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THE EQUALITY OF MANKIND.
Proverbs xxii. 2.
The rich and poor meet together : the Lord is the maker of them all.
MONG the various dispensations of provi
dence, which regard mankind, one of the most advantageous in the original design of the Creator, and at the same time one of the most fa. tal through our abuse of it, is the diversity of our conditions. How could men have formed one social body, if all conditions had been equal ? Had all possessed the same rank, the same opulence, the same power, how could they have relieved one another from the inconveniences, which would have continually attended each of them : Variety of conditions renders men necessary to each other. The governor is necessary to the people, the people are necessary to the governor; wise statesmen are necessary to a powerful soldiery, a powerful soldiery is necessary to wise statesmen. A sense of this necessity is the strongest bond of union, and this is it, which inclines one to assist another in hopes of receiving assistance in his turn.
But if this diversity be connected with the highest utility to mankind in the original design of the Creator, it is become, we must allow, productive
of fatal evils through our abuse of it. On the one hand, they, whose condition is the most brilliant, are dazzled with their own brightness ; they study the articles, which elevate them above their fellow creatures, and they choose to be ignorant of every thing, that puts themselves on a level with them they persuade themselves, that they are beings incomparable, far more noble and excellent than those vile mortals, on whom they proudly tread, and on whom they scarcely deign to cast a haughty eye. Hence provoking arrogance, cruel reserve, and hence tyranny and despotism. On the other hand, they, who are placed in inferior stations, ' prostrate their imaginations before these beings, whom they treat rather as gods than men; them they constitute arbiters of right and wrong, true and false; they forget, while they respect the rank, which the supreme governor of the world hath given to their superiors, to maintain a sense of their
own dignity. Hence come soft compliances, base submissions of reason and conscience, slavery the most willing and abject to the high demands of these phantoms of grandear, the imaginary gods.
To rectify these different ideas, to humble the one class, and to exalt the other, it is necessary to shew men in their true point of view; to convince them that diversity of condition, which God hath been pleased to establish among them, is perfectly consistent with equality ; that the splendid condition of the first includes nothing, that favors their ideas of self-preference; and that there is nothing in the low condition of the last, which deprives them of their real dignity, or debases their intelligences formed in the image of God. I design to discuss this subject to-day. The men, who compose this audience, and among whom providence hath very unequally divided the blessings of this life ; princes,
who command, and to whom God himself hath given authority to command subjects; subjects, who obey, and on whom God hath imposed obedience as a duty; the rich, who give alms, and the poor who receive them; all, all my hearers, I am going to reduce to their natural equality, and to consider this equality as a source of piety. This is the meaning of the wise man in the words of my text, The rich and the poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all.
Let us enter into the matter. We suppose two truths, and do not attempt to prove them. First, that, although the wise man mentions here only two different states, yet he includes all. Under the general notion of rich and poor, we think, he comprehends every thing, that makes any sensible difference in the conditions of mankind. Accordingly, it is an incontestible truth, that what he says of the rich and poor may be said of the nobleman and plebeian, of the master and the servant. It may be said, the master and the servant, the nobleman and the plebeian meet together ; the Lord is the maker of them all : and so of the rest.
It is not unlikely, however, that Solomon, when he spoke of the rich and poor, had a particular design in choosing this kind of diversity of condition to illustrate his meaning in preference to every other. Although I can hardly conceive, that there ever was a period of time, in which the love of riches did fascinate the eyes of mankind, as it does in this age, yet it is very credible, that in Solomon's time, as in ours, riches made the grand difference among men. Strictly speaking, there are now only two conditions of mankind, that of the rich, and that of the poor. Riches decide all, yea those qualities, which seem to have no concern with them, I mean, mental qualifications. Find but the art of amassing money, and you will thereby find that of uniting in your own person all the advantages of which mankind have entertained the highest ideas. How mean soever your birth may have been, you will possess the art of concealing it, and you may form an alliance with the most illustrious families; how small soever your knowledge may be, you may pass for a superior genius, capable of deciding questions the most intricate, points the most abstruse ;. and, what is still more deplorable, you may purchase with silver and gold a kind of honor and virtue, while you remain the most abandoned of mankind, at least, your money will attract that respect, which is due to nothing but honor and virtue.
The second truth which we suppose, is, that this proposition, the Lord is the maker of them all, is one of those concise, I had almost said, one of those defective propositions, which a judicious auditor ought to fill up in order to give it a proper meaning. The style is very common in our scriptures ; it is peculiarly proper in sententious works, such as this, out of which we have taken the text. The design of Solomon is to teach us, that whatever di-. versities of conditions there may be in society, the men, who compose it, are essentially equal. The reason that he assigns, is, the Lord is the maker of them all. If this idea be not added, the proposition proves nothing at all
. It does not follow, because the same God is the creator of two beings, that there is any resemblance between them, much less that they are equal. Is not God the creator of
pure unembodied intelligences, who have faculties superior to those of inankind ? Is not God the author of their existence as well as of ours ? Because God is the creator of both, does it follow that both are equal ? God is no less the creator of the