For that ye ought to say - Αντι τοι λεγειν ὑμας· Instead of saying, or instead of which ye should say,
If the Lord will, we shall live - I think St. James had another example from the rabbins in view, which is produced by Drusius, Gregory, Cartwright, and Schoettgen, on this clause: "The bride went up to her chamber, not knowing what was to befall her there." On which there is this comment: "No man should ever say that he will do this or that, without the condition If God Will. A certain man said, 'To-morrow shall I sit with my bride in my chamber, and there shall rejoice with her.' To which some standing by said, השם גוזר אם im gozer hashshem, 'If the Lord will.' To which he answered, 'Whether the Lord will or not, to-morrow will I sit with my bride in my chamber.' He did so; he went with his bride into his chamber, and at night they lay down; but they both died, antequam illam cognosceret." It is not improbable that St. James refers to this case, as he uses the same phraseology.
On this subject I shall quote another passage which I read when a schoolboy, and which even then taught me a lesson of caution and of respect for the providence of God. It may be found in Lucian, in the piece entitled, Χαρων, η επισκοπουντες, c. 6: Επι δειπνον, οιμαι, κληθεις ὑπο τινος των φιλων ες την ὑστεραιαν, μαλιστα ἡξω, εφη· και μεταξυ λεγοντος, απο του τεγους κεραμις επιπεσουσα, ουκ οιδ ' ὁτου κινησαντος, απεκτεινεν αυτον· εγελασα ουν, ουκ επιτελεσαντος την ὑποσχεσιν . "A man was invited by one of his friends to come the next day to supper. I will certainly come, said he. In the mean time a tile fell from a house, I knew not who threw it, and killed him. I therefore laughed at him for not fulfilling his engagement." It is often said Fas est et ab hoste doceri, " we should learn even from our enemies." Take heed, Christian, that this heathen buffoon laugh thee not out of countenance.
For that ye ought to say - Instead of what you do say, “we will go into such a city,” you ought rather to recognise your absolute dependence on God, and feel that life and success are subject to his will. The meaning is not that we ought always to be saying that in so many words, for this might become a mere ostentatious form, offensive by constant unmeaning repetition; but we are, in the proper way, to recognise our dependence on him, and to form all our plans with reference to his will.
If the Lord will - This is proper, because we are wholly dependent on him for life, and as dependent on him for success. He alone can keep us, and he only can make our plans prosperous. In a thousand ways he can thwart our best-laid schemes, for all things are under his control. We need not travel far in life to see how completely all that we have is in the hands of God, or to learn how easily he can frustrate us if he pleases. There is nothing on which the success of our plans depends over which we have absolute control; there is nothing, therefore, on which we can base the assurance of success but his favor.