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Mutual Intercessions.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. II. Trinity Sunday to All Saints' Day 

Rivingtons, London, 1875.

First part of Sermon LXXI. for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity.
 Col. i. 3-11.    St. Matthew ix. 18-26.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you.COL. i. 9.

We give thanks, says St. Paul at the commencement  of his Epistle to the Colossians, We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints. There is nothing more remarkable in St. Paul than his earnest and constant prayers for others; so much so that we might suppose he did as much for the cause of the Gospel by his prayers as by all his other labours. No doubt his labours and prayers mutually assisted each other. But one great advantage in prayer is that it can reach cases which nothing else can, as in this instance: St. Paul was praying for a people from whom he was now necessarily at a distance, and whom he had never seen. This subject of praying for our fellow Christians is one of the greatest importance, and numerous are the ties and inducements which in various ways should invite us to it, such as will influence every one, more or less, according to the love which he bears for Christ and His people. For  own Church in this country (oh! how dear should it be to us), for particular parishes and neighbourhoods, for the state of the clergy, especially the bishops, for the great and crying want of more ministers; our Lord has pointed out prayer as the great remedy for these evils, in case of labourers wanted in His harvest. And how much does St. Paul’s example urge upon us the same! It is a duty most pressing on us, yet most neglected. And what a view have we here of an early Church, the object of St. Paul’s prayers? For the hope, he says, which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth. We may observe how full of a heavenly mind breathes this prayer and thanksgiving; it is not for their outward increase or profession that he prays, but “for the hope, laid up” for them “in Heaven;" for their faith and love and the fruits of the Spirit. And then he proceeds to mention the instrument of this their holy inter-communion with each other. As ye also learned of Epaphras, our dear fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. This same person St. Paul again speaks of at the close of this Epistle in these words, “Epaphras, who is one of you,—always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” How very beautiful and impressive, my brethren, is this picture of St. Paul and his friend earnestly contending in prayer for those Christians whom the Apostle had never seen! Here is the secret of the conversion of the world.

For this cause, he adds, we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. You see how enlarged his desires are after all good; his hearing of their increase in grace and fruits of goodness only renders him the more urgent in prayer that such grace should abound, and such fruits should be an hundredfold. What earnest spiritual love on both sides; how blessed this Communion of Saints; what fervent longing in the Apostle for the everlasting good of those to whom he was bound by no earthly tie! How poor, how confined and short-lived appears all mortal love and friendship compared with this union which they had in God.

That ye may be, he adds, strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, Which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. And here he just alludes incidentally to their being in a state of external tribulation, yet not to deprecate or pray against such trials, but clothing the very mention of them with the sublimity of divine hope and joy, according to his usual manner of mentioning earthly suffering as put in the scale of eternity, “strengthened, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness, giving thanks unto the Father.”

But now let us ask what is it gives life and power to such marvellous love and faith as all this expresses What is it that kindled such prayers in St. Paul, as to embrace so fervently in spirit, and to bring down such blessings from the Father of lights upon those from whom he was “absent in the flesh,” and had never seen in the body? Where is the hope and strength of such confidence? it is all in the knowledge of God, which is learned from the manifestation of Jesus Christ, and confirmed by habitual prayer,—the Word made flesh dwelling within and bringing forth fruit in mutual intercessions and prayers, “strengthening with all might according to His glorious power.” It is therefore in the Gospel itself that we learn this strength. We have this day a remarkable instance of our Lord’s readiness to answer the intercessions of love, so as to raise even from the dead; and also, at the same time, of the exceeding virtue going from Him on the touch of faith to cleanse and to heal.... 

.... (for the second part, on the Gospel.)