Chapter 2:1. Lest at any time we should let them slip. Much has been written as to the meaning of the verb here used. It is said by Schleusner that it signifies two things, |to flow through,| as waters through a sieve or a leaky vessel, and |to flow by,| as a river. It is used mostly in the latter sense. Chrysostom and others, both ancient and modern, give it the sense of falling away or perishing; but, according to Stuart, there is no instance either in Scripture or the classics which countenances such a meaning. As it was often the case, so here, the fathers gave what they conceived to be the general sense, without attending to the precise meaning of the word used; and thus their propositions are often very loose. Besides, most of them were wholly ignorant of the language of the Old Testament.
To flow by, in the sense of escaping, is its meaning in classical authors; and Stuart says that all the examples commonly referred to apply only to things, and not to persons. The word only occurs here in the New Testament, and once in the Sept.; and there also it refers to a person, and is clearly used transitively. The passage is Proverbs 3:21, |O son, pass not by (or disregard not, me pararruos, flow not by,) but keep (or retain, tereson) my counsel and thought.| The form of the sentence is different in Hebrew, but the idea is here preserved, |My son, let them not depart from thine eyes; keep (retain) sound wisdom and discretion.| Not to suffer them to depart from the eyes, is the same as not to pass them by or disregard them. There is no other idea compatible with the context; and it is what exactly suits this passage. Then the sentence would be, |Lest we should at any time disregard (or neglect) them.|
It is justly observed by Stuart, that everything in the whole passage is in favor of this meaning: it is the opposite of |taking heed;| and it is often the case in Scripture that the negative idea is stated as well as the positive, and vice versa. Besides, in verse 3 the same idea is presented to us on the same subject, |If we neglect,| etc. Indeed, to disregard or neglect may be deemed as the consequence of not taking heed or attending to a thing. Inattention to truth is followed by the neglect of what it teaches and inculcates. Unless we earnestly attend to what we hear, we shall inevitably neglect what is required. There may be some attention without performance; but there can be no performance without attention.