Part 1

Section 52Hebrews 10:38.

Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

The doctrine of the possibility of the final departure of true believers from the faith, is said[1] to be still farther evident from these words: Wherefore,

1. For the right understanding of this passage it will be proper to consult the original text in Habakkuk 2:4, from whence it is taken. The word hlp[, which the Septuagint have rendered by uJpostei>lhtai, here used by the apostle, and in our version translated draw back,is, according to R. David Kimchi,[2] nyn[ wdzw blh twhbg, expressive of pride and haughtiness of heart: and according to Jarchi[3] is twz[ nwl, a word that has the signification of impudence in it; R. Moses Kimchi[4] takes it to be the same with lp[, which signifies a tower or fortified place; and thinks it designs one that betakes himself to such a place for shelter from the enemy, and seeks not to God for deliverance; from all which senses or the word we may conclude that such an one is intended who is proud, haughty, vain, and conceited, lifted up with his own righteousness, in which he trusts, and in which he imagines himself to be safe from all evil; and so stands opposed to the just man who lives by faith,walks humbly with God, in a dependence, not on his own, but Christ's righteousness, in which he is safe from all wrath and condemnation, and secure of the divine favor; while the other will be so far from being the object of God's delight and pleasure, that he will lie under his sad displeasure, and feel his keen and just resentment. The Greek word uJpostei>lhtai, used by the Septuagint and the apostle, signifies a withdrawing through fear, as Peter withdrew because of the circumcision (Gal. 2:12), and may here intend a forsaking the assemblies of the saints (v. 25, which was the manner of some), and all the ordinances of public worship, through fear of reproach, scandal, and persecution, withholding truth, shunning to declare it, or to maintain a profession of it, contrary to what the apostle Paul says of himself (Acts 20:20, 27), where this word is twice used, and may design one who uJpokri>netai dolieu>etai, plays the hypocrite,and deals deceitfully,as a late writer[5] observes, the word is rendered by Hesychius and Suidas; than which, to do in religious affairs especially, nothing is more abominable to God; and, in short, may be expressive of an entire departure and total apostasy from the faith, not from true saving faith, but from a mere profession of the grace and doctrine of faith. But then,

2. It must be observed, that eja<n uJpostei>lhtai, if he or any one draws back,does not refer plainly, as it is said,[6] to the just man who lives by his faith;for as the drawer back, in verse 39, stands opposed to him that believes to the saving of his soul;so the drawer back, in verse 38, stands opposed to the just that lives by faith,which is owned by the author I refer to, and consequently cannot be the same person; this will still more fully appear from the order of the words in Habakkuk 2:4, he that is lifted up, or withdraws himself[7] or fails, his soul,that is, God's, shall have no pleasure in him; but the just shall live by his faith;therefore the words do not plainly suppose, as is asserted,[8] that the just man who lives by that faith,in which, if he persisted, he would save his soul, may draw back to perdition;nor is this evident from the ensuing words, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,for they do not plainly intimate, as is affirmed, that God took pleasure in him before his drawing back; since it is not said, my soul shall have no more, or no further pleasure in him,but shall have no pleasure in him;which does not necessarily suppose that he had any pleasure in him before, but that he should have none in him hereafter. Besides, such who are the objects of God's delight and pleasure are always so; nothing can separate from the love of God, which is always joined with delight in his people.

3. Admitting that the words do plainly refer to the just man that lives by faith, such a one cannot draw back to perdition;for that is denied in the following verse; is contrary to an express declaration, a just man falleth seven times a day, and riseth up again (Prov. 24:16); and consistent with a divine promise, the righteous shall hold on his way (Job 17:9); and even with this in the text, the just shall live by faith;and therefore shall not die the second death, or so draw back as to be eternally lost; though his zeal may abate, his love grow cold, and he fall from some degree of steadfastness in faith; but allowing that drawing back to perdition is here supposed of the just man, it is no more than an hypothetical proposition, which proves not that ever any just man did, could, or should so draw back. The nature and use of such conditional propositions, in which the condition, or thing supposed is impossible, has been shown under the foregoing section. But it is observed,[9] that kai< eja<n, may be rendered not hypothetically, and if,but and when he draweth back:be it so, it is well known that a condition is as well and as frequently expressed by when, the adverb of time, as by the conjunction if, of which numerous instances might be given. The objection from the impossibility of the condition, and the uselessness of threats founded thereon, is answered in the preceding section.

4. I see not why the supplement any man,should not stand, made by our translators, which the grammatical construction of the words seems to require. Grotius owns the justness of it. Now this carries off the sense from the just man that lives by faith,to any of those who had made an external profession of religion, but were withdrawing themselves from the communion of the saints, through fear of persecution, who are threatened with the just resentment and displeasure of the Almighty; but lest this should be startling and surprising to true believers, the apostle adds, but we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.So far is this from proving the final and total apostasy of real saints, that it establishes the doctrine of their final perseverance; for he that is just or righteous by the everlasting righteousness of Christ,will ever remain so; who will live spiritually, and that by that faith which will never fail, and is inseparably connected with salvation, and so he shall never die.


[1] Whitby, p. 407: ed. 2. 397.

[2] In loc.

[3] Ibid.

[4] In R. David Kimchi in loc. and in lib. Shorash. rad. Lp[. So Philip Aquinas in Lex. rad, lp[.

[5] Whitby, p. 408; ed. 2. 397.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Vide Pocock Not. misc. in port. Mosis, p. 43, 44.

[8] Whitby, p. 408; ed. 2. 397.

[9] Whitby, p. 409; ed. 2. 398.

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