Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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ABBOTT, Benjamin, clergyman, born on Long Island, New York, in 1732; died in Salem, New Jersey, 14 August, 1796. The story of Mr. Abbott's life has for a hundred years been a typical one for the great denomination of which he was an early apostle. His father died while he was a lad, providing by will that his sons should learn trades. Benjamin was apprenticed to a hatter in Philadelphia, where he fell into evil ways and for a time led a wild life. Cutting short his apprenticeship, he went to New Jersey and joined one of his brothers on a farm, but continued his profligate career in spite of his marriage with a worthy member of the Presbyterian church. During all this time he was kind to his family, and a frequent if not regular attendant upon religious services. When he was thirty-three years old he had a frightful dream of future punishment, which, though it did not lead him at the time to mend his ways, came back to him several years afterward under the influence of an itinerant Methodist preacher, and, overwhelmed with terror, he suffered agonies of remorse until the preacher returned on his circuit, when he was converted and could not rest till he himself became a preacher. So earnest was he that his wife, long a church member, experienced renewed conviction of sin under her husband's powerful representations, and his influence over her was repeated in thousands of other cases wherever he went. With his wife and children he soon united with the Methodists, and became the most popular and successful preacher in the vicinity. Wonderful conversions of the most hardened characters took place wherever he preached, and in consequence of his chance appeals to individuals. The war for independence interfered with his work, as the Methodists were popularly suspected of disloyalty, and on several occasions excited soldiery threatened him. His personal force was such that he always preached down his assailants, and he once reduced to the attitude of peaceful auditors a hundred soldiers who had assembled to do him violence. For sixteen years he served as a local preacher, and in 1789 he became an itinerant, joining the Dutchess County (New York) circuit. In 1791 he was on the Long Island circuit, in 1792 in Salem, New Jersey, and in 1793 was made an elder and sent to the Cecil circuit, Maryland. After this time his usefulness was impaired by ill health, but in the intervals of fever he went about as usual and performed his pastoral duties whenever his strength permitted. His life has ever been a stirring theme for the exhorters who have succeeded him, and in the minutes of conference for 1796 he is referred to as "one of the wonders of America, no man's copy, an uncommon zealot for the blessed work of sanctification, who preached it on all occasions and in all congregations."
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