One cannot study the history of the Reformation of the 16th century without being impressed with God's all-wise and gracious providence over the affairs of men and nations which made the Reformation possible. History is replete with such examples, which only the blind are unable to see, and the Reformation provides some startling instances of this. One example is God's use of earthly magistrates to protect and advance the cause of the Reformation. Although many powerful rulers in Europe were deeply involved in the history of the Reformation, two outstanding figures illustrate how God uses men to accomplish His purpose. These two men both bore the name Frederick.
They had much in common. Both were given the same name; both were born devoted Roman Catholics; both had the title Frederick III; both ruled over part of Germany; both were deeply involved in the Lutheran Reformation; both dared to oppose the might of Rome and to stand firm against papal threats and promises; both have received from history names which reflect the high esteem in which they were held: the first was called Frederick the Wise, and the second, Frederick the Pious; both were used by God on behalf of the Reformation so that, humanly speaking, without them the Reformation would never have succeeded.
Yet there the similarities end. One never left the Roman Catholic Church; the other became an ardent Calvinist. One remained single all his life; the other married twice and begat eleven children. One was quite old at the time the Reformation began; the other was involved in the terrible struggles in Germany which followed upon the Reformation. One was Elector of the poorest province in Germany; the other Elector of the wealthiest. The roles they played in the Reformation were equally crucial.
His Early Life
At the time of the Reformation Germany had no strong central government. It was divided into seven provinces, over each of which ruled an Elector. These Electors, when the need arose, met in a Reichstag to choose an emperor, usually not without papal interference, who would rule in the name of the Electors over the whole of Germany.
Frederick the Wise was born in 1463, twenty years before Luther. He was born of royal blood, for his father was Elector of Saxony before him, and he inherited the electoral dignity upon his father's death.
Frederick was a model ruler whose outstanding characteristics were piety (in the Roman Catholic sense) and a deep love of justice. In keeping with his piety he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1493 and purchased there many relics which he paid for out of his own purse. Carefully and lovingly he moved them to Wittenberg where they were installed in the castle chapel -- the very chapel on which Luther later nailed his 95 theses.
An old catalogue of the period lists the relics, 5005 in number. They were considered so impressive that the pope granted Frederick the right to give indulgences to anyone visiting them. Each such visit shortened the stay of the visitor in purgatory by 100 years. Nor would the indulgences be soon exhausted, for the total merit of the indulgences, ordered by the pope, was no less than 1,902,202 days.
The town of Wittenberg was not a place in which one would care to live. It was a small village of about 3000 inhabitants, on the banks of the river Elbe and situated in poor, sandy soil. Its buildings were made of rough wood plastered with mud. Its inhabitants were poor, crude, unlettered, and vulgar.
Yet it was in this village that Frederick decided to build a University, probably in part because a castle of the Elector was here, but also because the finances of the Elector were limited and Frederick could make use of the monks of the local Augustinian Convent to teach with little or no expense for salaries. While only about 415 students first attended this University, during Luther's day it became so popular that thousands of students were enrolled, and Melanchthon said that he heard no less than 33 languages spoken on campus by the students. But these glory days were yet to come.
It was probably at the suggestion of Johann vonStaupitz, vicar of the Augustinian Order to which Luther also belonged and chaplain of Frederick, that Frederick invited Luther to become professor there. Little did he know what events this appointment would trigger. Luther himself thought little of the town. He said it was on the extreme boundary of civilization and only a few steps away was barbarism. Repeatedly he wanted to leave it. Melanchthon, who came from the fertile Palatinate, often complained that he could get nothing fit to eat in the whole village.
Frederick and the Reformation
Frederick's love for his university, coupled with the fact that Luther's presence on the faculty gave the university the prestige that Frederick wanted for it, prompted him to become the protector of the Reformation.
We believe in the truth of election and reprobation. We also believe that in God's eternal purpose reprobation must serve election. And surely this implies that the rule of earthly kings and magistrates serves the purpose of the salvation of the church. Without passing judgment on Frederick himself -- God only knows whether Frederick was one of His own -- the protection of the Reformation by the State made the Reformation possible.
Frederick remained loyal to his saints and relics. In fact, by 1520, three years after the Reformation began, the number of Frederick's relics had increased to 19,013.
Yet Luther found safety under Frederick's protection.
Frederick's confidence in Luther was confirmed after the Heidelberg Disputation. Less than one year after the Reformation began, Luther went to Heidelberg to defend his theses among those of his own Augustinian Order. His enemies refused to argue the issue of indulgences, but insisted simply that because the pope had approved indulgences, and because the pope was the supreme authority in Christendom, Luther had no choice but to submit to papal decrees. But Wolfgang, present at the Heidelberg Disputation, wrote Frederick: "Luther has shown so much skill in the disputation as greatly to contribute to the renown of the University of Wittenberg."
Shortly after Luther's theses spread throughout Europe, when the pope began to take notice of what he first thought was nothing but a monk's quarrel, Frederick was ordered to send Luther, that "child of the devil," to Rome to recant. Frederick refused this order from the pope on the grounds that Luther had not received up till then, and in Rome would not receive, a fair trial. Instead, Luther went to Augsburg to defend his theses. It was only after a safe-conduct had been promised Luther that Frederick permitted him to go.
Frederick's confidence in Luther was further confirmed when Frederick asked Erasmus what he should do about Luther. Erasmus responded that Luther's only crime had been to touch the triple crown of the pope and the stomachs of the monks.
In 1520, upon the death of Maximilian, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the pope offered the crown of the Holy Roman Empire to Frederick. But Frederick had the good sense and humility to decline, an act which Wylie, a church historian of note, described as "inexcusable timidity." Charles V from Spain, a bitter enemy of the Reformation, became emperor instead.
Frederick never openly espoused Luther's theology, always claiming that as a layman he knew nothing of these matters. As cordial as he was to Luther personally, he refused to come publicly to the defense of the Reformation. He always insisted that Luther had to fight out his own convictions, and he would continue to protect Luther until Luther was given a fair trial which was based on principles of justice.
Yet he remained Luther's protector. He invited the theologian Melanchthon to Wittenberg when Melanchthon joined the Reformation. He never prevented Luther from preaching his convictions in the castle church. He continued to encourage Luther in his vast publishing ventures when the truths of the gospel were spread far and wide through the printed page. When Luther and his colleagues burned the papal bull of excommunication in the streets of Wittenberg in June of 1520, Frederick did not interfere. When Luther was summoned to the Diet of Worms, where he made his heroic stand on the basis of Scripture -- "Here I stand. I can do naught else. God help me." -- Frederick was there. In fact, it was Frederick who insisted that Luther be given a safe-conduct from the emperor. Frederick saw all that happened; not once did he criticize Luther for what he was doing.
But his greatest contribution to the Reformation was his "kidnapping" of Luther after the Diet. He ordered Luther spirited away to his castle in Wartburg, deep in the Thuringian Forest. There, for nearly a year, he protected Luther from all his enemies who sought his life. And it was in the peace and quiet of the castle that Luther wrote some of his important works and made the first translation of the New Testament into German.
Although Luther finally left the castle without Frederick's permission because of the uprisings in Wittenberg brought on by the Anabaptist prophets, Frederick did not interfere with what Luther considered his solemn calling before God. Luther's explanation to the Elector of his return is worth quoting.
Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and my most humble service.
Most illustrious, high-born Elector, most gracious
Lord! I received the letter and warning of your Electoral
Grace on Friday evening, before my departure. That your
Electoral Grace is moved by the best intention, needs no
assurance from me. I also mean well, but this is of no
account . . . . If I were not certain that we have the pure
gospel on our side, I would despair . . . . Your Grace
knows, if not, I make known to you, that I have the gospel,
not from men, but from heaven through our Lord Jesus Christ
. . . . I write this to apprise you that I am on my way to
Wittenberg under a far higher protection than that of the
Elector; and I have no intention of asking your Grace's
support. Nay, I believe that I can offer your Highness
better protection than your Highness can offer me. Did I
think that I had to trust in the Elector, I should not come
at all. The sword is powerless here. God alone must act
without man's interference. He who has most faith will be
the most powerful protector. As I feel your Grace's faith
to be still weak, I can by no means recognize in you the man
who is to protect and save me. Your Electoral Grace asks
me, what you are to do under these circumstances? I answer,
with all submission, Do nothing at all, but trust in God
alone . . . . If your Grace had faith, you would behold the
glory of God; but as you do not yet believe, you have not
seen it. Let us love and glorify God forever. Amen.
When the peasants revolted against the Electors of Germany after suffering intolerable injustices, Frederick was the only Elector who urged his colleagues to show mercy when between 100,000 and 150,000 peasants were slaughtered.
In 1525 Frederick was dying. He urgently called Luther to come to his bedside, but Luther was so far distant that by the time he arrived the Elector had died. Before he died, he partook of the Lord's Supper in both kinds -- an act which some church historians claim is evidence of his embracing of Protestantism at the moment of death.
Whether we shall see Frederick in heaven I do not know. I hope so. But that God used him in mysterious ways for the good of the Reformation is a truth which no one can deny.
His Early Life
Frederick was born in 1515 in Simmern Castle, for his father was Count John II, Elector of the Palatinate. His mother, Beatrix, was a very beautiful woman, pious and upright in her life, a godly mother, and one who gave lavishly to the poor. Frederick was the oldest of eleven children, of whom two became priests and five nuns.
Frederick's father was a Renaissance man and wanted his eldest son to have the best education available. But he also opened the doors of Europe's courts and chancellories to Frederick. John was a close friend of Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Yet Charles was ruler of Spain, Germany, and the Lowlands. In the court of Charles, Frederick learned the skills of knighthood; in Europe's royal courts he learned the life of royalty.
The glitter of royalty, however, never appealed to him and he soon left to test his skills in battle. At 18 years old he fought the Turks and earned knighthood for bravery and skill in battle. An intriguing story of these early years makes one wonder whether his thoughts were not then already turned to the Reformation. While still in the court of Charles, he had a private meeting with John á Lasco, the renowned Polish Reformer, whose work meant so much to the hard-pressed Protestants in the Netherlands. What came from that meeting only God, Who brought them together, knows.
His courtship years were filled with disappointment. For two years he wooed Elenora, the sister of Charles V, but lost her to the old king of Portugal. In despair he returned to Heidelberg in the Palatinate, but when the old king died, he once again pressed his suit with Elenora, but lost her a second time to Francis I of France. He tried to persuade Maria, another sister of Charles V to marry him, but failed also in this endeavor. In 1537 he married another Maria, of royal blood, and a Lutheran.
Although of royal blood, Frederick's years were spent in fighting poverty. With his wife he lived in an old castle of Berkenfeld, where together they had eleven children, only seven of whom reached maturity. He himself once complained: "I am like a sooty kitchen maid sitting behind the stove, concerning whom no one asked because she was so poor and dirty."
His Commitment to Lutheranism
A bit of background is necessary to understand the important role which Frederick played in the Reformation in Heidelberg.
Germany itself was torn by war, war which, before it was over, was to leave much of Germany in ruins. The Protestant Lutheran princes had formed a league to defend themselves against Roman Catholic attempts to destroy them by the sword. Between Protestants and Roman Catholics war periodically broke out.
Calvinism, born in Switzerland, had made inroads in Germany, especially in those parts bordering on the Swiss cantons. It is not an exaggeration to say that many Lutherans hated the Calvinists as much as or even more than the Roman Catholics, and they fought bitterly to preserve Germany for Lutheranism. The Electors of Germany were under constant pressure to join one side or the other -- or, perhaps, the Roman Catholic forces.
After Luther's death, Lutheranism itself was divided. Radical Lutherans out-Luthered Luther, while some Lutherans, including Melanchthon, moved in the direction of the Calvinistic view of the Lord's Supper.
In the midst of all this confusion and distress, Heidelberg itself remained, under its Elector, solidly Roman Catholic. Yet the people were far ahead of their ruler and wanted the Reformation introduced into their city. While the Elector hesitated, the people themselves, in a mighty burst of enthusiasm, brought its beginnings about. On Sunday, December 20, 1545, the citizens were gathered for the worship of God in the Church of the Holy Spirit. As the priest was making preparations for the celebration of the mass, a member of the congregation began singing the Reformation hymn "Es ist das Heil Uns Kommen Her" ("Salvation Has Come To Us"). The first stanza goes:
Salvation unto us has come
By God's free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.
Suddenly the whole congregation joined in singing the hymn, and the Reformation began.
In the meantime, under the influence of his Lutheran wife, Frederick became wholly committed to the Lutheran faith. One incident in Frederick's life in Berkenfeld showed his steadfastness and courage. After Roman Catholic successes on the field of battle, Frederick was asked to sign the Regensburg Interim, which had as its goal the complete suppression of the Reformation. This he refused to do and wrote the Emperor: "Rather than do this, I will by God's help suffer anything; and if I am not safe in this country on account of my faith, I may be able to live at some other place with God."
In 1556, after his appointment as governor of the Upper Palatinate, Frederick made every effort to bring about reform in his province. He moved his castle to Amsberg and brought about reforms by appointing Protestant ministers, rooting out such Romish practices as masses, indulgences, and worship of images, and curbing such sins as immorality, drunkenness, ignorance, and superstition.
He and Maria also suffered great tragedies during this period. All the divisions of Protestantism were in their families: some were ardent Lutherans, some Melanchtonians, some Zwinglians, and some Calvinists. One of his sons was drowned and another was killed in battle defending Protestants in the Netherlands. Two of his children turned against him as he moved away from Lutheranism towards Calvinism.
His Conversion to Calvinism
In 1559, about four years before Calvin's death, Frederick became Elector of the entire Palatinate. From that moment on he knew not a moment of peace.
Four individual factors played their part in bringing Frederick to a Calvinistic position -- in spite of the opposition of his Lutheran wife. Men who were Calvinists were appointed to offices in the church and the state. Continued reforms gradually eliminated both Romish and Lutheran practices and brought about reform in church government and worship. A flood of refugees came into the Palatinate and Heidelberg from France, England, and the Netherlands -- all of them Calvinists and all of them helped by Frederick's generosity.
But the most important factor was the eruption in Heidelberg of the so-called Hesshus-Klebitz controversy over the presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper. Hesshus was an arrogant and outspoken Lutheran; Klebitz was a Calvinist. Frederick devoted days and nights to a study of the question, searching the Scriptures to come to his own conclusions. He was pressured towards Lutheranism by his wife and some of his children. He was pressured towards Calvinism by many gifted professors in the University. When he finally made up his mind, he was convinced that the Calvinistic position was in keeping with the Word of God. To its defense he now dedicated himself. We may add, by way of parenthesis, that before she died Maria also embraced Calvinism.
It was this bitter controversy, which nearly tore Heidelberg apart, that was the immediate occasion for Frederick to order the writing of a new Catechism. From the Preface to it, which Frederick himself drew up, we learn that Frederick's reasons for it were to have a document which would serve the spiritual welfare of his realm, aid in reaching doctrinal unity among the people, and serve as a guide for preaching and the instruction of the youth.
Although they were assisted in their work by others, Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, whom Frederick had rescued from a prison in Trier, bore the major responsibility for drawing it up.
From the pens of these two gifted men emerged our present glorious confession of faith which has meant so much to the church of Christ over the years.
Its beauty and worth lie especially in the fact that its motif is comfort. One cannot, I think, appreciate this motif unless he is aware of its tremendous significance in the times in which it was written. Roman Catholicism, with its doctrine of salvation by meritorious works, is a comfortless doctrine -- as is all Pelagianism and Arminianism which bases salvation on human works. Luther experienced that fully in his own life, until he came to the truth of justification by faith alone. The Roman Catholic Church had written, as it were, above the doors of its churches and cathedrals: "Abandon all comfort, ye who enter here."
When the glorious truths of the Reformation began to be preached, the Reformers, with one voice, shouted to all the world: "We come to you with a gospel of comfort! That comfort is in the full and free grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord; justification by faith alone without works!"
No wonder that that gospel spread like wildfire through Europe, for it alone could bring peace to the troubled souls of God's people.
The Heidelberg Catechism picked up that theme.
"What is thy only comfort in life and death?
"That I with body and soul, both in life and
death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful
Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath
fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from
all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that
without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can
fall from my head; yea, that all things must be
subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy
Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes
me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live
Frederick III, known as The Pious, has gone down in history as the father of the Heidelberg Catechism. This alone is sufficient to secure for him a cherished place in the memory of God's people.
The Diet of Augsburg
But from a certain point of view it was not the spiritually high point of Frederick's life. After all, although he ordered the Catechism to be written, he did not compose it himself. Probably the clearest touch of his finger on the Catechism is Question & Answer 80, dealing with the popish mass, which Frederick ordered inserted into the original edition. But the high-water mark of Frederick's own commitment to the Reformation came at the Diet of Augsburg in 1566. To the story of that stirring event we now turn.
A few brief statements about the background will help to put this important meeting in perspective.
The attacks made against the Heidelberg Catechism were many and fierce. They came from almost all quarters. The Roman Catholics hated it for its sharp condemnation of their many sins. The Lutherans were no less affronted by it, both because it constituted a threat to their domination in Germany and because the attacks made against their position on the sacrament of the Lord's Supper were no less sharp than those made against Rome. But, clearly, the more popular it became and the more widely it was hailed for its quiet beauty and deep comfort, the more vicious became the attacks.
Maximilian II was emperor of Germany. He was deeply devoted to the cause of Roman Catholicism, but was prevented from exterminating either Lutheranism or Calvinism by events which continued to crowd in on his life and distract his attention. Notably, the Turks were knocking on the Eastern door of Europe and were threatening to overrun the continent and to engulf Europe in a tidal wave of Mohammedanism. He was, therefore, content to abide by the provisions of the Peace of Augsburg (1555) in which Lutherans and Roman Catholics had come to a tenuous agreement that the ruler of each province would decide the religion of that province. The difficulty was that the Peace of Augsburg made no provision for Calvinism -- it was an agreement between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. Frederick III was a Calvinist.
Maximilian summoned a Diet to decide on various problems confronting Germany, including the problem of the Turkish threat. But on the agenda was also an item ominous for Frederick: "How to check the destructive and corrupting sects." By virtue of his sponsorship of the Heidelberg Catechism, Frederick had been specifically charged with violating the Peace of Augsburg.
Considered a heretic by Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Frederick was in danger of losing everything at the Diet, including his life. Because of the danger, his closest friends urged him not to go. But, as with Luther before the Diet of Worms, so Frederick was convinced that a faithful testimony to the truth required his presence. He responded to one friend:
I find consolation in the hope that the Almighty power
of my dear and faithful Heavenly Father will use me as an
instrument for the confession of His name in these days in
the holy empire of the German nation, not only by word of
mouth, but also by act . . . . I know . . . that the same
God who kept [Duke John Frederick] in the true knowledge of
the holy Gospel is still living, and is well able to
preserve me, a poor, simple man, and, by the power of the
Holy Ghost, will certainly do it, even if it should come to
this that blood must be spilt. And should it please my God
and Father in heaven thus to honor me, I should never be
able to thank Him sufficiently for it, either in time or in
His own family bade him farewell with tears, certain that they would never again see him on earth.
At the Diet, almost all were against him, including the emperor. When the business of "destructive and corrupting sects" came up, Frederick was summoned before the emperor by whom he was given the choice: Either retract your position or suffer deposition. Lutherans and Roman Catholics alike eagerly nodded agreement. Only the small huddled group of Calvinists wondered what would happen and even half-seriously wished Frederick would capitulate.
We cannot quote here the speech Frederick made in his own defense, although it has come down through the ages preserved for us. Only a few scattered quotes of a speech which could not have lasted more than five minutes will have to suffice.
. . . I promise myself . . . that his Imperial Majesty . . . will graciously hear and weigh the defence I shall make; which, if it were required, I would be ready to make undaunted in the center of the market place in this town. So far as matters of a religious nature are involved, I confess freely that in those things which concern the conscience, I acknowledge as Master, only Him, who is Lord of lords and King of kings. For the question here is not in regard to a cap of flesh, but it pertains to the soul and its salvation, for which I am indebted alone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and which, as his gift, I will sacredly preserve. Therefore I cannot grant your Imperial Majesty the right of standing in the place of my God and Savior . . . .
That my Catechism, word for word, is drawn, not from
human, but from divine sources the references that stand in
the margin will show. For this reason also certain
theologians have in vain wearied themselves in attacking it,
since it has been shown them by the open Scriptures how
baseless is their opposition. What I have elsewhere
publicly declared to your Majesty in a full assembly of
princes; namely, that if any one of whatever age, station or
class he may be, even the humblest, can teach me something
better from the Holy Scriptures, I will thank him from the
bottom of my heart and be readily obedient to the divine
truth . . . . Should it please your Imperial Majesty to
undertake this task, I would regard it as the greatest favor
. . . . With this, my explanation, I hope your Imperial
Majesty will be satisfied . . . . Should contrary to my
expectations, my defense ... not be regarded of any account,
I shall comfort myself in this that my Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ has promised to me and to all who believe that
whatsoever we lose on earth for His name's sake, we shall
receive an hundred fold in the life to come.
It was a courageous defense. Everything hung in the balance -- even the future of Calvinism in Germany. Elector August of Saxony, the only one among the princes to support Frederick, tapped him on the shoulder in full view of the entire assembly and said, "Fritz, you are more pious than all of us."
Although the minds of few if any were changed, the godliness of Frederick was so obvious that no one dared to press the accusation brought against him. He was able to leave the Diet in peace and continue his work.
The Last Years
The victory at Augsburg was significant, for it saved Calvinism in Germany from Lutheran and Roman Catholic domination.
But Frederick really never knew any peace, even within his beloved Palatinate. Although the controversy over the question of the presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was settled by the adoption of the Heidelberg Catechism, other controversies plagued the province. One of the most serious was a controversy over discipline, particularly whether the church or the State would exercise discipline in the Palatinate. Calvin had settled the problem in Geneva after a long struggle with the authorities in that city; but Lutheranism, with Luther's encouragement, had always tended towards giving ecclesiastical discipline to the civil magistrate. The struggle between Calvinism and Lutheranism in the Palatinate brought about this controversy over discipline. Unfortunately, Frederick, a civil ruler himself, favored the position that the State exercised key power in the church as well as sword power in the State.
Shortly after the triumph of Augsburg, Maria, Frederick's devoted wife of 30 years, died. After two years of deep mourning, Frederick married Amelia, a countess of Neuenahr and a widow from the Netherlands. She was related to various French Huguenots and, as a result of this marriage, Frederick's attention was more and more drawn to the sad plight of the persecuted Huguenots in France.
Frederick began, in these years, to send his armies to the aid of French and Dutch Protestants. The French Protestants were being butchered by the Roman Catholic king under the prodding of his Roman Catholic advisers; the Dutch Protestants were being slaughtered by the cruel and merciless Margaret of Parma and the Duke of Alva. Unable to bear the suffering of his fellow saints, and out of sympathy for his agonizing wife, he ordered his troops into France and the Netherlands. Ursinus was opposed to this decision and urged upon Frederick the biblical truth that the cause of Christ in the world was not advanced by the sword and that "they that fight with the sword shall perish with the sword."
The University of Heidelberg gained an international reputation for learning, piety, and strong doctrinal commitment. It had an international faculty and about half of the student body were foreigners. From it went out men to preach and teach in all Europe the great truths of Calvinism.
But Frederick's days were swiftly drawing to a close. His piety in his death was as great as in his life.
Just a few days before he died, he said to his chaplain:
I have lived long enough, both for you and the church.
Now I shall be called to a better life. I have done for the
church the best I possibly could, but have not accomplished
a great deal. God who can do all things and who cared for
his servants before my day, still lives and reigns in
heaven. He will not leave you orphan, nor will he leave
without fruit the prayers and tears which I have brought to
him on my knees in this room for my successors and for the
A bit later he was speaking to Olevianus:
The Lord may call me whenever it pleases him. I
have a clear conscience in Christ Jesus my Lord, whom I
have served with all my heart, and I have lived to see
that in my churches and schools the people are directed
away from men to him alone.
Just before he died he murmured to those about him: "I have been detained long enough by the prayers of pious Christians. It is time that my earthly life should close, and that I should go to my Savior into heavenly rest."
After asking that Psalm 31 and John 17 be read for him, and after hearing them read, he prayed in a voice that all heard a very brief prayer and quietly departed this life to be with Christ in glory. It was October, 1576.
Calvin thought so highly of Frederick that he dedicated his commentary on Jeremiah to him. In the concluding paragraph of the Dedication Calvin says:
Though I can add nothing to the character of your
Highness, either by my praise or by the dedication of
this work, yet I could not restrain myself from doing
what I thought to be my duty. Farewell, Most
Illustrious Prince. May God enrich you more and more
with His spiritual gifts, keep you long in safety, and
render your dignified station prosperous to you and
yours (Geneva, July 23, 1563).
No one who loves and cherishes the Heidelberg Catechism ought to forget to breathe a quiet prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Frederick, whom God used to give this blessed creed to us. And no one can read of his courage before kings and rulers without resolving in his own heart, by God's grace, to stand for truth and right with equal dependence upon Christ, in whom we have the victory through faith.