What Hath God Wrought?

circa 1850: American inventor of the electric telegraph and morse code, Samuel Finlay Breese Morse (1791 - 1872). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Samuel F. B. Morse is best known for inventing the single-wire telegraph system. He was also the co-inventor of Morse code. How did it all happen? Between 1825 and 1828 Morse’s wife, father, and mother died. In 1829 he traveled to Europe to recover from his grief. On the voyage back home Morse met an inventor by the name of Charles Thomas Jackson. As they talked, Morse became fascinated by the possibility of electronic impulses being carried along a wire for long distances. He made a number of drawings of his ideas while aboard the ship in 1832. Over the years he continued to refine his ideas and received help from a number of other people, especially Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail.

In 1843 Morse received $30,000 from Congress to finance the building of a telegraph line between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. It was on May 24, 1844 that he tapped out the first telegraph message on this line. “What hath God wrought?” It was a young girl by the name of Annie Ellsworth who suggested the words taken from Numbers 23:23 and Morse used it as the first telegraphed message.

Now consider this important question. What did God have to do with this? The word “wrought” means “put together, create, a carefully thought out plan.” We would tend to consider that Samuel Morse was the one who carefully thought out the ideas for the first telegraph and then put those ideas together for the resulting invention. He had help from a number of other people, but ultimately it was Morse who brought everything together for the telegraph. But it was Samuel Morse, who was a committed Christian, who wanted the first telegraphed message to give credit to God for the telegraph. What did God have to do with it? Let’s think about that for a moment.

Samuel Morse was created by God. “It is He who has made us and not we ourselves.” The very fact that he was born and lived during the years of 1791 to 1872 was of God. It was in the Lord that Samuel Morse “lived and moved and had his very being.” So every aspect of his brain activity, his ability to move his hands to make drawings, the ability to read and comprehend the things he studied, the ability to have a conversation with a number of people who helped him think through the concepts, all of those things were wrought by God. And by the way, all of the scientific concepts that relate to a single-wire telegraph system are things that God wove into the fabric of the world He created.

The Lord was also providentially involved in Morse’s life. The doctrine of God’s providence says that God decrees all things that comes to pass, and He perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events. That means that He brought people into Samuel Morse’s life at just the right time. He met Charles Thomas Jackson on an ocean voyage and then later became acquainted with Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail. Each of these men had key roles in helping Morse with his invention.

There is more that could be said but you get the idea. As a committed Christian, Samuel Morse was exactly correct when he telegraphed, “What hath God wrought?” The sad thing is that few people think this way anymore. In our culture we are much more comfortable with Neil Armstrong’s first words when he landed on the moon. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Hmm, did God have anything to do with man landing on the moon? Did He get out of the “wrought” business after the telegraph because things were getting too advanced for Him?

No, God is still at work in the world. He is still at work in your life and in mine. Don’t live life in such a way that everything is centered on yourself. “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” When we do that we will be amazed as we consider what God hath wrought in our lives.