Probation—Its Conditions And Limitations -- By: James H. Fairchild

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:171 (Jul 1886)
Article: Probation—Its Conditions And Limitations
Author: James H. Fairchild


Probation—Its Conditions And Limitations

James H. Fairchild

The idea of probation as pertaining to human life involves two distinct elements: the first, and perhaps the most prominent, thought is that of trial—a testing of fitness or qualification for some contemplated privilege or responsibility. Thus a pupil is admitted to a school on probation, or a young man is received to a business establishment as a candidate for some permanent position, the result to depend upon the manifestation of character or abilities already in possession. In this view a probation is, what the word most distinctly suggests, a trial.

A second element of probation—rather implied than expressed, is an opportunity to attain a character and qualifications which shall fit the possessor for some contemplated or proposed condition, or career, or responsibility, for which the probationer is not qualified at the outset. Thus a young man is taken into a telegraph office to qualify himself for a responsible position as an operator, or enters upon a course of education for the ministry. The leading idea here is that of training or preparation for the contemplated position. But the idea of test, or trial, is still present, because in the result it may appear that the youth does not attain the character, or other qualification, for which the position calls, and thus the candidate must at length be rejected. Probably in all forms of probation which fall to human experience both these conditions appear in ever varying proportions. Where the element of trial is predominant, the term probation is natural and appropriate; where training or preparation stands foremost, some other term might be better. Of the young

man passing his first six months in college before matriculation, we naturally say, He is on probation; of the young man aiming at a profession through years of study, we do not so naturally use the word; yet the probation is there. In the case of a human soul looking forward to an endless life, the conditions of which are to be determined by the fidelity with which he shall employ his opportunities and meet his duties during the earlier years of that life, the trial and the training are almost equally prominent. The fact that a certain character is required as a preparation for that future, and that character is a growth dependent both on external conditions and on the man’s voluntary, responsible adjustment to those conditions,—this fact makes opening life a period of culture or training for the life that is to follow. Every finite moral being must become by his own voluntary activity, under the conditions in which he is placed, what he needs to be, in order to a blessed future. Destiny comes primarily from character, and ...

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