Peter Martyr, Beza, Farel, and John Calvin—all reformers of renown, and all men under whom Caspar Olevianus studied. During an experience that shook the young Olevianus to his inmost being (trying to save a close school friend from drowning and nearly drowning himself), he had vowed to be a preacher of the gospel of the Reformed faith. When his studies in law were finished, he wasted no time in turning his attention to learning the doctrines of the Reformation in preparation to preach. And Caspar learned those doctrines well.
Olevianus was in his early twenties when he was ready to proclaim the gospel, but where should he go? Farel persuaded him to return to his hometown of Treves, a stronghold of Rome. This was indeed Olevianus’ desire as well, but there were problems connected with the move. Treves had no Protestant church in which to preach, and besides that, a Protestant preacher would likely not be welcomed. All he could do was teach Latin in the university there. Yet, true to his vow, he moved to Treves and waited for an opportunity to preach.
August 10, 1560 was Olevianus’ twenty-fourth birthday. It was also a special holy day for Catholics and he knew the people of Treves would be attending an early mass. He invited them to the university afterwards to hear him speak. It was a daring thing for this young Latin teacher to do.
A great assembly came to listen, young and old and rich and poor. In fearless and eloquent oration Olevianus told them why the mass and other Catholic practices were wrong. He pointed them to the truth of Scripture. Some of the people were convinced, including the mayor, but others were not. Olevianus was promptly forbidden to use the school again for such assemblies, though he was allowed to begin preaching elsewhere for a time. It would be for a very short time.
Hundreds came to hear the refreshing words of the truth and the light of the Reformation began to shine on Treves. But word also got back to Rome. Archbishop John came with a company of cavalrymen to put out that light. He began by persecuting the city from outside its walls and finally stormed the gates. Olevianus, the mayor, and others were thrown into prison.
What would become of Olevianus now? Would anyone hear such eloquent preaching again? What would come of such chaos in Treves?
Frederick III, ruler in Heidelberg, Germany, heard of Olevianus’ plight—the same Frederick whose son Olevianus had tried to save from drowning. Frederick sent for him.
But just as Treves was no longer willing to hear Olevianus preach, neither was it willing to let him go. A ransom must be paid.
Negotiations were made. Treves received a huge trunk full of florins, and Frederick received Olevianus—a treasure to far outweigh any gold. Yes, the city of Treves might not hear such preaching again, but the hills of Heidelberg would ring with the beautiful sound of the truth. Such would be the turn of events…