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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    III. Guinness-Outstanding Modern Expositor of Prophecy

    Dr. HENRY GRATTAN GUINNESS, 28HENRY GRATTAN GUINNESS, D.D., F.R.A.S., F.R.G.S. (1835-1910), was born near Dublin, his early education being received at Cheltenham and Exeter. During several years of carelessness he plied the sea and became a world traveler. Returning home, he was soundly converted, studied for the ministry at New College, London, and was ordained as an interdenominational evangelist in 1857. He became a powerful preacher, traveling constantly for twelve years, speaking to large crowds in outdoor meetings, and sometimes needing police protection from Catholic mob. Later, at Whitfield’s Tabernacle (London’s largest), he drew immense congregations, also in the Town Hall of Cheltenham, at Birmingham in crowded chapels, and in Wednesbury preaching to the miners in the pits six hundred feet below ground. He was active in the Ulster revival of 1859, speaking at Belfast to 20,000. He was often compared with Wesley and Whitfield in pulpit power. Tall and well proportioned, with full voice and rapid utterance, and intensely earnest, he was markedly pictorial in preaching style, and rivaled Spurgeon in popularity. Preaching for the millions was his goal. His preaching ^tours included the Continent (thrice), the Near East and North America (thrice), where he inspired training institutes in Boston and Minneapolis, Africa (twice), India, Japan, China, Australia, and New Zealand. He received his D.D. degree from Brown University, Providence, in 1889. In 1873 he concentrated on foreign missions and founded the interdenominational Regions Beyond Missionary Union, and East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions, with two training colleges, and sustaining one hundred missionary families. Over thirteen hundred missionaries of thirty denominations were sent out to Africa, India, and South America. He also edited The Regions Beyond. But his greatest contribution was unquestionably the production of his nine books on prophecy, based on the premillennial premise. of London, was one of the most outstanding among all modern expositors, exerting a telling influence in America and other lands as well as in Britain. He was conspicuous as a preacher and trainer of missionaries. His greatest contribution was doubtless the writing of nine major works on prophecy, issued between 1878 and 1905. Note the titles, size, and circulation: The Approaching End of the Age (776 pp.), passed through eleven British and three American editions; Light for the Last Days (434 pp.), four British and one American; Romanism and the Reformation From the Standpoint of Prophecy (244 pp.), also had three American editions; The Divine Programme of the World’s History (450 pp.), three British and one American; The City of the Seven Hills (302 pp.), two editions; the two-volume Creation Centered in Christ (536 plus 627 pp.), two British and two American; History Unveiling Prophecy (476 pp.), with two American editions; Key to the Apocalypse; and The Fallacies of Futurism.PFF4 1194.2

    Without a peer in Britain in modern exposition of prophecy, and powerful exponent of the Historical school interpretation
    Page 1195
    PFF4 1195


    His volumes on prophecy were launched only after twenty years of intensive, independent study of Scripture prophecy and the second advent, during which he gathered an entire library of expositions of prophecy, including 150 on the Revelation alone.” 29H. G. Guinness, History Unveiling Prophecy, p. v. The twin incentives for all this were, first, the alarming inroads of the Futurist School of counterinterpretation, stemming originally from the Spanish Jesuit Ribera and his Catholic counterinterpretation, 30See a so Prophetic Faith, Vol. II, chap. 22; Appendix “A.” but now sweeping over one segment of Protestantism, after its espousal by the Plymouth Brethren. And second, the popular Protestant acceptance of the relatively recent Whitbyan postmillennial innovation. 31Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 649-655; Appendix “C.” sa He found that all early Christian teachers and expositors, except Origen, were pre-millennialists-Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Victorinus, Methodius, Lactantius, et cetera-holding that the first resurrection of Revelation 20 was literal, and prior to the thousand years.PFF4 1195.1

    But now, he discovered, there were currently three schools of interpretation, each differing from the other. First, there was the fanciful Preterist scheme springing from the! seventeenth-century Jesuit Alcazar, holding to a Neronic date for the Apocalypse, with the prophetic element considered as fulfilled in the downfall of the Jewish nation and the overthrow of the old Roman Empire. This was held in modified form by Grotius, Hammond, Bossuet, Eichhorn, Moses Stuart, and Davidson, 32H. G. Guinness. Approaching End of the Age, pp. 92, 93; see also Prophetic Faith, Vol. II, pp. 507-510; Appendix “B, and by current rationalists generally. Second, the reveries of the Futurist view, maintaining that the prophetic visions of Revelation 4 to 19 prefigure “events still wholly future,” and destined to take place just at the close of this dispensation.PFF4 1196.1

    This, he found, originated with the astute Ribera, at the close of the sixteenth century, to relieve the Papacy of the terrible stigma cast upon it by Protestant Reformation interpreters. This was accomplished by getting Antichrist wholly into the future, just as the Preterists had attempted to thrust him entirely into the past. This Futurist view was at first confined to the Romanists, but was taken over in the early nineteenth century by the two Maitlands, Burgh, Tyso, Todd, then the Plymouth Brethren, and some Puseyite expositors. They were thus espoused by opposite groups who, though Protestant, held the Reformation to have been an unwarranted schism, and sought to verge as closely as possible on Rome. 33Ibid., pp. 95, 96.PFF4 1196.2

    Guinness championed the Historical School of Protestant view, which holds to the progressive fulfillment of prophecy from John’s time to the second advent. Then, following the early church, it came into prominence among the Waldenses, Wyclifites, and Hussites, and was embraced by all the Reformers of the sixteenth century. It next became a powerful, formidable weapon motivating the Reformers of Germany, Switzerland, Britain, France, Denmark, and Sweden, and nerving the martyrs of Spain and Italy. It was also held by the earlier Joachim and Brute, as well as by Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Knox, and scores of associates. It was the view of such post-Reformation leaders as Bui linger, Bale, Foxe, Brightman, Mede, the Pilgrim fathers and Puritan theologians, Sir Isaac and Bishop Newton, Daubuz, Whiston, Faber, Cuninghame, Frere, Birks, Bickersteth, and Elliott 34On all these characters, see also Prophetic Faith, Vols. I and II. -who all agreed on the grand outline. 35H. G. Guinness, Approaching End of the Age, p. 94.PFF4 1196.3

    It was this progressive fulfillment of prophecy, Guinness maintained, epoch by epoch, and its accomplishment event by event, for which the Confessors stood and the martyrs suffered. But both Futurists and Preterists deny the fulfillments recognized by the great mass of solid prophetic interpreters. They have forsaken the main well-trodden highway of interpretation, he held, for questionable historical evidence and empty speculations about a short-lived infidel antichrist to be seated in a literal temple in Palestine. And this character, in the brief compass of 3 Vi years, is to fulfill all the wonders of the Apocalyptic drama, they say, and to exhaust the majestic sweep of prophecy-which the church of God had been blindly misinterpreting and misapplying through the centuries, according to such special methods of interpretation. So said Guinness.PFF4 1197.1

    But it was the lofty decree of papal infallibility, issued by the Vatican Council of 1870, together with the fall of papal temporal power after a duration of over a thousand years, that was the immediate occasion of Guinness’ writing his series of books spread over a quarter of a century. He maintained that God had given “infallible explanations” in the determinative portions of Daniel and the Apocalypse, which were “keys to unlock the meaning of the prophecies as a whole,” as in Daniel 2, 7, 8, and in the Revelation concerning “Babylon” and the “Beast.” The prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse are thus linked together by an inescapable series of events—the course of the five kingdoms of “Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the eternal kingdom of God.” 36H. G. Guinness, History Unveiling Prophecy, p. viii-xi. Time, or history, is thus the “chief interpreter of prophecy,” for history is prophecy written in advance. “As the ages roll by history practically takes the place of prophecy, the foretold becoming the fulfillment.” 37Ibid., p. xii.PFF4 1197.2


    Guinness cites the fourfold prophecy of Daniel 7:7-27, Revelation 13:1-9, Revelation 17, and 2 Thessalonians 2 as the composite depiction of the prophesied Antichrist. It springs up in the designated territory of the fourth, or Roman, beast, the three hindering horns being the Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Lombards. The name “Antichrist” does not signify an avowed antagonist of Christ, he says, but “one professing to be a vice-Christ, a rival-Christ, one who would assume the character, occupy the place, and fulfil the functions of Christ.” 38H. G. Guinness, Approaching End of the Age, p. 178. Its claims, its character, its devices, its persecutions, its domination, and finally its doom at the second advent are presented in detail. Every specification, he avers, is met. What was foretold has been fulfilled. 39Ibid., pp. 160-229.PFF4 1198.1

    But prophecy has a system, and times and seasons, as verily as nature. Empires flourish for a specified period. And time, he adds, is measured by revolutions and cycles of the heavenly bodies, the sun and moon. This was seen in the prophetic types of the sanctuary service—the week of days of the unleavened bread, of the Tabernacle, and the Sabbath; the week of weeks between Passover and Pentecost; the week of months, the first seven months for the feasts of the Lord; the week of years, for the rest for the land; and the week of weeks of years for the Jubilee. Then there were the 70 weeks of years, or 490 years, the seven times of the Gentiles, and 7,000 years—all indicating a “septiform periodicity.”PFF4 1198.2

    Coming next to symbolic prophecies, he maintains that they are miniature representations of future events—every feature on a reduced scale, each symbol standing for another and larger period. Thus a “day” in time prophecy stands for a natural year in fulfillment, according to Ezekiel 4:4. All prophetic time periods, whether the 1260, 1290, 1335, or 2300, are on this scale or system. Seeking the possible placement of these great time periods, he suggests either 533-1793 or 606-1866, for the 1260 years. 40Ibid., pp. 426, 606, 616, 618, 619, 660. And similarly with the 2300 years, to the cleansing of the sanctuary, he gives the alternates of 457 B.C. to A.D. 1844, or possibly 312 B.C. to A.D. 1919-20.” 41Ibid., pp. 433-440, 473, 540, 541, 588, 663. The 70 weeks are clearly from 457 B.C. to A.D. 34. 42Ibid., pp. 588,596. And Guinness likewise places the 391 years of Revelation 9:15, as from 1453 to 1844. 43Ibid., pp. 540, 646, 663.PFF4 1199.1


    In History Unveiling Prophecy, Guinness divides the progressions and setbacks in the history of prophetic interpretation into ten periods or stages—Pre-Constantine or Martyr Church, Post-Constantine or Imperial Church, Medieval, Dawn of the Reformation, Reformation, Puritan, English Revolution, Eighteenth Century, French Revolution, and Present. The early church regarded the Apocalypse as a continuation of the prophecies of Daniel, particularly of the Roman fourth kingdom, and with the divine eternal kingdom destined to destroy and replace the kingdoms of this world. 44H. G. Guinness, History Unveiling Prophecy, pp. ‘25, 26. To them the crowned rider upon the white horse, riding forth conquering and to conquer, was a representative of Christ and the early church going forth on its victorious mission. And Babylon represented Romanism, with Rome the fourth empire as the hindering power, and the first resurrection literal. But the view of the early church was necessarily circumscribed and foreshortened in concept.PFF4 1199.2

    The fall of paganism and the establishment of Christianity was followed by a revolution in interpretation-the kingdom of God being construed as the church, with the millennium already commenced. The medieval stage was characterized by the gradual supremacy of the bishop of Rome, the subjection of the temporal to the spiritual dominion, and possession of temporal power, and finally the assumption of divine honors. Then the Papacy came to be regarded as the Apocalyptic harlot, Babylon, and Antichrist, with application of the year-day principle to her 1260-year dominance. Everywhere accusing voices were raised, both within and outside the church, protesting the assumptions of Antichrist-with resultant war against the Protestant witnesses. The Reformation was built upon this identification of the Papacy as Antichrist. And this not only in Germany, but in Switzerland, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, Great Britain, and France.PFF4 1200.1

    The Reformation stage was followed by the great papal reaction, with the founding of the Jesuits, the Council of Trent, dread persecutions, and Rome’s counterinterpretations. But this was matched by Mede’s restoration of premillennialism, with the first resurrection literal, and emphasis upon the year-day principle for the 1260 days and its approaching terminus. With the rise of America the field broadened, and the eighteenth century witnessed revivals of spiritual life in England and America, and advances in prophetic interpretation, with emphasis on France’s coming part in the overthrow of papal dominance. His was a sweeping bird’s-eye view.PFF4 1200.2


    His two-volume Creation Centered in Christ, is of related but vastly different content. It is a closely reasoned argument, or Christian philosophy, on nature and revelation, its need, evidence, and existence, and the internal evidences. Then comes the connection between the natural and revealed, or creation centered in Christ. Discussing the analogy in nature-form, number, time—he comes to the analogy in revelation, how the Bible sets forth divine truth by means of visions, symbols, types, parables, first of the person, office, work and prophecies of Christ, and of Christ the center of history, the two advents, and the central work of redemption as “the end to which all the great Events of History Are Adjusted.” The four great empires precede the kingdom of God. The overthrow of the Roman Empire, the paralleling history of the papal and Mohammedan powers, the Reformation, and French Revolution, are all antecedent.PFF4 1200.3

    Guinness then takes up the astronomical angle-numbers in the Bible, and the analogy of revealed times, the scientific basis of the chronology of the four empires, the chronology of the 70 weeks and the 1260 years, the cyclical character of prophetic time according to De Cheseaux, 45On De Cheseaux, see Prophetic Faith, Vol. III, pp. 381-385. and the relation of the 1260 and 2300 years as the most central and fundamental cycles. And he closes with the harmonization of revelation and nature and the application of the Christocentric principle. He ends volume one with “Chronological and Other Signs of the Nearness of Christ’s Kingdom.” 46Volume II comprises the Tables of Vernal Equinoxes and New Moons From B.C. 1622 to A.D. 1934, attested as to accuracy by testimonials from four leading contemporary British astronomers. His basic contention is that “the prophetic times of Daniel and the Apocalypse are extremely perfect astronomical cycles, harmonizing solar and lunar revolutions. The year-day theory, resting on Scripture analogy and historic fulfillment, is strongly confirmed by this discovery.” 47See also H. G. Guinness, History Unveiling Prophecy, p. xvi.PFF4 1201.1


    His City of the Seven Hills is unique in the series comprehensive prophetic exposition of 302 pages in verse, supported by documented notes. With incisive words and trenchant phrases this poem portrays the rise of papal Rome, the Reformation, the papal reaction, and the retribution. The inner heart of Catholicism is laid bare, and the secret of its power disclosed under the idolatrous worship of modern Rome, the confessional, Rome’s convents, the Inquisition, the power behind the pope, and the Catholic revival. The concluding section consists of Rome irreformable, Rome judged, and the church triumphant. A sample excerpt from the “Vision of Revelation xvii” must suffice:PFF4 1201.2

    “Lo! in the Wilderness I saw advance,
    Arrayed in scarlet and with lawless glance,
    A Woman by a dreadful Beast upborne,
    With head surmounting head, and horn on horn;
    Her robe of royal red and purple blent
    Hung o’er the savage beast, who grimly lent
    His strength to the enchantress; at her will
    He strode, or rushed, or ravaged, or was still.
    Upon her brazen brow—a mystic Whore—
    The name of “BABYLON THE GREAT” she bore;
    And in her hand a golden chalice held,
    With wine of filthiness and fury filled.
    PFF4 1202.1

    “Kings were her paramours; from every state,
    They poured into her lap donations great;
    While nations, drugged and drunken with her wine,
    Extolled her painted beauty as divine.
    Arrayed in pearls, in purple, and in gold,
    She flared upon the crowd with aspect bold,
    And waved her proffered cup from side to side,
    DRUNKEN WITH BLOOD; for in her chalice wide
    With horrors mixed she held THE BLOOD OF SAINTS
    AND MARTYRS, and as swelled their dying plaints,
    With bloated lips the steaming draught she drank,
    And deep into her shameless dress it sank;
    ‘Twas this that flushed her face, and filled her frame,
    As seated on her Scarlet Beast she came.” 48H. G. Guinness, The City of the Seven Hills, pp. 45, 46.
    PFF4 1202.2

    The revival of ritualism in the Church of England, with the formation of societies in the Anglican communion fostering actual Catholicism, with its rites and ceremonies—auricular confession, prayers for the dead, the sacrifice of the mass, the eastward position, eucharistic vestments, altar lights, the mixed chalice, incense, et cetera, draw forth his solemn protest and burning, moving words, as men “Labour to build again what God has banned, and raise the BABYLON He overthrew.” 49Ibid., p. 138.PFF4 1202.3


    His best-known work was Romanism and the Reformation, dealing with Daniel’s, Paul’s, and John’s threefold foreview of Romanism, just as we need the three synoptic lives of Christ to get the full picture. Here Guinness traces tersely the historical development of prophetic exposition through the centuries, based on these three sets of prophecies. He insists that the time has come when the battle of the Reformation must be fought all over again.PFF4 1202.4

    With telling strokes he paints an eightfold picture of Romanism—its place, period, nature, character, lawlessness, opposition to the saints, duration, and doom. He distinguishes between Daniel’s political portrayal, Paul’s ecclesiastical depiction, and John’s combined presentation of the politico-ecclesiastical power.PFF4 1203.1

    It is a multum in paruo, covering every essential and unavoidably paralleling portions of his other volumes. Perhaps no more cogent and logical indictment has been produced. The characters troop before the reader. Documentary citations support Guinness’ thesis, and his conclusions seem inescapable. It is a vivid portrayal of a great case.PFF4 1203.2

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