Antidote Against Arminianism

Christopher Ness

Originally Printed In 1700

Posted On February 22, 2019

THE REAL ANTIDOTE Against Arminianism {Undiluted, Uncompromised, Unfiltered & Restored After 300 YEARS} or A Succinct Discourse to Enervate and Confute all the Five Points thereof, to wit, Predestination Grounded upon Man’s Foreseen Works. Universal Redemption. Sufficient Grace in All. The Power of Man’s Free-will in Conversion, and the Possibility of true Saints Falling away totally and finally. All which are demonstrated here to be Damnable Errors, both by Scripture and Reason, &c. All Undeniable & Uncontrollable. Published for Public Good, by Christopher Ness. 1700.

Seizing some moments of leisure to pursue one of my favorite pastimes, I recently opened this book by Ness, and being of a rather antiquated mindset, I opted for the original 1700 Edition. A few minutes into my reading, I recalled how that in my library, I had at least two other more recent {current} editions of this book, which were both located after a brief search. What provoked my interest in consulting these other editions was a sharp statement {omitted in all subsequent editions} made in the title of the original 1700 Edition. Speaking of the Poison of Arminianism, Ness writes, {title page,} “ALL WHICH, {the fictitious tenents of Arminianism,} ARE DEMONSTRATED HERE TO BE DAMNABLE ERRORS, BOTH BY SCRIPTURE AND REASON, &c., ALL UNDENIABLE & UNCONTROLLABLE.” It’s this “damnable error” assertion by Ness which perked my curiosity, as it rather boldly sets forth the fact that Ness, along with those who endorsed this particular book {John Owen amongst them} were convinced that the errors of the Arminian System were ipso facto damnable tenents, which if persisted in, by all such as are “given over” to believe its lies, will be to their utter ruin. And, it is this assertion by Ness which I sensed would spawn immediate animosity by many religionists, {mostly in Calvinistic attire,} that are in the habit of embracing those who tenaciously hold treasonable theology as fellow ‘believers,’ under the mistaken notion that these ‘weaker brethren’ simply need to be taught the so-called Doctrines of Grace, which fraudulent perception is in essence destroyed by the statement of Ness, {to him of paramount importance, so as to include it in the title of his work,} which statement, interestingly enough, is omitted from every printed or digital edition current in circulation. From the scope of the entire book, it is apparent that Ness thoroughly understood and taught that the teachings known as Arminianism were not merely theological errors, not just a weaker gospel, nor just an interpretive viewpoint, &c., but that these teachings distorted the Gospel of Christ to the point that it becomes a different gospel altogether. Those who believe the true Gospel know that these life and death issues lie at the very heart of the Gospel, for if one is an Arminian Conditionalist, he is dead in trespasses and sins; as those in Christ, believe in a salvation that is conditioned on his saving merits alone. After extensive comparisons I discovered that in fact close to about 25% of the original text had been omitted, whilst other portions were severely mutilated. In the case of the mutilations, where short paragraphs were added, sentences altered, pithy hymns inserted, or quotations injected, it is perceived that these were added, {one would hope,} not so much as to change the arguments of the book, nor to detract from its blunt force in destroying the entirety of the Arminian System, but to perhaps make the book more palatable and less offensive to the general reader? Whatever the motive, it failed miserably, for any truly observant reader in glancing over these “new” editions will be forced to recognize the fact that these editions have been downgraded to such an extent that they are scarcely recognizable, and bear only a slight resemblance to the book Ness himself wrote over 300 years ago. Thus it is, with a measure of gratification, and a thankful heart, that we are enabled to send forth this restored 1700 Edition; a book, in our estimation, worthy of restoration; broadcasting most sacred Gospel Truths, esteemed by all who are called out of darkness into his Christ’s marvellous light. Apart from a few Latin phrases, which we could not decipher, and Scripture references that we expanded within the text itself, this restored edition mirrors that of the original, which we now commend to the household of faith. May it please the LORD to add his special blessing to those who explore its pages.

Christopher Ness, 1621-1705, an English Nonconformist & Independent Minister of the Gospel, and author of a number of books, known principally, at the time of its publication, {though now for the most part forgotten,} for his large three volume work entitled, “History and Mystery of the Old and New-Testament,” which contains much valuable material, and is said to have been of considerable assistance to Matthew Henry in compiling his well-known six-volume Commentary on the Old & New Testament. His book, “Antidote Against Arminianism,” which though written a number of years prior to its publication date of 1700, would become the work he is now most associated with, being reprinted numerous times, although all the editions beyond the original 1700 edition, {which has up to now, never been reprinted,} have been heavily abridged, and very sloppily edited. “This little book {says Ness} hath cost me great study and labour to compose it, many ardent prayers, and many earnest wrestlings with God,” his chief incentive being, as he perceived, “the sad sigh of our present times being that the Christian World is overrun, yea, overwhelmed with the flood of Arminianism,” accompanied with a solemn caution, “lest this overflowing deluge of Arminianism should bring destruction upon us,” and therefore the “great need that some servants of Christ should run to stop the further spreading of this plague and leprosy.” To this end the book was written, and a spiritual warfare launched against this deluge of Arminianism, which, in one form or another, has plagued the Church throughout its existence.

Ness was born in 1621, at North Cave, in the East Riding of Yorkshire; his family it would appear possessing considerable wealth. He was educated at a private school at North Cave, being instructed in Biblical Truth, {besides the Latin tongue, Greek three years, and Hebrew one year,} under the choice schoolmaster, Lazarus Seaman, {a Presbyterian, and member of the Westminster Assembly,} and at age sixteen, entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated sometime in 1645. During this time Ness says, in a letter written to a friend in 1693, that “though the plague {bubonic} broke forth in the University twice, to the breaking up of all the colleges, save some few to keep them, whereof I was one in St. John’s, a most blessed time to me for improving my studies, &c.” Having spent seven years at Cambridge, he bolted back into the safety of the countryside upon the outbreak of the Civil War, and there preached for a while at Cliffe or South Cliffe Chapel, under the oversight of his uncle William Brearcliffe, at that time vicar of North Cave, and it is in this hometown Yorkshire area, where most of his labours would continue for quite some time. He subsequently accepted a call to Holderness, and after a few years, to Beverley, where he taught school and preached occasionally. In 1656, he began to minister at Leeds, and in 1660 he became a lecturer under the staunch royalist, Dr. John Lake, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, but his earnest contending for the truths of Holy Scripture, eventually clashed with the Arminianism of Dr. Lake, for as the Bishop would attempt to poison his hearers in his morning lectures, by setting up free-will and creature-merit, Ness in the afternoon lecture, having his antidote well-prepared, would confound all in his lifting up of Christ, and faithfully preaching the doctrine of Free & Sovereign Grace. On Black Bartholomew’s Day, 1662, {The Act of Uniformity prescribed that any minister who refused to conform to the Book of Common Prayer by St. Bartholomew’s Day, 24 August 1662 should be ejected from the Church of England,} he was expelled and banished from any further preaching. For the remainder of the 1660’s, it seems that Ness served as a school teacher and tutor in Yorkshire; and {after the religious storm of persecution somewhat subsided} once again was licensed as an Independent Minister in Leeds in 1672, where a new meeting house was opened for him shortly thereafter, preaching regularly there to a large auditory. According to Ness himself, this was “a far larger harvest-labour, having some thousands of hearers; in which place the Lord was pleased to give me many souls as seals of my ministry, and some that became ministers themselves, very useful in their orb. All this enraged the Envious One, so that at the turn of times, I was forced from my pulpit at Leeds, which God had so blessed, &c., for preaching this doctrine, that all Divine Worship must have Divine Warrant; preaching privately ever after thereabout, where God opened a door.” Ness was frequently in trouble, being excommunicated no less than four times, and his enemies {around 1674 or 1675} being at length wearied out by his perseverance, issued a ‘writ de excommunicato capiendo’ {Latin for “taking one who is excommunicated,” being a written command to the sheriff to arrest any who have been excommunicated, and imprison them, until the time that they should become reconciled to the church,} against him, demanding his imprisonment, upon which he fled to London to avoid arrest, and for the next 30 years, in London, would continue to write his numerous books, whilst regularly preaching there to a private congregation of Nonconformists that assembled in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. In regards to his removal to London, Ness reports that, “my Lord, having more work for me in this world, moved one of the Spiritual Court to give me timely notice; so that I made my escape to London, where I have laboured in God’s vineyard ever since the year 1675, including my banishment into Kent, by the Recorder, for a year and a quarter, and my trial at Guildhall before the Lord Mayor, for daring to preach, &c.” In 1684 he once again had to conceal himself from the officers of the crown, who had a warrant for his arrest on the charge of publishing an elegy on the death of his friend John Partridge, another Nonconformist minister. He died on December 26, 1705, aged exactly 84 years, having been “a labourer in my Lord’s harvest, and a vine-dresser in my Master’s vineyard, almost three-score years.” He was buried at Bunhill Fields Cemetery, where no headstone was placed to mark the spot.