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Theological Notes on Humility and Contrition, 1813

This theological essay (or sermon notes) was found among Westcott family papers. It appears to have been written in 1813 by a student at Cheshunt College, Hertfordshire, and reviewed by a tutor. Cheshunt College was established in 1792 by the followers of Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, as the successor to the college which she had originally founded in 1768 at Trevecca House, Brecon.

The town of Cheshunt has special significance for the Westcott family, because Martha Westcott (c1753-1837) spent her final years there. Furthermore, her daughter Elizabeth Henman's (1788-1880) firstborn child Selina Henman (1808-1884) was baptized in 1808 at the Surrey Chapel on Blackfriars Road, London, by the Nonconformist preacher Rowland Hill, a staunch supporter of Lady Huntingdon and her Connexion.

From the perspective of family history,there are two intriguing questions:

1. Who was the author of these notes?

2. Why were the notes preserved by the family?

(Feb. 16. 1813)

Isaiah 66.2

"To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."

This chapter sets before us a view of the Lord as the self Existing, Almighty, and Independent Jehovah. And it runs nearly parallel with the first chapter of this book.

Israel of old were become vain in their imaginations; for instead of having proper, and exhalted [sic] views of him :(Jehovah): and humbling themselves, under a sense of his infinite greatness; and their apostasy. they were trusting in walls, in forms, and in ceremonies. This was the complaint alleged against them both by the Prophets, and our Saviour. Jer.7.4. Luk.21.5 And when they came to sacrifice before the Lord, they brought expensive offerings, thinking that they should gain the Lord's esteem. Ver.3 Chap.1.11.12 But the Lord takes opportunities of convincing them of their folly, that they could not offer anything to him which he is not in posession of Col.1.16,17. Again: They boasted of worshiping the Lord in a magnificent earthly temple; but he declared to them that all these things his hands had made.

Contemplate for a moment the Majesty of Jehovah (Psal.68. 4,8,12.) "Thus saith the Lord, heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool:" can you suppose that the narrow limits of an earthly temple can contain that infinite being whose throne is in the heavens and to whom the earth is only an humble footstool? No.

Thus viewing the greatness of the Lord, we might suppose (speaking after the manner of men) that he would not deign to look upon us who are in his sight as grasshoppers; but his thoughts are not as our thoughts. Great as he is, he condescends to reason with us after the manner of men Chap.1.18. Yes insignificant as we are, we hear his voice of mercy saying, "To this man will I look &c." &c.

From hence we shall endeavour to consider the three following particulars, in this character to whom the Lord condescends to look upon. 1. He is poor. 2. He is of a contrite spirit. And 3. He trembles at the word of the Lord.

I. The character is poor.

We are not to suppose that this refers only to those who are in humble circumstances, though St. Paul said in the 1 Cor.1.26. "That not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called." But such as Christ in his sermon on the Mount [...] Mat.5.3. Which implies the 4 following particulars.

(I.) That the character is duly sensible of his own insufficiency to do any thing pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God: and that nothing but the enjoyment of God can make him happy.

When he looks into his own heart he beholds himself with disgust; and is frequently ready to exclaim with the Apostle Paul in Rom.7.24. He sees his inability to do any thing acceptable before the Lord; he is so wounded with the arrows of conviction that he cannot rest day nor night Psal.38.2. In short, he feels that he cannot exist without the sensible presence of God; for in him alone are all the springs of life.

(II.) He is poor as he feels his need of a better righteousness than that of his own: and is willing to depend upon the blood and righteousness of Christ for the pardon of his sins, and his acceptance before a just and holy God.

(III.) The man that is poor feels the need of the sanctifying influences of God's Spirit, as there is to be a meetness for glory: for without holiness no man shall see the Lord."

(IV.) The man that is poor in spirit becomes an importunate beggar at the throne of grace, Prov.18.23. But

II. He is "of a contrite spirit"

(I.) He has his heart broken on account of his sins. He feels sin hanging upon him as an intolerable burthen - a burthen too heavy to be born [sic] by him.

(II.) He is humbled under a sense of his his unworthiness, and implores the divine blessing Mat.8.25. The

III. Description of this character is, that he trembleth at the Lord's word.

He lives under a holy awe of the purity and goodness of God, and of the authority of his word. Jer.33.9. He does not fear before him with a slavish, but with a filial fear - a fear that consists of joy and gladness - a fear not occasioned by the terrors of the law; but a fear that is influenced by the goodness of God. Hos.3.5.

"They shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days."

Thanks:  Anne Child