Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
"Things hoped for" are "things not seen." St. Paul says in the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, "Hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" But the "unseen" is not coextensive with the "hoped for." There are "things not seen" elsewhere than in the future. Faith is wider than hope. Faith has other spheres than futurity. Whatever is invisible, whether past or present or future, is an object of faith. Every fact in history is apprehended by faith. Every past event, every record of birth and death, of battle and revolution, of dynasty founded and fallen, of historical person and character, can be grasped, can be accepted, only by faith. To be assured that certain portions of this island were successively occupied by Roman, by Saxon, by Dane, by Norman — that the established religion of this country was once Pagan, once Romanist, once Puritan — that a sovereign of this country was executed at Whitehall and buried at Windsor — that there ever was such a person as Alexander or Caesar or Napoleon — is an exercise, a strong exercise, of faith. That which is not at this moment seen and handled and tasted — that storm or that Shipwreck or that fire which the public paper tells of as having happened a month ago or happened yesterday, but which we ourselves did not see happen and can only know of by testimony — belongs, for that reason, to the realm of faith. The province of faith is coextensive with "things not seen." And those unseen things may be either future, or past, or present. It is idle to deny that there are such. If we spoke only of earthly existences, how many of these, of the most certain of these, are at this moment out of our sigh! The friend from whom you heard yesterday — the person dearest to you in the world, not now by your side — it is faith, it is not sight, which represents that existence to you as real. But which of us, of the most sceptical of us, denies the fact of spiritual existences, spiritual agencies, which are of necessity, not by accident, but essentially, not now only, but always, things unseen? Faculties, habits, feelings, affections, motives, principles, processes and conditions of thought, laws of cause and consequence, souls and spirits of the dead and living, beings above us, a God of creation and providence, a Father and Saviour and Comforter — in whatever degree, to whatever extent, we have information or conviction of any of these, however confidently or however tentatively we have hold upon any of these, it is faith, faith alone, which grasps or deals with them — they too belong to that vast realm of the unseen, for the contemplation of which faith is the one faculty — that faith which is not only the assurance of things hoped for, but also — it is a far larger and wider term — "the evidence of things not seen."
Parallel VersesKJV: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.