Caspar Olevianus was a boy born into a wealthy family in the city of Treves, a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church. His father was head of a baker’s guild, and in the 1500s if parents had money, they sent their children to school. Caspar was sent to many schools—many Catholic schools.
One day at one of these schools a faithful priest put his hand on Caspar’s shoulder and said, “My boy, you must never forget that salvation and comfort are found only in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” Olevianus could not know what those words would mean to him some day. He never forgot them.
But for now he was a growing boy, busy learning and going to more schools. When he was fourteen years old, his grandfather sent him to France to study law. At one of the schools there, he met a son of Frederick III, Herman Louis. The two became close friends.
France was not only a good place to learn law, it was also home to the Huguenots. Some of these persecuted Calvinists were students there too. Olevianus and Herman Louis met with them in some of their secret meetings. These new Calvinist ideas began to take root in Olevianus’ soul—maybe deeper than he realized.
One day Olevianus, Herman, and Herman’s valet were walking along the river that ran close to the school. Olevianus and Herman wanted to go to the other side in a small boat that was tied to the shore, but other students were already climbing in.
It was a group of loud and riotous drunken boys. The boat rocked precariously.
“Come on! Come on!” they shouted for Caspar and Herman to join them.
Caspar refused, but Herman decided to get in the boat with them. The other side was not so very far away, though the current was swift. They pushed off while Caspar looked on.
In midstream the drunken students took up another of their loud songs and swayed even more. Suddenly—the boat capsized!
“Herman!” Caspar jumped into the cold current of the river. He must help his friend—but how? He could not find him, and now Caspar himself was being swept away. Fear engulfed him as water enveloped him. It was in this terror and panic that the Reformed faith he had begun to learn sprang up in his heart. He vowed at that moment to devote his life to preaching the true gospel of grace—even to staunchly Roman Catholic Treves—if his life would somehow be spared. Finally his head was above the surface and he gasped for air.
Trying to save Herman, Herman’s valet managed to grab Caspar instead and pull him to shore. Sadly, amidst all the chaos and confusion, Herman still could not be found.
Caspar’s friend had suddenly drowned—and now the whole direction of Caspar’s life would change. Such would be the turn of events…