Abeel was born in New York City. His father was John Nelson Abeel, who was minister of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in New York. He graduated from Union College in 1823 and then studied at New Brunswick Theological Seminary. He was ordained in the Classis of Bergen in 1824. He was minister for Belleville, New Jersey while completing his Doctor of Divinity at Rutgers College. He earned his Doctor of Theology degree at Columbia College in 1842. His last post was in Newark, New Jersey, serving from 1849 to 1864.
Abeel married Mary Jane Nest in 1827.
- The Aged Penitent
- The Departed to the Bereaved
- Systematic Benevolence
- A Decennial Sermon, May 6, 1860
- A Eulogy in 1858 for Rev. Dr. James Scott.
- "Guide to the Papers of John Nelson Abeel and Gustavus Abeel 1786-1874". The New Jersey Historical Society. 2004. Retrieved May 17, 2012.