"I was taught to believe that the scriptures were the word of God, and that I must conform my life to them, that it might be well with me in this world, and that which is to come. When I was no more than five or six years old, I felt conscious that I was a sinner, and was concerned about my future state, so much so, that I frequently prayed; and so I continued alternately praying and sinning until I was about fifteen years old. At this age, I was more seriously impressed with a sense of the wickedness of my heart, and its alienation from God. I believed he was too holy to conform himself to my pleasure, and allow me to live in sin, and not bring me into judgment for it.
"I feared the judgment, because I had done only evil and that continually; and now to do good and please God was the important work before me. This I believed was to be accomplished by praying, reading the scriptures, and going to meeting to hear the gospel preached. To all this I gave attention, with sometimes more and sometimes less anxiety and diligence for nearly three years, when I found myself nothing better, but rather worse than when I first began to seek the Lord. My heart became hard and unfeeling, and I wondered that God, who was angry with the wicked every day, had not long since cut me off and sent me to destruction, — a condemnation which my conscience could not but have approved. I now felt a deeper and more abiding concern, but what to do I knew not, for it was now suggested that there was no hope for me, but that the time once was, when I first sought the Lord, when my conscience was tender, when I was young and had committed but little sin, that the Saviour would have taken me in the arms of his love and blessed me; but, inasmuch as I had cast off those early impressions, and desired that God would connive at my love of sin, and still take me to heaven when I died, and thus rejected the Lord in my childhood, the promise "suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," was to me lost, for ever lost. I now thought I was given over to unbelief and hardness of heart, to spend the remainder of my days in hopeless despair. Whatever my end might be, it was, however, my heart's desire that I might sin no more.
"'I now thought I had a clear view of the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, and saw plainly how sinners might be saved who would come unto him aright, confessing their sins and believing on his name. Seeing it thus, I tried with all the faculties of my soul to believe, but could not; and so I concluded had not come aright, and was rejected. I was glad, and in my greatest distress rejoiced that others could believe in Christ, and by believing, flee the wrath to come. My heart's desire was to be holy, and I loved God because he was holy. I trembled at the thoughts of the great day of final retribution, when I must be driven out from the presence of the great God who made me, and whom I adored. My secret desire then was, that others might be saved, for I wanted none to accompany me in my banishment from Heaven to the regions of misery and despair to which I believed I was doomed. I had been some three years earnestly seeking the forgiveness of my sins, and had seen the time when I could weep over them, but now my heart was hardened, and my tears all dried up, save only to weep because I could not weep. While on the verge of despair, I was walking alone along a narrow, solitary path in the woods, poring over my helpless case, and saying to myself wo is me! wo, wo is me! for I am undone for ever! I would I were a beast of the field! — At length, I found myself standing with my eyes steadfastly fixed on a small oak that grew by the path-side, and earnestly wishing that I could be like the little oak when it died and crumbled to dust. At that moment light broke into my soul, and I believed in Christ for myself and not another, and went on my way rejoicing.'"
It appears from the records of the Phillips' Mill Baptist Church, that he made a relation of his Christian experience to that church, July 7th, 1787, and was received as a candidate for baptism. He was baptized by his father, (probably on the following day,) being then in the eighteenth year of his age.
[From Charles D. Mallary, Memoirs of Elder Jesse Mercer, 1844, pp. 23-25.
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