The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Anglican Leaders Continue the Prophetic Emphasis

I. Bale-Portrays Opposing Churches of Christ and Antichrist

JOHN BALE (1495-1563), bishop of Ossory, Ireland, under Edward VI, and “one of the most distinguished among the minor lights of the English Reformation,” was born in Suffolk. His education was begun in a Carmelite convent, and continued at Cambridge, where he turned from the study of civil law to theology. At first Bale was a strenuous opponent of “the new learning,” but finally turned Protestant. Embracing the Re formed faith about 1529, he cast aside his monastic habit, and renounced the vows he had taken upon admission to orders, also refusing a degree of Doctor from the faculty. Of his conversion he says, significantly: PFF2 395.1

” ‘I made haste to deface the mark of the wicked antichrist, and entirely threw off his yoke from me, that I might be partaker of the lot and liberty of the sons of God.’ ” 1 PFF2 395.2

Bale first received the attention and patronage of Crom well, then earl of Essex, through his dramatic productions. Upon the latter’s death, and because of persecution by the Catholics, Bale fled to Germany in 1540. There he remained until recalled to Ireland upon the accession of Edward VI (1547). He was then made rector of Bishopstoke, and vicar of Swaffham, as well as receiving a D.D, in 1551, He was consecrated as bishop of Ossory PFF2 395.3

in 1553, against his own wishes. A dispute developed, as the Irish ecclesiastics wanted him consecrated according to the “Romish ritual.” There were many tumults, for the Reformation was not at all popular in Ireland. PFF2 396.1

Bale was so hated by the Catholics that upon news of the death of Edward VI, in 1553, and the accession of Mary his very life was in danger. He fled, purposing to go to Holland. But the ship on which he sailed was seized by pirates, and he was sold as a slave. Finally he got to Basel, where he remained until the accession of Elizabeth in 1559. He then returned from his second exile, and was made a prebendary in the Cathedral of Canterbury. PFF2 396.2


Bale was a prolific writer, producing eighty-five separate productions—some published under assumed names—including sacred drama and a book of hymns. His writings came under the prohibited list of Henry VIII in 1546. He never ceased to expose the perversions, of the Papacy in intense and uncompromising language. Even the closing Scriptural sentence of the preface to his account of the death of Sir John Oldcastle reads: “O Babylon, thy merchants were princes of the earth: and with thine enchantments were all nations deceived. Apocal xviii.” 2 The 1729 edition of the treatise also included a section containing some of the writings of Joachim on the Antichrist. PFF2 396.3

Bale was wholly familiar with such Oldcastle declarations as the following: PFF2 396.4

” ‘As touching the pope and his spirituality, truly I owe them neither suit nor service, forsomuch as I know him by the scriptures to be the great Antichrist, the son of perdition, the open adversary of God, and the abomination standing in the holy place.’ ” 3 PFF2 396.5

” ‘Rome is the very nest of antichrist.’ ” 4 PFF2 396.6


Bale’s major contribution to prophetic interpretation PFF2 396.7

was his extensive Image of Both Churches., written while in exile, in 1545, and published in 1550—“image” signifying similitude, symbol, or portrayal of the two conflicting churches of Christ and Antichrist. A verse-by-verse exposition of the Apocalypse, it is more wordy, more vitriolic, and less specific than the German expositors. But one fact was crystal clear: He made the prophesied Antichrist of the various chapters to be the Roman Papacy, from which separation is imperative and specifically called for. PFF2 397.1

Bale’s familiarity with the whole field of prophetic exposition is evidenced by his tabulation of scores of interpreters of the Apocalypse from Justin, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus on through the centuries to the contemporary Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Hoffman productions on the Continent. Frequent reference is made to such important past witnesses as Joachim, Wyclif, Savonarola, Valla, and others. 5 PFF2 397.2

In the margins of the first part of the work appear copious Scripture texts and the names of supporting commentators. For example, Bale cites Oecolampadius and Bibliander, along with Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, where he identifies the pope with the beast that “maketh men to believe he may constitute laws, keep under the gospel, distribute kingdoms, sell promotions and benefices, set up a purgatory, provide satisfactions, make new bodies to Christ, redeem dead men’s souls, and remit sin for money.” 6 Following through, chapter by chapter and verse by verse, Bale presents first the “text,” then the “paraphrase” or exposition-a “compendius elucidation upon the Apocalypse,” signing his name “John Bale, an exile also in this life, for the testimony of Jesus.” 7 PFF2 397.3


The seven churches are expressly declared to be “the whole Christian church in the seven parts,’ 8 and the Papacy’s presence noted within their framework, as “the Romish pope sitting in the most pestilent seat of errors,” while Mohammed is outside “standing in the way of sinners.” 9 PFF2 397.4


The seven seals are likewise “the seven ages of the Christian church.” 10 Commenting on the pale horse and its rider, death, Bale applies it to the “estate of the Christian church” when the bishops “sought for new promotions,” seeking the pre-eminence, as when “Boniface the third of that name, bishop of Rome, took upon him to be the head bishop of all the world, and God’s only vicar in earth.” He alludes to the “church of antichrist, pale as men with out health.” 11 The souls under the altar, in the fifth seal, are interpreted as referring to the martyred Waldenses and Albigenses. 12 PFF2 398.1


Bale’s identification of the Antichrist is most explicit. Nothing is left to surmise or imagination. Thus: PFF2 398.2

“The great antichrist of Europe is the king of faces, the prince of hypocrisy, the man of sin, the father of errors, and the master of lies, the Romish pope. He is the head of the said pale horse, whose body are his patriarchs, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, fat prebends, doctors, priests, abbots, priors, monks, canons, friars, nuns, pardoners, and proctors, with all the sects and shorn swarm of perdition, and with all those that consent with them in the Romish faith, obeying their wicked laws, decrees, bulls, privileges, decretals, rules, traditions, titles, pomps, degrees, blessings, counsels, and constitutions, contrary to God’s truth. The wickedness of these hath so darkened the blind world, that scarce was left one sparkle of the verity of the true Christian faith. Nowhere can men dwell to greater loss of their souls’ health, than under their abominations.” 13 PFF2 398.3


Of the second ad vent Bale declared his faith thus: PFF2 398.4

“Take heed: for most certain it is, though Christ in his first coming as a merciful Saviour appeared here upon earth poor, simple and ignominious; yet shall he in his latter coming appear in the clouds of heaven with majesty, power and glory, accompanied with the infinite host of angels as a rigorous judge.” 14 PFF2 398.5

Bale’s vivid description of the wicked crying for the rocks to fall, under the sixth seal, reveals his descriptive style. PFF2 399.1

“Fall upon us with such stuff as ye have. Cover us with your works more than need. Pray, pray, pray, sing, sing, sing, say, say, say, ring, ring, ring. ‘Give us of your oil, for our lamps are out.’ Help us with your Latin psalms. Relieve us with your lip-labour, though all be but dung and earth. Comfort us with Placebo [the vesper hymn for the dead]. Help us with Requiem aeternam. Pour out your trental masses, spew out your commendations. Sing us out of that hot fiery purgatory, before we come there.” 15 PFF2 399.2


The trumpets similarly cover “the seven ages of the church.” 16 Of the relationship of the seventh seal and seventh trumpet, Bale writes: PFF2 399.3

“Herein may we conjecture that the seventh seal once opened, and the seventh trumpet blown, the last judgment-day is not far off. Blessed is he that watcheth for the Lord’s coming.” 17 PFF2 399.4


Of the ten-horned beast of Revelation 13, Bale bluntly declares: PFF2 399.5

“By the monstrous, ugly, and most odious beast rising out of the sea, with seven heads and ten horns, is meant the universal or whole Antichrist, comprehending in him all the wickedness, fury, falsehood, frowardness, deceit, lies, crafts, sleights, subtilties, hypocrisy, tyranny, mischiefs, pride, and all other devilishness, of all his malicious members which have been since the beginning.... PFF2 399.6

“No abomination nor mystery of iniquity, as Paul calleth it, was ever found in these kingdoms, but now reigneth manifold in the detestable papacy or monstrous kingdom of antichrist, as all the world may see.” 18 PFF2 399.7


The two-horned beast represents “the prelates of antichrist’s church ... rightly described here of the Holy Ghost in this two-horned beast.” 19 The various names projected by men to yield the 666 are mentioned. 20 The fall of Babylon, in Revelation 14, is disposed of thus: PFF2 399.8

“So sure is it that the execrable church of antichrist shall be over thrown, and utterly destroyed, as it were now performed in deed. Nothing PFF2 399.9

shall be unrooted out, that the heavenly Father hath not planted. Sooner shall heaven and earth perish, than this promise be unfulfilled.” 21 PFF2 400.1


Strong and really offensive language is used of the symbolical woman—church riding the state—beast of Revelation 17: PFF2 400.2

“With this stinking strumpet have the mighty potentates of the universal earth, the emperors, kings, princes, and other notable governors, committed most shameful whoredom in the spirit by many strange worshippings, agreeing among themselves to her wickedly decreed laws and customs. Too long should we stand here in this place, if we should describe them all severally in their colours at large as they be. PFF2 400.3

“Through the crafty legerdemain of the priests on the one side, and the cruel constitutions of princes on the other side, the dwellers of the earth or worldly-minded multitude are drunken with the wine of her fornication spiritual, or practised worshippings besides the prescript rules of God’s word.... PFF2 400.4

“And I saw (saith St John) in mystery a woman (for a whore at the first blush seemeth only a woman) sitting upon a rose-coloured beast. This beast is the great antichrist that was spoken of afore, or the beastly body of the devil, comprehending in him popes, patriarchs, cardinals, legates, bishops, doctors, abbots, priors, priests, and pardoners, monks, canons, friars, nuns, and so forth; temporal governors also, as emperors, kings, princes, dukes, earls, lords, justices, deputies, judges, lawyers, mayors, bailiffs, constables, and so forth, learning their own duty-offices as to minister rightly, to serve their abominations.” 22 PFF2 400.5


“More over in her hand, which is her exterior ministration, she hath a golden cup full of abominations and filthiness of her execrable whoredom. This cup is the false religion that she daily ministereth, besides the chalice whom her merchants most damnably abuse; and it containeth all doctrine of devils, all beastly errors and lies, all deceitful power, all glittering works of hypocrites, all crafty wisdom of the flesh, and subtle practices of man’s wit, besides philosophy, logic, rhetoric, and sophistry; yea, all prodigious kinds of idolatry, fornication, sodomitry, and wickedness. Outwardly it seemeth gold, pretending the glory of God, the holy name of Christ, the sacred scriptures of the Bible, perpetual virginity of life; and all are but counterfeit colours and shadows of hypocrisy in the outward letter and name. PFF2 400.6

“Full of abominations is the drink of the execrable faith of that Romish religion received of others, and full of filthiness also.” 23 PFF2 400.7


Bale contends that the Beast’s seventh head is the “papistical kingdom of our Romish spirituality.” 24 Speaking of the simple Roman bishops’ becoming contenders for the primacy (such as Boniface III securing the appointment as head bishop from the emperor Phocas), Bale says: PFF2 400.8

“When this was once gotten, then rose they up so high that the emperor became their footstool, and all other Christian princes their waiting slaves, to tide and run, make and mar, strive and fight, slay and kill, at their commandment and pleasure. Thus became the Romish pope the seventh king that was in John’s time yet to come.” 25 PFF2 401.1


Speaking of the beginnings of the Roman papal power, Bale says: PFF2 401.2

“For yet is it not a thousand years since the papacy first began under Phocas, which is but as a day before God; and that day will he shorten by his own promise for his elects’ sake, which to remember is their great com fort.” 26 PFF2 401.3


The ten horns of the Beast include England, France, Spain, Portugal, et cetera. 27 The closing words of his commentary reveal his heart longing—the second advent: PFF2 401.4

“Come, most merciful Saviour and Redeemer, and fulfil the godly promises of this book, to the eternal comfort of man. Make haste to the judgment-seat, for a full deliverance of the whole chosen number, that thy servants may be where as thou art in perfect glory and joy.” 28 PFF2 401.5