Henry Grattan Guinness 1835 - 1910
Henry Grattan Guinness Video
Henry Grattan Guinness, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Henry Grattan Guinness was, like Sir Edward Denny, an Irish protestant with connections to the Plymouth Brethren. Born on 11th Aug. 1835 at Montpelier House, near Kingstown, Ireland, he was the eldest son in a family of one daughter and three sons. His father was John Grattan Guinness (1783-1850), a captain in the army who saw service in India. His grandfather was Arthur Guinness, the founder of the Guinness brewing business.
In 1855, when he was 20, he fully gave his life to the Lord and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He then began preaching in Ireland despite opposition from the Roman Catholic church. We forget now what an impact this man had. By 1858 his preaching was attracting huge crowds in Ireland. The Daily Express gave this report:
"Mr. Guinness preached yesterday in York Street Chapel. The attendance was greater than on any former occasion. In the evening it amounted to 1600, and if there were a place large enough, five times the number would have been present, to hear this highly gifted preacher. The interest which he has excited has daily increased and probably will continue to do so, during his labors in Dublin. An enormous crowd pressed for admittance. Judges, members of Parliament, orators, Fellows of College, lights of the various proffessions, the rank and fashion of the metropolis have been drawn out. Among them the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Justice of Appeal, etc. Such a preacher is a great power, prepared and sent forth by God, and as such Mr. Guinness has been hailed by all denominations."
He continued his evangelistic meetings throughout Great Britain with amazing results. Some of his meetings were held in the open air to accommodate the thousands of people who wanted to attend. At one open air meeting he was reported to have preached to 20,000 people. His preaching paved the way for the great Ulster revival of 1859 which spread to the whole of the United Kingdom.
As well as being a great preacher he was a gifted bible teacher with a particular interest in bible prophecy and chronology. In the course of his studies he made many discoveries and published several books which became best sellers in their time. His influence spread far and wide, even to the level of government.
One of his great discoveries was that the term "seven times" used in the book of Daniel ( 4:25 and 4:32) could be applied to years as well as days. It was already understood that a "time" referred to a 360 day prophetic year but he believed that this could also be applied to years. 7 times 360 years is a period of 2,520 years. He believed that this time period related to the time of Gentile domination of Jerusalem mentioned by Jesus in Luke 21:24. Using various starting points for this date Mr Guinness calculated several future dates which he felt would be significant in the restoration of Israel as a nation. Bear in mind that all these predictions were made in the 19th Century. His general idea was that the various gentile kingdoms from Nebuchadnezzar onward would rule over Jerusalem until the time of the gentiles was fulfilled.
Mr Guinness used different measures for years as well as different starting points for his calculations which can make his books quite hard reading. He used calendar years, solar years and lunar years in his calculations. However his basic point was that the "Times of the Gentiles" were coming to an end and would be followed by the rising again of Israel. As he says in chapter 2 of his book "Light for the Last Days" written in 1886
"We know that the larger "seven times" of Israel's dispersion and degradation is all but over, and their full and final restoration to Palestine is close at hand."
Based on this belief he identified several future dates that have proved milestones in the formation of the Jewish state.
Using the year 604 BC, the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, as a starting point he added 2,520 years and came to the year 1917. He believed that this year would be so significant that he devoted several pages of his book to it. 1917 turned out to be the year of the Balfour Declaration when the Jews were finally promised their own homeland. Another date he saw as being significant was 1923. Taking his start point as the fall of the Jewish king Jehoiachin to Nebuchadnezzar in 598 BC he added 2,520 years and came to 1923. The fulfilment of this turned out to be the Palestine Mandate which came into effect in 1923.
The Mandate for Palestine was a League of Nations mandate for British administration of the territories of Palestine and Transjordan, both of which had been conceded by the Ottoman Empire following the end of World War I in 1918. There were several other years which he foresaw as significant including the year 1933 - 1934 which we now know saw the rise of Hitler.
As with the other prophecy writers, Mr Guinness's books are hard to come by. Two of his best known ones are "The Approaching end of the Age" published in 1878 and the previously mentioned "Light for the Last Days" published in 1886. The former book is notable for his understanding of the chronological system of weeks in scripture. Weeks of days, weeks of months and weeks of years. The ultimate week being, as we have seen, the week of 7 times 360 years. With this understanding that the Times of the Gentiles was a period of 2,250 years came the conviction that Israel would be restored.
"However impossible it may appear that Palestine should ever again be the home of a mighty Jewish nation, scripture leaves no room to doubt that such will be the case." The Approaching end of the Age" Published 1878.
"Light for the Last Days" is possibly a little more accessible to the ordinary reader. It is more specific about future events and as we have seen pinpoints 1917 as a significant year. However what really sticks in my mind is the graphic account it gives of the fall of the Jewish people, after losing their homeland, and their gradual restoration. In particular chapter VII gives a graphic account of the sufferings the Jews have undergone. It is certainly sober reading for anyone English, as I am. For centuries the condition of the Jews was miserable. The laws of Edward the Confessor had established this. The Jews and all they possessed belonged to the king and in the eyes of the law they were no more than slaves and bondsmen to the king. The book gives many examples of their suffering the following is one that sticks in my mind.
"King John ordered all the Jews of England to be imprisoned until they made a full discovery of all they possessed, after which, by the most cruel tortures, he extorted from them an enormous sum of money. One man at Bristol was ordered at Bristol to have a tooth extracted daily until he paid 10,000 marks."
It seems that antisemitism is not new but it always seems to bring disaster on the nations that practise it. However Grattan Guinness does not just narrate the fall of the Jews but he also documents their restoration and modern increase in power, influence and numbers. Remember this book was published in 1886. Since then we have seen the continuing story of their restoration, despite Hitler's best efforts, and the establishment of their own state in 1948.
The Balfour Declaration, published in 1917, offered a national home in Palestine to the Jewish people. Grattan Guinness had pinpointed 1917 as a significant year in the restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland.
United Kingdom Government Declaration signed by Arthur Balfour, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons