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, though his father, a tutor, could not afford this. The senate of Breslau, however, took note of this brilliant tutor’s son. Zacharius Ursinus was sixteen years old when he was sent to the University of Wittenberg with the understanding that when he was finished with his studies, he would return to Breslau to teach in the university there. This was fine with Zacharius.
Breslau, Germany was deep in Lutheran territory, so Luther’s Wittenberg was the natural choice for Breslau’s gifted son. Although Luther had died some four years earlier, Melanchthon, his successor, 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 sites of the Reformation, including Zurich and Geneva. While in Geneva, John Calvin noticed this talented and godly young student as well. Zacharius was presented with 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 the mild-mannered Zacharius could desire. But whispering about him started, and then open opposition. Why? In all his studies abroad, Ursinus had not only come under Lutheran influence and the truths of the Reformation, he had also come to see the Lord’s Supper from the Calvinistic point of view—not the Lutheran one. But Breslau was Lutheran. The views of Ursinus on this issue were not welcome here. In a few short years Ursinus’ quiet teaching job was anything but peaceful. He keenly felt the unwelcome. He must leave his home and family.
He would have gone back to Melanchthon, but his old friend had died. Zurich, Switzerland was his next choice. In Zurich lived Peter Martyr, a reformer who explained the Lord’s Supper in the Calvinistic way, perhaps better than any other man at that time. Under Peter Martyr, Ursinus saw the matter even more clearly.
Ursinus saw something else quite clearly as well. Peter Martyr had received an important request to come to Heidelberg and teach in the university there, but Peter Martyr was too old to go. Martyr advised Heidelberg to ask Ursinus instead. Now what would Ursinus do? He knew that going to Heidelberg meant even more opposition and controversy. A professor and a preacher had already been thrown out of Heidelberg for undue fighting over the Lord’s Supper. Oh, to be hid in a corner of some quiet village! Such were Ursinus’ thoughts, but Ursinus was exactly the man God had prepared for the work in Heidelberg, Germany. Zacharius packed his bags. According to the plan of God, such would be the turn of events…