1 Corinthians 10:12.
Therefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.
It is observed, that "the apostle here speaks to the whole church at Corinth, and to such who truly thought they stood; and plainly supposes, that he who truly stood, might fall, and would do so, if he used not great diligence to keep his standing; for had not this taking heed been the condition of their standing; had they been of the number of those who, by God’s decree, or promise, infallibly were assured of standing, this exhortation to take heed, must have been superfluous; since men can need no admonitions to do that which God’s decree and promise secure them they cannot omit; much less to do it to prevent what cannot possibly befall them." To which I reply;
1. That the apostle does not speak these words to the whole church at Corinth; for though the epistle is in general directed to the church, yet there are several things which only respect some particular persons; as the incestuous person; such who went to law with their brethren before unbelievers; some that behaved disorderly at the Lord’s table, and others that denied the resurrection of the dead, of and to whom some particular things are spoken, which did not belong to the whole church; and here the apostle exhorts, not such who truly thought they stood; for such do stand in the grace of God, in Christ, and by faith, and shall never finally and totally fall away; but such o dokwn, who seemeth to himself and others, to stand; and manifestly designs such who were swelled with a vain opinion of themselves, of their knowledge and strength, tempted God, and trusted to themselves, as the Ethiopic version reads it, and despised weak believers: now such as these may fall, as they often do, from that which they seemed to have, from the truths of the Gospel, and a profession of it, and into scandalous sins, and at last, into condemnation. If it should be asked, why should the apostle concern himself about these persons, or exhort them to take heed to their standing? would it not have been as well, if they had thrown off the mask at once, and have appeared to be what they really were? I answer that the apostasy of formal professors, is injurious both to the honor and interest of true religion; for the ways of God are evil spoken of, the name of Christ blasphemed, profane sinners hardened, and weak believers stumbled by the falls of formal professors, as of real Christians: besides, it must be worse for themselves, their defection being the means of a more severe punishment: for it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them (2 Pet. 2:21).
2. Supposing that such who truly taught spoken to; it will be allowed that these may fall into temptation, into snares, into sin, from a degree of steadfastness in the Gospel, and from a lively and comfortable exercise of grace, but not finally, totally, and irrecoverably; since they are enclosed in the arms of everlasting love, secured in the hands of Christ, built on a foundation that will never give way, and kept by an almighty power, which can never be overcome: and though taking heed is not the condition of their standing, but that is secured unto them by the purpose and promise of God, which can never fail; yet such an exhortation is not superfluous; since though they cannot finally and totally fall, they may fall to the dishonor of God, the reproach of the Gospel of Christ, the grieving of the Spirit, the wounding of their own souls, the stumbling of weak believers, and the strengthening of the hands of the wicked; all which are so many strong reasons and arguments why they should take heed lest they fall; though they can never so fall as to perish eternally: nor are the admonitions needless to that which God’s decree and promise secure; since these are often the means in and by which God executes his decree, and makes good his promise; see Acts 27:22, 24, 31. To add no more, these words should never he made use of against the saints’ final perseverance, since they are so closely connected with the following verse, which so fully expresses that doctrine: there hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man. But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. By this, way we may judge of the nature, design, and use of cautions given to the saints not to fall away; which are represented as evidences and suppositions that they may do, so; such as
The caution Christ gave all his disciples, in these words; Take heed unto yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting etc. (Luke 21:34, 36.). Which only implies, that the apostles, like other men, were subject to infirmities, sins, snares, and temptations: and therefore caution, watch-fullness, and prayer, were incumbent on them, that they might not be found in a supine, negligent, sleepy frame, when not the day of judgment, but of the destruction of Jerusalem, came on; and so they might escape the general calamity, and stand before the Son of man, and carry his Gospel into the Gentile world: and is no proof of the possibility or danger of their final falling away; who were chosen of Christ, given him by his Father, and so kept by him, as that none were lost, but the son of perdition.
When the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews cautions the believers he writes unto, to take heed, lest there be in any of them an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God, and fall from the promised rest; and to look diligently lest any man fail, of the grace of God (Heb.3:12; 4:1; 12:15); his design is to expose the sin of unbelief, as what bereaved the saints of much comfort, and God of much glory; every degree of it in that, being a partial, though not a total departure from God, and therefore should be watched against: and it should he observed, that he does not caution them to take heed lest they fell from the rest promised them, but lest they should seem to come short of it; which they might do, and yet enjoy it: and when he exhorts them, to took diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; this is not to be understood of the grace and favor of God towards them, nor of the grace of God in them, but of the doctrines of grace which they had received; the duty enjoined them being a mutual one, in which they were episkopein, to act the part of a bishop or overseer over each other.
When the apostle Paul cautions the Colossians, to beware, lest any man should beguile them with enticing words, spoil them through philosophy and vain deceit, and beguile them of their reward (Col. 2:4, 8, 18); he does not design a final and total seduction of them from Christ their head, in whom they were complete, verse 10; not a destruction of grace in them but a corruption of the doctrine of grace received by them; which might be unawares introduced by false teachers, under the specious pretenses of humility and holiness.
When the apostle Peter exhorts those he wrote to, to beware, lest being led away with the error of the wicked, they fall from their own steadfastness (2 Pet. 3:17): his meaning is, not as though there was danger or a possibility of falling from the like precious faith they had obtained: but that they might be in danger of falling from some degree of steadfastness in the doctrine of faith, through the ensnaring errors of wicked men; and therefore should guard against it.
Lastly. When the apostle John saith to the children of the elect lady, Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things that we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward (2 John 1:8), it does not follow, that such who have the true grace of God, may lose those things which they have wrought; for it is not what ye, but what we, have wrought; much less lose what the Spirit of God has wrought; but the caution regards the doctrines and ministry of the apostles, lest that should be in any respect in vain; or a veil be drawn over the glory of it, through those persons any way giving heed to the doctrines of deceivers (vv. 7, 9, 10).
 Whitby, p. 428, 429; ed. 2. 417, 418.
 Whitby, p. 429,430; ed. 2. 418, 419.