God, however, was more than a moralist. He was also an engineer. The world which He had fashioned was not an automatic mechanism. It had been set going in the beginning by its Creator, and he, like a good mechanic, had been tinkering with it ever since. The forces that moved it were direct manifestations of His power. 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.' If He could save men from their sins, He could also protect them against accidents, diseases, and the shafts of their enemies. Faith and good works, then, were not only the way of the soul's salvation, they were also the best kind of insurance against the stings of fortune while one lived.
These religious concepts were laid down in the Scriptures and were supported by a kind of evidence in everyday life. God was constantly being moved by the prayers of the just to repeat in our day the miracles He had performed in ancient times. Everyone who had eyes could see it for himself. Did not our pastor often intercede for the recovery of the sick, and did they not usually get well? Did he not pray every Sunday that the President of the United States would be given wisdom to lead the affairs of the nation, and was not our prosperity the manifest answer? It was all very simple and all very right, and surely the way of the transgressor was hard.
But, you say, these were the ideas of a child. True, and the child got them from his parents, who shared them item by item with the neighbors, who held the same beliefs in common with one hundred million other people in all the Middletowns of America.
It would hardly be possible to exaggerate the importance of a wonder-working God in this Christian scheme of things which I took for granted with the air I breathed. Innumerable stories from the Bible, moreover, indicate that such a Deity was also taken for granted by every one of the Scriptural heroes from Adam down to John of Patmos. Through all the centuries of religious history this idea has persisted, which would seem to indicate that a God who kicks over the traces of natural law and upsets the normal sequence of cause and effect occupies an important place—if not, indeed, the central place—in Christian cosmology.
I am well aware that in certain churches to-day even the clergy are disposed to pass lightly over the miracles. This tendency, however, is wholly confined to the more liberal churches, whose communicants are sophisticated people. Such parishes are not really representative of Christianity, for the obvious reason that their members are not representative of the rank and file of humanity. Sophisticated folk, if they go to church at all, tend to do it as a matter of form and fashion; they are moved by no strong convictions.
To find the original God of Christianity still resplendent in all His glory, still hurling His thunderbolts and making no concessions to rationalism, one should go preferably to a Roman Catholic Church—to the shrine, say, of Saint Anne de Beaupre or Our Lady of Lourdes. There one comes into the awful presence of a real God, who heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, makes the crippled walk, rewards the just, damns the wicked, and in all the vicissitudes of life is able to give tangible evidence of His power in answer to prayer. And the same Deity, less colorful, perhaps, but no less real, will be found among the Baptists, the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians, and every other sect of Protestantism.