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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Where preaching had not succeeded

for public worship--a mode of instruction which gave a laudable excitement to the children, by means of which they acquired a firmness of mind, a clear, distinct pronunciation, and an accuracy in their delivery, which was very gratifying to the hearers, whilst it gave to the parents and relations an opportunity of observing their progress by the system of education. Through this medium, also, many a truth has been taught, many an impression made, where preaching had not succeeded." "By this time," proceeds the same excellent man, "the principles and motives of my exertions being made apparent, all the little prejudices were softened down, if not into approval, at least into a passive silence, particularly as another clergyman, the Rev. H. Berkin, was zealously pursuing the same line of conduct on the other side of the Forest, who began this year (1812) to lecture in the cottages there, as his next attempt to benefit the parents and children connected with his school." He says--"Finding that few, by comparison, attended public worship, I visited them in their cottages to read and explain the Bible; and I was led to adopt this plan from the particular situation of the Foresters, destitute of churches or ministers whom they could properly call their own. In these pastoral visits, made on different evenings in different places, and in which I have usually spent two hours in reading and practically explaining the Holy Scriptures, I have sometimes had 200 persons present at one time, and calculate on the whole that 800 at different times have thus come under instruction. Many instances might be produced, certainly not less than 20 families, of reformation in both sexes, which had evinced itself in their desire to possess the Bible and Common Prayer Book, and by a total change in their moral character."

At the commencement of his career Mr. Berkin was repeatedly remonstrated with by respectable gentlemen who knew the locality better than himself, upon his venturing amongst the Foresters alone, assuring him that it was not safe, since, a very short time before he came to Mitcheldean, two Wesleyan ministers attempted open-air preaching in the Forest, but were violently attacked and driven away. He thus proceeds to describe the circumstances which led to the erection of Holy Trinity Church:--"At one of the places which I am accustomed to visit, where the heat and crowd have at times been almost insufferable, the colliers, aided by two or three neighbouring farmers, offered to build a large room for the better accommodation of greater numbers. This, for obvious reasons, was declined; but it led me earnestly to wish that the Foresters might be more immediately brought within the pale of the Established Church, and, by regular attendance on a church appropriated to themselves, be made habitually acquainted with that admirable Liturgy to which too many of them are now utter strangers." Acting upon these earnest feelings, Mr. Berkin, with the concurrence of the esteemed Dr. Ryder, the Bishop of Gloucester, laid a memorial and plan before Government, with an offer, on his part, that, "if the needful fund for building a church and parsonage-house could be provided, he would give up his present curacy and serve the new church without any further emolument than the endowment necessary for its consecration." In the concluding terms of an admirable address to the public, dated the 30th April, 1816, which he circulated with the design of obtaining contributions to the work, he stated--"My wishes are, that the kind contributors will feel rewarded in the reflection that thousands yet unborn may have cause to bless them for thus providing for their spiritual wants, and giving them the knowledge of those principles which alone can make them worthy members of society here, or lead them to provide well for their eternal welfare hereafter."

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