More admirably, I think, because more entirely, than any of the other men I have attempted to study, Dr. Davidson sums up the virtues of Anglicanism. He stands, first and foremost, for order, decency, and good temper. If he has a passion it is for the status quo. If he has a genius it is for compromise. Lord Morley, who knows him and respects him, describes him as “a man of broad mind, sagacious temper, steady and careful judgment, good knowledge of the workable strength of rival sections.” Pre-eminently the Archbishop is a practical man.
I know not out of how many crises he has contrived, both as a fisher of men and a good shepherd, to lift the Church of England by hook or by crook.
When he was a youth a serious accident threatened to destroy his health and ruin his prospects. A charge of gunshot struck him at the bottom of the spine. The shot still remain in his body, and every autumn he is visited with an attack of quasiperitonitis which reduces him to a sad state of weakness. For long weeks together—once it was for a whole year—his diet is restricted entirely to milk foods.
In spite of this grave disability, I am inclined to doubt if there is a harder worker in any church of the world. Dr. Davidson’s knowledge of the Church of England, not only in these British Islands but in every one of the Dominions, is a knowledge of the most close and intimate nature. He knows the names and often the character of men who are working in the remotest parishes of the uttermost parts of the Empire. He knows also their thousand difficulties and is often at pains to relieve their distresses. This devotion has an ideal origin. He has cherished the dream all his life that the Church of England, so sane, so moderate, so sensible, and so rightly insistent on moral earnestness, may become, with the growth and development of the British Commonwealth, the greatest of all the Christian Churches—greater, more catholic, than Rome.
To this end he has worked with a devotion and a strain of energy which only those immediately about him can properly appraise.
Such is the exhaustion of this labour that when he can find time to take a day off he spends it in bed.
His policy has always been to keep men reasonable, but with no ignoble idea of living a quiet life. His powers of persuasion, which have succeeded so often in making unreasonable men temporarily reasonable, have their source in the transparent sincerity of his soul. No one who encounters him can doubt for a moment that the Primate is seeking the good of the Church of England, and seeking that good because he believes in the English Church as one of the great spiritual forces of civilisation. No one, I mean, could think that he is either temporising for the sake of peace itself or that his policy of moderation masks a secret sympathy with a particular party. Clear as the sun at noon is the goodness of the man, his unprejudiced devotion to a practical ideal, and his unselfish ambition for the reasonable future of the great Church of the English nation.