Probation And Election. -- By: L. S. Potwin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 044:174 (Apr 1887)
Article: Probation And Election.
Author: L. S. Potwin


Probation And Election.

L. S. Potwin

It is remarkable that in the discussion of future probation little reference has been made to the doctrine of election. Is it because probation and election are supposed to be unrelated? Or is it because all parties to the discussion have tacitly agreed to place the doctrine of election among bygones? Whatever be the reason, it may not be amiss to set down distinctly some of the points that belong to a general view of probation and election.

The definition of probation I will take from Webster’s dictionary, bracketing four words out of deference to existing discussions. It is “the state of man [in the present life] in which he has the opportunity of proving his character and being qualified for a happier state.” The definition of election I will consider sufficiently implied in Acts 13:48, unless one ventures—and the venture has been made—to render the passage thus: “As many as were predisposed to eternal life believed.” Perhaps there is need of a restatement of the doctrine, but perhaps there is more need of a re-belief of it.

The following are some of the points that claim attention:

1. Probation emphasizes man’s free will. Hence, at the present day, when man’s freedom is prominent in theology as against atheistic necessity, we should expect to hear more of probation than of election.

2. Probation has no such prominence in the New Testament as election has. When we ask, What is the object of the gospel? we do not find this answer, “The end of the gospel is probation.” Salvation is its object and end, and not mere probation. That there is probation we cannot doubt, but we give it a false prominence when we substitute it for salvation.

3. Probation is one means of carrying into effect the divine election. If there were no election there would be no probation. Probation would have no adequate end unless the salvation of some were certain. Election gives that certainty. It may be briefly defined as “that act of God which makes salvation sure.”

4. We cannot affirm that probation is the only means of carrying into effect the divine election. Much less can we say that a complete probation is necessary to salvation. It is not easy to say what a complete probation is. God must be the judge of that, and he also must judge how much or how little is needed.

5. Probation is not needed in order to reveal the character of any man to God, but only to the man himself and to the world. The smallest germ of faith, though invisible to man, secures salvation. Probation develops that germ. The number of the elect includes all in whom God’s eye d...

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