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A Turn of Events – From Chaos to Comfort – A History of the Heidelberg Catechism (5)

He was a quiet and gentle boy. He loved books and he loved to study. He was well-suited to be taught in the best of schools. But his father, a tutor, could not afford this. The senate of Breslau, however, noticed how intelligent this boy of their town was.

Zacharius Ursinus was sixteen years old when he was sent to the University of Wittenberg by the senate of Breslau. When he was finished with his studies, he would return to Breslau to teach in the university there. That was the senate’s plan, and that was fine with Zacharius.

Breslau, Germany was deep in Lutheran country, so Luther’s school in Wittenberg was the natural place to send Breslau’s gifted son. Although Luther had died four years earlier, Melanchthon, who carried on after Luther, still taught there. Melanchthon noticed this quiet, serious boy too. They became close friends. Ursinus studied under Melanchthon for seven years and then traveled throughout Europe for one final year of education. He visited some of the most important places of the Reformation, including Zurich and Geneva. While in Geneva, John Calvin also noticed this talented and godly young man. Zacharius was given a signed set of Calvin’s books by the author himself. Finally Zacharius was ready to return to Breslau to teach.

At first this went well. A quiet, peaceful teaching position was all that Zacharius wanted. But people started whispering about him, and then they openly accused him. Why? In all his studies, Ursinus had not only learned Reformation doctrine from the Lutheran point of view, but he had also been taught about the Lord’s supper from the Calvinistic point of view, and he believed Calvin’s view. But Breslau was Lutheran and believed Luther’s view of the Lord’s supper. After only a few short years of teaching, Ursinus was no longer welcome there. He would have to leave his home and family. But where would he go?

His old friend in Wittenberg, Melanchthon, had died, so he could not go there. Zurich, Switzerland was his next choice. Peter Martyr lived in Zurich. Martyr was a Reformer who explained the Lord’s supper in the Calvinistic way, and did so perhaps better than any other man at that time. Living in Zurich, Ursinus saw the doctrine of Lord’s supper even more clearly.

Ursinus saw something else clearly as well. Peter Martyr had received a request to come to Heidelberg and teach in the university there, but he was too old to go. Martyr had some advice for Heidelberg, though: take Ursinus instead. Now what would Ursinus do? He knew that going to Heidelberg meant even more trouble and controversy. Two professors had already been thrown out of Heidelberg for fighting over the Lord’s supper. Oh, to be hidden in a corner of some quiet village! Such were Ursinus’ thoughts. But Ursinus was exactly the man God had prepared for the work there. Ursinus packed his bags to go. Such would be the turn of events…