the infallible result. That wisdom which is necessary for the good of the whole, is found in persons of exalted station. There is the mind that casts its eye over the whole machine of society, discovers its abuses, and aims to correct them; the mind which watches over the execution of the law, gives birth to splendid examples, and refines and embellishes whatever it embraces. It comprehends the order of civil government, and those principles whose operation harmonizes all. These are founded on wisdom, deliberation, and experience, and on the force with which public opinion arms those who are placed in elevated stations. Each of these classes, then, is in its separate place, essential to the welfare of society; and the whole has for its basis the industry of the poor. Were all those, who by their leisure are able to cultivate their own minds, to diffuse the knowledge of true morality, and embellish the manners of mankind, by engrafting new improvements, giving existence to wholesome laws, and seeing them properly executed, what a paradise would the world become!
These considerations will more than reconcile us to that inequality in the condition of society, which for the most part prevails; they will lead us to admire the infinite wisdom of God, who has given birth to those principles which tend to give security and happiness to all, to the poor as well as the rich. By these means society is really united together; so that, while every one is consulting his own interest, he is at the same time promoting the interest of the whole, even more entirely and effectually, than he could have done, if he had separately and intentionally devoted himself to it; and each acquires, by the force of his industry, what no compulsory distribution of labour could possibly have secured. You see how admirable is the wisdom displayed in such a constitution of society, as by the union of its parts under the administration of a wise government, renders every individual, who acts most agreeably to his own interest, at the same time the promoter of the public good. Such a state of society could by no possibility be produced by any technical or mechanical arrangements. The infinite wisdom of God works out this order from the selfish passions of men, and leads each, from a consideration of his own interests in his own station, to operate most effectually for the public benefit. Were those who live in the higher stations of society to lavish all that could be spared from their own expenditure by the most rigid parsimony, and apply it in mere almsgiving, it would be infinitely more injurious than their indulging in even the luxuries of their station : and the proper outlay of their wealth, in the conveniences and comforts of life, is productive of infinitely more good, and of an order of good more than equivalent to any, which an expenditure to the same amount in almsgiving and charity could effect. The rich, enjoying with
moderation that affluence which God has put into their hands, without allowing their reason to be inflamed with pride, and sensuality, and every one enjoying the good things of this life, at the same time preserving the power of meeting the exigencies of others, much more contributes to the healthful state of society, than the largest distribution of almsgiving, were such an exhibition of enjoyment and wealth to cease; and the poor, while only earning their bread “ by the sweat of their brow," lend themselves to the diffusion of happiness and comfort over the whole.
III. We remark that the rich and poor meet together in the house of God. If there be a place, and a time, where those sentiments should be suspended, and at which the emotions connected with the operation of riches and poverty, and the conduct to which they give rise, should suffer a temporary pause, the house of God is precisely that place, and the worship of God, that time; when the rich should forget they are rich, and where the poor should forget they are poor; where they are called to reflect upon that original equality in which mankind was created. In the presence of the great and good Being, they should forget all their distinctions, and recollect their essential relation to Him, who is equally the Father of all mankind.
James, when he was addressing the poor and the rich under the influence of christian principles, says, “ Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low ; because, as the flower of the grass, he shall
pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth ; so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.” The rich man, if he is a christian, will rejoice in that he is made low; will rejoice in returning to the presence of his God, under a sense of his nothingness, and with a consciousness of meriting nothing : this ought to be the experience of every one who is approaching the footstool of the Divine Majesty. The poor man, on the contrary, delights in being truly exalted. He reflects that he is adopted into that family, of which all the saints “ in heaven and earth are named;" he rejoices in the presence of the rich, under a sense of spiritual elevation. The rich descends, in the presence of the poor, into a voluntary humiliation. The one feels the pleasure of descending, while he reflects on his meanness and guilt as a sinner, and lays aside the consideration of all that might have a tendency to lift him up in his own eyes; and the other finds unspeakable consolation in losing sight of his poverty, and in contemplating only the ineffable dignity to which he is exalted as a child of God, a believer in Christ, and an heir of glory. Into the presence of the Divine Being they do not come as rich and poor. It is no part of their business, it is not fit for the occasion on which they are convened. They are convened on common ground, under a deep sense of the necessities of their common nature. Apart from any relations they bear to each other, they prostrate themselves before the infinite God, they deprecate the anger which none can sustain, but which they have equally merited; which is not to be shunned by human arrangements, or by the efforts of human power and influence ; they supplicate that mercy which is equally revealed to the rich and to the poor, and which is the only stay and support of a sinking universe. That mercy is divinely free through the sacrifice and blood of the divine Son. They strengthen themselves for their race, which will terminate, as to all, in an everlasting condition of glory or of woe. In imitation of the holy apostles, they gather fresh grace as they approach Him who is the fountain of grace. They implore the fulfilment of his promises, and the influences of that Spirit who is equally necessary to sanctify the body of the elect of God, to whatever stations they belong, or by whatever variety of fortune they may be distinguished. They look forward to that “new heaven, and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," and to those loveliest regions of light and glory, where all the distinctions of the present life will be entirely forgotten, where the meanest will have a portion with the most elevated in the favour of God, and “a crown of immortal glory.” In this sacred presence all mean and transitory distinctions are lost sight of, are levelled; all mankind feel themselves on one common footing, and prostrate themselves in the presence of Divine Majesty, who is all in all. There “the poor man rejoices in that he is exalted, and the rich in that he is made low.”