Benjamin Abbott was born on Long Island, New York, in 1732. He led a pretty wild life falling into a variety of evil ways, until he was converted to Christ and radically transformed in his fortieth year. His initial conviction occurred when he was thirty-three years old when he had two frightening dreams of future punishment, which, though they did not lead him to immediate repentance, came back to him several years afterward under the influence of an itinerant Methodist preacher. Under extreme conviction he was converted and was compelled to begin preaching the gospel. As an itinerant Methodist evangelist wonderful conversions of the most hardened characters took place wherever he preached. Often revival signs of deep conviction, tears, swooning and other bodily agitations accompanied his ministry He has been 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." He died in Salem, New Jersey, 14 August, 1796. This picture is of a typical Methodist circuit rider.
PARENTAGE. —My grandfather, James Abbott, was born in Somersetshire, in Great Britain. He removed to America and settled on Long Island, where he married, and had five sons and two daughters. My father, Benjamin Abbott, was his third son: when he arrived at age, he removed from Long Island to New Jersey, where he married the daughter of Mr. John Burroughs, sheriff of Hunterdon County. Afterward he removed again to Long Island, where he resided for some time, and had two sons and one daughter. After this he sold his farm, and moved into Pennsylvania, bought a plantation of four hundred acres of good land, and lived in credit, where he had three sons and one daughter more. My mother, when on her death-bed, lay sick of a nervous complaint about five weeks. In the dead of the night, before she expired, she cried unto the Lord, and besought Him to look in mercy upon the family, and with a loud voice prayed fervently for us all, which caused the spectators to wonder and to cry out, “Hannah, what is the matter with you?" Next day she departed this life. I then pondered these things in my heart.
In six weeks after, my father took the small-pox, and departed this life, leaving my grandfather executor. In his will he ordered that we should all have trades; accordingly I was put to a hatter in Philadelphia, where I soon fell into bad company, and from that to card-playing, cock-fighting, and many other evil practices. My master and I parted before my time was out, and I went into Jersey and hired with one of my brothers, where I wrought at plantation work.
MARRIAGE. —Some time after this I married; and when I got what my father had left me I rented a farm, and followed that business; but all this time I had no fear of God before my eyes, but lived in sin and open rebellion against God, in drinking, fighting, swearing, gambling, etc.; yet I worked hard and got a comfortable living for my family. I professed myself a Presbyterian, went often to meeting, and many times the Spirit of God alarmed my guilty soul of its danger; but it as often wore off again.
BROKEN PROMISES. —thus I continued in a scene of sin until the fortieth year of my age; yet many were the promises I made during that period to amend my life, but all to no purpose; they were as often broken as made; for as yet I never had heard the nature of conviction or conversion: it was a dark time respecting religion, and little or nothing ever said about experimental religion; and to my knowledge I never had heard either man or woman say that they had the pardoning love of God in their souls, or knew their sin’s were forgiven. My wife was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and a praying woman; yet at that time she knew nothing about a heart work.
CONVlCTIVE DREAMS. —About the thirty-third year of my age, I dreamed that I died and was carried to hell, which appeared to me to be a large place, arched over, containing three apartments with arched doors to go from one apartment to another. I was brought into the first, where I saw nothing but devils and evil spirits, which tormented me in such a manner that my tongue or pen can not express. I cried for mercy, but in vain. There appeared to me a light like a star, at a great distance from me. I strove to get to it, but all in vain. Being hurried into the second apartment, the devils put me into a vise, and tormented me until my body was all in a gore of blood. I cried again for mercy, but still in vain. I observed that a light followed me, and I heard one say to me, “How good doth this light appear to you!” I was soon hurried into the third apartment, where there were scorpions with stings in their tails, fastened in sockets at the end thereof: their tails appeared to be about a fathom long, and every time they struck me their stings, which appeared an inch and a half in length, stuck fast in me, and they roared like thunder. Here I was constrained to cry again for mercy. As fast as I pulled out the sting of one, another struck me. I was hurried through this apartment to a lake that burned with fire; it appeared like a flaming furnace, and the flames dazzled like the sun. The devils were here throwing in the souls of men and women. There appeared two regiments of devils moving through the arches, blowing up the flames; and when they came to the end one regiment turned to the right and the other to the left, and came round the pit, and the screeches of the damned were beyond the expression of man. When it came to my turn to be thrown in, one devil took me by the head and another by the feet, and with the surprise I awoke and found it a dream. But O! what horror seized my guilty breast! I thought I should die and be damned. This brought seriousness to my mind for about eight or ten days, in which I made many promises to mend my life; but they soon wore off again.
About five or six weeks after this, I dreamed that I died and was carried into one of the most beautiful places I ever saw, and my guide brought me to one of the most elegant buildings I ever beheld, and when we came to it the gates opened to us of their own accord, and we went straight forward into the building, where we were met by a company of the heavenly host, arrayed in white raiment down to their feet. We passed on through the entry until we came to a door on the right, which stood about half open; passing a little forward, we made a stand before the door; I looked in, and saw the Ancient of Days sitting upon His throne, and all around Him appeared a dazzling splendor. I stood amazed at the sight; one stepped forward to me arrayed in white, which I knew to be my wife’s mother, and said to me, “Benjamin, this place is not for you yet;” so I returned, and my guide brought me back. I awoke with amaze at what I had seen, and concluded that I should shortly die, which brought all my sins before me, and caused me to make many promises to God to repent, which lasted for some time; but this wore off again, and I went to my old practices.
CONVICTIVE PREACHING.—One Sabbath-day (our minister being sick, and my wife being a great meeting body), hearing that there was to be a Methodist meeting about ten or twelve miles distance, she expressed a desire to go to it, and asked my consent. I gave it, and she and my oldest son and daughter went to hear the man. On their return I asked her how she liked the preacher. She replied that he was as great a preacher as ever she had heard in all her life, and persuaded me to go and hear for myself. Accordingly on the next Sabbath I went. There was a large congregation assembled to hear the man. His text was, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. XI, 28.) The preacher was much engaged, and the people were crying all through the house. This greatly surprised me, for I never had seen the like before. The sermon made no impression on me; but when he came to the application, he said: “It may be that some of you may think that there is neither God nor devil, heaven nor hell, only a guilty conscience; and indeed, my friends, that is bad enough. But,” said he, “I assure you that there is both heaven and hell, God and devil.” I spoke, “I am the man.” But he went on and argued that fire was contained in everything, and that there was a dreadful hell that was beyond our comprehension, and advised the people to fly to Christ for refuge. He then showed the reality of the existence of a God from a beautiful illustration of His works, which were evidenced to us daily, and that this God had created the heavens and earth. Then called upon the people to come unto God, for Christ had died for their redemption. There was much weeping and heavy groaning among the people.
AWFUL SENSATIONS. —Meeting being over, the two dreams that I had dreamed about seven years before came as fresh into my mind as if dreamed the night before, and that God had shown me both heaven and hell, the state of the blessed and the damned. This brought me to think of my misspent life, and in a moment all my sins that I ever had committed were brought to my view. I saw it was the mercy of God that I was out of hell, and promised to amend my life in future. I went home under awful sensations of a future state. My convictions increased, and I began to read my Bible with attention, and saw things in a different light from what I had ever seen them before, and made many promises to God, with tears and groans, to forsake sin; but I knew not the way to Christ for refuge, being ignorant of the nature both of conviction and conversion. But blessed be God, He still gave me light, so that the work was deepened in my soul day by day.
CRYING FOR MERCY. —The preacher came to preach in our neighborhood, and I went to hear him again. It being a new thing in the place, brought many together to hear him. Some were Presbyterians, some Baptists, and others without any professions of religion. He took his text, and preached with power. The Word reached my heart in such a powerful manner, that it shook every joint in my body; tears flowed in abundance, and I cried out for mercy, of which the people took notice, and many others were melted into tears. When the sermon was over, the people flocked round the preacher and began to dispute with him about principles of religion. I said that there never was such preaching as this; but the people said, “Abbott is going mad.”
SORE DISTRESS. —I returned home with my family in sore distress, and pondered these things in my mind. I saw it was the mercy of God that I was out of hell. I cried to God for mercy; but it seemed all in vain. It brought to my mind the many times His Holy Spirit had strove with me from time to time when I was a small boy, and from that time to this. Satan suggested to me that my day of grace was now over, and that I was one of those damned reprobates that God had assigned over to him from all eternity; therefore I might pray and cry, but he was sure of me at last. Being brought up in the doctrine of election and reprobation, I concluded that I should be damned, do what I could. By this time my case became desperate. I knew not what to do, and was almost in despair. One day going to mill I felt such a hell in my breast arising from a guilty conscience, and being belated in my return, as I was passing through a piece of woods the devil suddenly suggested to my mind that, as I was one of the reprobates and there was no mercy for me, I had better hang myself and know the worst of it. While I was looking for a suitable place for that purpose I thought I heard a voice, saying (alluding to the anxiety and distress of soul that I then felt), “This torment is nothing to hell.” I immediately changed my mind, and drove home under the greatest anxiety imaginable; for it appeared to me the devil was behind me in the wagon with his hand just over my head, threatening to take me away, both soul and body. I can not express my feelings at that time. My hair arose on my head through fear; I was afraid to look back lest I should visibly see him. In this deplorable condition I returned home. When I got into the house I dared not go outside of the door, for fear the devil would take me away. My wife saw that something was the matter with me, and inquired what it was, for, said she, “You look like death.” I was constrained to turn from her and weep, for I expected she knew my condition, as she had been a member of the Presbyterian Church for many years, and was a praying woman. Bed-time being come, I told her I should sleep by myself.
AWFUL APPARITIONS. —When I lay down and fell into a doze my mind was filled with awful apparitions. I thought I saw devils ready to take me; hell open, ready to receive me; and that I was rolling, bed and all, into the flames, while other huge devils stood ready to receive me. Then I would suddenly awake in the greatest distress imaginable, and so I continued during the night. Next morning, being the 9th of October, 1772, having a piece of grass to cut, I arose and went to it.
FAINTING FITS. —As soon as I began to mow I was taken with fainting fits, and it seemed to me that the earth would open and swallow me up, while my troubled heart beat so loud that I could hear the strokes, and could compare it to two men a-boxing or threshing, more than like its usual motion. It occurred to my mind, what is all the world to me! I shall be dead and damned before the setting sun. This caused me to lay down my scythe, while I stood weeping for my Sins; but, alas! all in vain. I still grew worse, and went back to the house under great distress, where I read some hymns, that I had in a book, of the sufferings of our blessed Lord and Savior. Here my heart was tendered, and I could weep freely until my very cheeks were sore with wiping them.
BEHOLD, HE PRAYETH! —It was pressed upon me to pray, and perhaps the Lord would have mercy upon me. I endeavored to comply with the impression, and went to a lonely place and kneeled down to pray; but the devil suggested to my mind that there was somebody hid in the woods, and they would laugh at me; so I arose and looked all round for them, but could see no one, yet I dared not pray there. However, I went to the other end of my field and kneeled down again. Here the enemy suggested the same thing; but the Lord gave me strength to pray, it being the first time I ever prayed with a vocal voice. My prayer was not like the Pharisee; but like the poor publican I cried: “God be merciful to me, a sinner! God have mercy on me!” I believe I might have been heard half a mile. My distress was not so great when I arose from prayer as when I kneeled; for I believe I could not have continued in the body, if God had not moderated the pain and anxiety that I was in, but must have expired before the going down of the sun. Glory to God, I felt my distress somewhat removed!
LOSS OF APPETITE. —I then returned to the house and sat down to dinner; but my soul was still in so great distress that I could not eat, although I put food into my mouth and chewed it, yet I could not swallow it; so in as private a manner as possible, that my wife should not discover my anxiety, I threw it to the dog, and asked her if she would go with me to meeting, as a Methodist preacher was to preach in the neighborhood that afternoon. She agreed, and we went. When we got there, the people not being assembled, I retired into the woods to pray, and got in among the boughs of a fallen tree, and then in the utmost anguish of my soul I cried unto God for mercy, so loud that the people at the house heard me. After this I felt something easier; but still had no peace. I then went to one of the near neighbors, and advised them to go with me and hear the preacher, whom I spoke so highly of that they all went. When we got there the preacher had come, and there was a large concourse assembled; a great many more than could get into the house. I went in, sat down, and took my little son upon my knee. The preacher began soon after.
POWERFUL PREACHING. —His word was attended with such power that it ran through me from head to foot, and I shook and trembled like Belshazzar, and felt that I should cry out if I did not leave the house, which I determined to do, that I might not expose myself by crying out among the people; but when I attempted to put my little son down and rise to go, I found that my strength had failed me, and the use of my limbs was so far gone that I was utterly unable to rise. Immediately I cried aloud, like the penitent of old, “Save, Lord, or I perish!" But before the preacher concluded, I refrained and wiped my eyes; my heart gave way to shame, and I was tempted to wish I was dead or could die, as I had so exposed myself that my neighbors and acquaintance would laugh at and despise me. When meeting was over I thought to speak to the preacher; but such a crowd got around him disputing points of doctrine, that I could not conveniently get an opportunity.
FAMILY PRAYER. —That evening I set up family prayer, it being the first time I ever had attempted to pray in my family. My wile being a strict Presbyterian and professor of religion, she was a praying woman and much pleased with having family prayer; so that she proved a great help to me, and endeavored to encourage me in my duty; although, dear creature, at that time she knew nothing of experimental religion.
A WRETCHED SINNER. —Sunday, 11th, my wile and I went eleven or twelve miles to meeting, in order to hear the same Methodist preacher again. When we arrived at the place, the preacher was walking across a field. I went and related to him my distress of soul, and told him that I had a desire to be baptized, hoping that it would be of service to make me better, and relieve me of my distress, for I had no idea of faith in Christ. He asked me if I was a Quaker. I told him no, I was nothing but a poor, wretched, condemned sinner. He then exhorted me to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and applied the promises of the gospel. I replied I could not believe that Christ would have mercy on such a sinner as I was, and burst into a flood of tears. He then said I was the very man that Christ died for, or he would not have awakened me. That it was the lost Christ came to seek, and the greatest of sinners He came to save, and commanded me to believe. We then went to the house. He soon began to preach, and I stood outside the door, for I was afraid to go in lest I should expose myself again, as on the Friday before. In his prayer he particularly prayed for the poor broken-hearted sinner. His cries to God on this occasion ran through my heart like darts and daggers. After meeting I returned and prayed in my family, and ever after continued that duty.
SLEEPLESS. —That night I lay alone, expecting to sleep little, but to pray and weep all night. Whenever I fell into a slumber, it appeared to me that I saw hell opened ready to receive me, and I just on the point of dropping in, and devils waiting to seize me. Being thus alarmed, it would rouse me up, crying to the Lord to save me. And thus I passed the whole night in this terrified, unhappy condition.
A BEAUTIFUL DREAM. —Just at the dawning of the day I fell into a doze more like sleep than any I had during the whole night, in which I dreamed that I saw a river as clear as crystal, in the midst of which appeared a rock with a child sitting upon it, and a multitude of people on the shore, who said the child would be lost. I then saw a small man on the bank of the river, whose hair was very black, and he and I wrestled together. I heard the people cry out, “The child is lost!” and, looking round, I saw it floating down the river, and when it came opposite where we were it threw up its wings, and I saw it was an angel. The man with whom I wrestled told me there was a sorrel or red horse chained head and hind foot in the river, and bade me go down and loose him. The people parted to the right and left, forming a lane for me to pass through. I immediately hastened to the river and went in, the water running over my head, and without receiving any kind of injury I loosed the horse, and immediately I sprang out of the water like a cork or the bouncing of a ball, and at that instant I awoke, and saw, by faith, the Lord Jesus Christ standing by me, with His hands extended wide, saying to me, “I died for you.” I then looked up, and by faith I saw the Ancient of Days, and He said to me, “I freely forgive thee for what Christ has done.” At this I burst into a flood of tears, and with joy in my heart cried and praised God, and said, “O! that there were a minister to give me the Lord’s Supper!”
SAVED. —Then by faith I saw the Lord Jesus come to me as with a cup in His hand, and He gave it to me, and I took it and drank thereof. It was like unto honey for sweetness. At that moment the Scriptures were wonderfully opened to my understanding. I was now enabled to interpret the dream or vision to my own satisfaction; viz., the river which I saw represented to me the river of life proceeding from the throne of God, spoken of by the Psalmist, XLVI, 4, and also in Rev. XXII, I. The numerous company on the shore represented the angels of God, standing to rejoice at my conversion, according to Luke XV, 6, 7. The sorrel or red horse I thought was my own spirit or mind, fettered with the cords of unbelief or the chains of the devil. The color represented the carnal mind, or nature of Satan, which was stamped upon me, and thus I was plunged into the river, where the cords of unbelief were immediately loosed by faith and my captive soul set at liberty; and my bouncing out was the representation of the lightness of my heart, which sprang up to God upon my instantaneous change from nature to grace. The man at whose command I was loosed was Christ. Thus I was set at liberty from the chains of bondage and enmity of the carnal mind.
SAFELY LANDED. —At this time I thought of my daughter, who was under distress of soul. She was about fourteen years of age. I looked up toward the chamber where she was with a particular concern for her conversion, and the Lord said to me, “She is safely landed,” which was accompanied with a conviction in my mind that she had found the Lord, which was the case as I found after I arose and spoke to her. I have since thought that the child I saw in my vision or dream might represent my daughter, who, instead of being lost, was safely landed. She served the Lord a number of years, and died triumphant in the faith, and I have no doubt but our loss was her infinite gain, and that she landed in glory.
“LIGHT AS A BIRD.” —My heart felt as light as a bird, being relieved of that load of guilt which before had bowed down my spirits, and my body left as active as when I was eighteen, so that the outward and inward man were both animated, and I felt as if I could have sprung from the bed to the fire, which was about fifteen feet.
A FALSE REPORT. —A report was spread all through the neighborhood that I was raving mad. At evening I returned home, and asked my wife about her conviction and conversion, expecting, as she professed religion, that she knew what heart religion was; but to my astonishment I found she never had experienced a change of heart. She had been awakened when young under a sermon of Mr. Hunter, a Presbyterian minister, which brought her to prayer; but in process of time it wore off again. About seven years after that, as a brother of hers was sitting under a fence watching for deer, another man who was also hunting, about sunset, seeing his head through the fence, and taking it to be a fox, shot and killed him. This unfortunate affair gave her another alarm, which brought her again to prayer; but this also wore off in a short time, and she lived in neglect of that duty until after we were married and had three children, at which time the measles came into the family, and under her afflictions and distress she covenanted with God to be more religious, from which time she became a praying woman, and joined the Presbyterian Church, and was looked upon as a very religious person, although she rested short of conversion, and remained a stranger to the new birth.
AN UNCONVERTED PHARISEE. —I told her that she had no religion, and was nothing more than a strict Pharisee. This gave her displeasure, and she asked me if I thought that none had religion but those who knew it. I told her no, not one, for all who had it must know it. Next day she went ‘to her minister to know what he thought of it. He told her she was right, for people might be good Christians and know nothing about what I insisted on, and advised her not to mind me, for I was expecting to be saved by my works. This gave her a momentary satisfaction, and home she came, quite strong, and attacked me, and related what her minister had said.
A FALSE SHEPHERD. —She also brought a book which he had sent me, requesting I would read it, entitled, Bellamey’s “New Divinity,” in which he insisted upon conversion before conviction, and faith before repentance. I read it about half through, and found him a rigid predestinarian. His doctrine of decrees and unconditional election and reprobation so confused my mind, that I threw it by, determining to read no more of it, as my own experience clearly proved to me that the doctrines it contained were false. Next day my wife carried the book back. I desired her to tell the minister, from me, that it was full of lies, which Scripture and experience both proved. He sent for me to come and see him. Accordingly the day following I went and dined with him. After dinner he requested all the family to withdraw from the dining-room. They did so, and he and I were left alone. He then told me he understood that God had done great things for me, whereupon I related my conviction and my conversion. He paid a strict attention until I had done, and then told me that I was under strong delusions of the devil. He got a book out of his library for me to read. As he handed it to me, the Lord showed me by the voice of His Spirit that the book was not fit for me. However, I disobeyed the Divine impression, and took it at the minister’s request. I returned home, felt a temptation to doubt, and called to mind my various sins; but none of them condemned me.
VICTOR OVER DOUBT. —I then thought upon a particular sin, which I concluded would condemn me; but in a moment I felt an evidence that that sin was forgiven, as though separate from all the rest that ever I had committed; but recollecting the minister had told me that “I was under strong delusions of the devil,” it was suggested to my mind, “It may be he is right.” I went a little out of the road, and kneeled down and prayed to God, if I was deceived to undeceive me, and the, Lord said to me: “Why do you doubt? Is not Christ all-sufficient! Is He not able? Have you not felt His blood applied?” I then sprang upon my feet, and cried out, “Not all the devils in hell, nor all the predestinarians on earth should make me doubt, for I knew that I was converted.” At that instant I was filled with unspeakable raptures of joy. When I got home my wife asked what the minister had said. I told her, and that he had no religion, at which she burst into tears, and wept to think I should say the minister had no religion. She said it was dreadful that I should condemn their minister. She then said, “You hate me and all the Presbyterians.” I replied, “No, my dear, I love you all; but as yet I have not found one converted Christian among you.”
RAPTURES. —For three days I continued in these Divine raptures of joy, and thought I should have no more trials of warfare, not being acquainted with the travails of a Christian through ‘the snares and dangers in life. But the fourth day I fell into heaviness through powerful temptations. The devil harassed my soul with fear that I had grieved the Spirit of God, and that it had left me. A severe temptation ran through me: “Let him go if he will! Let him go if he will!” Then it was strongly suggested to my mind, that I had as good turn back to my old ways again; but I cried: “No! I love my Jesus! I never will. No, not for a thousand worlds.” In the evening I prayed as usual; but still felt as if dark and forsaken. After I got into bed the Lord visited me in a powerful manner, and I lay as in the arms of Jesus.
A DREAM FULFILLED. —Toward the dawn of day, in a dream I thought I saw the preacher, under whom I was awakened, drunk and playing cards, with his garments all defiled with dirt. When I awoke and found it a dream I was glad, although I still felt some uneasiness on his account. In about three weeks after I heard that the poor unfortunate preacher had fallen into sundry gross sins, and was expelled from the Methodist connection. Thus I saw my dream fulfilled. The tidings of his fall filled me with such distress that I wandered about like a lost sheep, with these reflections: If the head is thus fallen, what will become of me, or what combats, may I have with the devil? At length, when in prayer under sore temptation, almost in despair, a new thought was impressed on my mind, that I must not trust in ‘the arm of flesh, for cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. I then saw that my salvation did not depend on his standing or falling. I had to stand for myself, and to give diligence, through grace, to save my own soul; that my soul must answer at the bar of God for my own deeds. I found the Bible held out free grace to all, and for all, and that Christ tasted death for every man, and offered gospel salvation to all; therefore, I could not bear those contracted partial doctrines of unconditional election and reprobation.
THE UNCONVERTED ELDER. —A few days after an elder of the Presbyterian meeting came to talk with me, to whom I told my experience, and that I knew that God for Christ’s sake had forgiven my sins. He replied that he had been a member of the Church twenty-five years, and never before heard any one say that he knew his sins were forgiven; and for any one to say that he knew his sins were forgiven he ought to be burned, for he made himself as perfect as an angel in heaven. “Nay,” said he, “I would help to burn such a man myself.” I told him, if he never had felt a conviction for sin, to make him cry to God to save him a poor sinner, and had not felt the blood of Christ applied to the washing away of his sins, his religion was still no better than the devil’s. This shut him up, and he went away silent, and afterward told his minister that he slept none that night. When he afterward related this to me, I told him that I wished that he had never slept any more until he had found Christ.
ASKING A BLESSING. —Some days after I went to Woodstown, about twelve miles from home, where I met with an old acquaintance, who invited me to dine with him. I went, and when we were about sitting down to dinner I proposed to ask a blessing; and as soon as I began the two journeymen burst out a laughing, at which I arose and began to exhort them all in a very rough manner, thundering out hell and damnation against the ungodly with tears in my eyes. This broke up dinner, and neither of us eat anything. S. Smallwood, a young woman, being present, was much affected, and asked me home with her. Accordingly I went, and when we got there she related to her mother, Mrs. Sparks, all that had passed. The old lady and I soon fell into conversation. She was a pious Moravian. I was truly glad that I had found a witness for Jesus, she being the first person I had conversed with since my conversion who testified the knowledge of sins forgiven. She knew that God, for Christ’s sake, had freely forgiven her sins. We had a comfortable time in conversing together on the things of God. She told me that I was the first person she had met with in that place who could testify that their sins were forgiven. I left her with strong impressions on my mind to preach the gospel, and on my way home began to illustrate on the green tree and the dry; the dry times and the green times.
BIBLE READING. —I still continued to read and examine the Bible, being fully convinced that a dispensation of the gospel was committed to me from the very hour that I had found peace with God. From that time I exhorted all that I had any intercourse with. The Scriptures were wonderfully opened unto me, and became my meditation by day and by night, for often when asleep, texts were brought to my mind, the Spirit divided them into heads, and I preached from them in my sleep. I frequently awoke, not knowing where to find the text I had been preaching from, and inquired of my wife if she knew; and upon her replying that she did not, I have lain a few minutes, and God has revealed to me both chapter and verse, which I desired her to remember, and in the morning found it as the Lord had revealed it to me.
PREACHING—This so frequently occurred, that my wife used to say, “You are always preaching.” However, it caused her ‘to ponder these things in her heart. I saw that if ever I should win her to Christ, it must be by love and a close walk with God, for I observed that she watched me closely. She went many times to her minister, and he as often daubed her with untempered mortar, and she would return again strong in her own opinion. But when she observed to him that there was an alteration in me, he replied that I expected to get to heaven by my works. When I told her that I should be a preacher, she replied, “You look like a preacher, and do not understand one text in the Bible.”
WIFE CONVICTED. —However, I continued to go on, and about this time Philip Gatch, one of the Methodist preachers, preached about four miles from our house. My wife and I went to hear him. He gave us an alarming discourse, which reached the heart of my wife. She called him aside, after preaching, and said, “If what my husband tells me and what you preach be true, I have no religion.” He came to me and told me my wife was awakened, and that we must go with him to the place where he was to preach in the afternoon. We accordingly went. After he had done preaching he asked me to go to prayer. This was a great cross, as I had never prayed in public except in my family. However, I felt it my duty to comply, and accordingly took up my cross, and the Lord wrought powerfully upon the people. Among the rest, my wife was so wrought upon that she cried aloud for mercy. So great was her conviction, that for three days she ate, drank, or slept but little. She now saw she had only been a Pharisee, and was in a lost condition.
FAMILY CONVERTED. —On the third day, in the afternoon, she went over to John Murphey’s, a neighbor of ours, a sensible man, and one well experienced in religion. After some conversation with him she returned home, and upon her way the Lord broke in upon her soul, and she came home rejoicing in God. During her absence I went from home to visit a sick man, with whom I tarried all night. On my return next morning she met me at the door with tears of joy; we embraced each other, and she cried out, “Now I know what you told me is true, for the Lord hath pardoned my sins.” We had a blessed meeting. It was the happiest day we had ever seen together. “Now,” said she, “I am willing to be a Methodist too.” From that time we went on, hand and hand, helping and building each other up in the Lord. These were the beginning of days to us. Our children also began to yield obedience to the Lord, and in the course of about three months after my wife’s conversion we had six children converted to God, two sons and four daughters, the youngest of whom was only seven years old.
HOUSE-TO-HOUSE WORK. —My neighbors when sick now began to send for me to pray with and for them, some of whom, after they recovered, were ashamed, lest they should be laughed at for sending for “old Abbott” to pray with them. There was one remarkable instance, which I shall here mention; viz.: I dreamed that one of my neighbors had a fire broke out and I worked at it until it became pure gold. I then told him that he was one of the richest men in the world. Soon after, I dreamed that a fire broke out and run through all ‘his plantation, and then died away, and the whole appeared to be a coal-mine. It rested on my mind what these dreams could mean. In a few weeks this neighbor was taken sick, and lay very ill with pleurisy. His life being despaired of, he requested them to send for me to pray with him. I got out of my bed and went. When I got there he told me that the Lord had warned him to send for me, and that all his sins had passed before him that night, and that he expected to die and go to hell; but that he now felt his anguish and guilt removed, and his mind filled with remarkable peace. I told him his soul was converted. He suddenly clasped his hands and sprung up in the bed praising God aloud, exhorting all in the place to repent and turn to God. His words wrought so powerfully on their hearts, that a general weeping took place. That night his disorder broke, and he recovered and lived some years in the service of God, then died a happy man; but his family, who were all struck with the power of God the night of his Conversion, lost their desires for salvation. Then I understood that the fire, which I had seen in my dream, was the heavenly fire which had caught in him and run through all his family. The pure gold was that treasure he retained in his own soul; the coal-mine, his family, who lost their desires, and were dead and barren in religion.
LEARNING OBEDIENCE. —At another time, on a Saturday night, I dreamed that the next day there would be a disappointment, and that the expected preacher would not come, and that the Lord said to me, “You must go and preach, for you must speak for Me.” I awoke, and awaked my wife, and told her my dream. She replied, “You are always dreaming about preaching; there is no doubt but what the preacher will be ‘there” I said, “Very well, we will go and see.” Accordingly we went, the people gathered; but no preacher came. One of the men said, “We ought not to let the people go away without singing and prayer,” which I thought very right, and concluded within myself to preach. A hymn was sung, and one went to prayer; but the cross was so great that my heart failed, and I did not attempt to speak. The people being dismissed, I returned home sorely distressed, that I had been so fearful as to disobey the Divine impression that had attended my mind. Thus I fell into great heaviness and deadness, and wandered about the fields. At length I retired into the woods and covenanted with the Lord, that if He would reveal Himself to me again, as He had done before, I would go and preach wherever He would send me, even if it were to devils. That instant the Lord broke into my soul with power. I arose from my knees, and preached to the very trees of the woods. I was resolved, through grace, the first opportunity that offered to preach to men.
MORE PREACHING. —A few days after a neighbor died, and I was requested to attend the funeral. As I rode to the place, these words, “Circumcise your hearts, for tomorrow the Lord will do great things among you,” rested weightily on my mind. When I got to the place I stood up and said, “The Lord has shown us what we shall all come to, in taking this, our fellow-mortal, from time to eternity,” then went to prayer, and when I arose from my knees I took my text and preached. The Word had effect on many, and we had a weeping season. From that time I went on to preach as occasion served, from time to time, and the fruit which ‘the Lord gave me was a satisfactory evidence that He had called me to the work of the ministry, and had committed a dispensation of the gospel unto me. Some time after this, as I was on my way to hear one of the Methodist preachers, it was strongly impressed on my mind that the preacher would not be there, and that I must preach from a certain text which then was given me. When I got to the place I understood that the preacher was so unwell that he could not come. One of the principal members in that place asked me to pray with the people. After prayer I arose and took my text and began to preach, at which the people were surprised, it being very unexpected to them. However, it was a time of liberty and power.
CONVICTION OF A MURDERER. —After meeting a man asked me to preach at his house the next Sabbath. Accordingly the appointment was made, which I attended, and felt a great opening in Divine things, and the people were much wrought on. It was in a neighborhood where there never had been any Methodist preaching before. The following extraordinary occurrence took place: While I was speaking with great zeal, and exclaiming against the various abominations of the people, and pointing out their enormous sins, I cried out, “For aught I know, there may be a murderer in this congregation!” Immediately a lusty man attempted to go out; but when he got to the door he bawled out, and stretched out both his arms and run backward, as though some one had been before him pressing on him to take his life, and he endeavoring to defend himself from the attack until he got to the far side of the room, and then fell backward against the wall and lodged on a chest, and cried out very bitterly, and said: “He was the murderer, for he had killed a man about fifteen years before, and that two men met him at the door with pointed swords, and pursued him across the room to stab him!’ Thus he lay, and cried with great anguish of soul. This surprised me so much that I stopped preaching. The people were greatly alarmed, and looked on the man with the utmost astonishment. After a short pause I went on again, and finished my discourse. The man, who was in this wonderful manner wrought upon, recovered himself and went away, and I never have seen or heard of him since.
WAR. —The American war came on, and this increased our persecution; for hitherto we had been persecuted as Methodist Christians, but in addition to this we were now branded with toryism; for the Methodists were considered by their persecutors as tories; and I am sorry to say that the improper conduct of some, both preachers and members, gave some grounds for the suspicion. However, to be called a Methodist was a certain imputation of toryism in the estimation of our enemies ; but for my part I never meddled in the politics of the day. My call was to preach salvation to sinners, to wage war against the works of the devil. One day Major H—— asked me if I preached up for war. I told him no, I did not. He then asked me what I did preach. I told him that I preached repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, and that all who did not experience this would be damned and go to hell. He appeared angry at this answer; but when I related to ‘him my conviction and conversion, he was calm and wished me well. I asked him to come and hear me, and then he would know my manner of preaching.
DELIVERED. —At a certain time I had an appointment to preach at D. G—’s, in Deerfield, at which a mob collected, and threatened to tar and feather ‘the preacher if he came and attempted to preach. Mr. G— met me upon the road, and advised me to go back, for the mob had collected in order to tar and feather me. At first I thought I would return. Consulting with flesh and blood, I concluded that it would be a disagreeable thing to have my clothes spoiled and my hair all matted together with tar, etc. But those words reviving in my mind, “The servant is not greater than his Lord,” I immediately resolved to go and preach, even if I were to die for it. ‘When we arrived at the place there was a large congregation assembled, so that the house could not contain them, and a number stood round about the door. I went in among them and gave out a hymn; but no one sung. I then sung four lines myself, while every joint in my body trembled, and then said, “Let us pray; “but before prayer was over, the power of God fell on me in such a manner that it instantly removed from me the fear of man, and some cried out. I arose, took my text, and preached with great liberty, and before the meeting was over I saw many tears drop from their eyes, and the head man of ‘the mob said that he had never heard such preaching since Mr. Williams went away; so I came off clear. Glory be to God, who stood by me in this trying hour!
SANCTIFICATION. —Meeting with one of our preachers, I told him how great things the Lord had done for poor me. He replied: “it is nothing to what He will do for you if you are faithful, for it is the will of God, even your sanctification.” “Why,” said I, “I am happy in God already; but if there is such a blessing to be had, I am determined to have it.” And from that time I began to seek for it. In examining, I found in the Bible that it was the will of God, even our sanctification. I soon hungered and thirsted for full salvation. In family prayer one morning the hand of the Lord came upon me in such a manner that I felt the impression, as though one had laid a hand upon me, attended with such power that I thought I should die; but unbelief took place, and the power withdrew, or I believe that God would have sanctified me that moment. At night I was afraid to pray for such power, for fear that God would kill me; therefore my prayer was only lip language. By this time I got very dead. However, next night I prayed from my very heart for the power again, live or die, and God poured out his Spirit upon us all in such a manner that the place was glorious because of the presence of the Lord, and His dying love filled all our hearts.
PRAYER ANSWERED. —I was now engaged for the blessing more than ever. Soon after, D. Ruff came upon the circuit, and my house being a preaching-place he came and preached, and in the morning, in family prayer, he prayed that God would come and sanctify us soul and body. I repeated these words after him, “Come, Lord, and sanctify me, soul and body!“ That moment the Spirit of God came upon me in such a manner that I fell flat to the floor, and lay as one strangling in blood, while my wife and children stood weeping over me. But I had not power to lift hand or foot, nor yet to speak one word. I believe I lay half an hour, and felt the power of God running through every part of my soul and body, like fire consuming the inward corruptions of fallen, depraved nature. When I arose and walked out of the door, and stood pondering these things in my heart, it appeared to me that the whole creation was praising God. It also appeared as if I had got new eyes, for everything appeared new, and I felt a love for all the creatures that God had made, and an uninterrupted peace filled my breast. In three days God gave me a full assurance that he had sanctified me, soul and body. “If a man love Me he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John XIV, 23), which I found, day by day, manifested to my soul by the witness of His Spirit. Glory to God for what he then did and since has done for poor me!
PENTECOST REPEATED. —Some time after I went to Salem, and A. H. —— came to me and said, “I understand that you preach.” I said, “Yes.” Then said he, “Will you come and preach at my house?” I said, “If you please, you may give it out next Sabbath-day.” He did so, and accordingly I attended, and found a large congregation assembled, to whom I preached, and God attended the word with power. Some cried out, and many were in tears. After sermon I made another appointment for that day two weeks, at eleven o’clock. There being an elder of the Presbyterian Church present, he asked me if I would come and preach at his house. I told him that I would, on that day two weeks, at three o’clock. Another said it was the truth I had spoken; but in a very rough manner. At the time appointed I attended, and found many people at both places. At the first, I felt much freedom in speaking, and after sermon found that both the man and his wife were awakened. At the second, great power attended the word, several cried aloud, and one fell to the floor.
HELL-NECK. —The Sabbath-day following I preached in a place called Hell-Neck, which name took its rise from the wickedness of the people. One sinner said he had heard Abbott swear, and had seen him fight, and now he would go and hear him preach. The word reached his heart, and he soon after became a convert to the Lord. After meeting he invited me home with him, and several others invited me to preach at their houses, so that I got preaching-places all through the neighborhood, and a considerable revival of religion took place, although it had been so noted for wickedness. Among others, a young lad about fifteen was awakened, and in a few weeks found peace. His father being a great enemy to religion, opposed him violently, and resolved to prevent his being a Methodist, and even whipped him for praying. This soon threw him into great distress, and on the very borders of despair. At length he was tempted to think he had sinned against the Holy Ghost, and thought he had cursed God. I heard of it, and went to see him. He told me his temptations, and cried out: “There! I have now done it,” and clapped his hand on his mouth. I told him he had not done it, and that he would not do it for the world. His mother began to cry, and his father soon came in, and I warned him against such conduct toward his son; but he told me it was all delusion. “Who told you so?” said I. “D. P. “ said he, “and he is a Presbyterian, and a good man.” “Tell D. P that he is a deceived man,” said I, “for that is the true work of God upon your son.” The son then cried out, “The Lord is here! the Lord is here !”
NOT A FREEMASON. —The father said to me, “Benjamin, are you not a Free Mason? “I told him no. I knew nothing of Freemasonry; but I knew that this was the operation of the Spirit of God. The father then wept. I went to prayer, and the family were all in tears. After this the son went on joyfully. After I left this house I went to another of the neighbors, and after some conversation with them I went to prayer. The man kneeled, but the woman continued knitting all the time of prayer. When I arose, I took her by the hand and said, “Do you pray?” and looking steadfastly at her, added, “God pity you!” This pierced her heart, so that she never rested until her soul was converted to the Lord. The whole neighborhood seemed alarmed. A Quaker, who one day came to hear me, asked me home with him. When I entered his house I said, “God has brought salvation to this house.” At prayer, in the evening, his daughter was struck under conviction, and soon; after, the old man, his wife, three sons, and two daughters were all brought to experience religion, so that we had a considerable society.
FEARLESS. —But to return to my appointments. In Mannington great congregations attended. The man and his wife [at whose house it is probable Mr. Abbott preached] were both awakened and under strong convictions, and many others were stirred up to inquire the way to Zion. At the second place the minister thereof attended. I felt at first a great cross to preach before him, he being a learned man, and I supposed had come to hear me, with an evil design, as appeared afterward to be the case. However, I prayed to the Lord not to let me be confounded. After I began my cross was but light, and the minister, who sat before me, was no more than another sinner. The power of God rested upon us, and several cried out aloud, and two fell to the floor, agonizing for salvation. I tarried all night, and the minister and five or six of the heads of the Presbyterian meeting spent the evening with me, in order to dispute, and pick me to pieces if possible. The minister asked me if I was a Wesleyan. I answered, “Yes.” “Then,” said he, “you deny the perseverance of the saints.” “God forbid,” said I, “for none can be saved unless they persevere to the end.” “Then,” said he, “you believe the possibility of falling from grace?“ I answered, “Yes.” He then, in a very abrupt manner, gave me the lie; but when I told him that I could prove the doctrine by ‘the Word of God, he very passionately gave me the lie again. I quoted sundry Scriptures, particularly that of David’s fall, and turned to Ezekiel III, 20, 21, and wished him to read and explain the passage; but he would not touch the Bible. His elder said it read as I said, and he ought to explain it. He, in a passion, said he was brought up at a college, and certainly knew; but I was a fool, and he could cut such a fellow’s throat; then turned to his elder, and said: “If there was a dog’s head on your shoulders, I would cut it off. Do not you know the articles of your own Church? I will teach you better.”
MERITED REBUKE. —I told him the curse of God was upon all such watchmen as he was, who did not warn the people against sin; that if they lived and died in sin they could not be saved, and by his doctrine souls might fall away and perish; but their blood would be found in his skirts. He replied: “I could cut such a fellow’s throat. It makes my blood boil to hear the perseverance of the saints denied.” I then handed him the Bible, and desired him to clear it up. “But,” said he, “you are a fool, you know nothing at all. I was brought up at college, and I will have you before your betters.” He got so angry that he could say but little more. I told him that if we were ambassadors for Christ, we ought to go on hand and heart to attack the devil in all his strongholds. And then asked the man of the house if I should preach there again. But the answer was no. So this place was shut against me through the influence of the minister. But, glory to God! there were doors opened in Mannington, so that I was at no loss for places to preach at.
FACING BAYONETS. —On my return home I went with one of my old companions, who asked me if I would preach at his house in Woodstown. I told him I would. Accordingly an appointment was made, and we had a crowded house. While I was speaking a mob of soldiers came with their guns and bayonets fixed, and one rushed in, while the rest surrounded the door. The people fled every way, and he presented his gun and bayonet as though he would run me through. It passed close by my ear twice. If ever I preached the terrors of the law, I did it while he was threatening me in this manner, for I felt no fear of death, and soon found he could not withstand the force of truth; he gave way and retreated to the door. They endeavored to send him back again; but in vain, for he refused to return.
DRAFTED. —About this time the Government was drafting the militia to go into the service of their country. Among others the lot fell on me to go; but as I had a call to preach, I could not think of going out to fight. However, I had to pay a sum of money sufficient to procure another man to go in my place.
OPEN DOORS. —I rented a place in Mannington, near Salem, where the people were more friendly, and not so full of the spirit of war. Here I had many doors opened for me to preach, and a powerful work of religion took place, attended with several remarkable conversions, which I think worthy of notice. One was a woman who, after returning home from preaching, under great conviction, applied herself to prayer. And while she was about her housework, and as she walked across the floor, with her heart lifted to God in penitential supplication, the Lord applied these words to her, “Go in peace and sin no more,” and at that instant she was brought into liberty, and cried out: “I have got the Lord! I have got the Lord!” Her children asked what was the matter. To whom she repeated the same words. They then told her some one was coming. She replied, “I do not care, for I have got the Lord.” The man came in, and she continued to praise the Lord in such a manner that he was struck under deep conviction.
CONVERSION OF A QUAKER. —Another instance was a Quaker woman, who went from preaching under strong conviction and such anguish of mind that she paid no attention to her family, nor even to her sucking child. Early in the morning I was sent for. When I arrived she was sitting with both hands clenched fast in the hair of her head, crying out: “Lord, have mercy on me! Save, Lord, or I perish! I shall go to hell!“ etc. I told her to pray in faith, to look to Jesus, and lay hold of the promises, and God would have mercy on her. But she replied, “I can not pray.” I said, “You do pray very well; go on.” I then kneeled down and prayed. Three pious women who were present did so likewise. One of the women said she could not pray in English. I told her to pray in Dutch, for God understood that as well as English. The distressed woman appeared to be worse, like one going distracted. I then sung the hymn composed for one possessed of an evil spirit:
“King of kings, spread Thy wings!
Christ, our weakness cover,
Till the storm is over,” etc.
When these last words were sung, I felt such faith that I told them the Lord would deliver her, and said, “Let us pray.” I kneeled down. In a few minutes she clapped her hands together, and cried, “My Lord, my God, and my Father!” Her soul was immediately set at liberty, and she sprang up, rejoicing, praising, and giving glory to God. Her husband burst into a flood of tears, and said, “If my wife, who has been so good, had to undergo such distress, what will become of me?” I exhorted him to look to God, and he would find mercy. In about six weeks after he was safely converted.
STRUCK DOWN. —About the same time a man in the neighborhood, under great conviction, came to see me. Upon his way he was tempted to believe that the Scripture which says, “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee,” must be literally obeyed. He felt for his knife to try it; but had it not with him. He told me his distress, which both surprised and rejoiced me. He had lately been a bitter enemy to religion, and had used his wife ill on account of her being religious. After some conversation, I went to prayer with him. My wife and two or three of the children prayed also; but he got no relief. As he was returning on his way home he was struck to the ground by the power of God, and never arose until his soul was set at liberty.
SALVATION OF A CATHOLIC. —Another instance was a Roman Catholic, whose wife was religious. One Sunday morning he wanted her to go a visiting with him, instead of going to meeting, which she refused, being determined to go to meeting. This threw him into a great passion. However, he set off alone upon his intended visit; but before he had gone far he concluded he would return, and, with mace and murder in his heart, determining that she should go with him, or he would kill her. When he returned she met him, and spoke to him with such tenderness that his rage calmed away. He concluded he would go with her to meeting. They both came, and, under preaching, the word struck him with such power that he cried aloud under guilt and condemnation, and before all the congregation told what had passed in the morning, and wanted to know what he should do to be saved. I explained to him the way and plan of salvation, and in a short time after he found peace and became a steady religious man.
A SCHOOLMASTER SAVED. —A schoolmaster in the neighborhood, who was a learned, sensible man, but a very drunken and wicked one, got awakened, and so far reformed that he left off drinking to excess and other vices for some time; but at a certain time he gave way to temptation, and was overcome by strong drink. After he got sober, his mind was tormented with great terror, and he went to a neighbor’s house to tarry all night. In the night, after the family were all in bed, he could not sleep; but lay with tormenting reflections, which increased his fears, until at length he imagined that he saw two devils enter the room, in order to take him away. This frightened him out of bed, and he ran up into one corner of the room, and there screamed and fought as though he was fighting and beating off the two devils. This alarmed the whole family, who arose in great confusion and could not tell what to do. They sent over for me. I went, and found him in a shocking condition. I told him it was only the strength of imagination; that there were no devils there to take him away; but he still declared they were in the room; and what added to the awfulness of the scene was, at this time, a very dark and dismal cloud arose in the skies, that gave awful sensations to all who beheld it. At length a most remarkable flash of lightning came blazing from the clouds, and the streams of lightning flashed into the house, and a tremendous clap of thunder, equal to any I had ever heard, burst forth as if the place had been sinking, and the very house trembled. At this instant I felt the power of the Lord, like lightning, run through me. I instantly went to prayer, and they all fell upon their knees and were much affected, and continued in supplication, during the whole night. Soon after this, all the grown part of the family were brought into the liberty and knowledge of the truth, as it is in Jesus.
DEATH OF BENNY. —The second year that I lived in the township of Mannington, about the last of December, I lost my son Benjamin. He was in the fourteenth year of his age, and had been experienced in religion from the age of seven. When death was upon him, I said, “Benny, do you know you are dying?” He asked me if I thought he was. I said, “Yes, in a little time you will stand before the eternal God.” He instantly prayed as ‘though he had been in perfect health. While he was at prayer every person in the room wept, and some cried quite loud. He then, with a loud and strong voice, exhorted the neighbors who were present to prepare to stand before God, and turning to his brothers and sisters, he exhorted them to prepare to meet him at the right hand of God. I then called my wife to come and see her son die. She came, and asked him if he had no doubt. He answered with great fervor, “No! mamma, I know that my Redeemer liveth.” He then looked at me, and said, “Father, I shall meet you again in Paradise.” He then pointed with his finger, and said, “Who are them two men standing in white raiment? I long to get to them. I am going,” said he, and that moment he died and fell asleep in the arms of Jesus, without a sigh, groan, or struggle. On this occasion God gave me resignation. Though as a father I felt the loss of my son, yet I rejoiced that God had taken him to reign with Jesus in a better world. I exhorted those who were present not to cry, for God had answered my prayer in giving him a happy end, that his soul might be conducted by angels to Paradise. I believe, when he pointed with his finger and asked who they were standing in white, that he then saw the angels ready to accompany him to heaven.
SEEN IN A DREAM. —On a Saturday night I dreamed that a man came to meeting, and staid in class, and spoke as I never had heard any one before. Next day, James Sterling came to meeting, staid in class, and spoke much as I had heard and seen in my dream. After meeting I said to my wife, “That was the very man I had seen in my dream, and the Lord would add him to His Church.” Soon after he was thoroughly awakened, and converted to God. He yet stands fast among us, a useful and distinguished member, well known by many of our preachers and members.
“GREAT WONDERS.” —The work became pretty general. We used to hold prayer-meetings two or three times a week, in the evening, and often they have continued until twelve or one o’clock in the morning; sometimes we would begin preaching at eleven o’clock, and meeting not break up till night. Many long summer days we thus spent. Sometimes we used to assemble in the woods and under the trees, there not being room in the house for the people that attended. Often some of them would be struck to the ground in bitter lamentations. The Lord wrought great wonders among us. It was truly a fulfillment of that Scripture which says, “I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you?” (Acts XIII, 41.) Some very pious men thought strange of it, and some preachers when they visited us could hardly bear it. They thought we carried matters too far. One of them, who was a great man of God, when he came one evening we had one of those extraordinary times. At first he opposed it very pointedly; but afterward, dear man, he was greatly troubled about it, and expressed great sorrow that he had opposed it. I gave it as my opinion, that we ought always to be very careful and cautious how we oppose those powerful meetings, lest thereby we grieve the Spirit of God and injure souls, and thus be found fighting against God.
ALARMED. —The alarm spread far and near. The friends sent for me to come to New Mills, about sixty miles distant. I got ready, and went a day’s journey to a small village, and preached at night. In the morning my horse was gone. We hunted for him; but all in vain. I wrote some advertisements, and returned home. They sent for me again. Accordingly I went, and the first time I preached, God worked powerfully. We had a weeping time, and one fell to the floor. This alarmed the people, for they had never seen the like before. When meeting was over we took him to a friend’s house, and prayer was made for ‘him till the Lord set ‘his soul at liberty, and he rejoiced in the love of God. Word being sent to his sister that he had found the Lord, she said, “If my brother has found the Lord, I will never rest until I find Him.” She locked herself up in a room, and there prayed all night. In the morning the Lord broke in on her soul with such rapture of joy that she alarmed the town, and many came to see what was the matter. She told them that she had found the Lord.
INDIANS CONVERTED. —Next day I traveled some miles, and preached in a Presbyterian meeting-house. I had a large congregation, and spoke from these words, “Ye must be born again.” God attended the word with power, some wept, some groaned, and others cried aloud. I believe there were about twenty Indians present, and when I came out of the pulpit, they got all around me, asking what they should do to be saved, and tears ran in abundance; many of the white people also wept. This was a day of God’s power. From the accounts afterward given me, twelve were converted and many awakened. One who was a deacon in the Church, found the Lord and joined our society. I have spent many precious moments with him since that day. Here I told my experience, and it proved a blessing to many souls.
SWEARING JACK. —One young man, who went by the name of Swearing Jack, on account of his profaneness in conversation, said, “Such a man has been as bad as myself, and if he has found peace to his soul, why not I?” From that very hour he began to amend his life, and soon found the Lord precious to his soul, and joined the class. At quarterly-meeting I heard him speak his experience, and the goodness of God to ‘his soul, and the first words he spoke were, “Here stands Swearing Jack; but God has pardoned all my sins.” Which made a deep impression on the minds of the people, and we had a precious, melting time.
A CAPTAIN CONVERTED. —Next day I went to Brother S. F.’s, and preached in the evening to a crowded congregation, and God poured out His Spirit in such a manner that one fell to the floor. A captain and some soldiers came to take me up, but the Spirit of God took him up in such a manner that he returned home crying to God for mercy. For six weeks his distress was so great that they had to watch him for fear he would make away with himself. But the Lord sent the Comforter to his soul, and filled him with joy unspeakable. I saw him some time after, happy in God. We spent a precious time together, and parted in love. This meeting was a time of God’s power, many were awakened to a sense of their danger, and the people of God were happy, and for my part I was very happy.
ANOTHER DREAM. —There was also present a Quaker woman, the wife of a Quaker preacher’s son, who resided in Pennsylvania. She had dreamed the night before, that she saw two doves, the one milk white, and the other speckled, and that she must go to the place, and they would lead her to a spring as clear as crystal, and there she should drink her fill. Next morning, on the strength of her dream, she took her horse and chaise, and crossed the Delaware River, and came to the house just as I was going to preach in the evening. The Lord sent the word to her heart with such power that she cried out, “I shall be dead and damned before morning!” Many prayers were sent up to God on her behalf. This meeting continued till eleven o’clock. We then retired to bed, and in the dead of night, she, and the woman of the house, came into the room where we lay, wringing her hands, crying, “I shall be dead and damned before morning!” Desiring that we would get up and pray for her, we arose, and she related her dream. The woman of the house replied: “These are the two doves. It struck me like a clap of thunder, I am the speckled one. This caused me to search my heart.” I exhorted her to pray for herself. She did so, again and again, and we did the same for her. I then exhorted her to believe on the Lord Jesus, but she still received no answer of peace to her soul. We retired to bed again, but she walked the floor the remainder of the night. I think I never saw a poor soul in deeper distress. In the morning, after prayer, I took my farewell of the family. To her I said, “I never expect to see thee any more, until I see thee in a world of spirits.” But she replied, “Thou wilt see me again,” and asked me when I would be at home. I told her, and exhorted her to be engaged with God, and He would bless her soul. The woman of the house told me that she intended to come to my house as soon as I got home. But in two or three days she found God precious to her soul. I saw her again, about sixteen years after, and we had a precious time, in conversing together on the things of God. She could then talk Canaan’s language.
TOO FULL TO EAT —Sabbath-day, I preached in the morning, at a preaching-house, to a number of people. After meeting my nephew asked me to dine with him, with about one dozen more. When we sat down, I asked God for a blessing, and He poured out His Spirit in such a manner that the tears flowed in abundance. I exhorted them all to fly to Jesus. My soul was so happy that I could not eat. They then said to me, “Why do you not eat?” I answered, “God has given me meat to eat that you know not of.” Upon this we had a shower of tears, and dinner was laid by. I said, “Let us pray,” and we all kneeled down at the table, and I prayed; one cried out for mercy. When I arose, gave them an exhortation, and then went to my other appointment, and preached in a Presbyterian meeting-house to a hard-hearted people.
THREATENED. —I went to my next appointment, where they had threatened to tar and feather me. Some advised me to go some other way; but when I arrived at the place, I found a large congregation assembled, to whom I preached, and God attended the word with power—many shed tears in abundance. One young woman stood by the fire, and leaned her head against the mantel-piece, and wept to that degree that the tears dropped on the hearth until they made a small puddle. When I came to my application, I told them that I came to seek a bride for my Master, and added, “If you will deal kindly with Him, tell me.” Upon which the young woman pressed through the crowd to me, and said, “I will go with all my heart.” I applied all the promises that I was able, and told her that He would receive her. As I was about to depart, two young men came to me—one took hold of my leg, and the other held my horse by the neck, and said, “Will you go?“ I sat on my horse for some time, exhorting them to persevere, and the Lord would bless them. Many more stood weeping. So we parted, and I went to the New Mills. Here the people came out by hundreds, to whom I preached my farewell sermon. I returned home, and by Thursday night a letter was sent, informing me sixteen were justified and two sanctified. The reading of this letter filled my soul with love, and I was determined to preach sanctification more than ever.
A POWERFUL QUARTERLY-MEETING. —I went to a quarterly-meeting at Morris River, and we had a powerful time. The slain lay all through the house, and round it, and in the woods, crying to God for mercy. And others praising God for the deliverance of their souls. At this time there came up the river a look-out boat. The crew landed and came to the meeting. One of them stood by a woman that lay on the ground, crying to God for mercy, and said to her, “Why do you not cry louder?” She immediately began to pray for him, and the power of the Lord struck him to the ground, and he lay and cried for mercy louder than the woman. This meeting continued from eleven o’clock till night. How many were converted or sanctified is to me unknown. Next day I preached at Brother Coff’s, and had a precious time.
A GREAT DAY. —At my next appointment, the Lord made bare His arm of almighty power in such a manner that many fell to the floor. Their cries were very great, the sinners sprang to the doors and windows, and fell one over another in getting out. Five jumped out at a window, and one woman went close by me and cried, “You are a devil!” A young man cried out, “Command the peace!” But the magistrate answered, “It is the power of God.” Another, with tears in his eyes, entreated the people to hold their peace. To which an old woman replied, “They can not hold their peace, unless you cut out their tongues. Glory to God!” This day will never be forgotten, either in time or eternity! I was as happy as I could contain.
SANCTIFIED. —I went to Mr. Smith’s on Tuckehoe River, and preached, and the Lord attended the word with power. One fell to the floor. I then asked the people what they thought of it, and if they did not think it was of the devil. “If it is,” said I, “when she comes to, she will curse and swear; but if it is of God, she will praise Him. Therefore stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” The people stood amazed while she lay struggling on the floor for life. When she came to, she praised the Lord with a loud voice, and every power of her soul, declaring that God had sanctified her soul. I then met the society, and I impressed sanctification on them. God struck a woman to the floor, who had been fifteen years a professor of justification, and after some time she arose and declared that God had sanctified her soul. I exhorted all round her to claim the promise, and while she was speaking, God struck six or seven to the floor. I then opened the doors and windows, and desired the wicked to come and see the mighty power of God for themselves, and added, “If you will not believe this, you would not believe if God Almighty were to speak to you, as he did to Moses, in a flame of fire.” And before the meeting was over, six or seven professed sanctification of soul, among whom was, the wife of J. Brick, Esquire, who had been justified only eight days before.
THE TRUTH. —At my next appointment I preached with great liberty from these words, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John I, 8, 9), and many wept much. A Baptist being present who had been a great enemy to religion, when I had done, I asked him what he thought of what he had heard, and whether it was not the truth, as it was in Jesus. He replied, “It was,” and exhorted the people to believe it.
A FUNERAL SERMON.—Next day I went to my appointment at Wiretown, but a woman being dead close at hand, I was requested to preach her funeral sermon. While I was speaking, I observed to my hearers, that the darkest time in the night was just before the dawning of the day, and that this was the case with a soul groaning for redemption in Christ. For just as they saw themselves on the very brink of eternal damnation, destitute of every power to extricate themselves, the Sun of righteousness, the Lord of life and glory, broke in on their souls and set them at liberty. Up rose a Baptist woman, and said that she had come twenty miles through the snow to hear me, and then related her experience to the following purport: “I was standing on the hearth with my husband and two children, and thought the hearth opened before me, and I saw hell from beneath opened, and devils ready to receive me. I then started and ran into the room, and threw myself on the floor, and cried mightily unto God to have mercy on my soul. Meanwhile my husband went after the cattle, and I continued in prayer until the house was filled with the glory of God, brighter than the sun at noonday. I then arose and sat on the foot of the bed, wishing for my husband to return. After awhile he came. I ran out to meet him, and clasped him round the neck, and told him what God had done for my soul. The power of the Lord came upon me again, as it had done in the house, and I cried out in a such a manner that it frightened my husband and the cattle so that the cattle ran off again, and my husband went away also. I went to the house happy in God. And our people (meaning the Baptists) say it is only a delusion of the devil, for that God did not come to people in such a manner nowadays.” Then asked me what I thought of it. For I feel,” she said, “the same power on me now.” I told her it was the work of God, a change of heart, and that if ever the Lord had converted my soul, He had converted hers. She immediately laid hold of faith, and was instantly delivered from that anxiety and despair that had attended her mind.
OVERPOWERED. —I retired in secret. The power of the Lord came upon me in such a manner that I lost the power of my body, and cried out in such a manner that I alarmed the people, who had never seen the like before. When I recovered a little, I went and preached to them, and we had a precious time. Here I met with an old Israelite. We spent some precious time together. The night before I came, he was in sore distress, and experienced a deliverance. He and four of his family were happy in God.
SEED BY THE WAY. —I set out for quarterly-meeting, and on my way I stopped to get my horse shod, and went to a house where I found an old woman spinning, and asked her for a drink of water. She gave it to me. I said to her: “You have given me drink to refresh my body. I will strive to give you the waters of life, by persuading you to make application to Jesus.” After telling her the terrors of the law, and the promises of the Gospel, I asked leave to pray, which she granted. Three years after, as I was on my way to a quarterly-meeting, I met with about twenty persons, who were on their way to the same meeting. As soon as they saw me, a woman from among them ran to me, and said to me, “How do you do, my father?“ I asked her how she came to know me? She answered, “I will soon convince you I have cause to know you. Do you not remember asking me for a drink of water, and that you set before me the plan of salvation and went to prayer with me? You had not been gone half an hour, before I expected to be in hell every moment. I cried to God mightily without any intermission, until He set my soul at liberty, therefore I call you my spiritual father.” At quarterly-meeting we opened our love-feast with prayer, and the Lord made bare His arm. Some fell to the floor, and others ran away. Such a time they never had before. I. W. exhorted the mourners very powerfully, being himself converted the night before. The old lady, his mother, was very happy. When I was about to go, she put two dollars into my hand. This was the first that I had ever received as a preacher, but He that was mindful of the young ravens was mindful of me. I had always traveled at my own charge before. When I received this, I had but fifteen pence in my pocket, and was above two hundred miles from home.
A MARVELOUS MEETING. —Next morning I set out for quarterly-meeting at New Mills. After our meeting had been opened and several exhortations given, Brother C. Cotts went to prayer, and several fell to the floor, and many were affected, and we had a powerful time. After meeting, Brother J. S. and several others went with me to I. B.’s, where we tarried all night. Here we found a woman in distress of soul. After prayer, we retired to bed. In the morning, Brother S. went to prayer, and after him, myself. The distressed woman lay as in the agonies of death nearly one hour. When she arose, she went into her room to prayer, and soon after returned and professed faith in Christ. She and her husband went with us to Brother H.’s, where about forty persons had assembled to wait for us in order to have prayer before we parted. As soon as I entered the house, a woman entreated me to pray for her, and added, “I am going to hell! I have no God!” I exhorted her and all present, setting before them the curses of God’s law against sin, and likewise I applied the promises of the gospel to the penitent. Then a young woman came to me and said, “Father Abbott, pray to God to give me a clean heart.” I replied, “God shall give you one this moment.” How I came to use the word shall, I know not, but she dropped at that instant into my arms as one dead. I then claimed the promises and cried to God, exhorting them all to look to God for clean hearts, and He would do great things for them, at which about twenty more fell to the floor. When the young woman came to, she declared that God had sanctified her soul.
I saw her many years after, and her life and conversation adorned the gospel. Prayer was kept up without intermission for the space of three hours. Eight souls professed sanctification, and three Indian women, justification in Christ Jesus.
Chapter 1. From birth to conversion 1732-1772
Chapter 2. Preaching the gospel
Chapter 3. Amazing conversions
Chapter 4. More remarkable conversions
Chapter 5. Hindrances to the work
Chapter 6. Received on trial as an itinerant preacher 1789
Chapter 7. Anointed ministry to the end
We have included 3 of the 7 chapters.