The Harmony Of The Gospels by St. Augustine
Chapter VI.--Of the Circumstance that Mark Has Recorded More Than Luke as Spoken by the Lord in Connection with the Case of This Man Who Was Casting Out Devils in the Name of Christ, Although He Was Not Following with the Disciples; And of the Question Ho
7. Mark proceeds with his narrative in these terms: |For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe on me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.| And so on, down to where it is said, |Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.| These words Mark represents to have been spoken by the Lord in the connection immediately following what He said in forbidding the man to be interdicted who was casting out devils in His name, and yet was not following Him along with the disciples. In this section, too, he introduces some matters which are not found in any of the other evangelists, but also some which occur in Matthew as well, and some which we come across in like manner both in Matthew and in Luke. Those other evangelists, however, bring in these matters in different connections, and in another order of facts, and not at this particular point when the statement was made to Christ about the man who did not follow Him along with the disciples, and yet was casting out devils in His name. My opinion, therefore, is, that the Lord did really utter sayings in this connection, according to Mark's attestation, of which he also delivered Himself on other occasions, and this for the simple reason, that they were sufficiently pertinent to this expression of His mind which he gave here, when He forbade the placing of any interdict upon the working of miracles in His name, even although that should be done by a man who did not follow Him along with His disciples. For Mark presents the relation of the one passage to the other thus: |For he that is not against us is on our part; for whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.| This makes it plain that even this man, whose case John had taken up, and thus had given occasion for the Lord to commence the discourse referred to, was not separating himself from the society of the disciples to any such effect as to scorn it like a heretic. But his position was something parallel to the familiar one of men who, while not going the length yet of receiving the sacraments of Christ, nevertheless favour the Christian name so far as even to receive Christians, and accommodate themselves to them for this very reason, and none other, that they are Christian; of which type of persons it is that He tells us that they do not lose their reward. This does not mean, however, that they ought at once to think themselves quite safe and secure simply on account of this kindness which they cherish towards Christians, while at the same time they are neither cleansed by Christ's baptism, nor incorporated into the unity of His body. But the import is, that they are now being guided by the mercy of God in such a way that they may also come to these higher things, and so quit this present world in safety. And such persons assuredly are more profitable [servants], even before they become associated with the number of Christians, than those individuals who, while already bearing the Christian name and partaking in the Christian sacraments, recommend courses which are only fitted to drag others, whom they may persuade to adopt them, along with themselves into eternal punishment. These are the persons to whom He refers under the figure of the members of the body, and whom He commands to be cast out from the body, like an offending hand or eye; that is to say, to be cut off from the fellowship of that unity, in order that they should seek rather to enter into life without such associates, than to go into hell in their company. Moreover, they are separated from those from whom they separate themselves, just when no consent is yielded to their evil recommendations, that is to say, to the offences in which they indulge. And if, indeed, they are discovered in the character of their perversity to all good men with whom they have any fellowship, they are cut off completely from the fellowship of all, and also from participation in the divine sacraments. But if they are known in this character only to some, while their perversity is unknown to the majority, they must just be borne with, as the chaff is endured in the thrashing-floor previous to the winnowing; that is to say, they must be dealt with in a manner which will neither involve any agreement with them in the fellowship of unrighteousness, nor lead to a forsaking of the society of the good on their account. This is what is done by those who have salt in themselves, and who have peace one with another.