Socrates looked up at
him, and replied, Farewell: I will do as you
say. Then he turned to us and said, How courteous the man
In this able and courageous Doctor of Science, who came to theology from mathematics, a great virtue and a small fault combine to check his intellectual usefulness. His heart is as full of modesty as his mind of tentatives.
He is possessed by a gracious nature, and could no more think of raising his voice to shout down a Boanerges than he could dream of lifting an elbow to push his way through a press of people bound for the limelight. It is only a deep moral earnestness which brings him into public life at all, and he endeavours to treat that public life not as it is but as it ought to be.
In “the calmness and moderation of his sentiments,” in his dislike of everything that is sensational, and of all “undue emphasis,” he resembles Joubert, who wanted “to infuse exquisite sense into common sense, or to render exquisite sense common.”
Modesty might not so hamper the usefulness of Canon Barnes if he knew a little less than he does know, and was also conveniently blind to the vastness of scientific territory. But he knows much; much too much for vociferation; and his eyes are so wide open to the enormous sweep of scientific inquiry that he can nowhere discern at present the ground for a single thesis which effectually accounts for everything—a great lack in a popular preacher.
I am disposed to deplore the degree both of his modesty and his scholarship, for he possesses one of the rarest and most precious of gifts in a very learned man, particularly a mathematician and a theologian, namely, the gift of lucid exposition. Few men of our day, in my judgment, are better qualified to state the whole case for Christianity than this distinguished Canon of Westminster Abbey, this evangelical Fellow of the Royal Society, who is nevertheless prevented from attracting the attention of the multitude by the gracious humility of his nature and the intellectual nervousness which is apt to inhibit his free utterance when he approaches an audience in the region of science.
What a pity that a clergyman so charming and attractive, and yet so modern, who understands the relativity of Einstein and who is admirably grounded in the physical sciences, should lack that fighting instinct, that “confidence of reason,” which in Father Waggett, an equally charming person, caught the attention of the religious world thirty or forty years ago.
His mind is not unlike the mind of Lord Robert Cecil, and it is curious that even physically he should at certain moments resemble Lord Robert, particularly in his walk and the almost set expression of his eyes. He is tall and thin, and has the same stoop in the shoulders, moving forward as if an invisible hand were pressed against the back of his neck, shoving him forward by a series of jerks; and he seems to throw,