HomeBasic BibleEschatologyHistory Unveiling Prophecy by H. Grattan Guinness – Part II Log in


This book is a continuation of History Unveiling Prophecy by H. Grattan Guinness



THE period which has elapsed since the fall of Napoleon or the end of the French Revolution/era, has witnessed:

1. The denial of the historic and Protestant interpretation of the Apocalypse.
2. Its defense.
3. Its confirmation.

We propose in this closing section to trace these three steps in the story of the interpretation of the Apocalypse on historic lines.

In a lecture on “The Pope, the Antichrist of scripture,”the late eminent Dr. Candlish, of Edinburgh, thus refers to the modern twofold denial of the historic and Protestant interpretation- of prophecy.

“Two schools of interpretation have sprung up,”in recent times, “in opposition to the almost unbroken harmony of the Reformed Churches; but neither their numbers nor their impartiality entitle them to much consideration.

“1. The first is that which owes its origin to Germany, and the rationalist theologians of that country. It is patronized by Moses Stuart in America, and by Dr. Davidson in England. It holds that the prophecies in the Revelation, and of course those also in the other passages connected with it, have been long ago fulfilled, having all had reference to the fall, first of Jerusalem, and then of Pagan Rome. Moses Stuart advocates this view chiefly on the ground that the suffering Christians in John’s day could not be expected to take much interest in the events of a remote futurity, and that what John wrote for their consolation must have related more nearly to their present circumstances. To us it seems clear, on the other hand, that to believers smarting under pagan persecution, and ready almost to despair of Christ’s cause, nothing could be more encouraging than to see, however dimly, drawn out in long perspective before their eyes, the entire course of the eventful voyage through which the church had to pass, among troubled and tossing billows, until she reached at last the desired haven of rest. Moses Stuart’s reason, therefore, for antedating the fulfilment of the Apocalyptic predictions, has evidently no force in it, but the reverse. And when we come to the details of his exposition, we find so much vagueness of application, and withal so much violence in torturing texts, and dates, and facts, that we are rather driven at last to the idea of the late learned Dr. Arnold, that prophecy has no definite accomplishment at all: that it is a sort of mystical description, by anticipation, of the prolonged conflict of good and evil principles that goes on continually in the world and in the Church: and that it is designed to indicate no more than the general prevalence of good on the whole, amid partial and temporary victories of evil, and the complete triumph of the good over the evil at last.”

2. The other school of interpretation is that of certain modern expounders of unfulfilled prophecy, who, in their anxiety to magnify the grandeur of the scenes connected with the coming of Christ, would reserve all that is terrible, as well asyall that is glorious, in the Apocalyptic visions, for that momentous era. Hence they will not allow that any of the Church’s history already past, or anything in her position now, fulfills the predictions respecting Antichrist; and they look for some monster—some, I know not what, satanic incarnation—as yet to rise on the astonished world, that he may personally cope in arms with the Saviour corning in His glory, and be signally overthrown in the encounter. Of this school I content myself with speaking now, not in my own words, but in those of a profound student of prophecy, who on this point has rendered right good service to the Church of Christ: I mean the late Mr. Cunning-hame of Lainshaw.

“The truths which the Futurist desires to subvert, are not of secondary, but primary and vital importance. They are truths which martyrs have sealed with their blood, and which every genuine Protestant would still be ready to bear witness to, even unto death.

“In estimating the character of the Reformation and its transcendent importance, it is necessary to bear in mind that it was properly a testimony; and a testimony of a double nature. The Reformers, like the prophets of old, were to bear witness for the truth of God. This they did in their Confessions of Faith. But in the second place, as the ancient prophets were witnesses against Israel, so were the Protestants set as witnesses against Papal Rome, the great corrupter of the truth, and the slaughterer of the saints. This part of their testimony, like the former part of it, could only be fulfilled by their recurring to the written Word, for to men who are not themselves inspired by the Holy Ghost, it is not given to testify against the enemies of God, or the corrupters of His truth, in any other way, or with any other weapons, than the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The Reformers did accordingly (as already observed), fulfill this part of their testimony by their perfectly unanimous denunciations of Rome, as Babylon, the Mother of Harlots, and the Pope, as The Man of Sin.

“Now from the last part of this testimony, it is manifest that the Futurists have entirely fallen; yea, they desire to destroy ,it root and branch, flattering themselves that they have thus risen to a higher degree of illumination, and have left us in the vale of darkness.

“No one who rejects the principles of interpretation affixing on Rome Papal and her bishop the characters of Babylon and the Man of Sin is truly a Protestant, seeing that he has denied that which all the Reformers held to be the testimony of the Spirit against that idolatrous Church.”


An army of men is constantly employed on the coast of Holland in keeping up the barriers which prevent the ocean from invading the land. To neglect the barriers, or to permit them to be broken down at any spot, would be to bring certain and widespread destruction on life and property. Now the Word of God in its doctrinal, practical, and prophetic teachings, has erected strong barriers to keep out the errors and superstitions which tend, like a surrounding and devouring sea, to encroach on the Christian Church, overthrow her primitive faith and discipline, and conform her character to the world from which she has been delivered. The predictions and warnings of the Word of God relating to the Romish apostasy constitute a main part of these barriers.

This anti-Romish barrier has been broken down in England, by professedly Protestant ministers; clergymen of the Established Church, and the consequences of their act have been disastrous and appalling.

Three men stood forth as pioneers in this destructive work, the Rev. S. R. Maitland, Librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr. James Todd, Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin; and the celebrated “John Henry Newman, of Oxford. In the Donnellan Lectures preached by Dr. Todd before the University of Dublin in 1838, on “the prophecies relating to Antichrist in the writings of Daniel and St. Paul” the following inscription appears on the opening page. “To the Rev. Samuel Roffey Maitland, Librarian to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, as an humble testimony to the great value of his writings in the interpretation of prophecy, and as an acknowledgment of the assistance derived from them in the composition of the following pages, this volume is inscribed by his sincere and affectionate friend the author.”

Two years later John Henry Newman wrote his treatise on ” The Protestant idea of Antichrist”(dated 1840). That treatise opens with the following sentence :—”The Discourses which Dr. Todd has recently given to the world are perhaps the first attempt for a long course of years in this part of Christendom to fix a dispassionate attention and a scientific interpretation upon the momentous ‘ Prophecies relating to Antichrist in the writings of Daniel and St. Paul.’

In this treatise Newman quotes Dr. Todd’s Lectures, and builds on his arguments from beginning to end. “We have pleasure,”he says^ “in believing that in matters of doctrine we entirely agree with Dr. Todd.”Thus Todd derived his views from Maitland, while Newman drew his arguments from Todd.

What then, we enquire, were the views of these three men, and how did they originate?

Maitland had been a lawyer, was gifted with a remarkably acute intellect, and possessed the power of expressing his views in a clear and telling manner. Being trained for the Bar, his education had tended to develop argumentative power rather than historical and religious knowledge. The direction of his attention to prophecy was purely casual, and arose, as he tells us, from a chance remark made to him one day by a friend.

“Between nine and ten years ago,”he says,”I chanced to be in company with a gentleman (not a lawyer) but one whose right to speak on the subject you must yourself allow—an Irishman bred to the Church, in Trinity College, Dublin. Happening in the way of civil discourse to say something of the 1,260 years, he took me up (as, by your leave, some of your countrymen are apt to do), rather smartly, but all in perfect good humour and asked me ”How I could believe that system” I was a good deal startled, and such was my ignorance at that time that without considering the difference between our breeding I ventured to reply. We discussed the matter, and I soon found, as might have been expected, that my friend knew more of the matter than I did; and I was led to feel a strong suspicion that he was in the right. When he had left me, I pursued the enquiry almost in silence, for I knew scarcely any one who would have taken the trouble to talk about the matter, until after about three years, another gentleman, also bred to the Church, in Trinity College, Dublin, was kind enough to give me a visit. I found that he agreed with me j and he was the means of bringing me into a very interesting and instructive correspondence with a third gentleman, a Doctor of Divinity, and a Senior Fellow of the same College, and when I published my first enquiry I did not know that there were any men in the world but those three who were prepared to agree with me,”Thus originated Maitland’s attack on the Protestant Interpretation of prophecy.

For more than ten years Maitland continued to write on this subject; his works include treatises on the grounds on which the prophetic period of Daniel and St. John has been “supposed to consist of 1,260 years “; replies to reviews in The Morning Watch, ” an attempt to elucidate the prophecies concerning Antichrist “; replies to the works of Digby and Cunninghame on the prophetic times; strictures on Faber’s work on the ancient Waldenses and Albigenses” etc. No wide acquaintance with history, no deep sympathy with the great work of the Reformation, no spiritual insight into the Word of God, can be traced in these very polemical productions. From first to last they are occupied with captious objections to the interpretations of prophecy put forth by the Reformers, by Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, Bishop Newton, Bishop Hurd, and other Protestant writers. The view of the Church of Rome that prophecy is silent as to the great apostasy of the Middle Ages, and in its references to Antichrist only supplies warnings against some infidel apostasy to take place in future times, is that which Maitland advocates. To accuse the Church of Rome of having apostatized from the faith of the New Testament was to him an utter mistake. Rome held all the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and only erred in some matters of secondary importance. In his tracts and treatises he cleverly selects the weakest and most vulnerable points in the Protestant interpretation of prophecy as the objects of special attack. He parades the differences in the views of prophetic interpreters, and the mistakes which some of them have made as to the fulfilment of the prophetic times. He denies the honesty and good faith of Bishop Newton, who had, he maintains, misrepresented the views of Sulpicius Severus. Bengel had made some manifest errors in his chronological interpretations. Cunninghame had been mistaken in supposing the Jews would be restored in the year 1822. The “Man of Sin “was an infidel, yet to arise, and sit for 1,260 literal days in a literal temple, of brick or stone, proclaiming himself to be God. The Albigenses were heretics, and their blood, shed by the Church of Rome, was not the blood of saints. Thus carping and quibbling, building up nothing, but objecting and opposing, on secondary or side issues, personal and non-essential points, the Rev. S. R. Maitland, formerly lawyer, now librarian to an archbishop, proceeds in pamphlet after pamphlet to demolish the foundations of Protestantism, as built on the prophetic testimony of the Word of God. The fact that that testimony had been a central and principal factor in the production of the Reformation, and had been sealed by the blood of saints and martyrs weighs nothing with him. The purely hypothetical character of his interpretation of prophecy as unsupported by the facts of history does not in the least distress him; nor the fact that his views in these matters were identical with those of the Church of Rome. He has no fear of the ocean of Popish superstition which waited to invade the land when the barrier he sought to break down was removed. The real use and importance of the prophetic barrier never seems to have occurred to him. Pull it down 1 , take it out of the way, destroy it; such was his constant cry; and most effectually that work was done. The times favoured the act. An age more critical than spiritual had commenced, and a Romeward movement was already arising, destined to sweep away the old Protestant landmarks, as with a flood.

Dr. Todd in his Donnellan Lectures preached before the University of Dublin in 1838, proclaimed himself Matt-land’s follower, and boldly attacked the views of the Reformers as to the Church of Rome. He rashly rushed into, the wide question of the interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel and St. John, and maintained that the fourth kingdom of Daniel’s vision is not the Roman empire; that the three first beasts of Daniel 7 are not identical with the kingdoms represented by the gold, silver, and brazen parts of the image; that destructiveness was no characteristic of the Roman power; that the “stone cut out without hands “was not fulfilled by the preaching of Christianity; that Romanism is not properly an apostasy from the faith; that Paul’s prophecies of “the Man of Sin “and the apostasy of the latter times, do not relate to the Church of Rome; that the study of history was not necessary in order to the comprehension of prophecy ; and that the symbolical prophecies of Daniel and John, though divinely asserted to be full of mysteries, should be taken “in their plain and literal signification,”as perfectly intelligible “without the need of any external aid to unfold a hidden meaning, or to discover in their visions a history of the Church and of the world.”He maintained that to “endeavour to prove that the corruptions of the Church were foretold in Scripture”was a “vain and chimerical speculation”that the prophecies relating to the apostasy were none of them fulfilled, and that the whole Protestant Church, including the Waldenses, Lollards, Hussites, Lutherans, Calvinists, Huguenots, Puritans, and the great mass of Protestant interpreters of prophecy, the Protestant Confessions of Faith, the Westminster Assemblies Catechism, etc., were all in gross error as to the meaning of prophecy, and the character of the Church of Rome.

In his treatise on “the Protestant idea of Antichrist,”written in 1840, and built on Dr. Todd’s then recently delivered discourses, Newman plainly says “we take up Dr. Todd’s position.”Linking Maitland with Todd he says of the latter “pursuing the line of remark which the learned Mr. Maitland has opened, Dr. Todd has brought together a mass of information on this subject.”Accusing the Albigenses of error, and belittling as far as possible the testimony of the Waldenses, Hussites and others before the Reformation, he asks with Dr. Todd: “Are these the expositors from whom the Church of Christ is to receive the true interpretation of the prophecies? ”

The claims and admissions he makes in opposing “the Protestant idea of Antichrist,”deserve the most serious consideration. “We observe,”says Newman, “that the essence of the doctrine that there is ‘one only Catholic and Apostolic Church’ lies in this:—that there is on earth a representative of our-absent Lord, or a something divinely interposed between the soul and God, or a visible body with invisible privileges. All its subordinate characteristics flow from this description. Does it impose a creed, or impose rites and ceremonies, or change ordinances, or remit and retain sins, or rebuke and punish, or accept offerings, or send out ministers, or invest its ministers with authority, or accept of reverence and devotion in their persons? All this is because it is Christ’s visible presence. It stands for Christ. Can it convey the power of the Spirit? Does grace attend its acts? Can it touch, or bathe, or seal, or lay on hands? Can it use material things for spiritual purposes? Are its temples holy? All this comes of its being (so far) what Christ was on earth. Is it a ruler, prophet, priest, intercessor, teacher? Has it titles such as these in its measure as being the representative and instrument of the Almighty who is unseen? Does it claim a palace and a throne, an altar and a doctor’s chair, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of the rich and wise, a universal empire, and a never- ending succession? All this is so because it is what Christ is. All the offices, names, honours, powers which it claims depend upon the determination of the simple question: ‘Has Christ, or has He not, left a representative behind Him?’ Now, if He has, all is easy and intelligible, this is what churchmen maintain; they welcome the news; and they recognize in the Church’s acts but the fulfilment of the high trust committed to her.

But let us suppose for a moment the other side of the al- ternative to be true; supposing Christ has left no representative behind Him. Well then, here is an association which professes to take His place without warrant. It comes forward instead of Christ and for Him; it speaks for Him, it develops His words, it suspends His appointments, it grants dispensations in matters of positive duty; it professes to minister grace; it absolves from sin; and all this of its own authority. Is it not forthwith according to the very force of the word ‘ Antichrist’? He who speaks for Christ must either be His true ambassador, or Antichrist; and nothing but Antichrist can he be if appointed ambassador there is none. Let his acts be the same in both cases, according as he has authority or not, so is he most holy or most guilty. It is not the acts that make the difference, it is the authority for those acts. The very same acts are Christ’s or Antichrist’s according to the doer; they are Antichrist’s if Christ does them not. There is no medium between a Vice-Christ and Antichrist.”

Exactly so. Well and memorably said; and this, the sin of Rome and the papacy. As destitute of warrant in the Word of God the Bishop of Rome claiming to be the vicar of Christ is Antichrist.

We thank you, John Henry Newman, for so clearly stating the alternative in this great question. Either the Pope of Rome is what he claims to be, the vicar of Christ, or in making that claim he is Antichrist. What his doctrines are, what his acts are, what his self- exaltation is, what his usurpations, tyrannies and persecutions have been in past ages, we well know, and can never forget. To regard him as the representative of Christ, as His vicar upon earth, we cannot. Truth and conscience forbid us to do it. We reject and abhor his false and blasphemous pretensions. But they remain. They characterize him. They are the crown he wears; his proud title; the badge upon his brow. He claims to be the vicar of Christ. He is therefore Antichrist, Dread alternative! Vicar of Christ or Antichrist. Not the former, then the latter. A fact to be remembered, pondered, and boldly declared.

Before the close of his treatise on “The Protestant idea of Antichrist,”Newman makes some remarkable admissions as to the character of what he calls “the Roman party,”in the Christian church. “One more remark,”he says, “shall we make, and that shall be the last. What is the real place of the Church of the Middle Ages in the divine scheme need not be discussed here. If-we have been defending it, this has been from no love, let our readers be assured, of the Roman party among us at this day. That party, as exhibited by its acts, is a low-minded, double-dealing, worldly-minded set, and the less we have to do with it the better.”

This he says, “not against the Church of Rome,”nor against ” individual members of it,”but against “that secular and political spirit which in this day has developed itself among them into a party, and at least in this country is that party’s motive principle and characteristic manifestation.”

With regard to this “Roman party “we readily agree with what Newman said before inconsistently entering the Church of Rome, ” the less we have to do with it the better.”

One concluding question is proposed by Newman. “If we must go by prophecy, which set of prophecies is more exactly fulfilled in the Church of the Middle Ages, those of Isaiah which speak of the evangelical kingdom, or those of St. Paul and St. John which speak of the antichristian corruption? “Without hesitation we reply the latter. The Church of the dark ages presents no fulfilment of Isaiah’s glorious visions of the final results of redemption.

Having denied the Anti-Romish witness of prophecy, Newman proceeded to demolish the doctrinal barrier, which separated the teachings of the Church of England from those of the Church of Rome. In Tract XC he boldly maintained that “the Articles are not written against the creed of the Roman Church, but against actual existing errors in it, whether taken into its system or not.”

“Scripture,”he said, “is not on Anglican principles the Rule of faith.”The “pardons”condemned in the Articles are only “large and reckless indulgences from the penalties of sin obtained on money payments.”In the thirty-first Article the Sacrifice of the mass is not spoken of, but the “Sacrifice of masses.””Bishop is superior to bishop only in rank, not in real power; and the Bishop of Rome, the head of the Catholic world, is not the centre of unity except as having a primacy of order”On purgatory, pardons, the worshipping and adoration of images and relics, the invocation of saints, and the mass, the Articles do not contain any condemnation of the doctrines of the Church of Rome, but only of such absurd practices and opinions as intelligent Romanists would repudiate. The mode of interpretation advocated by Newman “reconciled subscription to the Articles with the adoption of errors they were designed to counteract.”

As Dr. Arnold said about it “a man may subscribe to an article when he held the very opposite opinions—believing what it denies, and denying what it affirms.””I was embarrassed,”says Newman, “in consequence of my wish to go as far as possible in interpreting the Articles in the direction of Roman dogma, without disclosing what I was doing to the parties whose doubts I was meeting.”

In 1846 Newman left Oxford for Rome. On becoming a Catholic he accepted “those additional Articles which are not found in the Anglican creed,”transubstantiation included. “People say,”wrote Newman, “that the doctrine of transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God.”To use the words of John Knox, Newman ” mistook a harlot for the spouse of Jesus Christ.”A fatal mistake, and one fraught with tremendous consequences in the perversion of thousands from the faith of the Gospel to “another gospel which is not another”; one which if Paul were on earth to-day he would anathematize as he did the false doctrine of the Galatian Church, yea, though even preached by “an angel from heaven.”

The Romeward movement in the Church of England in whose inauguration Newman was so influential, has assumed the character of a widely extended u conspiracy “within that church against its doctrine, discipline and practice. It aims at the restoration of auricular confession, the worship of the mass, Romish ceremonies, superstitions, and idolatries, and corporate reunion with the Church of Rome.

The movement has attained gigantic proportions, and seeks the conversion of England to Romanism, through the perversion of the established Protestant Church. “To restore the authority of the Holy See in England “is its aim.

A large part of the Church of England has already become Romanized in doctrine and ritual. In her sanctuaries the priest kneels at the altar, or sits in the Confessional, and the deluded flocks follow their false shepherds, the blind leading the blind.

So momentous have been the consequences which have followed the breaking-down of the barrier^ erected by Prophecy against the errors and superstitions of the Church of Rome.

Be Sociable, Share!

About James Arendt

Born in 1950 and raised in Chicago Illinois, USA.
Served in the USAF from 1970 in San Antonio, Texas, Biloxi Mississippi, Sacramento California and Asaka, Japan and honorably discharged in 1974.
Became a full time missionary for Christ and served in Russia, China and Japan for 44 years and counting.
Lives by faith in God's supply with no fixed job or income.
More about the webmaster.

I need your help to keep this website going! I would like to upgrade to better and faster web-hosting at WpEngine https://wpengine.com. Better and faster hosting means better Google rankings and more visitors. At $348.00 a year at WpEngine, I cannot afford to upgrade at this time. I currently pay 70 bucks a year for el cheapo hosting. In the past, this website often crashed on the server.

If you find anything on this site that is a blessing to you, please help support it with a gift. My PayPal account is
[email protected]
When I get enough money, I will move this website to WpEngine. And if you sent me a donation, you will be immediately notified about the upgrade to better hosting. Thank you.


History Unveiling Prophecy by H. Grattan Guinness – Part II — No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available