The Elect of God can only be discerned from those who are not Elect by their faith and life. We cannot climb up into the secret of God’s eternal counsels. We cannot read the book of life. The fruits of the Spirit, seen and manifested in a man’s conversation, are the only grounds on which we can ascertain that he is one of God’s Elect. Where the marks of God’s Elect can be seen, there, and there only, have we any warrant for saying “this is one of the Elect.”
How do I know that yon distant ship on the horizon of the sea has any pilot or steersman on board? I cannot with the best telescope discern anything but her masts and sails. Yet I see her steadily moving in one direction. That is enough for me. I know by this that there is a guiding hand on board, though I cannot see it.
Just so it is with God’s Election. The eternal decree we cannot possibly see. But the result of that decree cannot be hid. It was when St, Paul remembered the faith and hope and love of the Thessalonians, that he cried, I “know your Election of God.” (1 Thess. 1:4.) For ever let us hold fast this principle in considering the subject before us. To talk of any one being Elect when he is living in sin, is nothing better than blasphemous folly. The Bible knows of no Election except through “sanctification,”—no eternal choosing except that we should be “holy,”—no predestination except to be “conformed to the image of God’s Son.” When these things are lacking, it is mere waste of time to talk of Election. (1 Pet. 1:2; Ephes. 1:4; Rom. 8:29.)
J.C. Ryle, Old Paths, p469f.