The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


VII. The Plowman’s Prayer and the Lantern of Light


An illuminating example of the protesting literature of the time is the anonymous Prayer and Complaint of the Ploughman, written about 1360. 67 Foxe recorded it, “neither changing any thing of the matter, neither altering many words of the Phrase thereof.” 68 It was likewise “faithfully set forth by William Tindal,” according to Foxe. Raising complaint against muddied water for God’s sheep, auricular confession, penance, simony, image worship, withholding knowledge, violating God’s law, and being wolves in sheep’s clothing, the author continues in quaint old English, reaching this climax concerning the Antichrist: PFF2 62.3

“For Peter knowledged that thou were Christ and God, and kept the Hests [precepts] of thy Law: but these han forsaken the Hests of thy Law, and hath ymaken a Law contrary to thine Hests of thy Law. And so he maketh himself a false Christ, and a false God in Earth. And I trow thou gave him no Power to undo thy Law. And so in taking this Power upon him, maketh him a false Christ and Antichrist.’” 69 PFF2 63.1

This “Antichrist” is immediately identified as he “that in his words maketh himself Christs Vicar in Earth,” who makes men worship him as a god: PFF2 63.2

“‘Therefore he is Antichrist that maketh men worshipen him as a god on Earth, as the proud King Nabugodonosor did sometime, that was King of Babylon. And therefore we lewde men that knowen not God but thee Jesus Christ, believen in thee that art our God, and our King, and our Christ, and thy Laws; and forsaken Antichrist and Nabugodonosor that is a false god, and a false Christ, and his Laws ben contrary to thy preaching.’” 70 PFF2 63.3

The treatise closes with this appeal to God to shorten the prophesied days of the prophesied Antichrist, according to His promise. PFF2 63.4

“‘And Lord, geve our King and his Lords heart to defendenthy true Shepherds and thy Sheep from out of the Wolves mouths, and grace to know thee that art the true Christ, the Son of thy heavenly Father, from the Antichrist; that is, the Son of Pride. And Lord, geve us thy poor Sheep patience and strength to suffer for thy Law, the cruelness of the mischievous Wolves. And Lord, as thou hast promised, shorten these days. Lord we axen this now, for more need was there never.’” 71 PFF2 63.5


Another searching Lollard treatise, The Lantern of Light, written about 1400, had three chapters devoted to strictures on Antichrist. 72 The “open conclusion,” based on the prophecies of Daniel, Paul, and John, looked for the destruction of Antichrist at the advent. PFF2 63.6

“In the court of Rome is the head of antichrist, and in prelates is the body of antichrist, but in those clouted sects, as monks, canons, and friars, is the venomous tail of antichrist. PFF2 64.1

“How this antichrist shall be destroyed, God himself teacheth by the prophet Daniel, and saith, This antichrist shall be destroyed without hands, that is, without power of man. For Paul saith, 2 Thessalonians 2., Christ shall slay antichrist with the spirit of his mouth, that is, with the holy word of his law. And the lord shall destroy him with the shining of his coming, that is, with the turning of men’s hearts by his grace, to his law, a little before the doom.” 73 PFF2 64.2

Chapter 5 concludes with an appeal to look for the appearance of Enoch and Elijah, not in person, “but in spirit and in power,” to make men’s hearts “ready before Christ’s doom.” 74 Chapters 12 and 13 concern the “Fiend’s contrivances” and the “Fiend’s church.” Since this work was written just as the burning alive of the Lollards had begun, these persecuted folk had “re course to Scripture,” and sensed their oneness with the martyrs of former centuries. A moving appeal in chapter 13 states: PFF2 64.3

“The fiend’s church in these days praise above the clouds Christ and his holy saints, with words and with signs; but they pursue to death the lovers of his law! ... Oh, these shall have a dreadful day when they are arraigned at the bar of judgment, when Christ shall rear up his cross, the banner of his sufferings!” 75 PFF2 64.4

This section closes with the impending judgment. Citing Zephaniah 1, The Lantern of Light says: PFF2 64.5

“The great day of the Lord is nigh, and cometh fast, and wonders approach quickly; it shall not long tarry. In that day, he that is strong and mighty shall be troubled; for the voice of the Lord is bitter to the damned.” 76 PFF2 64.6

Next is envisioned salvation for the persecuted, with ever lasting burning for the persecutors. Then follows this appeal, calling for separation: PFF2 64.7

“Strive in this life to leave the fiend’s church, and to bring yourself, both body and soul, into the church of Jesus Christ, while grace and mercy may be granted.” 77 PFF2 65.1

So the growing chorus of voices rose in volume and clarity. PFF2 65.2