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their ability the talents, severally entrusted to them; whether they have made use of their time in profitable studies or in honest labour; whether they have lived in the observance of God's laws, acting piously and godly towards Him, justly, and honourably, and kindly towards their fellow-creatures. These will be the subjects of inquiry at the last Great Day; not how much a man has had, but how he has employed it; not how any one has looked, but how he has acted; not how he has been clothed and fed, but whether he has hungered and thirsted after righteousness.
And, in many of these respects, it will perhaps be found at that dread day, that the parable of Dives and Lazarus will be realized ; and that the poor man, who has been contented with his lot, industrious and temperate in his manner of living, considerate and kind to his family, will have a far better account to give of himself than a rich neighbour, who has wasted his time improvidently, lived in careless luxury, fulfilled no duties of religion, nor been merciful and attentive to his afflicted neighbours.--"God,” we are assured, so little considers our artificial distinctions between rich and poor, that “ He accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor,” for “they are all the work of His hands.”a So little, in a religious point of view, is the Almighty disposed to conform His proceedings to our worldly arrangements, that He sent His only Son upon earth, to preach the Gospel to the poor :—not indeed to the exclusion of the rich, if the rich had been disposed to avail themselves of the knowledge, that was then imparted; and of the grace, that was so mercifully proffered. But the Gospel was emphatically said “ to be preached to the poor," because unjust and invidious notions had been prevalent among Jews as well as Heathens, in consequence of the inordinate advantages, which human institutions then bestowed on the higher orders of society; and because, in consequence of those unreasonable prejudices, the poor had been too much neglected by the rich and the great of this world.—It pleased the Almighty therefore to announce His word, as addressed in a more especial manner to the poor ; that henceforth it might be known, they shared His favour as largely as the most fortunate of their earthly brethren.—This then is that true equality of poor and rich in the sight of God, which vindicates at once His justice and goodness, in spite of all apparent inequality. Whatever may be their lot on earth and however low and destitute it may appear, yet will it in general be improved even here, if they will exert themselves to deserve encouragement. They may further be assured; and in all his difficulties and distresses, the assurance will give a good man the sweetest consolation ; that in Heaven itself “ the rich and poor shall meet together; for the Lord is the maker of them all.”
a Job xxxi. 19.
The conclusions, which follow from the manner, in which we have been viewing this important subject, are shortly these; nor can they fail to supply matter of useful practice, as well as serious meditation, both to rich and poor.
And, first, the poor should be thankful to Almighty God, who has corrected the seeming disadvantages of an inferior station by many blessings, which He has withheld from those of a higher. They must consider that they possess the common advantages of creation, the air and light, the warmth of the sun, the beauties of nature, equally with the greatest of us all; that they enjoy some gifts of Providence, as health and strength, in a higher degree than many of their superiors; and that their situation removes them from many temptations, which prove injurious to the bodies and fatal to the souls of others. Above all, they should recollect that they are permitted to enjoy, in as full a degree as the greatest of men, the blessings of revelation and redemption; that the bible is open to them, as well as to the rich; that the means of religious instruction, as well as the blessings of religion itself, are extended without favour to all. They should gratefully call to mind that for them Christ
that to them, in common with the most distinguished and exalted of mankind, are extended the “ innumerable benefits of His precious blood-shedding;" and that, if they prove contented and obedient here, He will “shew them the path of everlasting life He will conduct them to that presence, where is fulness of joy; and to that right hand, where is pleasure for evermore."
On the other hand, those, who are “rich in this world ”b, should consider that the difference of conditions between them and their poorer neighbours, is
a Psalm xvi. 12.
b 1 Tim. vi. 17.
one of the means appointed by the Almighty for trying the goodness of their dispositions, and their fitness for a better state of existence. They should consider it incumbent upon them to remedy, with a discriminating mind indeed, yet with a bountiful hand, any evil that may be occasioned by an unequal distribution of good things here below. Infirmity and distress are, among other wise reasons, permitted to attend the lower classes of mankind, that an opportunity may be given to those, who are placed above them, to shew that they feel the responsibility, which is attached to their abundance ; and that they are active in discovering, and generous in applying, the means, by which the amount of human misery may be abated. It has already been intimated, that the relative condition in the different orders of society has been greatly improved since the days, when our blessed Saviour appeared on earth. No reasonable doubt can be entertained that the improvement is owing to the diffusion of the benignant precepts of the Gospel; and that, in proportion as the Gospel is better understood, in such proportion will the general comfort of society be promoted. It cannot therefore be necessary to exhort those, whose influence or fortune elevates them above their fellow-creatures, not to widen the distinction unnecessarily, still less to embitter it by unfeeling indifference, or harsh language, or injurious treatment. Nevertheless, it can never be unseasonable to remind them that Christ has died equally for all, whether rich or poor ; and that, in a future state, the good and virtuous poor will be admitted, while the rich, who have been unmerciful or ungodly, intemperate or oppressive, will be cast into outer darkness.
Equally then is it incumbent upon all, whether rich or poor, to look upon themselves as children and servants of that God, who is equally anxious for the happiness of every one of His creatures ; although He has thought fit to appoint them different stations, as so many means of putting their disposition to the proof; of ascertaining in one class, the existence of superiority to mere worldly gratifications, disinterestedness, gentleness, benevolence; in the other, of industry, frugality, honesty, patience—in both, of humility, temperance, faith, charity. If therefore, according to their respective means of information, and opportunities of duty, each answers his trial well, the apparent difference will cease. At the close of life, when judgement shall be passed on all men, and full and equitable recompense shall be awarded to their respective deserts ; “the rich and the poor” will assuredly" meet together; for the Lord is the maker of them all.”