J.C. Ryle on Election

Election according to the Bible is a very different thing from what [some] suppose it to be. It is most intimately connected with other truths of equal importance with itself, and from these truths it ought never to be separated. Truths which God has joined together no man should ever dare to put asunder.

(a) For one thing, the doctrine of Election was never meant to destroy man’s responsibility for the state of his own soul. The Bible everywhere addresses men as free-agents, as beings accountable to God, and not as mere logs, and bricks, and stones. It is false to say that it is useless to tell men to cease to do evil, to learn to do well, to repent, to believe, to turn to God, to pray. Everywhere in Scripture it is a leading principle that man can lose his own soul, that if he is lost at last it will be his own fault, and his blood will be on his own head. The same inspired Bible which reveals this doctrine of Election is the Bible which contains the words, “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” — “Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life.” — “This is the condemnation, that light is come into tire world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (Ezek. xviii. 31; John v. 40; iii. 19.) The Bible never says that sinners miss heaven because they are not Elect, but because they “neglect the great salvation,” and because they will not repent and believe. The last judgment will abundantly prove that it is not the want of God’s Election, so much as laziness, the love of sin, unbelief, and unwillingness to come to Christ, which ruins the souls that are lost.

(b) For another thing, the doctrine of Election was never meant to prevent the fullest, freest offer of salvation to every sinner. In preaching and trying to do good we are warranted and commanded to set an open door before every man, woman, and child, and to invite every one to come in. We know not who are God’s Elect, and whom he means to call and convert. Our duty is to invite all. To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, “God loves you, and Christ has died for you.” To everyone we ought to say, “Awake, — repent, — believe, — come to Christ, — be converted, — turn, — call upon God, — strive to enter in, — come, for all things are ready.” To tell us that none will hear and be saved except God’s Elect, is quite needless. We know it very well. But to tell us that on that account it is useless to offer salvation to any at all, is simply absurd. Who are we that we should pretend to know who will be found God’s Elect at last? No! indeed. Those who now seem first may prove last, and those who seem last may prove first in the judgment day. We will invite all, in the firm belief that the invitation will do good to some. We will prophesy to the dry bones, if God commands us. We will offer life to all, though many reject the offer. In so doing we believe that we walk in the steps of our Master and His Apostles.

(c) For another thing, Election can only be known by its fruits. 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 lie 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. i. 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. i. 2; Ephes. i. 4; Rom. viii. 29.)

(d) Last, but not least, Election was never intended to prevent men making a diligent use of all means of grace. On the contrary, the neglect of means is a most suspicious symptom, and should make us very doubtful about the state of a man’s soul. Those whom the Holy Ghost draws He always draws to the written Word of God and to prayer. When there is the real grace of God in a heart, there will always be love to the means of grace. What saith the Scripture? The very Christians at Rome to whom St. Paul wrote about foreknowledge and predestination, are the same to whom Ire says, “Continue instant in prayer.” (Rom. xii. 12.) The very Ephesians who were “chosen before the foundation of the world:’ are the same to whom it is said, “Put on the whole armour of God — take the sword of the Spirit — pray always with all prayer.” (Ephes. vi. 18.) The very Thessalonians whose Election Paul said he “knew,” are the Christians to whom he cries in the same Epistle, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. v. 17.) The very Christians whom Peter calls “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” are the same to whom lie says, “Desire the sincere milk of the Word — watch unto prayer.” (1 Pet. ii. 2; iv. 7.) The evidence of texts like these is simply unanswerable and overwhelming. I shall not waste time by making any comment on them. An Election to salvation which teaches men to dispense with the use of all means of grace, may please ignorant people, fanatics, and Antinomians. But I take leave to say that it is an Election of which I can find no mention in God’s Word.