ANDREW JACKSON MERCHANT
PASTOR [of the First Methodist Church, Sharon], 1893-1894
"Andrew Jackson Merchant was born at Napoli, New York, December 23, 1831, of devout Methodist parents, whose house was the home of the itinerant minister for nearly half a century. Four sons became Methodist preachers and two daughters became the wives of Methodist preachers. Andrew was the fourth child and was inured to hard work on the farm with his father and brothers. At an early age he became a school teacher, and at the age of twenty-three, having himself earned the means, he entered Allegheny College and graduated in 1857 with the Latin honor. On June 29th of the same year he was united in marriage with Miss Francis C. Peck, of Sinclairville, New York, of which union were born seven children. Two of these died in infancy. The other five all graduated from Allegheny College.
"Brother Merchant was a good man, pure in heart, gentle, kind, affectionate. His nature was like a morning in June. He was congenial with people of all ages and conditions in life, he enjoyed banqueting with the rich and the brilliant, and delighted to sit among the children and hold sweet converse with their lowly mother in their cabin home. The young, the middle-aged, and the aged, the scholar and the barefoot boy found him delightful company.
"A man of strong convictions, he loved the right and hated wrong. With heavy shot he pounded intemperance, social impurity, and every other foe of the individual, of society, of the nation. In his attitude to the great reforms of the day he did not ask, 'Will it pay?' but, 'Is it right?' and feeling assured that he was in the right, there he would stand like a Daniel and endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (Fradenburgh's "History of Erie Conference," Vol. II, p. 340.)
Brother Merchant was a good preacher, and expounded and defended the fundamental doctrines of our holy religion. He could say with Paul, "This one thing I do." In the last year of his ministry and of his life, at the age of sixty-eight. He spent ninety consecutive days and nights in revival work, and received more than a hundred into full membership of his church. In the same time he raised by solicitation one thousand dollars and redeemed the parsonage property from a burdensome debt. He was for many years actively connected with many conference societies. He had a genius for details, and studied accuracy in his work. He was a good financier, and no benevolent cause suffered in his hands.
Few equaled and none excelled him, in pastoral work-visiting from house to house. He remembered people and was interested in their domestic, social, political and religious life. He re-wrote church records and hunted up the forgotten and neglected.
He was licensed to preach in 1857. The same year he was received on trial in the Erie Conference, and was effective forty-two years. In 1885 DePauw University conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He was a delegate to the General Conference of 1896. He served the Meadville District four years, and was always sent to prominent appointments. Early in September he preached his last sermon from the text: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Three weeks later he attended the session of the conference and received his appointment, but his work was done. He anticipated his approaching death, and gave directions concerning his funeral. On November 19, 1899, after expressing his love for his brethren, his faith in the gospel, and having bade his family an affectionate good-by, he peacefully fell asleep. The remains were conveyed to Greenville, Pennsylvania, for interment. There he sleeps beside the dust of his kindred. ("History of Erie Conference," Vol. II.)
Several of the elderly members still in the congregation clearly remember Rev. Andrew Jackson Merchant, his excellent sermons, his love of people of all ages, and his sociable disposition.
One Hundred Fifty Years of Methodism, by Roscoe C. Wilson, pages 60-61