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The apostolic commission, as he gives it, is closely connected on the one hand with the appearance to the eleven, as they sat at meat, in v. 14, and with the ascension on the other, in vs. 19, 20. As those two facts were certainly separated by an interval of some days, or weeks, it is obvious that the evangelist did not intend to give these events in reference to their exact chronology, but only in reference to their general connection. Hence we may, without the least violence, connect the commission with the events of vs. 19, 20, rather than with those of v. 14, since it must be disconnected with one or the other as to the precise time of its utterance. This then will place it, where it certainly belongs, to the tenth appearance of our Lord in Jerusalem and upon Olivet, in connection with his ascension. It is true that we might refer the appearance in v. 14 to this last occasion, and suppose that it described the last interview which began in the city and ended on the mount of Olives, but the general judgment of expositors and the most natural conclusion is, that it refers to one or two appearances soon after the resurrection, recorded by the other evangelists.
The form of the commission in Mark differs from that in Matthew, precisely as the gospels differ, and precisely as we would expect them to differ from the general design of the two gospels. Matthew, writing for the Hebrews, presents the
doctrines that were most important for them, as we gather from the epistle to the Hebrews, and brings out the connection between the Old and New Testament church, the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, and the perpetuity of the church. Mark, writing for the Roman world, brings out the very doctrines most important for them, as we learn from the epistle to the Romans. The very word "gospel," which is the text of the epistle to the Romans, (Rom. i. 16,) occurs only in this form of the commission, and the great doctrine of justification by faith, which is the substance of that epistle, is also the substance of this form of the commission. The authenticating seals promised in this commission are precisely those that would most readily strike the practical intellect of the Romans and Gentiles generally, and did in fact do so, as we learn from the history of the church. Hence we see how admirably adapted was this selection from the ample utterances of our Lord on this occasion, for the purposes of Mark.
We have here, I. The commission ; II. The seals authenticating it; III. The consequences of accepting or rejecting it.
I. The Commission itself. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
We here perceive again the fact that this was not the original ordination to preach and baptize, but only an extension of the right to do so, from one nation to the whole world. The original ordination is mentioned by Mark in c. ii. 14–19. In c. i. 14, 15, he tells us that Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel and calling on men to repent and believe the gospel. In c. iii. 14—19, he informs us that our Lord ordained the twelve to go and preach this gospel, omitting the fact mentioned by Matthew, in writing for the Hebrews, that they were restricted in this preaching (and of course in the baptism that we learn from John ii. 1, 2, was connected with it) to the house of Israel. Now when the kingdom was fully come, and the gospel complete, they were sent to proclaim it to all nations, and baptize all who would accept it.
It is therefore wholly illogical to infer that this passage is final and exclusive in regard to the subject of baptism. As this inference is pressed by many, we cannot pass it by without some remark.
The argument is, Christ says nothing in this passage about infant baptism, though he was speaking on the subject of baptism. We reply, be says nothing about infant salvation, though he was speaking on the subject of salvation. Hence the inference that excludes them by this passage from baptism, also excludes them from salvation. Indeed it is stronger in the latter case than the former, because of the reverse form of the pro. position. In the first clause it is not said that one who does not believe shall not be baptized, but in the second clause, it is expressly said that one who does not believe shall not be saved. Hence if this passage excludes infants from baptism, much more does it exclude them from salvation. If we recoil from this inference, and say that the passage only refers to those capable of faith, to adults, then if this be true as to salvation, it is equally true as to baptism, and hence it cannot be fairly used as an argument against the baptism of infants.
If it be asked, Why did our Lord not designate all the subjects of baptism ? we reply that he was not explaining the condition of baptism, but of salvation. Hence though he names baptism in the first clause, he omits it in the second, and Luke in recording the words omits it from both. If it be further asked why he did not explain who were to be the proper subjects of baptism, we reply, because this explanation had no doubt been given when the original commission to teach and baptize was granted three years before ; and it was just as needless to explain the proper subject of baptism, as of ordination to the ministry, or admission to the Lord's Supper, or any other question of church order and government, already explained.
The simple purport of the commission was that having hitherto preached to and baptized Jews only, they must now preach to and baptize all nations, as the great redemption, indicated by this preparatory preaching and baptism, was now finished. That this commission involved no restriction of baptism to adults may be illustrated by a simple supposition. Suppose that instead of baptism it had been circumcision that was enjoined, and the statement had been " he that believeth and is circumcised shall be saved,” would any one have dreamed that infants were thereby excluded from circumcision ? If not from circumcision, then they could not be from baptism, by these words. · The apostolic commission is a simple warrant to extend that church to all nations, that had hitherto been confined to one nation. Hence no explanation of the law of membership in that church was needed, unless some change was ordained. That law, which embodied infant membership, had been in existence for two thousand years, and become as familiar as a household word. It was not needed to explain that law any more than the law of praise, prayer, or the Sabbath. When the church was thus extended, the law of membership went with it, unless repealed. As the New Testament is silent about any such repeal, it follows that the law of membership is unchanged, and that the promise is still not only to us, but also to our children, and that Abraham is