Silas Mercer was born near Currituck bay, North Carolina, February, 1745. As his mother died when he was but an infant, his early training devolved more exclusively a upon the hands of the father, who being a zealous member of the Church of England, very carefully instructed him in the doctrines and ceremonies of that religious denomination. From early childhood, young Silas was the subject of serious impressions, but it was not till after he arrived at manhood, that he experienced a saving change. Previous to this happy event, he had been most devotedly attached to the rites of the Episcopal church, and as violently opposed to other religious denominations, and especially the Baptists. These were the people that above all others, he had been taught to dread; and he carefully and conscientiously shunned them as a company of deceivers, and a people infected with absurd and dangerous heresies. But possessing an independent spirit, and endowed with a vigorous and discriminating mind, when he came under the decided influence of correct religious principles, he was very naturally led into that course of investigation which gradually carried him beyond the control of educational prejudice and traditionary systems, and established him at last in a faith and practice more in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel. He very soon began to question the validity of sprinkling as scripture baptism, and in accordance with the rubric of the Episcopal church, which enjoined immersion except when the health of the child might seem to require a milder mode, he had two of his children dipped. The first was Jesse, who was immersed in a barrel of water at the clergyman's house; the other was a daughter who was subjected to the same ceremony in a tub prepared for the purpose in the Episcopal meeting-house.
In his progress towards more just and scriptural views, he was compelled to encounter the most formidable opposition. His father, under the influence of mistaken zeal and affection, cast every possible obstruction in his way; and to this were superadded the strenuous efforts of the clergyman, in connexion with all his Episcopal brethren around him. They spared no pains to keep alive his prejudices against the heretical Baptists, and to prevent all intercourse with that blind and infatuated sect. But in spite of his own long cherished antipathies, and the untiring opposition of beloved and honored friends, he gained his consent at length to attend a meeting of Baptists, and listen to a discourse from one of their ministers. This presumptuous and daring act provoked his father's resentment; and as the tears of grief and anger gushed from his eyes, he exclaimed, "Silas, you are ruined!" But neither the tears nor the rebukes of the disappointed father proved availing. The unreasonable prejudices of the son soon began to yield, and he was inclined to cherish more kind and charitable feelings towards the people he had so long despised. Not long after this he removed with his family to Georgia, and settled in Wilkes county. Having at length become thoroughly convinced of the propriety of believers' baptism, he was immersed about the year 1775, by Mr. Alexander Scott, and became a member of the Kiokee church. He rose from the water as it were, a minister of the gospel; for before he left the stream where he was immersed, he ascended a log and exhorted the surrounding multitude. Having been formally licensed by the church, he at once entered upon a course of ministerial labor, which was characterized by much zeal, ability and usefulness.
[From Charles Dutton Mallary, Memoirs of Elder Jesse Mercer, 1844; reprint 1997, pp. 12-14. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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