Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Hebrews 10:38

But My righteous one shall live by faith ; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him .
New American Standard Version

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Adam Clarke Commentary

Now the just shall live by faith - Ὁ δε δικαιος εκ πιστεως ζησεται· But the just by faith, i.e. he who is justified by faith, shall live - shall be preserved when this overflowing scourge shall come. See this meaning of the phrase vindicated, Romans 1:17. And it is evident, both from this text, and Galatians 3:11, that it is in this sense that the apostle uses it.

But if any man draw back - Και εαν ὑποστειληται· But if he draw back; he, the man who is justified by faith; for it is of him, and none other, that the text speaks. The insertion of the words any man, if done to serve the purpose of a particular creed, is a wicked perversion of the words of God. They were evidently intended to turn away the relative from the antecedent, in order to save the doctrine of final and unconditional perseverance; which doctrine this text destroys.

My soul shall have no pleasure in him - My very heart shall be opposed to him who makes shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. The word ὑποστελλειν signifies, not only to draw back, but to slink away and hide through fear. In this sense it is used by the very best Greek writers, as well as by Josephus and Philo. As dastards and cowards are hated by all men, so those that slink away from Christ and his cause, for fear of persecution or secular loss, God must despise; in them he cannot delight; and his Spirit, grieved with their conduct, must desert their hearts, and lead them to darkness and hardness.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Now the just shall live by faith - This is a part of the quotation from Habakkuk Habakkuk 2:3-4, which was probably commenced in the previous verse; see the passage fully explained in the notes on Romans 1:17. The meaning in the connection in which it stands here, in accordance with the sense in which it was used by Habakkuk, is, that the righteous should live by “continued confidence” in God. They should pass their lives not in doubt, and fear, and trembling apprehension, but in the exercise of a calm trust in God. In this sense it accords with the scope of what the apostle is here saying. He is exhorting the Christians whom he addressed, to perseverance in their religion even in the midst of many persecutions. To encourage this he says, that it was a great principle that the just, that is, all the pious, ought to live in the constant exercise of “faith in God.” They should not confide in their own merits, works, or strength. They should exercise constant reliance on their Maker, and he would keep them even unto eternal life. The sense is, that a persevering confidence or belief in the Lord will preserve us amidst all the trials and calamities to which we are exposed.

But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him - This also is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4, but from the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew. “Why” the authors of the Septuagint thus translated the passage, it is impossible now to say. The Hebrew is rendered in the common version, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him;” or more literally, “Behold the scornful; his mind shall not be happy” (Stuart); or as Gesenius renders it, “See, he whose soul is unbelieving shall, on this account, be unhappy.” The sentiment there is, that the scorner or unbeliever in that day would be unhappy, or would not prosper - לה ישרה lo‘yaasharaahThe apostle has retained the general sense of the passage, and the idea which he expresses is, that the unbeliever, or he who renounces his religion, will incur the divine displeasure. He will be a man exposed to the divine wrath; a man on whom God cannot look but with disapprobation. By this solemn consideration, therefore, the apostle urges on them the importance of perseverance, and the guilt and danger of apostasy from the Christian faith. If such a case should occur, no matter what might have been the former condition, and no matter what love or zeal might have been evinced, yet such an apostasy would expose the individual to the certain wrath of God. His former love could not save him, any more than the former obedience of the angels saved them from the horrors of eternal chains and darkness, or than the holiness in which Adam was created saved him and his posterity from the calamities which his apostasy incurred.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Hebrews 10:38

The just shall live by faith

Those who are justified by faith are heirs or life:

There is a slight transposition in the words of our text, which is warranted by the original Greek, and which, while it does not materially affect the meaning of the passage, appears to set it in a clearer light.
We may read the text thus--“The just by faith shall live.” The expression is descriptive of a child of God. The “just,” or “justified man,” is not merely a person who is equitable in all his dealings, and who maintains a character for honesty, but one who has received by faith the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been renewed in the spirit of his mind by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I. THE JUSTIFIED MAN SHALL LIVE IS THIS WORLD. A man’s outward condition forms no correct criterion by which we may ascertain the measure of his acceptance with God. The possession of riches and honours does not necessarily imply that the possessor is the favourite of heaven, or that he is peaceful and happy in his own mind. How often do we see the true Christian labouring under the pressure of poverty--struggling hard against the tide of adverse circumstances; or if, in a higher sphere of society, he engages in the pursuits of business, “all things are against him,” and every exertion which he makes proves painfully abortive. But in the midst of all these vicissitudes he “lives,” and his is a happy life. Again, behold the believer when he is stretched upon the bed of sickness. He may be exhausted by weakness, or racked by pain, yet “he lives.” Though a dark cloud passes over him his soul is serene. Again, behold the Christian in the day of persecution. It is to this point the apostle makes special allusion in the context. The early disciples of the blessed Jesus derived no worldly advantage from the profession of their faith in Him. What enabled them to sustain the rage of their persecutors? It was faith in their Master--it was confidence in His promises. And in one word, what in every age has supported the people of God under the pressure of calamity, or the prospect of a dying hour? Not certainly the remembrance of the good they had done, or the glory they had achieved--not the contemplation of their own merits, or their moral and intellectual attainments, but simply the inwrought principle of a living faith--that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

II. THE JUSTIFIED MAN SHALL LIVE IS THE WORLD TO COME. Faith, indeed, is not the procuring cause of eternal life. The possession of faith gives us no absolute or inherent claim on the Almighty for the pardon. It is merely the instrument of our justification. It is the link that connects us with the Saviour, and in virtue of this connection we receive every blessing we enjoy. Eternal life is the purchase of the Saviour’s sacrifice. (A. B. Parker.)

Of living by faith:

These words are used four times (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, and here). In the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians they respect justification, Paul making use of them to prove that we are justified by faith. In Habakkuk 2:4, and the text, they respect our conversation, and hold forth what should support a righteous man in all dangers and necessities.

I. WHAT IS IT TO LIVE BY FAITH? This living by faith is not a single and transient act, but something habitual and permanent. And therefore its nature, as of other habits, will best appear in its acts and objects.

1. The acts of faith. The Scripture holds them forth under the notion of dependence and recumbency. And we may thus describe it: living by faith is constant dependence on God as one without whom we cannot live. Three things concur to its constitution.

2. The object of faith is God in Christ as made known in His attributes, offices, relations, promises, and providences. We may refer the objects and support of faith to these heads.

(a) Priestly office (Hebrews 4:14-16).

(b) Regal office (Acts 5:31).

(c) Prophetical office (Deuteronomy 18:15).

(5) Providences of God are objects and encouragements to, faith. The consideration of what He has done for others, and for themselves, has supported the saints. These are the hands of God stretched out on which faith takes hold (Psalms 119:132; 1 Samuel 17:37; 2 Timothy 4:17-18).

II. How DO THEY, HOW MUST WE LIVE, BY FAITH? Here I shall give particular directions how faith may act with most advantage upon its several objects formerly propounded, and show what encouragement faith may find from them in all its actings.

1. Attributes of God. For the direction and encouragement of faith in acting upon them, observe eight particulars:

2. The offices of Christ. To direct and encourage faith herein, take the rules:

(a) Kingly office.

1. As He is King He is lawgiver; writes laws in our hearts. Gives not only laws to be obeyed, but hearts to obey; laws for obedience and principles of obedience.

2. To subdue our enemies (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:8), our lusts, the world, the powers of darkness. He will bruise them with a rod of iron.

3. To rule us. The government is on His shoulders. He sets His throne in our hearts, and takes care that we live under His government in peace, plenty, safety; peace of conscience, plenty of grace, perseverance.

(b) Prophetical. To declare His Father’s will, to make us understand it; to enlighten our minds; to send the Spirit of Truth to clear up obscurities, resolve doubts, remove scruples, satisfy cases of conscience.

(c) As priest. So He suffered and intercedes. His sufferings are both satisfactory and meritorious.

3. Promises. How faith may act with most advantage upon promises, and get support and encouragement from them in its actings.

(10) Believers have a just and unquestionable title to all things promised besides that title which the promise conveys. They have right to them, and therefore have no reason to doubt but the gracious God will bestow them, especially when He has confirmed the former title by promise. All that is promised was bequeathed to believers by the eternal will of the Father, and purchased for them by the precious blood of Christ, and they are instated therein by many endearing and interesting relations. They have as much right thereto as an heir to his inheritance, or a wife to her jointure; for they are co-heirs with Christ and married to Him (1 Corinthians 3:23). (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

On faith

I. The first instructions in Christian knowledge inform us of THE IMPORTANCE AND NECESSITY OF FAITH TO OUR ETERNAL HAPPINESS. We are assured that the just shall live by faith; and that without it it is impossible to please God.

1. It seems absolutely essential to the nature, and necessary to the design and success of a Divine revelation, that the messenger of it should, upon producing sufficient evidence and proper attestations from Heaven, insist upon an acknowledgment of its truth, as proceeding from that Being who cannot deceive His creatures, whose admonitions would not be offered but for our advantage, and whose authority cannot be disobeyed without danger.

2. The principal reason why faith is so indispensably required and declared to be the condition of salvation is because it is the surest principle of holiness, the basis of obedience, the natural foundation of universal virtue. If, for instance, we believe in our hearts, and are persuaded of the existence of a God, supremely powerful, wise, and good, possessed of every conceivable and possible perfection, we cannot but reverence and adore a nature so infinitely superior; and every sentiment of our heart must pay homage to Him. If we apprehend Him to be the original of good, the fountain of mercy, we shall be naturally led to acknowledge His goodness in all the expressions of worship, praise, submission, and obedience. If we believe that He sent His Son into the world to purchase, on certain conditions, the pardon of our sins, and an eternity of happiness; we must think ourselves obliged to obey the precepts of His doctrine, to imitate the examples of His life, to comply with the conditions required, and be grateful for so amazing an expression of mercy.


1. If faith be the ground of holiness we may hence learn the reason of the general prevalence of iniquity in the world; which is a want of faith, or want of attention to the objects of it.

2. If faith he subservient to holiness, and derive its value from its efficacy and influence on our manners, we may hence learn to estimate the intrinsic value of every doctrine, and to weigh the degrees of malignity and danger in particular errors. Doctrines are valuable in proportion to their moral importance, or subservience to virtue; in proportion to their influence in inclining us to preserve in our minds a constant sense of our dependence on our Maker, and of the duties we owe Him, and of our obligations to observe integrity, and justice, and equity, and charity, in all our dealings.

3. If the design of faith was to lead us to the practice of all righteousness let us not rest our hopes of salvation on a bare acknowledgment or belief of the gospel, in an ineffectual barren faith, productive of no virtue, but let our faith have its proper influence; let our manners correspond with our principles, and let us live as we believe. (G. Carr, B. A.)

The vital force:


1. Doth not the text plainly teach us that faith is the continued act of the Christian? Just as long as he lives here below, if he doth live to God at all, he lives by faith.

2. Faith is a great practical virtue. The text does not say that the just man shall study the doctrine of faith in his retirement, and be able to frame a correct definition of what faith is. It is true that the just man should be meditative, studious, a man well instructed in the history of revelation and the mystery of the kingdom of God; but that is not what the text saith. It doth not say that the just man shall converse about faith, and make the object of faith the constant theme of his discourse. It will be so: what is in the heart will be sure to come out in the tongue. But that is not the truth taught here. In plain English, it is this--the righteous man will carry his faith into his ordinary life. He will live by faith.

3. Faith hath a great quickening power over all the faculties of the spiritual man. This is the Prometheus that stole the heavenly flame, and brought it down to men made of clay, and made them live the lives of the immortals. This it is that brings immortality to us through Jesus, who brought life and immortality to light. Whenever faith rules in a man it quickens all his graces. The believer is the man to love--to love his God, his neighbour, his enemy. The believer is the man to hope--to hope for deliverance out of present affliction; to hope for the eternal outgoing of the issues of all this life’s battle and strife. If there be any patience, if there be any forgiveness, if their be any generosity, if there be any loving-kindness, if there be any zeal, if there be anything lovely and of good repute, all these are quickened and brought out into their life and force according to the life and power and energy of the faith which a man possesses.

4. Turning this doctrine over in rather a different form, but still keeping to it, let me say that the believer lives only by faith. All other kinds of living are to him spiritual death.

II. A PROMISE. My faith shall ensure my life. Oh, ‘tis joy to have faith that makes you immortal! The faith of the just shall constrain them to live. They cannot die; they must not die. God Himself shall as soon die as they shall. The just shall live by faith. This is not true of any other but those who have faith. You know the story I have told you sometimes, of the good old soul whose minister called to see her when she was dying, and amongst other things he said to her, “My sister, you are very weak; don’t you feel yourself sinking?” She looked at him, and gave no answer, but said, “Did I understand you, minister? Please tell me what you said; I hope you didn’t say what I thought I heard?” “Why,” said he, “my dear sister, I said to you, don’t you feel yourself sinking?” And then she said, “I did not think my minister would ever ask me such a question as that! Sinking? Did you ever know a sinner sink through a rock? I am believing in Jesus Christ; if I were resting anywhere else I might sink, but as I am resting upon Him, did you ever know a sinner sink through a rock?” Yes, and that is just the very point. It is so. God does in the very words of our text seem to assure us that if we believe, we have got on a rock, that if we believe, we shall live. We shall live by our faith under all circumstances and difficulties.

III. A KIND OF PRECEPT. IS it not clear that as life is the main thing for us to look to, nature itself having taught us by its instincts to guard with all care our life, therefore our faith, upon which our life so evidently depends by virtue of our union to Christ, ought to be the object of our most sedulous care. Anything which comes in the way of our faith we should strive against, while the promotion of our faith should be our first endeavour. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The just man and his life


1. The term “just” not used in its comparative and popular sense. It is so used sometimes in the sacred Scriptures, as in Romans 5:7. There are those who are “just before men.” Their words are true, their promises faithfully kept, their actions irreproachable. Measure them by the Divine standard, and they dwarf down to nothing; see them as God sees them, and all their righteousness is as filthy rags.

2. Not in its strictly legal sense. There was a time when there were just men on earth; that time was brief. There are just men “made perfect,” but they are before the throne of God, and serve Him in His temple. There are none on earth now.

3. The term is used in the evangelical sense--justified.

4. This declaration is connected with the faith of the justified person. Luther at one period suffered so much from a sense of sin, that his health rapidly gave way. An old monk entered his cell and spoke kindly. He knew little but his creed, which contained something that gave him comfort, and he said in his simplicity, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” Luther repeated, “I believe in the forgiveness of gins.” “Ah!” said the monk, “you must not only believe that David’s or Peter’s sins are forgiven--the devils believe that. The commandment of God is, that we believe our own sins forgiven. Hear what the Holy Ghost says: ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’” He renounced the thought of meriting salvation, and trusted with confidence in God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

II. THE LIFE HE ENJOYS. He “shall live by faith.”

1. Observe the import of this assurance. “There is, then,” said Luther, after studying these words, “for the just another life than that possessed by the rest of men, and this life is the fruit of faith.” What is that other life? The elements of life are

2. The truth of this assurance.


1. Sinner, are you dead? This voice bids you live by faith.

2. Let believers cleave to this doctrine. (The Evangelical Preacher.)

The Christian’s life of faith


1. As found in Christ.

2. As conformed to Christ.

3. As practically just. Their faith produces good works; they are honest, upright, abhor evil, and cleave to that which is good.

II. THE FACT AFFIRMED. “Shall live by faith.”

1. Because by faith they are united to Christ, and derive from Him all needful influence.

2. Because faith anticipates the glories of heaven, preparatory to which the Christian contest is carried on.

3. Because faith overcomes temptation.


1. They live by faith in the darkest seasons.

2. They live a holy and pleasant life, because faith brings into exercise all other Christian graces.

3. By faith they live in constant expectation of heaven. (Homilist.)

Living by faith

1. We have faith, which is a Divine practical assent unto the saving truths of the gospel, and a reliance upon the promises of God.

2. Upon faith followeth righteousness; for the just have faith, and are just and justified by faith: for by “just” are here meant the justified by faith according to the tenour of the new covenant. For man being sinful and guilty cannot be justified by his own innocence, purity, inherent righteousness, and perfect obedience. For he that hath faith is just; he that continueth in faith, continueth just; and he that is finally believing is finally just.

3. As guilty man is just by faith, so being just he shall live by faith. By life in this place is meant a spiritual, happy, and eternal life; the life of glory, which is the great reward, which will certainly follow upon final faith; for it is faith which, by virtue of Christ’s merit and God’s promise, gives a right to life; and upon a final faith, the possession and full enjoyment of this blessed life doth certainly follow. The duty therefore which the apostle urgeth is final perseverance in faith; and the motive whereby he seeks to stir them up to performance is the certain fall possession of the great rewards for which he allegeth God’s own Word and promise recorded in the prophet. And if they will hearken unto God speaking by the prophet, and take His Word and promise, there is great reason why they should persevere. (G. Lawson.)


Faith consists of two parts: Belief, which accepts certain declarations as true, and trust in the person about whom those declarations are made. Neither will do without the other. On the one hand, we cannot trust a person without knowing something about him; on the other hand, your knowledge will not help you unless it leads to trust, any more than it avails the shivering wretch outside the Bank of England to know that the vaults are stored with gold. A mere intellectual faith is not enough. The holding of a creed will not save. We must pass from a belief in words to trust in the Word. By faith we know that Jesus lives, and by faith we also appropriate that life. By faith we know that Jesus made on the Cross a propitiation for sin, and by faith we lay our hand reverently on His dear head and confess our sin. Faith is the open hand receiving Christ. Faith is the golden pipe through which His fulness comes to us. Faith is the narrow channel by which the life that pulses in the Redeemer’s heart enters our souls. Faith is the attitude we assume when we turn aside from the human to the Divine. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The life of faith:

Have you ever thought of the life of a child? Why, the life of a child is a perfect life of faith. That little child--what can that little child do? Why that little child could not find its way to the street end and back again. It would be lost if you trusted it alone. That little child could not find the next meal. If you left that little child it would die of want. That little child could not furnish a shelter for its own head to-night; and yet, has that little child any fear about it? Has that little child any sort of alarm about it? Not at all! How comes it that the child’s life is the happy life it is? Because, instinctively and beautifully, it is a life of faith. That child could not buy the next loaf, but it has a firm belief that “father” can. That child could not provide for itself the garments for to-morrow, but it has an unbounded belief in “father’s” power to do it, and “mother’s” power to do it. That child could not do it for itself one day, but it never costs that child a moment’s concern. Its life is a life of perfect faith in its parents. (S. Coley.)

Description of faith

Mr. Stewart, in his Journal of a Residence in the Sandwich Islands, relates, that whilst on board a ship sailing from America to those Islands, he felt it his duty to instruct the sailors; and he had several proofs that his labours were not in vain. One sailor named R, had been brought to trust in Christ for salvation; and shortly after meeting with another who was anxiously inquiring the way of salvation, he thus addressed him, “It was just so with myself once; I did not know what faith was, or how to obtain it; but I know now what it is, and I believe I possess it. But I do not know that I can tell you what it is, or how to get it. I can tell you what it is not; it is not knocking off swearing, and drinking, and such like; and it is not reading the Bible, nor praying, nor being good: it is none of these; for even if they were to answer for the time to come, there is the old score still, and how are you to get clear of that? It is not anything you have done or can do: it is only believing and trusting to what Christ has done: it is forsaking your sins, and looking for their pardon and the salvation of your soul, because He died and shed His blood for sin: and it is nothing else.” (Churchman’s Monthly.)

If any man draw back

On apostasy:

By the expression “ to draw back,” must certainly be understood a total and final apostasy, as is evident from Hebrews 10:39.

1. Some who once were accounted disciples of Christ have drawn back into open profanity and infidelity (2 Peter 2:20-21). Persons of this character, who have stifled conviction, and hold the truth in unrighteousness, become generally the most hardened and daring in wickedness. Common restraints are removed--the voice of conscience is silenced--the Spirit of God ceases to strive, and they are given over to a reprobate mind--to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and at last to perish in unbelief.

2. Others who apostatise from Christ fall into gross and dangerous errors 2 Timothy 2:17-18). I add

3. There is still a more secret and disguised kind of apostasy, which is not on that account the less ruinous; I mean when persons who have once had a profession of religion become careless, lose all zeal about the things of God and eternity, and discover a proportionable eagerness in worldly pursuits. This is a way of apostatising from Christ the more dangerous, because it is the least apt to be perceived. The decay is so gradual and insensible. They have changed their views, their manners, their company. Perhaps some alteration in their outward circumstances has produced these unhappy effects. Raised from a state of dependence to wealth, their minds have been intoxicated with worldly prosperity; and by a strange kind of infatuation. Or, perhaps, without any visible cause, their profession of religion has gradually declined, and their devotion to the service of their God and Saviour proved as the morning cloud and early dew, which soon pass away. After maintaining for a while an appearance of serious godliness, they have gradually sunk into sloth, possibly into bad habits, which deaden every religious feeling.

In conclusion:

1. Let gratitude to the Redeemer for the blessings you have received constrain you to cleave to Him with full purpose of heart.

2. Let a regard to your best interests urge you to cleave steadfastly to Christ. Solid sense and real piety, instead of being incompatible, are closely and intimately united.

3. Let the dreadful doom of apostates deter you from the aggravated sin of drawing back from Christ. (A. Ramsay, M. A.)

The danger of apostasy from the true religion

I. THE NATURE OF THIS SIN. TO make a man an apostate, it is not necessary that a man should solemnly renounce his baptism and declare Christianity to be false; there are several other ways whereby a man may bring himself under this guilt; as by a silent quitting of his religion, and withdrawing himself from the communion of all that profess it; by denying an essential doctrine of Christianity; by undermining the great design of it, by teaching doctrines which directly tend to encourage men in impenitence, and a wicked course of life.

II. THE SEVERAL SORTS AND DEGREES OF APOSTASY. The highest of all is the renouncing Christianity, or of some essential part of it, which is a virtual apostasy from it; but there are several tendencies towards this which they who are guilty of are in some degree guilty of this sin.

1. Indifferency in religion, and want of all sort of concernment for it; when a man, though he never quitted his religion, yet is so little concerned for it, that a very small occasion or temptation would make him do it.

2. Withdrawing from the public marks and testimonies of the profession of religion, by forsaking the assemblies of Christians for the worship and service of God; to withdraw ourselves from those, for fear of danger or suffering, is a kind of denial of our religion.

3. A light temper of mind, which easily receives impressions from those who lie in wait to deceive and seduce men from the truth.

4. A departure from the purity of the Christian doctrine and worship in a gross and notorious manner.

III. THE HEINOUSNESS OF THIS SIN. What an affront it is to God, and how great a contempt of Him!

IV. THE TERRIBLE PUNISHMENT IT EXPOSES MEN TO. This sin is placed in the highest rank of pardonable sins, and next to the sin against the Holy Ghost, which our Saviour declares to be absolutely unpardonable. And indeed the Scripture speaks very doubtfully of the pardonableness of this Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20-21; 1 John 5:16). (Archbp. Tillotson.)

Transgressions and infirmities:

Warnings such as this would not be contained in Scripture, were there no danger of our drawing back, and thereby losing that “life” in God’s presence which faith secures to us. Faith is the tenure upon which this Divine life is continued to us: by faith the Christian lives, but if he draws back he dies; his faith profits him nothing; or rather, his drawing back to sin is a reversing of his faith; after which God has no pleasure in him. And yet, clearly as this is stated in Scripture, men in all ages have fancied that they might sin grievously, yet maintain their Christian hope. Now I quite grant that there are sins which faith is the means of blotting out continually, so that the “just” still “lives” in God’s sight in spite of them. There is no one but sins continually so far as this, that all that he does might be more perfect, entire, blameless than it is. We are all encompassed by infirmities, weaknesses, ignorances; and all these besetting sins are certainly, as Scripture assures us, pardoned on our faith; but it is another thing to assert this of greater and more grievous sins, or what may be called transgressions. For faith keeps us from transgressions, and they who transgress, for that very reason, have not true and lively faith; and, therefore, it avails them nothing that faith, as Scripture says, is imputed to Christians for righteousness, for they have not faith. Instead of faith blotting out transgressions, transgressions blot out faith.

1. No one surely can doubt that there are sins which exclude a man, while he is under their power, from salvation (see 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:10; Philippians 3:18-19; Galatians 5:4).

2. That there are sins of infirmity, or such as do not throw the soul out of a state of salvation, is evident directly it is granted that there are sins which do; for no one will pretend to say that all sins exclude from grace, else no one can be saved, for there is no one who is sinless. However, Scripture expressly recognises sins of infirmity as distinct from transgressions, as shall now be shown. For instance: St. Paul (Galatians 5:17) allows that it is possible for the power of the flesh and the grace of the Spirit to co-exist in the soul; neither the flesh quenching the Spirit, nor the Spirit all at once subduing the flesh. Here then is a sinfulness which is compatible with a state of salvation. Again, the same apostle says, that we have a High Priest who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” in that He had them Himself, all but their sin:--this implies that we have sinful infirmities, yet of that light nature that they can be said to be in substance partaken by One who was pure from all sin. Accordingly, in the next verse St. Paul bids us “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy.” Such words do not imply a return into a state of salvation, but pardon in that state, and they correspond to what he says (verses 19-22; Romans 5:2). In like manner St. John says, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another: and the blood of

Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” It seems then that there is sin which is consistent with “walking in the light,” and that from this sin “the blood of Christ cleanseth us.” And St. James says, “In many things we all offend,” that is, we all stumble. We are ever stumbling along our course while we walk; but if we actually fall in it, we fall from it. And St. Jude: “Of some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” Distinct kinds of sin are evidently implied here. And lastly, our Lord Himself had already implied that there are sins which are not inconsistent with a state of grace, when He said of His apostles, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

3. It remains to show that these sins of infirmity tend to those which are greater, and forfeit grace; which is not the least important point which comes under consideration. An illustration will explain what I mean, and may throw light on the whole subject. You know it continually happens that some indisposition overtakes a man, such that persons skilled in medicine, when asked if it is dangerous, answer, “Not at present, but they do not know what will come of it; it may turn out something very serious; but there is nothing much amiss yet; at the same time if it be not checked, and, much more, if it be neglected, it will be serious.” This, I conceive, is the state of Christians day by day as regards their souls; they are always ailing, always on the point of sickness; they are sickly, easily disarranged, obliged to take great care of themselves against air, sun, and weather; they are full of tendencies to all sorts of grievous diseases, and are continually showing these tendencies, in slight symptoms; but they are not yet in a dangerous way. On the other hand, if a Christian falls into any serious sin, then he is at once cast out of grace, as a man who falls into a pestilential fever is quite in a distinct state from one who is merely in delicate health. I conclude with advising you one thing, which is obviously suggested by what I have said. Never suffer sin to remain upon you; let it not grow old in you; wipe it off while it is fresh, else it will stain; let it not get ingrained; let it not eat its way in, and rust in you. It is of a consuming nature; it is like a canker; it will eat your flesh. And then again, sin neglected not only stains and infects the soul, but it becomes habitual. It perverts and deforms the soul; it permanently enfeebles, cripples, or mutilates us. Let us then rid ourselves of it at once day by day, as of dust on our hands and faces. We wash our hands continually. Ah! is not this like the Pharisees, unless we wash our soiled souls also? (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Religious declension:


1. The person here meant is one who has made some professions of religion, and has taken some steps in it.

2. The person of whom we are speaking, having walked for a longer or shorter time in the way described, is now drawing back. He has been deterred, perhaps, by the difficulties which seemed to stand in his way, and to oppose his progress; I say seemed, because if he had persevered he would have found that they would have yielded and have come to nothing. Or perhaps he has been overcome by the persuasion and influence of worldly friends and relations. Or perhaps the world has involved him in its cares or pleasures, in its business or dissipations; and these, like thorns, have choked the good seed which was beginning to shoot, and have rendered it unfruitful. Or, to mention only one other cause, he has not watched against his favourite sin; he has not denied and mortified it. To make this part of the case, however, more plain, I will state to you some few of the particular symptoms which distinguish it. When a person is drawing back in religion, he will discover his retrograde movement by many proofs, to those who know what religion is, and have the means of observing his conduct. It does not follow that he will return exactly into the same paths in which he was walking before he appeared to become a religious character; but he will plainly show that he is not now the same religious character which he lately was. He will insensibly become less correct in his conduct and conversation. He will not now be so careful of his company. He will gradually become less frequent and regular in his attendance on public ordinances; while the devotion and attention that used to mark his behaviour there are too visibly declining. If, in addition to these outward marks of declension, you were to follow this person home, and observe his conduct in private, you would see the Bible less frequently consulted, and religious duties less diligently performed. Communion with God is no longer his delight and enjoyment.

II. THE AWFUL THREATENING DENOUNCED. “If any man draw back.” If there should be a person in the state that has been here described, what does the Lord declare respecting him? “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” We are told that the Lord does “take pleasure in His people.”--“The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him; in those that hope in His mercy.” He regards such persons with favour and complacency. He delights over them to do them good. But He hath no pleasure in them that “draw back.” He sees, but He cannot approve them. But further, the expression in the text has a still more alarming sense. It is a dreadful thing to be excluded from the lovingkindness of the Lord; but it is a far more dreadful thing to be shut up under His displeasure. Yet such is the case with the person of whom we are speaking. Such is the real meaning of the text. No persons are so offensive to Him, as those, who, having for a time walked in His ways, at length draw back. For such conduct is the greatest affront, and most direct indignity which can be offered to God. The man who draws back does in a manner say, that the ways of sin and of the world are preferable to the ways of religion. Can anything be more dishonourable to Jesus Christ, or show a greater contempt of His mercy and grace? Address three kinds of persons.

1. Those who have entered, as they suppose, on the paths of religion, and are now walking in them. Take heed that ye draw not back. To this end “be watchful and sober.” Those who would walk safely, must walk humbly. The Lord will guide and keep the meek. Watch against the sin that most easily besets you. Be regular and fervent in private prayer, and in secret communion with God. This is the life and source of religion in the soul. If you would not draw back, go forwards. Press towards the mark; grow in grace, add one Christian virtue and temper to another, so wilt your progress be clear and certain: your calling and election will be made sure.

2. I would address those who in their hearts may be conscious, at least fearful, that they have drawn back. Consider from whence you are fallen.

3. I would, in conclusion, address another class-those who perhaps may be saying to themselves: “We are free from this charge. We have never made any particular profession of religion, so that we cannot be said to have renounced it. We are at least no hypocrites. God cannot accuse us of having drawn back from His ways.” Because you are not hypocrites, and have made no pretentions to religion, shall you escape the judgment of God? Why have you not made pretentious to religion? Be assured, that so long as you are in this state, the Lord hath no pleasure in you. He abhors ungodliness and sin, and both hates and will punish all the workers of iniquity. (E. Cooper, M. A.)

Moral relapse:

The pansy only develops its beauty under cultivation, and when neglected soon relapses into its native condition. There are men who keep conspicuously moral so long as they are constantly cultivated by their minister, but who relapse into their former littleness if his care is withdrawn. Such men, like the pansies, give a deal of trouble. But if you want to exhibit either them or the flower, you have no option but to give them constant cultivation. Whether the result in either case is worth the trouble is another matter. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)

All do not reach home who set out for it

I heartily desire that ye would mind your country, and consider to what direction your soul setteth its face; for all come not home at night who suppose they have set their face heavenward. (S. Rutherford.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Hebrews 10:38". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrink back, my soul hath no pleasure in him, But we are not of them that shrink back into perdition; but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul.

Here is the answer to all problems, the solution of all difficulties, and the removal of all disappointments. This is a strong and candid declaration that Christians must "live by faith"! The matter of "when" Christ will come, as well as countless other questions can be safely left with the Lord. Enough for us to know that what God has promised is not about to fail. That soul that draws back because of any considerations whatsoever shall confront the displeasure of God himself.

Not of them that shrink back is an affirmation of the writer's confidence that his readers will, after all, continue in the path of duty and ultimately prevail. This same confidence was expressed also in connection with the powerful warnings of the sixth chapter (Hebrews 6:9,10). The dual mention of "faith" in these last two verses would appear to have thrust themselves upon the author's attention; and, immediately afterward, in what would be called by some a typically Pauline digression, there follows a moving, comprehensive discussion of faith, accompanied by a panoramic presentation of the great exemplars of faith.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Now the just shall live by faith,.... The "just" man is one not in appearance only, but in reality; not by his obedience to the law, but by the obedience of Christ; and he is evidently so by the Spirit, and by faith: and he is one, who lives soberly and righteously; and the life he lives, and shall live, at present, is, not eternal life; for though he shall live that life, yet this is not intended; for it is a living by faith that is spoken of, and as antecedent to the coming of Christ; but a spiritual life is meant, a life of justification in Christ, a life of communion with Christ, and a life of holiness from Christ, with peace, joy, and comfort through him: and the manner of this just man's living is "by faith"; not upon his faith, but upon Christ, the object of it; and by "his faith", as in Habakkuk 2:4 his own, and not another's; or by the faith of Christ: the Syriac version here renders it, "by the faith of myself"; that is, by the faith of Christ, who speaks, and who is the author and object of faith: the Alexandrian copy and the Vulgate Latin version read, "my just man shall live by faith"; and this life is to be now, in the mean while, until Christ comes, and because he will certainly come:

but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. The Hebrew word עפלה, used in Habakkuk 2:4 and which, by the Septuagint there, and by the apostle here, is translated by υποστειληται, and rendered "draw back", according to R. David KimchiF3In Hab. ii. 4. signifies, pride and haughtiness of heart; and, according to R. Sol. JarchiF4In ib. it signifies impudence; R. Moses KimchiF5Apud R. David Kimchi in ibid. & in Sepher Shorashim, rad. עפל. takes it to be the same with עפל, which is used for a tower, or fortified place; and thinks it designs one who betakes himself to such a place for safety from the enemy, and seeks not to God for deliverance: so that such a person seems to be designed, who swells with pride and confidence in his own righteousness; who betakes himself to some fortress of his own for safety; who withdraws from the assembly of the saints, through fear of reproach and persecution; who withholds the truth, shuns to declare it, or maintain a profession of it; plays the hypocrite, and deals deceitfully in religious things; and, in short, it may intend one, who finally and totally apostatizes from the doctrine of faith, and the profession of it: and in such persons God has no pleasure, never had, nor never will have; but, on the contrary, they are abominable to him, and will lie under his sore displeasure, and feel the keen resentments of it; such stand opposed to the just man, that lives by faith, walks humbly with God, in a dependence, not on his own righteousness, but on the righteousness of Christ, in which he is safe from condemnation, and secure of the divine favour; for drawing back is not supposed of the just man, but of any man, as we, with the Ethiopic version, rightly supply; and is to be understood of anyone of the external professors of religion, who forsake the assembling of the saints, Hebrews 10:25 and is denied of the truly righteous in the following words.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(12) He commends the excellency of a sure faith by the effect, because it is the only way to life, which sentence he sets forth and amplifies by contrast.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

just — The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, “my just man.” God is the speaker: “He who is just in My sight.” Bengel translates, “The just shall live by my faith”: answering to the Hebrew, Habakkuk 2:4; literally, “the just shall live by the faith of Him,” namely, Christ, the final subject of “the vision,” who “will not lie,” that is, disappoint. Here not merely the first beginning, as in Galatians 3:11, but the continuance, of the spiritual life of the justified man is referred to, as opposed to declension and apostasy. As the justified man receives his first spiritual life by faith, so it is by faith that he shall continue to live (Luke 4:4). The faith meant here is that fully developed living trust in the unseen (Hebrews 11:1) Savior, which can keep men steadfast amidst persecutions and temptations (Hebrews 10:34-36).

butGreek, “and.”

if any man draw back — So the Greek admits: though it might also be translated, as Alford approves, “if he (the just man) draw back.” Even so, it would not disprove the final perseverance of saints. For “the just man” in this latter clause would mean one seemingly, and in part really, though not savingly, “just” or justified: as in Ezekiel 18:24, Ezekiel 18:26. In the Hebrew, this latter half of the verse stands first, and is, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him.” Habakkuk states the cause of drawing back: a soul lifted up, and in self-inflated unbelief setting itself up against God. Paul, by the Spirit, states the effect, it draws back. Also, what in Habakkuk is, “His soul is not upright in him,” is in Paul, “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Habakkuk states the cause, Paul the effect: He who is not right in his own soul, does not stand right with God; God has no pleasure in him. Bengel translates Habakkuk, “His soul is not upright in respect to him,” namely, Christ, the subject of “the vision,” that is, Christ has no pleasure in him (compare Hebrews 12:25). Every flower in spring is not a fruit in autumn.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

If he shrink back (εαν υποστειληταιean huposteilētai). Condition of third class with εανean and the first aorist middle subjunctive of υποστελλωhupostellō old verb to draw oneself under or back, to withdraw, as already in Acts 20:20, Acts 20:27; Galatians 2:12. See Romans 1:17 for the quotation also of “the just shall live by faith.”

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Now the just shall live by faith ( ὁ δὲ δίκαιός ( μου ) ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται )

Cited by Paul, Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11. In the original prophecy the just man is contrasted with the haughty Chaldaean invaders, who are puffed up and not upright. Through his steadfast obedience to God he shall be kept alive in the time of confusion and destruction.

But if any man draw back ( καὶ ἐὰν ὑποοτείληται )

Omit if any man. Rend. “and if he draw back,” that is, the just man. The possibility of the lapse of even the just is assumed. See on Hebrews 6:4-6. The verb only here, Acts 20:20, Acts 20:27; Galatians 2:12. See on Acts 20:20. Rare in lxx.

Shall have no pleasure ( οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ )

Rend. “hath no pleasure.” “If he draw back - in him,” not in the Hebrew, which reads, “behold, puffed up within him is his soul, it is not upright.” The clauses of the lxx are transposed here.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

Now the just — The justified person.

Shall live — In God's favour, a spiritual and holy life.

By faith — As long as he retains that gift of God.

But if he draw back — If he make shipwreck of his faith My soul hath no pleasure in him - That is, I abhor him; I cast him off. Habakkuk 2:3, etc.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

By faith; such as he had enjoined, Hebrews 10:35. The passage appears to be quoted from Hebrews 10:38; Habakkuk 2:4.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Праведный верою. Апостол хочет сказать, что терпение рождается от веры. И это правильно. Ибо мы никогда не сможем выдержать выпадающие нам сражения, если нас не подкрепит вера. И наоборот, Иоанн (1Ин.5:4) называет веру нашей истинною победою, побеждающей мир. С помощью веры мы устремляемся ввысь, с помощью веры мы одолеваем все трудности настоящей жизни, все несчастья и невзгоды. Вера – наша мирная стоянка посреди бурь и опасностей. Значит, апостол хотел сказать следующее: все, считающиеся перед Богом праведными, живут не иначе как верою. Впрочем, во фразе «будет жить» будущее время означает нескончаемость жизни. Остальное пусть читатели найдут в Послании к Римлянам, 1:17 и к Галатам, 3:11, где цитируется то же самое место.

А кто поколеблется. Вместо сказанного у пророка עפלה, то есть: где будет возношение и самоукрепление, не пребудет в том душа человека. Греки же перевели так, как здесь цитирует апостол. Отчасти это согласуется с мыслью пророка, а отчасти – нет. Ведь заблуждение ничем или лишь малым отличается от возношения, надмевающего нечестивых. Упорство же их в восстании против Бога происходит по причине того, что, опьяняясь извращенным самоупованием, нечестивые изымают себя из под Его власти, обещая себе спокойную и безмятежную жизнь. Итак, они зовутся заблуждающимися, поскольку противопоставляют Богу ложную защиту, с помощью которой отгоняют от себя всякий Его страх. Посему этим словом не меньше выражается сила веры, чем образ мысли нечестивых. Ибо нечестие горделиво потому, что, не воздавая нужную честь Богу, присваивает ее человеку. Из этой беспечности, необузданности и презрения и происходит так, что, доколе нечестивым хорошо, они готовы попирать ногами облака. Если же вере более всего противоположно заблуждение, то природа ее в том, чтобы обманувшего себя человека привести в повиновение Богу.

Фраза же: не благоволит душа Моя, или (как звучит более полный перевод): не будет довольна им душа Моя, – означает то же, как если бы апостол высказал это, исходя из своего смысла. Ибо в намерение его не входило точно цитировать слова пророка, но лишь отметить данное место, приглашая читателей к более пристальному рассмотрению.




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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation

Verse 38: But My righteous one by (_ek, along the line of) faith (or, along the line of believing) shall keep living, (or, be living), And if he should shrink back, My soul delights not in him.

The three N.T. occurrences of this quotation from Hab. 2:3-4, "The just shall live by faith," are, Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11 and Heb. 10:38, our text. Proper emphasis in each case brings out the special meaning.

In Romans, the question is one of righteousness before God, so that we read there, "Therein (in the Gospel) is revealed a righteousness of God on the principle of faith, (where faith exists) as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith." Here the emphasis is on the just, or the righteous.

In Galatians, it is the subject of being perfected. They were "foolish." Having "begun in the Spirit," they were now seeking to be "perfected in the flesh" (3:3). So the question is about living, and the answer, "The righteous _shall _live by faith."

In Heb. 10:38 the emphasis is on the word "faith." The "great conflict of sufferings" of "former days after they were enlightened" has been brought up. They were not to "cast away their boldness ... For they had need of patience, that, having done the will of God (which may involve suffering and trial), they might receive THE PROMISE,--the great promise of our Lord's coming again--His absence being for "a very little while." Meanwhile, God directs, My righteous one shall live by faith, faith being his spirit's constant attitude God-ward--the vital air of all the hosts of witnesses who are about to be set before us in the great eleventh chapter!

Here, of course, not only the first step of faith, but a vital continuing on the path of faith, is set before us as a way of life: not only the obtaining of life, but the manner of life of the true believer--one of whom God says, My righteous one. Then the contrast: one of the most solemn and awakening warnings in all the book of Hebrews: the one who shrinks back from the path of faith, through fear, through weariness, through influence of mere religionists about him; or through neglect of the means of living (the Word of God, and constant contemplation of the great salvation); or through unjudged thorns and thistles of the old life (Ch. 6); but most particularly through that unreadiness of the human heart to "endure as seeing Him Who is invisible" (Ch. 11:27).

* The father and mother were out for the evening, and had left little Mary for the first time, in the sole care of her grandmother. By and by, the grandmother took the little girl upstairs, heard her "say her prayers," and covered her up in bed. Then she turned out the light.

"O Grandma, Mother always leaves a light burning till I go to sleep!"

"Oh." said the old grandmother, "God is up here with you. He is in the darkness as well as in the light. Don't forget, He is here with you."

Then she went down to the living room below. After a while there was the patter of little feet and a tremulous voice, "Grandma, please turn on the light for me till I get to sleep."

"Oh, my dear, God is there with you! Go back to bed!"

Reluctantly the little one obeyed, but by and by again came the pleading voice down the stairs:

"Grandma, O Grandma, please come up here and stay with God, while I go down where the light is!"

God has sent Christ; Christ has been here; Christ has "obtained eternal redemption" for us at the Cross; but Christ has gone up out of sight. Yet the living Word is in our hands, and the blessed Holy Spirit Who inspired it is in our midst, and the command is to live by faith, that God's justified ones, having believed, keep on believing. To give up faith, is the greatest of all snares. "We walk," says Paul, "by faith, not by appearance," (2 Cor. 5:7, R.V., margin). It seems a little thing to yield to this fearfulness of the path of faith, to shrink back. But how terrible really are the results: God takes no pleasure in such a one, for he has turned back from God's path; he is no longer conscious of a Living God. He turns back to "dead works" (6:1; 9:14), from which the shed blood of Christ has set him forever free. The next verse will set forth the end of each path, the one to doom; the other to glory:

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Newell, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". William Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. 1938.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

Ver. 38. Now the just shall live by faith] In the want of feeling; he shall rest upon God in the fail of outward comforts, as the believing Jews were to do in the Babylonish captivity, Habakkuk 2:4, quoted here by the apostle, though with some variation of words.

But if any man draw back] Gr. υτοστειληται. Steal from his colours, run from his captain, revolt from Christ, turn renegade, relinquishing his religion, as did Julian, Lucian, and other odious apostates.

My soul shall have no pleasure] Christ hath no delights in dastards, turn-coats, run-a-ways, he will not employ them so far as to break a pitcher, or bear a torch, 7:7. Baldwin the French lawyer, that had religionem ephemeram, as Beza said of him, for every day a new religion, being constant to none, became Deo hominibusque quos toties fefellerat invisus, hated of God and men, whom he had so oft mocked. Theodoric, an Arian king, did exceedingly affect a certain deacon, although an orthodox. This deacon thinking to ingratiate, and get preferment, became an Arian. Which when the king understood, he changed his love into hatred, and caused the head to be struck from him, affirming that if he kept not his faith to God, what duty could any one expect from him? (Melch. Adam.)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Hebrews 10:38

Transgressions and Infirmities.

Warnings such as these would not be contained in Scripture were there no danger of our drawing back, and thereby losing that life in God's presence which faith secures to us. Faith is the tenure upon which the Divine life is continued to us: by faith the Christian lives, but if he draws backs he dies; his faith profits him nothing, or, rather, his drawing back to sin is a reversing of his faith, after which God has no pleasure in him. Faith keeps us from transgressions, and they who transgress, for that very reason, have not true and lively faith, and therefore it avails them nothing that faith, as Scripture says, is imputed to Christians for righteousness, for they have not faith. Instead of faith blotting out transgressions, transgressions blot out faith. Faith, if it be true and lively, both precludes transgressions, and gradually triumphs over infirmities; and, while infirmities continue, it regards them with so perfect an hatred, as avails for their forgiveness, and is taken for that righteousness which it is gradually becoming.

I. There are sins which forfeit a state of grace. (1) All habits of vice are such. (2) It is fearful to think that covetousness is mentioned in connection with sins of the flesh, as incurring forfeiture of grace equally with them. (3) All violent breaches of the law of charity are inconsistent with a state of grace; and, in like manner, all profaneness, heresy, and false worship, and, further, hardness of heart or going against light.

II. That there are sins of infirmity, or such as do not throw the soul out of a state of salvation, is evident directly it is granted that there are sins which do; for no one will pretend to say that all sins exclude from grace, else no one can be saved, for there is no one who is sinless.

III. These sins of infirmity tend to those which are greater, and forfeit grace. Never suffer sin to remain upon you; let it not grow old in you; wipe it off while it is fresh, else it will stain; let it not get ingrained; let it not eat its way in and rust in you; come continually to the Fount of cleansing for cleansing. It is thus that the Church of God, it is thus that each individual member of it, becomes all glorious within and full of grace.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. v., p. 195.

References: Hebrews 10:38.—W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 248; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 164; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 567. Hebrews 10:38, Hebrews 10:39.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 132.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Hebrews 10:38. Now the just shall live by faith: Dr. Sykes is of opinion, that this sentence would stand better connected with the preceding words, if a full stop were not put after the word tarry, but the whole were read in one continued sentence: "He that shall come, will come at the time appointed; and those who are just, from and by theirfaith in Christ, shall live." St. Paul has, throughout the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, shewn that we are justified by faith: Romans 1:21. Galatians 3:11-23. Those then who perseveringly believe in Christ, are to receive the gift of God, which is eternal life. Romans 6:23. There is nothing for any man in the next clause; it should be, If he, namely, the just man, the person of whom he is speaking, draw back: "If, in times of difficulty, the just man by faith, apostatize from the faith whereby he was justified, my soul, saith God, shall have no pleasure in him; but I shall rather, as it were, hate him, and cast him off."—"But we are not (continues the apostle, Hebrews 10:39.) of those, who through fear and cowardice draw back, and renounce our profession,—a wickedness which must end in destruction; but we are men of faith, real believers in Christ, who are justified by that faith which terminates to the faithful in the gain of the soul." As the one was to lead to the destruction, the loss of the soul; the other was to lead to the acquisition, or gain of the soul. See 1 Thessalonians 5:3.

Inferences.—How defective were all legal sacrifices! They and all attending institutions were, at best, only a shadow of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice, and the blessings of the gospel introduced by him. The frequent repetition of those sacrifices was a plain proof of their imperfection; they could not prevent the returns of guilt upon the conscience; nor could they possibly take away sin, or be pleasing to God for that purpose. But how meritorious and effectual is the sacrifice of Christ, who freely came into an incarnate state, according to ancient prophesies and records, to fulfil his Father's will by offering up himself! This alone is sufficient for purging all that perseveringly believe in him, from every iniquity, and recommending them to God's acceptance, as a people dedicated to his service; and for perfecting all that concerns them: and our great Lord is now exalted, as a Priest on his throne, at the right hand of the eternal Father, where he must reign till all his enemies be subdued under his feet. And O what a blessed security have the faithful people of God in him, and in the covenant of grace, which the Holy Ghost has recorded, with a view to gospel times, in the writings of the Old Testament! It is now ratified, with all its blessings purchased by the death of Christ, on whose account God will write his law and his gospel in their hearts, and will so thoroughly forgive all their sins, as never more to remember any of them against them. What rich encouragement then have we to draw near to God in Christ, with humble boldness, and full assurance of faith! Jesus our High-priest has opened a new and living way to the throne of grace, through his crucified flesh, and now appears in heaven itself to recommend all believers and their prayers to divine acceptance, by the sprinklings of his Blood, and the sanctifying influences of his Spirit. But how watchful ought we to be against the beginnings of apostacy! If our love and zeal for every good work be in a declining state, and we grow cool and indifferent about attending on religious assemblies and gospel ordinances, we have reason to fear, lest we fall after the example of some other professors and possessors of Christ, that have revolted from him: and the thoughts of awful trials, and of death and judgment, as near approaching, should excite us to the greater care herein. Ah! how extremely dangerous is the case of apostates, who, after they have been experimentally converted to God, vilify the Son of God; depreciate the Blood of the covenant, whereby he was consecrated to his priestly office! and treat the Spirit of all grace with malignant contempt! As there is no other sacrifice for sin, than that which they reject and despise, they can have nothing to expect but judgment without mercy, and flaming wrath to consume them: and as their sin is more abundantly aggravated than any transgressions of Moses's law, for which offenders were put to death, we must suppose, from the reason of things, that they deserve a proportionally heavier vengeance; and we are assured from divine testimony, that the great God will assert his own prerogative, in calling them to a severe account for all their wilful abuses of gospel light and grace. Alas! how dreadful is it to fall into the hands of his provoked power and justice, who lives for ever to inflict the sorest punishment upon impenitent sinners! But whatever losses, troubles, or reproaches, true believers may suffer for Christ, they ought not to cast away their humble confidence and joy in him, and their holy profession of his name; as being satisfied in their own minds, that they have a more substantial and abiding inheritance in heaven. This is indeed a great recompence of reward, which the faithful God will give his saints according to his gracious promise; and the prospect of this, together with a remembrance of their former experience of divine light and support under their various tribulations for Christ, and compassionate regard to fellow-sufferers, should encourage their faith and hope, and animate their patience amid further difficulties which may befal them: for in a very little time the Lord Jesus will certainly come by death and judgment for their salvation.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The weakness and unprofitableness of the Levitical institutions should engage the Hebrews to receive, with greater cordiality, the blessed gospel. For,

1. The law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, all being figurative and typical of Christ, who should, in the fulness of time, appear as the substance, can never with those sacrifices which they, who were high-priests, offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect, so as to satisfy God's justice, obtain reconciliation, pacify the guilty conscience, and sanctify the unholy heart. For then, if this great end had been fully answered for every faithful soul, would they not have ceased to be offered? What use would there have been for their repetition? because that the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins, but have enjoyed a clear sense of pardoning love. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year, which shews that the former sacrifices had not perfectly atoned for them. Nor indeed could they; for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins, making an adequate compensation to divine justice, or that the death of a beast should be a proper and effectual atonement for the sin of the soul. A better sacrifice than these was required, and all the use of these typical ones was to lead to Christ, whose blood alone could satisfy for sin. Wherefore,

2. When he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me, in which to make that atonement for which the legal sacrifices were utterly ineffectual. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo! I come (as in the volume of the book of prophesy it is written of me) to do thy will, O God; well pleased and content to suffer all that justice demands, to make satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, but especially of them who perseveringly believe. Above, when he said, Sacrifice, and offering, and burnt-offerings, and offering for sin, thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein (which are offered by the law;) then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God, and to take away sin by the sacrifice of myself. He taketh away the first covenant, with all the legal sacrifices, because of their insufficiency, that he may establish the second, through his own atoning blood.

3. In virtue of his oblation, the most invaluable blessings are secured to us. By the which will of God, as fulfilled in Christ, we are sanctified, our sins expiated, our consciences purged from their defilement, and our hearts cleansed, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all: wherein may be observed another singular excellence of our High-priest and his sacrifice above all others; for every priest STANDETH, with awful distance, and continues DAILY ministering, and offering OFTENTIMES THE SAME SACRIFICES, all which things shewed the imperfection of that dispensation; and, after all, these can never take away sin, so as to satisfy God's justice, or relieve the guilty conscience; but this man, the glorious Jesus, after he had offered ONE sacrifice for sins, fully accomplished his work, and never needed to offer another, and for ever SAT DOWN, in a state of endless rest and most transcendent dignity, on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till all his enemies be made his footstool, and Satan, sin, the world, and death, shall at last be destroyed for ever. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified; by his blood and intercession he has expiated all their sins, made a complete atonement for them, and, through the powerful efficacy of divine faith, their hearts are renewed and dedicated to God, and shall, if faithful, continue so for ever through that complete atonement. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them, he adds, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more; so that they shall be absolutely, fully, and for ever done away, for all his faithful people. Now where remission of these is, in so complete a manner, there is no more offering for sin, the one oblation of Christ's body on the cross having satisfied to the uttermost for all the faithful. Note; All the enemies of Christ and his people must sooner or later become his footstool: he is sat down on his throne, and shall reign till they are utterly destroyed.

2nd, The apostle having concluded the doctrinal part of the epistle, proceeds to make a practical improvement of the whole.

He reminds them of the inestimable privileges which through their great High-priest they enjoyed. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest, and freedom and confidence in approaching a reconciled God, by the blood of Jesus, sprinkled with which we are assured of acceptance before him, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated, who is himself the way, the truth, and the life; through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; (for, when his body was broken on the tree, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, to shew that every obstruction in the way of the faithful to a throne of grace and glory was now removed:) and having an High-priest, one so great and glorious, over the house of God, let us,

1. Draw near to God in every act of worship, and in the most endeared communion; with a true heart, in all simplicity and godly sincerity, and in full assurance of faith in the all-sufficiency of our Redeemer, and our reconciliation with God through him, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience with his atoning blood, which speaks peace from all guilt and condemnation; and our bodies washed with pure water, cleansed by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, which the Jewish washings prefigured.

2. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; not seduced by temptation, dismayed with opposition, or distrusting the grace engaged for our support: for he is faithful that promised, and the righteous may safely repose their everlasting all on his word.

And, 3. Let us consider one another, our respective trials, dangers, wants, and weakness, in order to provoke each other unto love towards Jesus and the brethren, and to good works, such as may adorn our high profession.

4. Let us be united in heart and worship, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, who on weak and frivolous pretences absent themselves from the congregation of the faithful and the communion of the Lord; a sad symptom of declension, and often the prelude to apostacy.

5. Let us never be slack and remiss in holy jealousy over ourselves and our brethren; but be exhorting one another to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, in the use of every appointed means of grace: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching, when the whole Jewish polity and nation shall be destroyed; or when death and final judgment shall arrive. An awful consideration! which, the more deeply it dwells upon our minds, will excite our most awakened solicitude to be always ready for our great change.

3rdly, To awaken their most abundant concern, the apostle sets before them the dreadful evil and danger of apostacy.

For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, which does not mean every sin that through infirmity or temptation we may be drawn into, nor even deliberate or repeated acts of sin; but such a course of iniquity, embraced with full consent of the mind, as leads to an utter rejection of the gospel, and denial of Jesus Christ: in this case, the only remedy being rejected, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, nor any possibility of pardon, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries; such as must shortly seize the infidel Jews when they shall be buried in the ruins of their city, and awaits the finally impenitent in the great day of God's wrath, when the wicked shall be cast into hell, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Even he that despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses, and no sacrifice was appointed for presumptuous sins: of how much sorer punishment then, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, whose offence is so vastly aggravated, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, treating him with the direct insolence and contempt as an impostor, denying his Deity, despising his atonement, and mocking at his grace; and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, of less efficacy than the blood of bulls and goats, yea, as the Jews intimated at his crucifixion, viler than that of the greatest miscreants; and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace, imputing his miracles to diabolical power, and calling his operations upon the hearts of men delusion and enthusiasm. Such blasphemy is unpardonable, and must bring down the heaviest wrath of an offended God. For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord, and punish incorrigible offenders according to their wickedness. And again, The Lord shall judge his people, will detect hypocrites, and as surely destroy the apostate as he will save the faithful. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, whose wrath, if it be kindled, yea but a moment, who may abide it? Let us hear and tremble, and watch and pray, that we come not into this condemnation, and perish with these despisers.

4thly, To excite the children of God steadily to persevere, 50: He reminds them of the past sufferings which they had so nobly undergone. But call to remembrance the former days, in which after ye were illuminated, and brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, ye endured a great fight of afflictions, and acquitted yourselves manfully, as became those who were lifted under the banner of the cross; partly whilst ye were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions, pointed at, and treated as despicable and ridiculous, and worried with the unrelenting malice and enmity of the wicked world; and partly whilst ye became companions of them that were so used, nobly owning them in their sufferings for righteousness' sake, sympathizing with them, and affording them every assistance. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, tenderly affected for me, and supporting me to the utmost of your ability; and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, content, yea, glorying in your sufferings and losses, knowing in yourselves, from the assurance of God's promises and the experience of his grace, that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance, where the saints shall enjoy their God for ever. Note; (1.) Every Christian must expect, and welcome the cross. (2.) Though we may be screened by Divine Providence and human laws from grosser violations of our property, the lash of slander, the bitterness of reproach, and the trial of cruel mockings, these we shall assuredly, more or less, meet with, if we belong to Christ. (3.) God can make his people joyful under all their trials, and neither ashamed nor afraid to suffer for his sake. (4.) If we are of the body of Christ, we shall sympathize with his members, and shall own and honour them under their reproaches for his name's sake. (5.) If we gain heaven at last, we need be little concerned what we may lose by the way.

2. He exhorts them to stand fast in the prospect of the glory which was before them. Cast not away therefore your confidence, fortitude and holy resolution, which hath greater recompence of reward, and, if persevered in, will secure for you a crown of glory which fadeth not away, and will infinitely overbalance all your losses and sufferings: for ye have need of patience while the conflict continues, that ye may not be weary and faint in your mind; and that after ye have done the will of God, faithfully obedient to his word, and resigned to his providence, ye might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For yet a little while, a very short moment, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry, to execute vengeance upon his enemies, to vindicate the injuries of his faithful people, and save them with his uttermost salvation. Note; (1.) Faith and patience, held fast, secure our perseverance. (2.) Whatever trials oppress us, it is our comfort that the Judge standeth at the door, and that death shall quickly release us from every burden.

3. He encourages and warns them alternately. Now the just shall live by faith, or the just by faith shall live, shall enjoy the life of God in their souls, and, if faithful unto death, shall live with God to all eternity: but if any man draw back from Christ and his gospel as an apostate, my soul, saith God, shall have no pleasure in him, but, contrary-wise, he will be the object of my abhorrence, and suffer all my furious indignation. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, such confidence have I toward you; but of them that truly believe to the saving of the soul, faithful unto death, that we may receive the crown of life. Note; (1.) Many go far in profession, and even possession of grace, who after all prove apostates. (2.) Past experience of God's keeping us, should encourage our increasing confidence in his grace.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

These words, The just shall live by faith, are taken out of the prophet Habakuk, and are three times made use of by St. Paul, in his epistles, Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11, and in this place. By the just man, understand a justified man; by the life which he lives, understand a life of sanctification and of glorification, a life of grace and holiness, and a life of glory and happiness.

Learn, That whatever life the believer lives, after a more excellent manner, and for more excellent purposes and ends than other men, he lives that life by the help and assistance of his faith. In the following words, But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Observe, 1. The crime supposed, if any man that has embraced Christianity, shall, either for sufferings feared or felt, draw back from his holy profession. The word siginifies to sneak and slink away out of fear; and the apostle means by it, a quitting our profession of Christianity for fear of suffering.

Learn hence, That in and under great, sharp, and long trials, persons are in danger of drawing back from that profession of the gospel wherein they are engaged.

Observe, 2. The sentence pronounced upon this crime, My soul shall have no pleasure in him; that is, God will be exceedingly displeased with him, and punish him very severely; intimating, that apostacy from the profession of God's true religion, is a sin highly provoking to him, and will be most severely punished by him.

Here note, That these threatenings imply, that there is a possibility of the saints falling away, considered in themselves; but not that they are ever totally deserted by the Holy Spirit, and left under the reigning power of sin. These threatenings are intended to awaken their care, and have a singular influence on their preservation.

From the whole learn, That backsliders from the gospel are, in a peculiar manner, the abhorrency of the soul of God: If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

38.] Continuation of the paraphrase: the two clauses of Habakkuk 2:4 being transposed. In the original it runs as in E. V.: “Behold his soul (which) is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith:” or, an ambiguity extending to all three places where the saying is quoted, here, and reff. Rom., Gal., “The just by his faith, shall live.” But the other is more probable: see, on all points regarding the Hebrew text, Delitzsch’s note. The transposition is apparently made on purpose, to prevent ὑποστείληται being understood to refer to ἐρχόμενος as its subject. But my just man (there is much controversy about μου, whether to insert it, and where to insert it. On the whole I agree with Bleek, that the position after δίκαιος, which is found in the LXX-A, was most probably that adopted by our Writer. This, being different from many copies of the LXX, would naturally be altered: and St. Paul’s citations not having μου, it would naturally be omitted from our copies here. Delitzsch’s reason for omitting it, that because our Writer quotes as St. Paul in Hebrews 10:30, he probably does here also, is in fact a depriving of that fact of all its real interest. Placed as in our text, μου will point out that man who is just before God, who belongs to God’s people) shall live by faith: and (this καί has no place in the LXX, the first clause, here put last, being there asyndetous) if he (i. e. the δίκαιος, as Delitzsch very properly insists: not τις understood, nor ἄνθρωπος taken out of δίκαιος, but, in the true spirit of this whole cautionary passage, the very man himself who was justified, and partakes of the Christian life, by faith. The possibility of such a fall is, as he observes, among the principal things taught us by this Epistle) draw back (cf. ref. Gal., note. The middle and passive of ὑποστέλλω have usually an accus. of the object of fear: so Dinarchus contra Demosth. p. 11, τῆς ἐξ ἀρείου πάγου βουλῆς οὔτε τὴν δημοσθένους οὔτε δημάδου δύναμιν ὑποστειλαμένης: Demosth. p. 630, μηδὲν ὑποστελλόμενον μηδʼ αἰσχυνόμενον. But sometimes it is absolute, as here: so Eur. Orest. 606, ἐπεὶ θρασύνῃ κοὐχ ὑποστέλλῃ λόγῳ. See several more instances in Kypke), my soul ( τίνος ἡ ψυχή; τοῦ θεοῦ, κατὰ τὸ ἰδίωμα τῆς γραφῆς, ὡς τό, τὰς ἑορτὰς ὑμῶν μισεῖ ἡ ψυχή μου (Isaiah 1:14), ἢ τοῦ χριστοῦ. The former reference is doubtless right, not the latter, nor that given by Calvin, “Perinde accipiendum est, ac si ex suo sensu Apostolus proferret hanc sententiam”) hath not pleasure in him (for construction see reff.).

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 10:38. Continuation of the citation, yet so that the author adduces the two clauses of Habakkuk 2:4 in inverted order. For in the O. T. passage the words read: ἐὰν ὑποστείληται, οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ ψυχή μου ἐν αὐτῷ· δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου [ δὲ δίκαιός μου ἐκ πίστεως] ζήσεται. The transposition is intentional, in order to avoid the supplying of the subject ἐρχόμενος to ὑποστείληται.

δὲ δίκαιός μου ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται] my (of God, not of Christ: Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 621, Obs.) righteous one (the devout man belonging to me), however, shall live by faith. ἐκ πίστεως, namely, is, in the sense of the author of the epistle, to be referred to ζήσεται. To conjoin it here, too, as Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11, with δίκαιος (so Baumgarten, Schulz, Böhme, Kuinoel, Klee, Stengel, al.), is inadmissible, because, according to the connection, the design is not to state by what any one becomes δίκαιος, but by what he will obtain the ἐπαγγελία, or, what is the same thing, the ζωὴ αἰώνιος. The notion of the πίστις here closely attaches itself to the Hebrew אמוּנָה. The meaning, in harmony with the conception prevailing elsewhere in the Epistle to the Hebrews, divergent from that of Paul, is the believing, faithfully enduring trust in God and His promises. The second member, καὶ ἐὰν ὑποστείληται κ. τ. λ., has been misunderstood by the LXX. In the Hebrew: הִנֵּה עֻפְּלַה לֹא־יָשְׁרָה נַפְשׁוֹ בֹּו, behold, lifted up, not upright is his (sc. the Chaldean’s) soul in him.

ἐὰν ὑποστείληται] if so be that he with faint heart draws back. Comp. Galatians 2:12. In the application: if he becomes lukewarm in Christianity, and apostatizes from the same. ὑποστείληται does not stand impersonally; nor have we, with Grotius, Maier, and others, to supply τίς, or, with de Wette, Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 487 (less decidedly, 5 Aufl. p. 427), and Buttmann, Gramm. des neutest. Sprachgebr. p. 117, to supplement from the foregoing δίκαιος the general idea ἄνθρωπος as subject. The subject is still the foregoing δίκαιός μου. This is, moreover, placed beyond doubt, since δίκαιος above is not to be taken in the narrower Pauline sense, but in the general sense of the devout man; he, however, who is in this sense δίκαιος, ceases by the ὑποστέλλεσθαι, to be a δίκαιος.

ψυχή μου] μου has reference to God, not to Christ (Oecumenius, as likewise, but with hesitation, Theophylact, as more recently Riehm, l.c.), still less to the author of the epistle (Calvin: perinde accipiendum est, ac si ex suo sensu apostolus proferret hanc sententiam. Neque enim illi propositum fuit exacte recitare prophetae verba, sed duntaxat locum notare, ut ad propriorem intuitum invitaret lectores).

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Hebrews 10:38. δὲ) The apostle transposes the halves of the verse, and so, by adding the following verse, makes a very suitable Chiasmus. For the things opposed to each other are repeated: faith unto life, drawing back: drawing back, faith unto life, Hebrews 10:38-39. The particle δὲ, but, forms an antithesis to the slothful.— δίκαιος, just) See Romans 1:17, note.— ἐκ πίστεως, by faith) LXX., ἐκ πίστεως μου, or in the same sense, μου ἐκ πίστεως, by my faith. Comp. the pronoun in like manner prefixed, 1 Corinthians 11:24; John 6:54; John 9:10; Heb. in the faith of Him, namely, who was Seen, i.e. of Christ, who will not fail (disappoint(68)): an elegant antithesis. I refer the text of the New Testament to the Heb. as far as it can be done.— καὶ) and; for but. Elegantly: for both halves of the verse flow from the same holy affection (feeling).— ἐὰν ὑποστείληται) The Heb., I think, may be thus interpreted: Lo, if a soul draw itself back, the soul of that man (of him, namely, who draws himself back) is not right (nor pleasing) with regard to Him (namely, who was seen [the subject of the prophet’s vision] or promised); but the just, in the faith of that (viz. promise), shall live. Comp. Mark 16:16. The word עפלה is a metaphor, taken from those who hide themselves in dark caves. See Sam. Petiti var. lect., c. 13.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

These are, as the former, the words of the Prophet Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:4, enforcing the former duty pressed from the gain of perseverance, and the loss by withdrawing, when Christ shall come. They are used by this apostle Paul to several purposes, as to prove, that righteousness is only obtained by faith from God, and not by man’s own works, Romans 1:17 Galatians 3:11; that whoever is righteous by faith, shall live for ever, by holding that righteousness in faith, as here.

Now the just shall live by faith; the justified, according to the terms of the new covenant, who hath obtained the righteousness of God in Christ by believing, and is renewed and sanctified by the Spirit, shall really, spiritually, happily, eternally live; and no end shall be to that life of his, till it be perfected by Christ in glory. And this he shall live by a real and spiritual assent to the gospel, and reliance on God’s promises in it, especially by an affiance to Christ, God-man, as the Lord their Righteousness, by which we have him ours, and so we live. This faith increased, continued in, and held fast amidst all reproaches, sufferings, and persecutions; by this only is the life, due to righteousness, made sure to sinners, drawing from Christ daily, and making real and present the fulness of it promised to and hoped for by it, Mark 13:13 John 6:47 Galatians 2:20 Colossians 3:4.

But if any man draw back: see Habakkuk 2:4, where hlme translated here uposteilhtai, is variously rendered, as, elated like a bubble, lifted up; making pride and unbelief to be the sins threatened there; and the proper sense of the word here used, is, for fear, or sloth, to withdraw, or leave their understanding: so that the meaning in both amounts to this: If any, out of the pride of their heart, will not depend on Christ’s righteousness, as the Jews would not, or, out of fear and sluggishness, will not hold out, but withdraw themselves, in time of persecution, from their faith and confidence in Christ, professed; shrinking through fear, or losing it through sloth, or forsaking it by treachery, either gradually or totally, confiding in themselves, and so despising God; reject him, and draw away from him.

My soul shall have no pleasure in him; God himself will be so far from taking any pleasure or delight in such a soul, or vouchsafe it any joy or life, that his very soul abhors it, is highly displeased with its sin, and abominates its person. In his displeasure is misery, death, and eternal perdition: see Deuteronomy 32:15,18-21.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

The just shall live by faith-no pleasure in him; quoted for substance from the Greek version of Habakkuk 2:4.

Draw back; give up confidence in Christ, deny him, and renounce his cause to escape suffering, or for any other reason.

No pleasure; God will abhor him.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrink back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’

Again taken almost exactly from Habakkuk 2:4 LXX (although ‘of me’ (mou) is moved in order to stress that His righteous ones are truly His), but with the phrases transposed to bring out his point. LXX has ‘If he should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him, but the righteous one shall live by faith of me’. It is again not cited as a quotation but uses what he finds in LXX to express his point.

The Scripture does declare, he says, that ‘my righteous one will live by faith’. Thus if they would be numbered among the righteous, they must show evidence of true faith in Him. For He has no pleasure in those who shrink back from trusting Him, who thus reveal that they are not His righteous ones. Faith in the faithfulness of God is the essence of what a Christian is. Compare its use by Paul in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 where the emphasis is on being accounted righteous by faith. Here the emphasis is on faith in the faithfulness of God. Chapter 11 forms a commentary on these words.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 10:38. But (or now) my righteous one (he who belongs to God’s people) by faith shall live. As it is by faith he first gets life (as is told us in Romans 1:16-17, and Galatians 3:11), so it is by faith that life is preserved in the midst of judgments and of delays that are incident to them.

But if he (A. V. ‘any man’)—Owen and Gill, Winer and De Wette, prefer ‘he,’ which is simpler and in harmony with the context; the same person is described in the two clauses—draw back—the rendering of the Septuagint adopts apparently a different reading of the Hebrew text, as it does to a small extent in the following clause. The reference of those two clauses to the same person need create no difficulty. The apostasy of a professed Christian is always possible, or warnings would be needless: not necessarily the apostasy of a true Christian. The perseverance of the elect is one thing; the perseverance of a particular person is to us another.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

But my (8) just man, he that liveth according to the doctrine I have taught, liveth by faith, which is the groundwork and foundation of a good life. --- But if he withdraw himself, and fall from this faith of Christ, he shall not please my soul. It is a Hebrew way of speaking, and as it were in the person of God. (Witham) --- Luther and Calvin teach that faith alone is sufficient for justification, and they define this faith to be an assured confidence that their sins are forgiven them wholly by Christ's passion. No text, however, in Scripture teaches that a man is justified by faith only. In Romans, (ii.) Luther makes St. Paul say that a man is justified by faith only, without the works of the law: the authorized Protestant version has omitted the word only, foisted into the German translations. Solifidians [Those who pretend justification by faith alone] vainly cite this text, as its obvious meaning is, that neither the works of the written law, done by the Jew, nor the works of the law of nature, done by the Gentiles, before either of them believe in Christ, can without faith in Christ justify any one. Saving faith is a faith working through charity in Jesus Christ, a faith which includes hope, love, repentance, and the use of the sacraments. Hence St. James (Chap. ii.) declares, that a man may have faith but not works, but that faith without works will not save him. St. Paul teaches the same, 1 Corinthians xiii. 2. "If I should have all faith, so as to move mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing;" where we should observe the word all faith.



Justus meus, Greek: dikaios; in some Greek manuscripts, Greek: mou, as also in the Septuagint Habacuc ii. 4.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

just. Greek. dikaios. App-191. The third time of quoting Habakkuk 2:4. See Romans 1:17.

if. Greek. ean. App-118.

drawback. Greek. hupostello. See Galatians 1:2, Galatians 1:12.

soul. App-110.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

Just. 'Aleph (') A, Vulgate, read 'MY just man.' God is the speaker-`He who is just in my sight.' Bengel, with Delta f, 'The just shall live by MY faith.' So the Hebrew, Habakkuk 2:4, literally, 'The just shall live by the faith of Him'-namely, Christ, the final subject of "the vision," who 'will not lie;' i:e., disappoint. Here not merely the beginning, as in Galatians 3:11, but the continuance of the spiritual life of the justified man is referred to, as opposed to apostasy. In Romans 1:17 the righteousness or justice of God in the Gospel plan is what is dwelt on; so the emphasis falls on "just." In Galatians 3:11 the emphasis is on "faith" as the means of justificaton. Here, the emphasis is on "live." As the justified man receives first spiritual life by faith, so it is by faith that he shall continue to live (Luke 4:4). Faith here is that fully-developed living trust in the unseen (Hebrews 11:1) Saviour, which keeps men stedfast amidst persecutions and temptations (Hebrews 10:34-36).

But - Greek, 'and.'

If any man draw back. The Greek admits Alford's, 'if he (the just man) draw back.' This would not disprove the final perseverance of saints: for 'the just man' in this latter clause would mean one seemingly, and in part really, though not savingly, "just;" as in Ezekiel 18:24; Ezekiel 18:26. In the Hebrew this latter half stands first. Therefore 'and' (not "but"), in Paul, merely joins his two quotations: the 'drawer back' answering to the 'lifted-up soul' must, if Paul follows Habakkuk (Hebrews 2:4, note), be distinct from "the just;" for the former stands first, and refers to the Chaldean, or else the unbelieving Jews. "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him." Habakkuk states the cause of drawing back: a soul lifted up by prosperity, like the Chaldean, in self-inflated unbelief setting itself up against God. Paul, by the Spirit, states the effect: it draws back. What in Habakkuk is, "his soul ... is not upright in him," is in Paul, "my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Habakkuk states the cause, Paul the effect: He who is not right in his own soul does not stand right with God; God has no pleasure in him. Bengel translates Habakkuk, 'His soul is not upright in respect to him'-namely, Christ, the subject of "the vision;" i:e., Christ has no pleasure in him (cf. Hebrews 12:25). Every flower in spring is not a fruit in autumn.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(38) Now the just shall live by faith.—The Greek text of this clause is not perfectly certain, but it is probable that the word “my” should be added, so that the translation of the verse will be as follows, But my righteous one shall live by faith. In the Hebrew the first part of the verse is altogether different: “Behold his soul is lifted up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live in (or, by) his faithfulness (or, faith).”The first words seem to refer to the haughty Chaldean invader; the rendering of the last words is considered below. The Greek translation varies a little in different MSS.: “If one draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him; but the righteous one shall live by my faithfulness” (or possibly—not probably—“by faith in me”). In the Alexandrian MSS, the last words run thus: “But my righteous one shall live by faith” (or faithfulness). It is clear, then, that in the passage before us the writer has taken the words as they stood in his text of the LXX., only changing the order of the clauses. Though the Hebrew word usually rendered faith in this passage occurs more than forty times in the Old Testament, in no other case has it this meaning, but almost always signifies faithfulness or truth. Here also the first meaning seems to be “by his faithfulness”; but the thought of faithful constancy to God is inseparably connected with trustful clinging to Him. Hence the accepted Jewish exposition of the passage seems to have taken the word in the sense of “faith.” “My righteous one” will naturally mean “my righteous servant”—the man who will not be seduced into wickedness; he shall live by his faithful trust, for salvation and life shall be given him by God Himself. In this context the word righteous recalls-verse 36, “having done the will of God.”

The transposition of the two clauses makes it almost certain that the “righteous one” is the subject of both: not if any man, but, if he (the righteous one) shrink back. The Genevan and the Authorised stand alone amongst English versions in the former rendering.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
the just
Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11
26,27; 6:4-6; Psalms 85:8; Ezekiel 3:20; 18:24; Zephaniah 1:6; Matthew 12:43-45; 13:21; 2 Peter 2:19-22; 1 John 2:19
Psalms 5:4; 147:11; 149:4; Isaiah 42:1; Malachi 1:10; Matthew 12:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:15
Reciprocal: Genesis 19:26 - looked;  Numbers 14:4 - GeneralJoshua 23:12 - go back;  Joshua 24:16 - GeneralJoshua 24:20 - he will turn;  Ruth 1:15 - gone back;  1 Samuel 15:11 - turned;  2 Samuel 22:22 - have not;  1 Chronicles 28:9 - if thou forsake;  2 Chronicles 15:2 - if ye forsake;  Ezra 8:22 - his power and his wrath;  Job 23:12 - Neither;  Psalm 80:18 - So will;  Psalm 125:5 - As for such;  Proverbs 1:32 - the turning;  Proverbs 21:16 - wandereth;  Ecclesiastes 8:10 - they were;  Isaiah 35:4 - behold;  Ezekiel 11:21 - whose;  Ezekiel 33:13 - if he;  Ezekiel 33:18 - GeneralEzekiel 46:9 - he that entereth in;  Zechariah 7:11 - pulled away the shoulder;  Zechariah 11:8 - and my;  Mark 16:16 - that believeth and;  Luke 9:62 - No;  Luke 14:30 - GeneralLuke 17:32 - GeneralJohn 6:66 - of his;  John 8:31 - If;  John 20:25 - Except;  Acts 10:22 - a just;  2 Corinthians 5:7 - GeneralGalatians 4:9 - again;  Galatians 5:4 - ye;  Philippians 3:16 - whereto;  Colossians 1:23 - ye continue;  Hebrews 3:6 - if;  Hebrews 3:12 - in;  Hebrews 3:15 - To day;  1 Peter 4:18 - if;  Revelation 2:26 - keepeth

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews

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

For the just, by faith, shall live—This passage is frequently quoted in the New Testament and points out the way of our acceptance with God. Galatians 2:11. "The just shall live by faith." has much the same meaning, although the former is nearer to the order of words in the original. The Hebrews were called to remember the coming of the Lord was at hand. He had warned the disciples of the awful destruction of Jerusalem, and it was now at hand, and the vengeance He would then inflict on the inhabitants was an emblem of the destruction of the wicked. The Lord had also mentioned the signs that should precede the desolation of Jerusalem, by the observance of which His disciples might escape the impending danger. Their safety would depend on their attention to those signs, and their readiness to abandon all. If they let slip the warnings He delivered, or ceased to observe what was taking place, they would be involved in the destruction of the wicked.

Our translators have introduced the words "any Prayer of Manasseh," but this is unauthorized. I object probably was to prevent the passage being employed in opposition to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But this doctrine is explicitly stated in the Word of God, and is not affected by the passage before us: Men go out from the disciples, because they were not of them, 1 John 2:19. We are here warned that he who endureth to the end shall be saved, which is the uniform doctrine of the Word of God. Let a man profess what he pleases, if he draw back, God's soul shall have no pleasure in him.

The passage quoted by the Apostle is Habakkuk 2:4,—"Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in Him: but the just shall live by his faith." Here faith is opposed to high-mindedness, which is directly contrary to faith. The believer has no confidence in the flesh, but rejoices in Christ Jesus. He rests wholly on Christ; he feels he has no strength; he lives out of himself: all which are directly contrary to high-mindedness. God knoweth the proud afar off, and has said his foot shall slip in due time.

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Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". 1835.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

38.Live by faith—The Christian believers shall be the true survivors. Yet underlying this, in both the prophet and our author, is the divine truth that by the same faith the faithful is acceptable to God, and so heir not only of the temporal but the eternal salvation, Note on Hebrews 11:13-15.

But—Our author has made the sentence before the but in the prophet, and that after, exchange places.

Draw back—Or, draw down; that is, in shrinking back, or apostatizing. The words any man, as the Italics show, are not in the Greek, but are interpolated by our translators very improperly; for the proper subject of draw back is the just who live by faith. The just shall live by faith: but if he draw back my soul, etc.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

The Bible Study New Testament

38. Will believe and live. See note on Matthew 24:21. No Christian Jews died in the siege of Jerusalem, because they believed and escaped before the Roman armies surrounded the city!




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

38.Now the just, etc. He means that patience is born of faith; and this is true, for we shall never be able to carry on our contests unless we are sustained by faith, even as, on the other hand, John truly declares, that our victory over the world is by faith. (1 John 5:4.) It is by faith that we ascend on high; that we leap over all the perils of this present life, and all its miseries and troubles; that we possess a quiet standing in the midst of storms and tempests. Then the Apostle announced this truth, that all who are counted just before God do not live otherwise than by faith. And the future tense of the verb live, betokens the perpetuity of this life. Let readers consult on this subject Romans 1:17, (198) and Galatians 3:11, where this passage is quoted.

But if any man draw back, etc. This is the rendering of עפלה elation, as used by the Prophet, for the words are, “Where there shall be elation or munition, the soul of that man shall not continue right in him.” The Apostle gives here the Greek version, which partly agrees with the words of the Prophet, and partly differs from them. For this drawing back differs but little, if anything, from that elation or pride with which the ungodly are inflated, since their refractory opposition to God proceeds from that false confidence with which they are inebriated; for hence it is that they renounce his authority and promise themselves a quiet state, free from all evil. They may be said, then, to draw back, when they set up defenses of this kind, by which they drive away every fear of God and reverence for his name. And thus by this expression is intimated the power of faith no less than the character of impiety; for pride is impiety, because it renders not to God the honor due to him, by rendering man obedient to him. From self­security, insolence, and contempt, it comes that as long as it is well with the wicked, they dare, as one has said, to insult the clouds. But since nothing is more contrary to faith than this drawing back, for the true character of faith is, that it draws a man unto submission to God when drawn back by his own sinful nature.

The other clause, “He will not please my soul,” or as I have rendered it more fully, “My soul shall not delight in him,” is to be taken as the expression of the Apostle’s feeling; for it was not his purpose to quote exactly the words of the Prophet, but only to refer to the passage to invite readers to a closer examination of it. (199)

Behold the fainting! Not right is his soul within him;
But the righteousness by his faith shall he live.

The fainting i.e., as to faith and he who “draws back,” or withdraws through fear, as the verb means, are descriptive of the same character. To persevere in expecting the fulfillment of a promise, is the subject in Habakkuk and also in this passage. And then, that the soul of the fainting is not right, is the same as to say that such a soul is not what God approves.

A theological dispute has arisen, though unnecessarily, from the construction of the last clause in this verse. The introduction of “any one,” or any man, has been objected to, and that it ought to be “but if he,” i.e., “the righteousness” draw back, etc. The probability is, that as “anyone” should not be ascribed to Beza, for Pagininus and others had done so before him. However, the doctrine of perseverance is in no way imperiled by leaving out “any one.” The Bible is full of this mode of addressing Christians, and yet the Bible assures us that the sheep of Christ shall never perish. Warnings and admonitions are the very means which God employs to secure the final salvation of his people; and to conclude from such warnings that they may finally fall away, is by no means a legitimate argument. — Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 10:38". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.