Today’s Illustration: What Hath God Wrought?

When: May 24, 1844

Where: U.S. Capitol’s Supreme Court chamber

Who:  Samuel F.B. Morse

  • Born April 27, 1791
  • Charlestown, Massachusetts
  • A professional artist-painter
    “I have no wish to be remembered as a painter, for I never was a painter; my idea of that profession was perhaps too exalted; I may say, is too exalted. I leave it to others more worthy to fill the niches of art.” — Samuel Morse
  • Died April 2, 1872 — age 80


  • “Morse found himself working on a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. The job had taken him to Washington, D.C. where he received a devastating letter. According to the dispatch, his young wife had died back at their home in New Haven, Connecticut.

    Worse, by the time Morse got this message, it was too late for him to return in time for her funeral. She was laid to rest without him.” [2]

  • “. . . the original Morse code was Morse’s brainchild — despite rumors to the contrary. That said, he had a brilliant partner by the name of Alfred Vail, who helped him refine and expand the system. Under the code, every letter in the English language — along with most punctuation marks and each number from zero through nine — was given a unique, corresponding set of short and long pulses.” [2]
  • “In 1843, Congress handed him a $30,000 grant to build an experimental long-distance telegraph between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.” [2]
  • “The Morse system for telegraphy, which was first used in about 1844, was designed to make indentations on a paper tape when electric currents were received. Morse’s original telegraph receiver used a mechanical clockwork to move a paper tape. When an electrical current was received, an electromagnet engaged an armature that pushed a stylus onto the moving paper tape, making an indentation on the tape. When the current was interrupted, a spring retracted the stylus and that portion of the moving tape remained unmarked. Morse code was developed so that operators could translate the indentations marked on the paper tape into text messages.” [1]
  • First Message: “What Hath God Wrought?”–
    “The moment of truth came on May 24, 1844. Sitting in the U.S. Capitol’s Supreme Court chamber, Morse sent a coded message along to Vail, who was waiting in Baltimore at the other end of the line.Morse knew just what to say. At the suggestion of a friend’s daughter, he transmitted a quote from the biblical book of Numbers: ‘What hath God wrought.’” [2]

  • “In the United States, the final commercial Morse code transmission was on July 12, 1999, signing off with Samuel Morse’s original 1844 message, what hath God wrought, and the prosign sk (“end of contact”) [1]
  • The United military still teaches Morse Code to a very small number of its men and women today.
  • The U.S. Navy still uses it to communicate between ships with “signal lamps.”


  • “Education without religion is in danger of substituting wild theories for the simple commonsense rules of Christianity.”
  • Every child has a dream, to pursue the dream is in every child’s hand to make it a reality. One’s invention is another’s tool.

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • creative / creativity
  • intelligence
  • communication / language
  • “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past”
  • invention & destruction
  • man’s creative abilities
  • code
  • top secret / secrets
  • tower of Babel
  • for good and for evil
  • a sea change
  • cultural change


Sermonic Example: There are several distinct ways to use illustrative material.

(use whatever you find useful in the above details)

 . . . . How many times has that thought been uttered after the invention of something so transformative — in this case, it was the telegraph; at other times, it was gun powder or the atomic bomb.

We might ask that same question with the invention of our social and digital world!

Other Information & Links:



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