By Ada Nicholson Brownell
I brought my husband’s telegraph “bug” to illustrate one of the lessons when I taught “God in American History” to an after-school and summers class for elementary school children.
Wiggling the red “tail” of the instrument my husband used in his early years on the railroad, I told how the trembling hand of Samuel Morse tapped a telegraph key on May 24, 1844, in the Washington, D.C. capital building.
“Within seconds,” I said, “a crowd erupted in cheers forty miles away at the B and O Railroad Depot in Baltimore, Maryland, when the telegraph clicked there.”
Students’ eyes sparkled at the success. But I pointed out the message sent that day from the U.S. Supreme Court chamber, “What hath God Wrought?” might have greater significance today than the method of communication. Freedom was behind Morse’s ability to send such a message.
Every year I appreciate freedom more.
Last Christmas I rejoiced because carols celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ once again filled the airways. Often when my friends and I gather for Bible study and prayer, I thank God for a nation where we can invite anyone we choose and worship openly. I thank God when I see a dozen Bibles on the shelves in my office and others around the house.
I’m thankful today I was able to share a scripture on Facebook and send encouraging words to friends across thousands of miles without worry of censorship.
I rejoiced when I visited Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and other historic sites where I noticed scriptures scrawled on the Liberty Bell, in the Lincoln Memorial, and over George Washington’s tomb.
Moses handing down The Ten Commandments hovers over the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court Building and the commandments are engraved on the chamber doors and on the wall behind the Supreme Court Justices. At the laying of the cornerstone for the building on October 13, 1932, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes stated, "The Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith."
On my shelves for decades I’ve had a little book, Documents of Democracy. The other day, I read once again these words in the Declaration of Independence from July 4, 1776: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….”
The Mayflower compact begins, “In the name of God, Amen. “
The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people to peacefully assemble, or to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address ends with “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
What a wonderful thing God wrought when He blessed the Pilgrims and other immigrants with the wisdom to build a nation on freedom.
Nevertheless, I know we don’t need to live in America to be free. Around the world, God’s people, even like the Apostle Paul, are in prison because of their faith—but their spirits are free.
Jesus talked about freedom as he quoted this fulfilled prophecy from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:17-19). The Apostle Paul wrote about the freedom of God’s grace in Romans 6.
I’ve been amazed at how the gospel was wrapped in freedom at the beginning, Adam and Eve chose to sin because God gave them freedom to do so, and he gives the same freedom to us. But freedom to open the door when Jesus knocks and allow Him into our lives is only the beginning.
Old Gospel songs proclaim, “He Set Me Free,” telling the story of being released from sin and death’s chains mentioned in Romans 8. Yes, God “wrought a miracle” when America came into being with all its freedoms, but I know total freedom only comes from God.
I’ve experienced the joy unspeakable, even when things weren’t going well. For when the Son set me free, I was free indeed. (John 8:35-37).