Excerpts from
Memoirs of
Rev. Alfred Bennett

Here are some exerpts from the book I received, "Memoir of Alfred Bennett, First Pastor of the Baptist Church, Homer, NY and senior agent of the American Baptist Missionary Union" You will see he was married to Rhoda Grow, sister of Anna Grow Darby married to Joseph Darby. He baptized their sons, Thomas Darby Sr, father of the Thomas Darby that moved to Clarksville, Iowa, in the year 1820, and his brother Lyman Darby, father of William H. Darby & part owner of the Homer Grist Mill later on, that same year. They were his nephews through Anna Grow. He baptized Joseph Darby's sons with 2nd wife Asenath Tyler, Chauncey Darby, father of Dr. Edwin Darby in the year 1830, and Lydia Chesebrough, future wife of Joseph Darby Jr., & Joseph Darby Jr., Homer NY Potter, in the year 1835.

>From "The Memoir of Alfred Bennett, first Pastor of the Baptist Church, Homer, NY and Senior Agent of the American Baptist Missionary Union" by H. Harvey, published New York, Edward H. Fletcher, 1852:

Frontispiece reads: "To the Homer Baptist Congregation, this Memorial of Him who first Ministered to Them the Word of Life and, After Long and Faithful Toil in the Work of Christ died with Peaceful Triumph in their midst, is Affectionately Dedicated by Their (current - 1852) Pastor."

Also noted is the small print:" In presenting this work to the public, the publisher would bespeak the kind attention and interest of the friends of the subject of its pages, and mention that the arrangements of its publication are such as to secure to his widow a share in the proceeds of its sale".

YOUTH, CHAPTER I:

Alfred Bennett was born Sept 26, 1780, in Mansfield, Windham county, Connecticut...(to) Asa & Mary Bennett. Alfred was their second son. The eldest, Asa, was an officer in the Baptist Church at Homer, was a worthy coadjutor of his brother, and distinguished for his enlightened Christian zeal and godly life. The next younger is Rev. Alvin Bennett, of South Wilbraham, Mass, revered as a devoted and successful minister of the Gospel. The remaining son, Eleazar, made his residence for many years on the paternal estate, and lived and died a member of the church to which his father was attached, the Baptist church in Hampton, CT. The only Daughter to live to adulthood, Sarah, became the wife of Rev. William Palmer, and esteemed minister of Christ, in Norwich, Conn.

The nearest Baptist church was Hampton, about 15 miles distant. The churches of this religious denomination had been comparatively few in the land, and though less restricted in Connecticut than in Massachusetts, their growth was much repressed by legal enactments. The Baptist church had been of late, indeed, rapidly increasing, notwithstanding these adverse influences; they they were not even then numerous and their members were often widely scattered. Mr. Bennett's family, therefore, usually attended the Congregational church in Mansfield and received their religious education under the public instruction of the minister there.

He was baptized on the first Sabbath in February 1800, and united with the Baptist church in Hampton, Conn - then under the pastoral care of Rev. Abel Palmer. This step was taken, as he remarked, only "after strong conflicts of mind, much self-examination, and fervent prayer and wrestlings with God for direction."

ENTRANCE ON THE MINISTRY, CHAPTER IV:

Mr. Bennett was united in marriage with Miss Rhoda Grow, a daughter of Deacon Thomas Grow, of Hampton, in November, 1802. A general spirit of emigration was beginning at that time to prevails in New England, and its course turned mainly towards Central and Western New York. That region was then "the West". Nearly all cities west of Albany were then unbuilt. No steam-boat had yet plied upon the waters of the Hudson, or disturbed the quiet of the Indian in his hunting grounds upon the lakes. The iron horses which fly through the country and the canals bearing the wealth of a nation had not once entered the thought of man. But the emigrant, with his ox-team, conveying the whole of his earthly possessions, might be seen threading his way slowly through the wilderness, directed often only by marked trees to the place of his destination. Here an there a log cabin, with a small clearing around it, gave indications of the hand of industry and civilization; while a tavern and a rudely constructed School-house, which served also for a church, formed the nucleus of some future village. The hardy adventurer here contended with the forests for subsistence; and in much privation with vigorous arm secured for himself a habitation and an earthly competence.

Mr. Bennett became a resident of the town of Homer, Cortland (then Onondaga) Co, N.Y. in February 1803. That regions was then comparatively a wilderness. The first family had taken up its residence there in 1793; and in the following year, being joined by others, mostly religious people, from Connecticut and Massachusetts, meetings for prayer and exhortation were established, in which all united. Churches, however, were subsequently formed. When Mr. Bennett arrived, no house of worship had been built; the Baptist church, which was the first organized in the town of any denomination, worshipped in private dwellings and the Congregational church met in the only framed building in the village (with one exception), which was also used as as a town and school house. Here he began life as a farmer, in a log-house, with the forests around him to be felled by his own arm.

The little Baptist Church, with which he united in April, 1804, was subjected to much trial in its early history. It rarely enjoyed the ministry of the Word; and had few experienced members. The country was then in almost primitive wildness. Dense forests extended over large tracts, as yet unbroken by the hand of civilization, from whose recesses the bear and the fox often issued, and made depredations in the barnyards of the scattered settlers. On one occasion, it is related a huge bear having come out a nightfall from a neighboring thicket, carried off a large hog. Mr. Bennett, hearing the alarm hastily took his gun and went in chase. It was loaded only with buckshot, and having no balls at hand he thrust the ramrod into the barrel as a substitute. The bear, finding itself pursued, turned and showed a disposition to do battle for his prey. his pursuer fired, and the ramrod passing directly through the animal was lost in the ground. The beast fell lifeless and was borne home in triumph by the victor. Circumstances of this character were not uncommon.

Mr. Bennett entertained the thought of entering the ministry with great reluctance, from a painful sense of his deficiency in Christian attainment and literary culture. He had received nothing more than the mere rudiments of an English education , and must rely in his pulpit efforts solely upon the native vigor of his intellect and the teachings of the spirit of God. After nearly two years of conflict, he yielded to his convictions of duty and became a public minister of the Gospel. The Baptists were then few and feeble. Ecclesiastical oppression in New England, which sought to crush them had not yet ceased. The vital principle of religious liberty, for which they had struggled almost alone for many centuries, though it was now inscribed upon the national constitution and was rapidly effacing from the statute book enactments which invaded the freedom of conscience, had not yet thoroughly imbued the minds of even good men. It was not unfrequent that the public avowal of their tenets involved the confessor in general odium,, the loss of personal friendships, and even the dissolution of family ties. Under such circumstances, the position of a minister was one in nowise to be coveted either for its ease, its popularity, or its emoluments. The men who entered upon it were ordinarily impelled by an ardent love of souls and convictions wrought within them by the Spirit of God which they could not resist.

Having thus been introduced to the work of the ministry, he continued to preach to the little church gathered in Homer. In November of 1805, he was unanimously licensed to preach the Gospel anywhere within the bounds of the church; and in April of the following year, this license was made unlimited, and he was authorized to proclaim the tiding s of life in Christ Jesus "wherever God in His providence should open the door." In February, 1807, the church, by solemn resolution, called him to ordination which took place publicly, June 18, in the same year. The services of the occasion were conducted in the large barn, then new, on the premises of Hon. John Keep, now connected with the County Poor House. Rev. Ashbel Hosmer, pastor of the Baptist church, Hamilton, preached the sermon, from Galations 1, 10-12. Delegates were present from the following churches: First Church, Milton (Now Genoa), lisle, Dryden, Locke, Cazenovia, and Fabius. Thus he was put in charge of the feeble church in Homer, which under his pastorship, was yet destined to rise a monument of his faithfulness and the rich grace of God.

PASTORAL LABORS, CHAPTER V, & REVIVAL, CHAPTER VI:

A letter written September 18, 1810 contains the following remarks: "I expect, the Lord willing, to leave my family next Monday on a journey of seven or eight weeks to the westward, the most of it to be spent in missionary labors by appointment from the Hamilton Baptist Missionary Society...Last Lords day I baptized one; our number is now seventy-eight." Another tour of similar character was undertaken to Holland Purchase, in 1811, during which, in an absence of a little more than seven weeks, it is recorded, he rode five hundred miles, and preached fifty-seven sermons. The church, gradually augmented in number and strengthened by a stated ministry, at length reared a house of worship, located about a mile and a half south of the village of Homer, which was dedicated to the service of God in June 1812.

The commencement of this period found the church worshipping the the new meeting-house which had a debt of about one thousand dollars, without any means of payment. However, before the year closed, the church had more than doubled her numbers, the debt was paid off, and the congregation large and respectable. In this revival there were eighteen husbands, with their wives, and thirteen whose companions were members before, making forty-nine heads of families, who were permanently settled in town, respectable in society, converted to God and brought into the church, many of whom remain at this time as pillars in the house of God. (1852) Diary entries from 1816 show "March 15.- Preached at Bro. Keep's upon the importance of entering in at the strait gate, and then baptized six. Make me holy, then shall I be humble, then shall I be happy".

The most powerful of the revivals which distinguished the ministry of Mr. Bennett, occurred in 1820. Its general features cannot be described better than in the language of an article from Mr. Bennett's pen, published in the "Western New York Baptist Magazine" of 1821, and addressed to the editors, from which we make the following extract: "In December 1819, there were some symptoms of another gracious revival; Meetings became unusually crowded, even in he largest places devoted to conferences and the houses of God upon the Sabbath were filled with numbers assembled to hear the gospel of Christ. In one neighborhood on East River, sixteen souls hopefully experienced the forgiveness of sins in one week, within the compass of a mile; and young men and maidens, old men and children, united in praising the Lord. The first that united with the church were baptized the third Sabbath in February. On that day, there were thirteen baptized, ten of whom were young men in single life, who followed each other in succession in the ordinance, in the presence of a large and deeply affected assembly. From that time, during the spring & summer, scarcely a Sabbath passed without waiting upon some in the institution of baptism of God. The whole number added to the church by baptism, since the work began, is one hundred and twenty-six, and fifteen by letter."

(Note by Darby transcriber: Records show that Lyman Darby & Thomas Darby Sr. were baptized during this period of religious revival in 1820, by their uncle Alfred Bennett. They were the sons of Rev. Bennett's wife's sister Anne Grow married to Joseph Darby.)

CONTEMPORARIES, CHAPTER VII:

During his earlier life as pastor, Mr. Bennett occupied a conspicuous position amidst a group of men in the Madison Association, distinguished by their extraordinary mental endowments, the depth and power of their spiritual exercises, and the wide-spread influence they have exerted. Among them stood Jonathan Olmstead, with Samuel and Elisha Payne of Hamilton; the now venerable Ebenezer Wakely, of Pitcher; with Asa Bennett and John Keep, of Homer. These, with other distinguished laymen, were men of peculiar might. Their intellectual power was associated with great depth of experimental religion, they were gifted with extraordinary wisdom. Their garments were often homespun, but beneath them beat hearts glowing with love to Christ an to one another.

Prominent among the peers of Mr. Bennett was Ashbel Hosmer, pastor at Hamilton. One of the first in the ministry who had settled west of the Hudson, he was a pioneer in the wilderness, and stood until his death a leader among the churches. He died, 1812. Younger, but of higher mental power, was Salmon Morton, the pastor of Madison. He was a man of giant intellect, with wonderful compass and power of expression. Often would he hold an assembly for two hours in rapt attention, while he unfolded the profound mysteries of redemption.

Obed Warren, of Eaton, was another among the peers around the earlier life of Mr. Bennett. Above the ordinary stature, of ruddy countenance, his conclusions seemed rather the result of intuition than of reasoning, yet they were ordinarily verified by the most extended investigation. His prayers and counsels would always inspire you with confidence and hope. John Lawton, of German, was one of the seniors among his brethren. Above the medium height and somewhat slender in person, a countenance grave and mild was expressive of the qualities which distinguished him. He was a "Mr. Steadfast"; not a man to be turned from the right path either by passion or novelty, but always sound in the Scriptures. He was a man to be implicitly trusted, whose character the breath of reproach could never tarnish.

Peter P. Roots was for several years the only man of classical education. for eighteen years, he was incessantly engaged as a missionary. Of somewhat different characteristics was John Peck, then in youth, the active pastor of Cazenovia. Gentle and winning in manner, he touched the tenderer chords in the heart with a persuasive power. Simple and unpretending, grave and earnest, there was a heavenly-mindedness in conversation and prayer, an unaffected sincerity in his discourses. Nathaniel Kendrick of Eaton was a man of more capacious mind. He was a profound thinker in theology. On occasions of great magnitude, when the cause needed a powerful advocate, the lot commonly fell on "Elder Kendrick", whose literary acquirements, depth of thought, and disciplined powers fitted him to make the proper impression.

Others there were, also distinguished, as the venerated Thomas Purinton, of Truxton, and Daniel Hascall, of Hamilton, then in their prime and might, whose revered forms are still among us. (1852) From the men thus associated went forth influences of great power. Among them and the support of a great many different churches, originated the Hamilton Baptist Missionary Society, New York Baptist State Convention, New York Baptist Education Society, and the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution, over whose destinies Kendrick and Hascall long presided, and by which multitudes have been aided in preparation for the ministry, and sent forth to bless the world.

(Darby transcribers note: Rev. Chauncey Darby was a graduate of the Hamilton Literary & Theological Institution, and became a well-known Baptist minister in Binghamton, New York, after graduation.)

Among these men, Mr. Bennett held a distinguished position. His presence was always hailed with joy in the association. The announcement that he was to preach on any public occasion would always collect a crowd. A heavenly glow would seem to light up the speaker's mind, and his lips had utterance in burning words, as if touched with a living coal from the altar of God.

CLOSING PASTORAL WORK: CHAPTER VIII:

The family of Mr. Bennett, consisting of four sons and one daughter was struck by death. His daughter Elsina, while on a visit to Truxton, was suddenly attacked by disease, and in a few days hurried away by death, September 26, 1827, in her fourteenth year. The church had now become so large, that their house of worship was wholly inadequate for the accommodation of the congregation, and in 1827 a harmonious division of the body was effected, forming the three churches at Homer, Cortlandville, and McGrawville. Mr. Bennett continued in the pastoral office with that part which located in the village of Homer. In 1830, the Divine Presence filled their new sanctuary, and reviving influences were again felt. He wrote: In this village and other neighborhoods, the youth to the number of from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and seventy-five are engaged in Bible Class instruction, some having deep conviction for sin. A few have found peace by the blood of Christ, while many others are still inquiring." These signs of promise were not fallacious. In March of that same year he wrote: Perhaps forty or fifty souls have of late expressed hope in the Saviour and many more are under deep impressions of the mind.

(Darby transcribers note: Chauncey Darby was baptized by Rev. Alfred Bennett in 1830, Lydia Chesebrough & Joseph Darby Jr, in 1835)

MISSIONARY ENDEAVORS: CHAPTER IX - XI:

During his ministry he baptized more than seven hundred and seventy persons, who gave evidence to the church of their conversion to God, nearly all of whom made their public profession of faith while he was pastor. In report of his labors, given May 1848 for the year closed, it is stated that he had visited one hundred and twelve churches in New York, with twelve Associations; besides spending April and May chiefly in Ohio, and September and October in Wisconsin and Michigan. He had traveled about eight thousand three hundreds and fifty-two miles, and preached two hundred and fifty-two sermons, besides addressing different assemblies, on other occasions, nearly as many times more.

ILLNESS AND DEATH: CHAPTER XIL:

At the discourse for his funeral, May 12, 1851, public expressions of grief, and testimonials of his word were placed on public records, which was followed by numerous other religious bodies, both east and west, attesting their high appreciation of this character an services and deploring his removal as no ordinary loss to the churches of Christ. The Executive Committee of the Missionary Board entered upon their records "The Rev. Alfred Bennett, of Homer, New York, was for nearly a third of a century intimately identified with the cause of Foreign Missions; to his endeared memory it is declared that he uniformly gave the most unequivocal evidence of sincere, considerate, earnest devotion to its highest, holiest ends. He apprehended the object by an intelligent faith and pursued it with a perseverance that never faltered. At an early period he joyfully gave a son to the foreign service, who still survives, (1852) a useful laborer among the heathen. (Rev. Alfred Bennett's son Cephas, 1819-1884, was a fellow minister with Adoniram Judson in Burma where he died.) On his dying bed Rev. Alfred Bennett said, referring to some who had blamed him for what seemed to them over-exertion: "I am not sorry I have tried to work for Jesus, but I wish I had done a great deal more."

As a citizen, he was distinguished by an eminently public spirit. He did not allow himself to be associated with political movements, except on one occasion, which he ever regretted. He was a candidate for the convention to revise the constitution of the State of New York, in 1821, but the party nominating him was the minority. He was defeated. Mature reflection led him always to regard lending his name to politics as a mistaken step. His successful competitor was Samuel Nelson, now Judge in the Supreme Court of the United States. (1852). No man loved Homer more. As a trustee of the Academy, he was warmly interested in the promotion of its welfare, and the noble institution there located has found no warmer advocate of its character abroad. His salary when pastor never exceeded four hundred dollars, during the larger part of the time, it was only three hundred, and a portion of this was ordinarily paid in produce. He gave largely to objects of benevolence, and the needy always found in him a sympathizing heart and ready hand to help. He was one of the largest contributors for support of public worship in the church of which he was a member. The commodious lecture-room connected with their house of worship was erected exclusively at his expense, and presented by him to the society. The tours he took in his agency usually cost the Missionary Union nothing, as he defrayed his own travelling expenses; and a large sum was annually contributed from his salary.

CHARACTER: CHAPTER XIII

Integrity was a marked trait in him. He did nothing in the dark; his nature was frank and open. A blunt honesty distinguished his manner and so transparent was his life, that even the suspicion of misdealing could never fasten itself upon him. Men who seldom attended the services of any sanctuary would go when he was announced as the preacher, saying they liked to hear "Father Bennett " preach, because they thought he believed what he said. And to the last, few men were able to command so large a congregation in Homer as this earliest and revered pastor. Many fellow laborers, for whom he always retained the warmest affection, were members of the Congregational Church. His last meeting with the church in Homer, over which he so long presided, was at the celebration of the Lord's Supper, on the first Sabbath in February, the fifty-first anniversary of his public profession of Christ, when his emaciated countenance and tremulous voice gave to all sad premonitions of his approaching departure and added sorrow to the deep solemnity of that occasion.

He was a Sr. member of the foreign Mission Board, which office he continued until death. He was an adviser in most of the benevolent institutions of the Baptist denomination. At his decease, he was President of the New York Baptist State Convention and first Vice-President of the New York Baptist Union for Ministerial Education. The memory of "Father Bennett" will linger long in the hearts of the people of God. Associated with the hallowed recollections of the venerated Kendrick and Peck, and other kindred spirits, his name will be transmitted to after times as one of the pioneers of the Gospel and a stalwart defender of the truth of God. When the scroll of history, as written in heaven, shall be unrolled before the assembled world in the day of final adjudication, these servants of God will doubtless be seen conspicuous among the eminent witnesses for the truth and actors in the moral scenes of the past generation.

 

 

        Submitted by Lynda Ozinga. Email: ozlynn@chartermi.net.




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Created 11 June 2000

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