“A Three-fold Cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes iv, 12.
Sometime since we went out to a pasture on Mt. High Farm to bring in a couple of horses to the barn. The horses were high-spirited animals, the evening was cool, and they were more disposed to race and romp than come in from the field. We caught and bridled them, however, and threw the bridle of one over a post while handling the other. The bridle was new and we relied upon its strength to hold the horse, but in a moment he had reared back and broke it. Somewhat surprised we carefully examined it, and found it had broken where the tongue of one of the buckles had pierced the leather; – the bridle had broken “at its weakest link.”
This little incident turned our meditations through the evening upon heavenly things. We once visited a factory at Maxwell, Indiana, where chains were manufactured, and were interested in examining the process. Each link was tried separately, manufactured and examined with care; and when completed the whole chain was subjected to the severest test to ascertain whether or not there was in it, a weak link, for the strength of the chain was the strength of its weakest link.
Thus it is with the Gospel system; all of its parts must be strong and consistent alike, must be true the one to the other. “For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.” – Habakkuk ii, 11.
“We trust upon the Sacred Word,
The oath and promise of our Lord;
And safely through each tempest sail,
The Christian’s hope shall never fail.”
We are told: “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” – Isaiah xxvi, 1. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him.” – Ecclesiastes iii, 14.
The different points of doctrine in the Gospel system may well be called “the stakes and cords of Zion.” It is written of these: “Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.” – Isaiah xxxiii, 29.
Take cardinal points of this sweet and glorious system: for instance, Election, Predestination, and the doctrine of Holy Spirit regeneration; and we have a three-fold cord with no weak flaws; a cord which cannot be broken. If we place those points of doctrine as Paul puts them in Ephesians i, 4, we must place election in Christ first as it is there recorded, “As He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” There is certainly no weak spot in this choice! This Election could not be simply prospective. It must be the election of an actual existing subject. If the Election is eternal, i.e., before all worlds were made; then necessarily the thing elected must be eternal, i.e., actually existing before all worlds were made, as it is written, “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. * * * While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.” – Proverb viii, 22-31.
If the Bridegroom is eternal the bride must also be eternal, else Adam with his bride actually existing in him at the time of his creation, would not be as Paul said, “the figure of Him that was to come.” – Romans v, 14.
The apostle writes to the Church which he says, is “in God the Father, and IN THE Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians i, 1. If IN Him she must have been “set up” when He was “set up,” as “the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” – Ephesians 1, 22-23.
“Set up as the Head of His mystical frame,
He honored the records of time with His name.”
We pass from the consideration of the doctrine of divine Election to Predestination for “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” – Romans viii, 29.
The foreknowledge of God not only embraces the church in all of her eternal, embodiment IN Christ the Seed thereof: but also in her personal identity and existence there; each eternal personal unit was as certainly foreknown, as the eternal substance; just as the creation of Adam embodied the existence of each personal unit or life therein created; “Male and female created He them, and blessed them, and called THEIR name Adam, in the day when they were created.” – Genesis v,2.
Predestination assures the development, accomplishment, and eternal culmination of this Eternal, Unconditional, and Personal actual Election, for “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” It not only eternally, absolutely, irrevocably and accurately determines beforehand the accomplishment of each and every incident, circumstance, or event that has, does now, or ever will come to pass in the development of time, (whether such events may appear to us as good, bad or indifferent is a matter of no moment in the Divine economy;) but it also and more especially embraces the revelation of the Church in glorious immortality in ages yet to come.
The developments of time are only an incident in this great and glorious purpose; time itself is but the Amphitheater or Arena upon which this purpose is displayed; or better still, a scaffolding around the Building of Mercy which building is made manifest in eternal and heavenly development, the Headstone of which shall be brought forth “with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, unto it.” – Zechariah iv, 7.
If the works of man assisted in this accomplishment; his work would show here as it does everywhere else, in constant and persistent failure. The most skilled experts in that business cannot even run a railroad train without constant wrecks, and appalling loss of life and damage: much less the system of Gospel grace. Whatever the polluted hands of mortal man touch shows his pollution and weakness and arrogance. Neither his sustenance nor his counsel were required in creation for “The heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them,” before he was created; to which fact Job’s attention was directed in the testimony; “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
If the Gospel system depended upon men’s work in the least, in whole or in part; or yet a combination of the work of God plus the work of man; its strength would be but the strength of a mere man, and it would fall under the “cursed be man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” – Jeremiah xvii, 5. Instead of this the fall of Adam was as irrevocably decreed, as his creation, for the Absolute Predestination which provided a way of salvation FROM sin must have as positively decreed the entrance of sin; in other words there could have been no absolute predestination of the coming of a Savior, and the entrance of sin left up to mere chance; as the Predestination of the first so surely called for that of the last.
“When man was created what wisdom we see
The whole he possessed was the image of Thee;
But lo in his fall we are led to espy
‘Twas all for the lifting of Jesus on high.”
Hence in Predestination there is no weak link – which there would be if any part was left up to man: – the whole economy of the inception, development, and consummation of Particular Redemption is of God IN Christ: “For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” declares the opposite in 2 Corinthians i, 20. Nothing is left up to chance, which is but another name for the so-called “permissive decrees” of men; nothing outside of the eternal purpose and grace of God “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” – Micah v, 2. And “Who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption.” – 1 Corinthians i, 30. “For it pleased the Father that IN Him should all fullness dwell.” “And ye are complete IN Him, which is the Head of all principality and power.” – Colossians i, 19; ii, 10.
The Savior said to His disciples, “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory.” – Matthew xix, 28. He in that declaration tells us what the Regeneration is. In it we are begotten “again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” – 1 Peter i, 3. It is not, as held by mongrel Baptists the remodeling of the natural generation forming it into a spiritual one. It is the bringing forth of the children of grace from under the law and under its curse. As Christ is made one with them in their humiliation under the law, so do they become one with and in Him in His ascension from under that law. This eternal oneness cannot be broken. As He was glorified with the glory which He had with the Father “before the world was,” (John xvii, 5,) so are the members of His body glorified with the glory of the Head, as He sits “in the throne of His glory.” They are one and inseparable in life or in death; in time or in eternity.
Thus are interwoven the one point of doctrine within the other the “three-fold cord” which cannot be broken. The strength of the whole Gospel system is the strength of each of its parts; and each separate part has the strength of the whole system in eternal and indissoluble unity in God the Father, and IN the Lord Jesus Christ.
Solomon in the connection of the subject under discussion seems to apply it to the fellowship of saints. “If two lie together,” he says, “then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him,, two shall withstand him; and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.” Does this not explain something of the fellowship of the saints; the “three that bear record in heaven,” the “three that witness in earth.” Of the first it is written, “and these three are one,” of the last, “and these three agree in one.” – 1 John v, 7-8.
Here is but a manifestation of the same eternal vital union, or oneness, to which we have already referred; a fellow citizenship “with the saints, and of the household of God.” Here is the endurance and strength of the Church; a city “compact together” confronting all earthly idolatry; unterrified by the legions of anti-Christ; armed with steel, or with gold; a triumphant host “looking forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” – Songs vi, 10.
Here are the valiant men of Israel all of whom “hold swords, being expert in war,” – Songs iii, 7,8. Here are “they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” – Revelation xiv,12. Here are they who are “without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation.” – Philippians ii, 15. Receiving all their strength from their exalted Head, they stand IN Him, are upheld by Him; in His strength they triumph over all opposition, rise above all obstacles, and endure all trials. He has been their eternal dwelling place “before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world. – Psalm xc, 1,2. And they shall “be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth His fruit in His season; His leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever He doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are life the chaff which the wind driveth away.” – Psalm i, 1-6.
Elder William M. Smoot