Monday, September 19, 2011

Obscure Heroes of the Reformation - Ursinus

Zachary Ursinus was born in 1534 in Silesia to upstanding parents who were very devoted to his education. After he finished school, he was sent to the University of Wittenberg when he was 16. There he heard Melanchthon and studied under him for two years.

When the plague broke out, he moved with Melanchthon to Torgau. He passed the winter there and when spring came, he moved back to Wittenberg where he spent the next five years in the study of languages and theology. He became a very good friend of Melanchthon and many other of the devout men of that age.

In 1557, he accompanied Melanchthon to the conference in Worms and from there he travelled to many places, including Geneva where he became fast friends with Calvin.

In 1558, the senate of Breslau sent for him to govern a school there. His Reformed views of the sacraments caused him no little trouble, during which he was able to secure permission from the senate to leave. Having gotten what he desired, he went back to Melanchthon’s side at Wittenberg.

Sensing Melanchthon’s death was approaching, and aware that undesirable changes were impending at Wittenberg, he left for Zurich in 1560 at the request of Martyr, Bullinger, Lavater and others. He sat under Martyr’s ministry there and profited much by it.

In 1561, a vacancy opened at the University of Heidelberg for a Doctor Professor. Ursinus was sent with letters of commendation from his friends in Zurich, so that upon his arrival he was made Doctor of Divinity at the age of 28, and was appointed professor. He held this post until 1568, when he was succeeded by Zanchius. Ursinus married in 1572 and this union was blessed with a son.

Persecution arose after the death of Prince Frederick, so Zanchius and Ursinus left the university. Prince John Casimir sent for them to be professors at his newly built university at Neustadt. Ursinus fell sick at this time for over a year. When he recovered, he threw himself back into his work with great diligence and zeal. His sickness returned, and though he tried to work through his ill health, Ursinus was finally confined to his bed. Even on his deathbed, he was busy encouraging friends and dictating things that he conceived would be for the benefit of the church. He died, surrounded by friends in the year 1581 at the age of 51.

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