Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.
Sooner or later we all of us have to learn to say those words, "I must"; and our whole character, good or evil, saved or lost, will depend upon the way in which we learn to say, "I must." How we should learn to say, "I must," is the subject of this morning's sermon. "Nevertheless, I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following." Not to the Son of Man alone, but to every man there come inevitable days of life. No human can escape the necessity of saying at some hour, "I must." Even Napoleon has his St. Helena. We say, "I will"; and the next day find ourselves saying, "I must." God never suffers us to say the one for many hours without compelling us to say the other. Thoughtlessly we go our way, and look up to find ourselves facing the inevitable. There it is, steadily confronting us. It is hard as the face of a precipice. We cannot go around it. We cannot climb over it. We must stand still before it. There is no word of our English speech which we more cordially dislike than this same short word "must." We will not brook it when spoken to us by other men. Any friendship would be broken by it. Love knows nothing of it. Liberty consists in refusing to speak it when kings proclaim it, or any foreign might commands it. Men have died rather than yield to it. Yet consider how large a portion of our daily life is put before us, and how much of our own personality is given to us under some form of necessity; and how large consequently is the work of reconciliation to be accomplished, if it be possible, between the "I wills" and the "I musts" of our lives. There is, to begin with, the "must" of heredity. We cannot vacate our inherited individuality and choose another and a happier. We have to accept ourselves as we were born. Besides this primal necessity of our birth, there are the fixed grooves of natural law in which our lives must run, and all the forms of circumstance to which our individualities must be fitted. In the midst of these physical, industrial, and social necessities our space of spirit and freedom seems small as the cage of a bird, and hard sometimes as the treadmill of a beast of burden. Every day, every hour, has its limitations and thraldom of spirit for us. Pain is an insult to the spirit. Sickness is humiliation of the soul. Death is the triumphing as of an enemy over us. I have been expressing thus our common feeling of irreconcilableness to much that seems inevitable in human life. In order that we may learn to say "I must" in any true and free way, we should look more intently into the nature of this great compulsion which is laid upon us all. What is it? It wears ofttimes a face of fate. Is that its only and eternal countenance? Is there any thoughtfulness for us behind it? What or whose is this will which must be done on earth as in heaven? Our tone and temper when we say "I must" will depend very vitally upon our belief concerning the character of the Power whose grasp is the inevitableness of human life. To what voice, and to what voice alone, in the universe may a man answer, "I must," and "I will"? For this also is true that there can be no reconciliation for us with the inevitable, no happy harmony of our spirits with our circumstances and our necessities, until in some way we have learned to answer, "I will," from within our own free hearts, whenever that Voice from without speaks to us its inevitable "You must." The two voices from without and from within must become one, keyed to the same note and making one music, before life can be harmony and peace. I might say that it is religion which does this blessed work; that I have seen religion reconciling men and life; and that religion has joined soul to life so happily that henceforth no man can put them asunder. I might urge that only when we gain clear perception that every inevitable thing is a Divine thing, every word "You must" in our life a word of God, only then can we begin to answer with good heart, "I will." I might set in order the reasons for believing that beneath this whole appearance of inevitableness in human life and history there is a will of Divine righteousness, and a heart of infinite love. When we feel the touch of the love of God in the hand of fate, our hearts can say through all our tears, "Thy will be done." I might urge further that our present life, with its civilized temptations, and its polite lies of the devil, and its fashionable demons of unbelief and unrighteousness, lays upon all true men an urgent necessity of realizing the presence of the living God on this earth, if indeed we would keep the faith and the hope of a man's spirit amid the shams, and shames, and tumults of our world. I might urge you to try this religious way of reconciliation with life, to seek for some sign of God's presence, and to wait for some revelation of God's pure will, in all the events which come to you, and which you must meet in your way of life. But there is a nearer argument than this. There is clearer proof of this one true way of happy and harmonious life than even these evidences of our reason and conscience. It is shown to us — the true life, in its full strength, its noble harmony and peace, is all revealed to us — in the Christ of the Gospels. That was the life of perfect reconciliation with the world. When only twelve years old, what must be as His duty and His ministry was already Jesus' will of life. "I must" and "I will" strike one note in His Diviner speech. When He said, "I must be about My Father's business," it was with no cheerless tone, with no heartless voice of resignation. It was His meat to do the will of Him that sent Him. Knowing this world to be God's world, and perceiving life in it to be God's will, what He must do was what He would do, and every necessity of His ministry was welcome as a messenger from God's presence. The tragic inevitableness of His life — that dark shadow which He saw stealing over His path long before the disciples noticed any sign of its approach — the need of His sufferings and death, which even when He went down His trial-way they could not understand or believe — the cruel necessity of His betrayal, and the crucifixion in a world of sin, which Jesus saw must needs be the cup which it was the Father's will not to let pass from Him — all this was not enough to set His heart at strife with the way which to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following, He must walk, to make Him cease to call God's ordained hour, "My hour," or to go, eager and strong, to meet it. "Howbeit I must go on My way to-day and to-morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem." In this obedience unto death the will of God which is to be done on earth and the will of man are one and the same pure will.
(Newman Smyth, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.