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Pliny Fisk was born at Shelburne, Mass. June 24, 1792. He was the fourth son of Mr. Ebenezer Fisk, whose place of nativity was Sutton in the same State. The maiden name of his mother was Sarah Barnard. His parents were virtuous and worthy. They lived retired and in moderate circumstances. But though "to fortune and to fame unknown," they exhibited evidence of humble piety, and trained up their children 'in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.'
The subject of this Memoir was, from early youth, distinguished by an engaging disposition, and unusual sobriety. Though generally disinclined to youthful vanities, he was not destitute of vivacity, and humor. A prominent trait in his early character, and one that was distinct in his subsequent life, was persevering application. Whatever the business might be, to which his attention was called, he did not shrink from it on account of difficulty or labor; but promptly applied himself to it, and persevered, till his work was done. As a child he was faithful, dutiful, and affectionate. Pleasure as well as duty moved him to meet with readiness the
wishes of his parents; and he was one whom they fondly hoped to retain with them, to be the staff and solace of their declining years. Hence it was not without some reluctance that they listened to the expression of a desire on his part to receive a public education-an event which they had some reasons to anticipate from his early partiality for books and study. His literary advantages, during the first seventeen years of his life, were confined to a common English school; but these were diligently improved. Great industry and perseverance characterized his earliest application to elementary studies. Soon he manifested a taste for mathematical science. His predilection for this science was such, even in childhood, that it was thought advisable for him to defer attention to it, till he had made competent proficiency in the other elementary branches. He obtained permission, however, to devote his evenings during a winter quarter to the study of arithmetic, and at the close of the term, he had acquired a good knowledge of the principal rules.
The Christian example and counsel of pious parents made, at an early period, such deep impressions on his mind, as were favorable to the susceptibility of the stronger convictions of religious truth. In his sixteenth year he was led to realize his lost condition, and to feel that he must be in earnest about his salvation. After a season of pungent convictions and great anxiety of mind, he discovered with the eye of faith 'the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, and believing he rejoiced with joy unspeakable. At this time he manifested a very thorough acquaintance with the operations of his heart, uncommon clearness in his religious views and feelings, and was able to give distinctly 'a reason of the hope he began to cherish. It was very soon perceived that his
piety would be ardent and active.
The following account of his religious experience was written by himself about two years after he began to hope that he was a Christian.
"I consider the whole of my life till my sixteenth year, as having been one continued course of rebellion against God. Not one holy affection can I find by examination during that whole period. Neyer did my heart exercise any love for God-never was I willing that God should reign a Sovereign on his throne. I have even wished there were God, or that he would annul the penalties of guilt, and proclaim impunity to offenders. As I was educated in a religious family, and heard much conversation about the things of religion, I often felt alarmed at the prospect of dying in my sins, and going down to destruction. Such fears, however, though frequent, were of short duration. Often did I resolve to become a pious, prayerful youth; but these resolutions were forgotten, as soon as I renewed my intercourse with thoughtless companions. Although convinced that delays are dangerous, yet I cherished the fond hope, that at some future period, when others should be seen turning to the Lord, or when the time of trial and distress should come, or when I was laid upon a dying bed, I should make my peace with God. So astonishing was my stupidity, that I supposed, a few weeks of seriousness would, at any future time, ensure my conversion. Destitute of a sense of dependance on the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, I was trusting to works, to be performed at a future day, and under the influence of the carnal mind which is enmity against God.
“In the summer and autumn of 1807, it being a season of general stupidity among Christians, I indulged myself in sin with less restraint, than I had ever felt before. Never did the concerns of religion make so light impressions on my mind I was busily employed in plans of vain amusement and sinful pleasure. I longed to be released from the
restraints of parental authority, that I might feel more free to pursue my career of youthful folly;and yet I wished to avoid all those appearances that would lower me in the estimation of the sober part of society. But God in mercy did not suffer me to proceed to such lengths in wickedness, as my depraved heart would, unrestrained, have led me.
“While many professed Christians were thus sleeping, and the youth were pursuing their career of sin with unusual levity, a few of Zion's friends, alarmed for the cause of religion and the souls of sinners, commenced a meeting for prayer. Though at first but few attended, the number soon increased; and after a few weeks they were frequent and full. On the first day of Jan. 1808, I met an intimate associate, with whom I had spent much time in sin, and he thus addressed me;-Remember, you have an immortal soul that must exist beyond the grave either in happiness or woe!'-I knew not till then of any change in his feelings. His address took hold of my heart; and after much reluctance, and many hard struggles for a few days, I determined to forsake the vanities of youth, and seek religion. I endeavored carefully to keep my mind on religious subjects, I read much, prayed often, and frequently attended religious meetings. I began to conclude that I was a subject of genuine conviction and should soon be converted.
“The person who first addressed me, after a season of anxious inquiry, which continued about three weeks, was relieved from his burden of anxiety and distress, and gave evidence of having 'passed from death unto life. This was to me a trying time. The hope of being soon relieved from my fears of hell had afforded me some comfort, which now was gone. I had been serious and anxious, quite as long, I imagined, as persons generally were previously to conversion. But I did not feel, as I had expected I should. I therefore began to fear that