A Turn of Events – From Chaos to Comfort – A History of the Heidelberg Catechism (4)

Caspar Olevianus had tried to save a close friend from drowning, and almost drowned himself. In the terror of the moment, Caspar had vowed to be a preacher of the gospel of the Reformed faith. Now it was time to keep his word. As soon as his studies in law were finished, he turned his attention to the doctrines of sovereign grace. Peter Martyr, Beza, Farel, and John Calvin were all Reformers of renown under whom Caspar Olevianus studied. Caspar learned those Reformed doctrines well.

He was in his early twenties and ready to begin preaching the true gospel. But where should he go to preach? Farel persuaded Olevianus to return to his hometown of Treves, a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church. Olevianus desired this as well, but there were problems. Treves had no Protestant church in which to preach, and 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 Roman 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 words Olevianus told them why the mass and other Roman Catholic practices were wrong. He pointed them to the truth of Scripture. Some of the people were convinced, including the city’s mayor. Others were not. Olevianus was promptly forbidden to use the school again for such assemblies, although he was allowed to begin preaching at another location for a time. It would be for a very short time.

Hundreds came to hear the words of truth proclaimed by this young preacher. But word also got back to Rome. Archbishop John came with a company of cavalrymen to stamp out that truth. He began by persecuting the city from outside its walls, and finally stormed the gates. Olevianus and the mayor of Treves, along with others, were thrown into prison.

What would become of Caspar Olevianus now? What would result from the chaos in Treves?

Frederick III, ruler in Heidelberg, Germany, heard of Caspar’s plight—the same Frederick whose son Caspar Olevianus had tried to save from drowning. Frederick sent for him to come to Heidelberg. Frederick had to pay a huge ransom to set Olevianus free, but the treasure of truth that Frederick would receive would far outweigh any trunk full of florins he had paid. Such would be the turn of events…