Clarifications on the General Meeting held by the Synod of Buffalo by Johann An. A. Grabau
Pages 47 - 52

Likewise chatter about the written word (Galatians 1) compared with faith confounds the soul in the manner in which it preaches literal interpretation. Preaching things to death and preaching literal interpretation bring about their own misfortunes. — It is hoped and prayed that I should acknowledge it as a sin against the second commandment, for which I should repent, rather than still maintain that such preaching or pulpit chatter is misappropriation of "the Name and Word of God" etc. Were that so, it would indeed be nothing other than application of the condemnation placed on them.


There will be no more condemnation, rather notification of their sins and preaching of their penance, which is of utmost necessity to them if they are not to preach to death before the Christian congregation. But they don't want to hear about this from me, so perhaps they'll listen to the blessed Dr. Luther, who called such preachers "wolves and seducers." Volume XI, p. 4,5 (Meditation page 18).


These 5 brothers in office opine, "that I am still attempting to establish reportedly false doctrine" and still say that nothing can be learned from such pulpit orators. Namely: To extol appropriate and proper praise upon doctrine and to apply a strong emphasis to it, to put forth a Christian truth, which they might teach and break down into its components, etc — but then to preach of these things, that all divine assurances of these demonstrated truths shall be cast to the wind, that such is not really preaching at all. These 5 preachers maintain the opposite and say: Where pure doctrine is extolled and emphasis applied to it, wherever a truth is put forth as a theme and broken down, that is the thing! That is Gospel teaching! This is a gross untruth, which is quite unsettling to hear. It is not extolling praise for pure doctrine, it is not the laying of the proper tone, it is not the mere exposition of theme and breakdown when nothing is taught. When everything is cast upon the wind through pulpit chatter so that no one knows what it is as he leaves the church! Then divine assurance is completely lacking and in its places there is confusion to the listener, confusion in the mind and conscience of the Christian.

Further these 5 ministers state: If under divine assurance we don't understand the reasoning derived from Holy Scripture then we do not know where pure doctrine is extolled and what emphasis to place upon it. The real assurance of these things may be lacking yet may be cast to the wind if pure doctrine always carries its own divine assurance within itself.


I have never spoken of a divine assurance of the established proposition, which one may preach, as being derived solely from passages in Holy Scripture. Rather it is all bound up with the content of this Epistle a) from divine Text, b) from its internal and external co-dependence, c) from deductions from pure text, d) from the lessons of Holy Scripture (understand as often as needed).

Further it is quite different to praise pure doctrine and apply the proper emphasis to it as is done with pulpit chatter, for truly false prophets also do the same. It is quite different in reality to teach pure doctrine, to preach pure doctrine and divine teachings in order to elicit sanctifying faith! Praiseful chatter about pure doctrine carries no divine assurance of Christian truth within itself, which one may preach to the crowd in order to demonstrate what has been promised. Such pulpit chatter usually states: Now we will speak of this or contemplate that and break things down into its parts and deal with them afterwards with words, which say nothing at all. Dr. Luther did not call this assurance, rather it is foolishness to speak about nothing with so many words. Table talk, see page 188. And as he spoke of magicians: "The devil loves to do his work in the Name of God and thereby deceive the people since they seem to think that it is clearly a divine thing because they speak so many fine words.

I state for the record that honor is due to the Word alone and I maintain that I did not teach that: the power of God's Word is dependent upon it being purely preached; rather concerning it I stated that this pure doctrine may be proven with passages from Holy Scripture!


Let it be reiterated, that I have not preached such ponderous rubbish in my lifetime. The power of God's Word is dependent upon nothing, for it is in itself living and powerful; — however the power and sanctity of our preaching does depend upon whether it lives and weaves God's Word.

These 5 preacher further state: I may have rendered my defense in such an obscure and sophist manner that there is no way to clarify whether I rejected the demonstrated false teaching or not. It is hard to distinguish between what I call the power of God's Word and the primary force of Christian preaching as well as the power of God in the sermon, for the power of God and the primary force of the sermon is indeed the power of God's Word, which may be proclaimed as residing within it.

This verdict is as erroneous as the original accusation was unjust. I have never spoken in an obscure and sophist manner; rather I have clearly stated that the sermon should teach God's Word, in which there resides an established truth concerning true Christianity. And when one deliberates theologically on it, these considerations come into play:
1. The Almighty Living Lord, who is God the Holy Spirit (ho kyrios)
2. The office of minister, as it has been ordained by Him, is the means in and through which the Holy Spirit deigns to work because it stands there for His Service (diakona tou logou).
3.The holy instrument, through which He will work His Ministry, is the Word of God.
4. Human souls are the subjects through which He will work, as St. Paul says: "through which they are made the faithful." They are God's ploughmen and his ediface.
5. The medium through which He will work is sanctifying faith. Now the Scripture teaches in a meaningful and clear manner that the Holy Spirit works through nothing other than sanctifying faith, this means, normally He will work in no other fashion. Hence it follows that through the power of the Holy Spirit the sacred office of minister, the instrument of sanctification, and the gospel work together towards the same goal and they work concurrently in order to produce sanctifying faith *) [1.]

When I speak of the power of God's Word, it is meant that it has this power within itself. When I speak of power, or the Power of God in the Christian sermon, it is meant that the sermon comes through the Holy Spirit from God's Word and in the office of minister it is proven to the soul, provided the sermon properly uses the Word of God. The Power of God through the Holy Spirit is almighty and absolute; at the same time it is the living Word of God through the instrument; the office of minister proves itself in that it becomes the issuing body in service (ministerialis diakonike).

The burgeoning power of the Christian sermon coming from God's Word thus becomes manifest when and only to that extent which it makes use of the Word of God as it was divinely intended. When this is the case the Holy Spirit works in the ministration through the Word and serves mankind by conferring sanctifying faith upon the soul.

Again and yet another time I deny the ponderous accusation, that the power of God's Word is conditional, that pure doctrine is proven through passages in Holy Scripture! Rather it is the reverse. The power and sanctifying nature of the sermon depends upon whether the Word of God is properly or improperly used in the sermon or whether it is not used at all, as was stated above.


[1.] *) 1 Corinthians 3,4. Now who is Paul, who is Appollo. They are servants through whom we become faithful; and it is the same faith which the Lord has given to everyone. I have sown the seeds, Appollo has watered them, but God has made them flourish.
In himself the minister is nothing. However he becomes what he is and has what he has through God.
Mark 16, 20. They went out among us and preached the Word in all lands and the Lord worked through them. Return to text

Further they state:

"We also do not understand what it should mean when Pastor Grabau says, 'the entire divine operation of service falls short in the ministry as soon as the Gospel is obscured and covered with human oratory.'

"What should be understood here under the term human oratory? etc. — and how can the Gospel of God be so obscured and covered if the entire divine operation of service falls short in the ministry?"


One must be astonished by it that these 5 brothers in office do not seem to know what pulpit chatter and human oratory are, through which the Gospel of God becomes obscured and covered! Whosoever does not know this cannot avoid it himself! Therefore it is necessary to bring forth a few examples of human oratory.


See these examples further illustrated on Page 50.

By means of this pulpit chatter in general and in individual circumstances the divine sense and meaning of the Gospel is so masked, obscured and hindered that it is as good as lost. The listener can perceive nothing at all or take erroneous information from it. Thus the divine operation in service to the Word in the ministry falls short because the Word of God is no longer used in accordance with the Will of God.


These 5 ministers have rendered accusation that Pastor Grabau has completely missed the point of contention. Issues are being raised, which have nothing to do with the matter at hand.


I believe that everything, which in the accusation alludes to false doctrine, must be addressed here; so often it is found that the accusation is erroneous and somewhat uncomprehensible in form and subject matter and thus the verdict of the 5 ministers is based more on their accusation than on my culpability. Indeed, they acknowledge that they do not exactly understand my response! *) [1.]


They state that what they said before still stands,that I have preached false doctrine and they also still attempt to establish that I do not wish to own up clearly and openly to this.


Circumstances apparently exist whereby the same misguided spirit and misinterpretation of the sermon, which arose during the original accusation, has also permeated the entire trial. Thus what the 5 ministers said amounts to no verdict and to no proof of false doctrine in my eyes. Rather it is erroneous interpretation on their part. I hope to God that they desire to remain on the side of truth and holy teachings and I sincerely wish that the judges and those who have initiated and continued in their open warfare and hurtful accusations will finally cease their hostilities. When that happens I will see it as a beginning in which they change their ways of public battle and warfare into activities of peaceful pursuit.

      Buffalo, May 26, 1866.

The False Doctrine of this Church Ministry
under Wolläger's Chairmanship,

March 8 - April 23 of this year and continuing.

The following is false:


There is no difference between God's Word and pure doctrine; pure doctrine is God's Word (a confusing manner of speech.)


It is desireable that each minister should strive to imitate the Apostles in his preaching. It is only desireable but not necessary according to God's Word!


An established truth (Theme) such as "Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior" imparts sanctifying faith to the listener without proof through the Word of God!


[1.]*) And they call it obscurity and sophism Return to text


A mere tale of faith or the relating of a story about faith and chatter about pure doctrine (that is, human oratory) elicits and imparts sanctifying faith!


The praise of pure doctrine, its establishment into major premise and parts, must be called and is "preaching of the gospel"!


God the Holy Spirit works only through His Word in the hearts of men; the minister is only a passive agent whose naming of the Holy Spirit activates a certain something. This teaching is Calvanism and stands contrary to the 5th Article of the Augsburg Confession.
Mark 16. 10, 1; Corintians 3. 5,10; Timothy 4. 15,16 et. al


"Pulpit oratory is not a misuse of God's Word and His Name and it is not to be stated that God will not let it go unpunished."


A pulpit orator with a special gift may excuse himself ! — But such an excusing is an abominiation to God. Pulpit oratory does not use God's Word and Text. A true human being with an exceptional gift properly uses God's Word and augments it through the Grace of God! a) [1.]


Erroneous Teaching concerning Church Hierarchy
"That authority, supervision and power of a church hierarchy (eg. of a church committee and pastor; of a church ministry, of a synod) rests in its choosings and groupings. When it is assembled it goes under the name of "properly ordered church court" and peaceful obedience is to be expected by and accorded to it.

That is a Papist interpretation and a teaching disrepectful to God. According to Article 28 of the Augsburg Confession: Three things are needed for every properly ordered church court: 1) ordained selection and installation; 2) geniune assembly; *) [2.]; 3) deliberation in pure doctrine. (A.C. 28 R. pp. 34, 44; Matthew 5, 16; Galatians 1. 8,1; 10, 1; Peter 5,3) When one of these is missing then the obedience of the Christian must cease for the sake of conscience and Christians must not allow this papist policy of blind obedience to be placed upon them should the church insist upon it.

Hochstetter's Pulpit Oratory

In order to clarify the obscure human oratoy of Hochstetter, the following examples from his sermons will be presented here.

1.) From Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865

Concerning the Epistle to the Philipians 2, 5 - 11: The Humbling of Christ, etc.

Here it is word for word: "The true God, who was divine, took on the form of a servant." He did not take on his divinity; for he was born of eternity. He who was in divine form the true God, he who would cast off his divine form and has at no time taken off his divine form but accepted the form of the servant!!

He did not accept the divinity for he is born of eternity. Who said of a man that he has accepted a human form as though it were nothing! Paul praised here what the eternal God is and God alike and in divine form! What was meant is that he will save us." Although he may well have possessed divine might after His Humanity, he cast it off at birth and became human. He assumed the form of the servant and humbled himself so that he could ever more deeply become human. Albeit that he did not usually use the divine power that he had, he did use it from time to time; this he did in the power of divine majesty, for human nature is but a portion of divine nature and majesty.


[1.] a) Multi enim defectus corrigi possunt, si animus non sit pertinax et arrogans. L. Os. ad 1 Tim, 3. Educating — that is, many deficiencies may be ameliorated when the mind is not obstinant and arrogant. Return to text

[2.] *) That is, not scraped together and assembled by means of mutinous activity Return to text

Specification: The Son of God's becoming a human is defined as His taking on a servant's form and His humbling. Further: He is not at the right hand of God in the sense of a deceased human who sleeps there.

2.) Further- Easter 1864: Our bodies are the same in the Resurrection as they are now. This is a qualitative, not a quantitative aspect. — See Cat. Fr. 297.

3.) May 27, 1864: Concerning Acts 18., 18 - 28 he preaches mere history about Paul and Apollo. This man was a Jew from Alexandria who had come to Ephesus, well-versed in Scripture and instructed in the ways of the Lord, etc; he knew about John the Baptist! And what did Hochstetter preach? Apollo had not yet been baptised! And he said: He was receiving instruction in the ways of the Lord! And so the human oratory proceeded throughout the entire sermon. — Thus my words stand: Oh God, how can this still be! The congregation is being preached to death!

He delivered this sermon after I had warned him in the strongest of terms for the third time! I saw no improvement.

4.) On May 20, 1864, in the week before Trinity Sunday: concerning the Epistle of 1 John 4, 16 - 21 "About the complete love of Christians." This should be established:
1) The recognition of the Love of God! In its place it's reasonable to say: Thus the recognition of the eternal love of God is presumed. Here are untrue sentences: One often thinks that the Heavenly Father loved sins; no, He loved the sinner! — But what Christian thinks that way? Nothing but rhetoric and phrase-making.
2) The ardent demonstration of their love for God. Here there was a rhetorical conglomeration of incidental thoughts, unrelated notions, mental reservations with exclamations after one or another of them! For example, there were poor children of God, who still do not love their father, et. al. Demas and Judas were divided and they fell! and other crumbs. Never an edifying dependency given in order to produce understanding and awareness in the audience.
3) The active love, which we exercise in the next life. A miserable and sterile sermon on the law (regarding Verse 20, 21 and 16) concerning what we should do. From Verse 20 he brought out nothing other than merely to say that false charity is gruesome conduct! Is that 1 Timothy 4. 15, 15?
5)[sic] June 3, 1864 concerning Acts 19, 1- 8: "The fortification of the faith of the Twelve in Ephesus." Not the slightest honor was given to John the Baptist. In the second part what happens to the fortification of the faith in us? Nothing is demonstrated through text except for Verse 8: A here and there oration on the "Kingdom of God" was made.

6.) June 5, second Sunday after Trinity Sunday - Concerning the Eucharist. Here these things should have been brought forth:
1.) God's grace-granting Volition in His Call.
2.) Man's resistence to it!
But no concept concerning God's Call was presented, nor was there anything on God's grace-granting Volition. There was loud, confusing babble, which erupted as the mood struck him. Only historically descriptive oratory. No one could recognize in the speech anything concerning individual evil in the heart and resistence to God's call. Oh, how sorrowful is my heart! I pass over other things now.

7.) June 19, Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Catechisation, Epistle from Romans 8, 18 - 23. The confirmation class of boys stood there dumbfounded; the questions were so meaningless and unclear like the loud rustling of leaves on the trees to the point where they were beyond anwering the questions! Eschatology was bantered back and forth with oratory and empty talk repeated. Nothing came together. The questions fell like crumbs before the boys. Mere gossip and stories of faith were imparted! As things occurred to him out of the stories he'd ask questions, thus reverting to ad lib query. No preparation was noticable (only audacious certainty in the flesh); everything became a random series of questions fired out of a cannon. "Christians have the first fruit of the Holy Spirit", Verse 23! "What it was, nobody knew." Oh, deadly cathechismic babbling! What will become of the poor congregation! (At one time it meant the first fruit of the Holy Spirit was forgiveness of sins!)

8.) July [8], 1864 Friday - concerning Acts 20, 17 - 24: The Apostolic Loyalty of a Servant of Christ (Oh, if only it were present!)

Once again only story-telling and mere history about what St. Paul says and what he felt regarding Christ's self-humbling. In between this there were moral words of advice and precepts. Not one strong point in the discussion! — Everyone should do penance — doing penance was often repeated with hard poundings on the lectern. That is not teaching; rather it is misuse of Holy Text and the Name of God.

9.) July 10, 1864 - Seventh Sunday after Trinity Sunday, Epistle from Romans 6: Catechisation! "On Serving Justice" No one could recognize what it was. Loud back and forth questioning with answers of "Yes" and "No" being the only response. Finally a declaration: Serving justice originates "when one dedicates his limbs to the serving of justice!" The children stood there like dead pillars overwhelmed by useless, long oratory to which they could perceive no purpose. They didn't answer the confusing and disjointed questions! They wouldn't have been able to! Oh God, who will save the man from this? Who will save us? But then again it is still most fortunate that the loving man is true." *) [1.]

10.) August 14, 1864 - Twelfth Sunday after Trinity Sunday, Epistle from 2 Corinthians 3,4 concerning the honor and teaching of the New Testament ministry. Catechisation. As an example this unclear question will be examined: What becomes apparent through this covenant?" Many answers can be made to this question but none were forthcoming! We learn nothing about Verse 3 in the manner in which he described the divine efficacy of ministry! It was mere oratory about divine efficacy. According to his teaching there was no inefficacy or babbling because whoever was in the ministry must be capable! Because the ministry in itself is divine and contains within itself the workings of God, there is efficacy! Is that Christian teaching, which nourishes and strengthens faith, or is it papist doctrine? He wanted to elucidate the irrefutable validity of the ministry in Verse 4 as it is in the Gospel, but how this was brought about no one knew! Casually this was introduced: it exists inasmuch as the gospel, which preaches justice, is valid before God. No proof of this statement was given. Instead of teachings only extraneous contingencies. Next came many questions such as : "The Lord told his disciples once that He is what?" No one answered! He had to respond himself: "The way!" I do not call this teaching because it hinders the understanding of Christians. And now 2 or 3 questions thrown at the same time at the children with senseless rapidity. For example, how should the Word of God be preached? How should it be understood in accordance with the Second Commandment? How should it be understood that His Name should be kept Holy? In which Commandment does it state that the Holy Spirit also enlightens man? This is nothing other than feeding dumb animals useless words and filling the Christian Church with non-participating sleepers.

11.) August 28, 1864 - Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday. Epistle from Galatians V, 16 - 24. "St. Paul wishes to help Christians lead a good life." Again far, very far from the Text and more obscure questions: "What does the Lord Jesus primarily grant to all sinners?" No one answered. Then he said himself: "The forgiveness of sins!" Such foolishness is well beyond the poor children but then there was still further erosion! In the second part he wanted to tell how the sanctification proceeded in them. He answered: The Holy Spirit does this by battling against the flesh! He understood this to mean the incarnate flesh of the human body,


[1.] *) So I thought at the time but later I found out about the letter of deposition and understood the spiritual degradation behind it. Return to text

Go on to Pages 53 - 60

Photocopy of the text provided by the Yale Divinity Library, New Haven, Ct.

Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks,