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I. This world is not a scene adapted or intended to afford the pleasure and benefit of friendship entire. Men cannot collect and keep around them an assemblage of congenial spirits, to constitute, as it were, a bright social fire, ever glowing, ever burning, amidst the winter of this world. They cannot surround themselves with the selectest portion of humanity, so as to keep out of sight and interference the general character of human nature. They are left to be pressed upon by an intimate perception of what a depraved and unhappy world it is. And so they feel themselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth.
II. It is contrary to the design of God that the more excellent of this world's inhabitants should form together little close assemblages and bands, within exclusive circles, detached as much as possible from the general multitude. On the contrary, it is appointed that they should be scattered and diffused hither and thither, to be useful and exemplary in a great number of situations; that there should be no large space without some of them. Thus it is a world that dissociates friends. Nevertheless friends do sometimes meet; and then it is quite natural to do as Moses and Jethro did: "ask each other of their welfare."
In the meeting of genuine friends, after considerable absence, these feelings will be present: (1) Kind affection. (2) Inquisitiveness. "They asked each other." (3) Reflective comparison; not an invidious, but an instructive, one. (4) Gratitude to God for watching over them both. (5) Faithful admonition and serious anticipation.
J. Foster, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 208
References: Exodus 18:7 . A. K. H. B., Towards the Sunset, p. 127. Exodus 18:13-26 . S. Cox, Expositor's Notebook, p. 52. 28 Parker, vol. ii., p. 141.
Various lessons may be gathered from the fact that Moses was wearing himself away by undue application to the duties of his office, and that by adopting Jethro's suggestion and dividing the labour he was able to spare himself and nevertheless equally secure the administration of justice.
I. We see the goodness of God in His dealings with our race in the fact that labour may be so divided that man's strength shall not be overpassed, but cannot be so divided that man's strength shall be dispensed with.
II. It is a principle sufficiently evident in the infirmity of man that he cannot give himself incessantly to labour, whether bodily or mental, but must have seasons of repose. We shrink from the thought and the mention of suicide, but there are other modes of self-destruction than that of laying hands on one's own person. There is the suicide of intemperance; there is also the suicide of overlabour. It is as much our duty to relax when we feel our strength overpassed, as to persevere while that strength is sufficient.
III. God has, with tender consideration, provided intervals of repose, and so made it a man's own fault if he sink beneath excessive labour. What a beautiful ordinance is that of day and night! What a gracious appointment is that of Sunday 1 When the Sabbath is spent in the duties that belong to it, its influence gives fresh edge to the blunted human powers.
IV. Each one of us is apt to be engrossed with worldly things. It is well that some Jethro, some rough man from the wilderness, perhaps some startling calamity, should approach us with the message, "The thing that thou doest is not good; thou wilt surely wear away."
V. At last we must all wear away, but our comfort is that, though the outer man perish, the inner man shall be renewed day by day.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1512.
References: Exodus 19:1 . W. M. Taylor, Moses the Lawgiver, p. 182; Parker, vol. ii., p. 147. Exodus 19:1-6 . D. J. Vaughan, The Days of the Son of Man, p. 197. 19 Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 202. 19, 20 Ibid., p. 204.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Exodus 18". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent