He was a man of great intellect, self-assurance, and strong opinions, but where would these opinions lead? Dr. Thieleman Hesshuss taught in the newly established seminary at Heidelberg, Germany. Professors of varying Reformed persuasions were welcomed here in 1560, and Hesshuss held his Lutheran views on the Lord’s Supper very high. In most of Europe the tides of persecution were swelling and many a Protestant, whether Lutheran or Calvinist, was dying for his faith. For the time being Heidelberg was a safe haven from this flood. But if those waters could not be brought to Heidelberg, the devil would find a crack from within and let the tide seep in. Hesshuss was his man.
Dr. Hesshuss was also minister of the large Church of the Holy Spirit in Heidelberg. He was of the opinion that the Psalms ought not be sung in worship because they were too “Calvinistic.” He was of the opinion that when the bread was eaten in the Lord’s Supper, a napkin should be used lest someone let a crumb fall to the floor. These were views that Luther himself would not have approved.
Wilhelm Klebitz was a student under Dr. Hesshuss as well as a deacon in his church, and—Klebitz was a young man who also freely voiced his opinions.
Klebitz wrote his thesis paper defending Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper in opposition to Hesshuss’ view. It was time for him to graduate, and the faculty of the seminary at Heidelberg not only approved of this paper, they appointed him to be a professor there. All this happened while their fellow faculty member, Dr. Hesshuss, was out of town. Hesshuss was furious when he returned.
Hesshuss immediately preached against Klebitz and his views. Klebitz fired back with equal venom. The mayor of Heidelberg tried to calm the situation, but to no avail. The tide of trouble was rising.
It continued to rise. Without the knowledge or advice of his consistory, Hesshuss announced from the pulpit on the following Sunday that both the mayor and Klebitz were excommunicated from the church.
Now Elector Frederick III, the ruler of the land, became involved. He called Hesshuss and Klebitz to silence, but the waters would not be stilled. The very next Sunday Dr. Hesshuss was administering the Lord’s Supper when deacon Klebitz ignored his “excommunication” and came forward to help. Hesshuss grabbed the communion cup out of Klebitz’s hand and the two proceeded to wrestle and fight!
The flood had come, but now at its peak, it could only drain away. Hesshuss and Klebitz were thrown out of Heidelberg, Germany. Not only was chaos left in their wake, now their places were left empty, too. The Church of the Holy Spirit needed a pastor and the seminary needed another professor. Who would fill these important posts? The devil took glee in the trouble he had caused with these two men, but God was in control of it all. Such would be the turn of events…