Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Faith has many workings, many results, many frets — and some select one of these and call it faith itself. But the text goes to the source when it says, "What faith is this." The word here rendered "substance," means properly the act of "standing under" so as to support something. Thus in philosophical writings it was applied to the essence which forms, as it were, the substratum of the attributes; that supposed absolute existence (of thing or person) in which all the properties and qualities, so to say, inhere, and have their consistence. In this way the word is once applied in Scripture, in the third verse of this Epistle, to the essence of God Himself, and the Divine Son is said to be "the express image of His person" — the very "impress," as it might be otherwise rendered, "of His essence." But there was another use of the word, in which it meant the act of the mind in standing under (so as to support, and bear the weight of) some statement or communication, making, as we say, a heavy demand upon the faculty of believing. It thus passes from the idea of " substance" into that of "assurance" or "confidence." It is thus used by St. Paul in two passages of the second Epistle to the Corinthians, where he speaks of his "confidence" in the readiness of their alms-giving, and again of the "confidence of his glorying," though it be in weakness, about himself. And so, once again, in the third chapter of this Epistle to the Hebrews, we find the expression, "If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." There can be no question as to the meaning of the word in the verse now before us. "Faith is the assurance of (confidence in) things hoped for." Faith is that principle, that exercise of mind and soul, which has for its object things not seen but hoped for, and which, instead of sinking under them as too ponderous, whether from their difficulty or from their uncertainty, stands firm under them — supports and sustains their pressure — in other words, is assured of, confides in and relies on them. It is not the Christian only who lives by faith. Faith is no dreamy, imaginative, or mystical thing, which it is fanciful if not fanatical to talk of. The schoolboy who expects a holiday, to be earned by his diligence or forfeited by his misconduct, exercises faith in that expectation. the husbandman who expects the harvest is exercising that "confidence in things hoped for" which is faith. The parent who anticipates the manhood of his child is an example of that "walking by faith" which only madmen and fools disparage or dispense with. When Christ bids us to be men of faith, He is not contradicting nature, He is not even introducing into the world a new principle of action; He is only applying a principle as old as Nature herself, to matters beyond and above nature, which it needed a new revelation from the God of nature to disclose and to prove to us. If this proof be given us, it becomes as reasonable to anticipate and to prepare for eternity as it is reasonable to anticipate and to prepare for a holiday or a harvest, a wedding, or a profession. "Faith is confidence in things hoped for"; and whether the expected future be a later day of this life, or a day which shall close this life and usher in an everlasting existence, the principle which takes account of that future is one and the same — only debased or elevated, profaned or consecrated, by the length of the vision and by the character of the object. We must walk by faith if we would not be the scorn and laughingstock of our generation. The only question is, What, for us, are those "things hoped for," which faith makes its object? Are they the trifles of time, or are they the substances of eternity? Are they the amusements, the vanities, the luxuries, the ambitions, which make up the life of earth — or are they the grand, the satisfying, the everlasting realities which God has revealed to us in His Son Jesus Christ — such as the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, victory over evil, the communion of saints, a growing likeness to Christ, a death full of hope, and a blessed immortality in God's presence?
Parallel VersesKJV: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.