Legh Richmond

The Sin Of Cruelty Towards Animals

[A Sermon On The Sin Of Cruelty Towards The Brute Creation; Preached In The Abbey Church At Bath On February 15th, 1801, By The Rev. Legh Richmond, A. M. Of Trinity College, Cambridge, And Curate Of The Parish Of Brading In The Isle Of Wight.]

To The Rev. Henry Brindley, Lacock, In The County Of Wits. 

Reverence Sir,—The benevolent part which you have taken in behalf of the Brute Creation, by instituting an Annual Lecture on the subject of their injuries and sufferings, must excite a grateful sentiment in every feeling heart. I have complied with your request in making the following discourse public, in the hope that it may prove, by the grace of God, an humble mean of alleviating the sorrows of the animal race. To your patronage I beg leave therefore to dedicate it: if it should contribute to promote the end which you have so much at heart, and, above all, if it should in any degree advance the cause of our common Lord and Master, I shall feel an increased satisfaction in subscribing myself, 

Your faithful brother,

In the fellowship of the Gospel,

Legh Richmond

Brading, Nov. 20, 1801

The Sermon

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”—Genesis 1:26

The holy word of inspiration has expressly declared, that “God made man upright:” but that man is low fallen from his first estate, we have not only the testimony of Scriptures, but of daily experience. Man was originally created after God in his own image, in righteousness and true holiness: his mind was endued with knowledge; his will was conformed to the will of God; the affections of his soul were holy and heavenly. Love to his Maker was the ruling principle of his heart: he considered Him as the supreme good, and the entire source of his happiness. From God he received the sovereign dominion over every thing which he had created upon earth. Adam loved the creatures for God’s sake, and all the beauty or unity which he found in them, led him to bless and love his God the more. But, alas!, though “God made man upright, he hath sought out many inventions.” The crown of righteousness is called from his head; the glory is departed from him. “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” The natural man no longer possesses that Spirit of holiness, wherein consisted his primitive resemblance to God: he is no longer actuated by that inward principle which formed the sacred union between him and his Creator. The affections of his heart are alienated from the life of God, and transformed into the hateful likeness of that rebellious spirit, by whose crafty temptations he was first seduced into apostasy. Mercy, loving-kindness, and benevolence, are no longer appropriate to his nature; but in their stead we behold selfishness, pride and cruelty. Such are the humbling truths which revelation unfolds, and hourly experience confirms: truths most unwelcome to the natural pride of man’s heart, and often disputed by presumptuous cavilers; “nevertheless the foundation of God’s word standeth sure and abideth forever.”

It is the blessed work of the religion of Christ to restore fallen man to the likeness of God; to given him a “clean heart, and renew a right spirit within him;” to elevate his affections from the things of this world, to the contemplation of a better. It is the work of the Gospel to influence the will, rectify the judgment, reform the temper, root out the evil propensities, and fill him with “joy and peace in believing;” in a word, to convert his heart, naturally hard, implacable, and carnal, into the seat of holy love towards God, and the tenderest benevolence towards every creature that is susceptible of his kindness. In the sacred writings this happy change, which renews in fallen man the life and likeness of God, and begets in him that holiness of heart and disposition, which alone can render him acceptable in God’s sight, is called a new creation. When the naturally unmerciful and perverse temper is transformed into mercy and submissiveness by the inward and spiritual power of the religion of Christ, the Christian is then said to have “put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lists, and to put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

The right understanding of this fundamental doctrine of Christianity is absolutely requisite to the due comprehension and application of every practical truth whatsoever: without this be duly attended to, all our reasonings and speculations on morality are lifeless and unprofitable. In the present instance, it will enable us to form just notions of the use and abuse of that dominion over his creatures which God have to man when he first formed him; it will also point out the only effectual means of alleviating the sufferings of that part of the creation, towards which man more frequently behaves as a merciless tyrant than a kind and gracious sovereign. 

From the test in appears, that as soon as God made man in his image, and after his own likeness, he “gave him dominion over the fist of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” This dominion was given to Adam therefore, whilst the likeness of God shone forth in him; consequently it was a merciful dominion; it was a sovereignty designed to be exercised with every possible kindness of treatment, which the grateful and benevolent temper of man, in his state of primitive righteousness, could suggest. Hence we are enabled to deduce the right of the inferior creatures to kindness of treatment from a most satisfactory and unerring source of argument, no less than an explicit revelation of God’s will coeval with the foundation of the world itself. The merciful design of God in making man the lord of the creation is perfectly manifest, for such was the holiness of man’s heart, such the purity of his affections before the fall, that every creature subjected to his rule was assured of being happy. The intension of God, whose loving-kindness is over all his works, was fully accomplished by appointing man, such as he was whilst in paradise, to be the intermediate instrument of his goodness towards them. Made in the express image of an holy and merciful God, Adam, like his Maker, was holy and merciful too. 

Happy was that blessed period, when man lived but to love and serve his Creator, and was the grateful dispenser of the same comfort and peace which he himself enjoyed, to “every living creature that moved upon the face of the earth!” How great the reverse which we live to witness! In losing the image of God wherein he was created, man has lost all that was lovely and excellent in him: corruption and perverseness of heart appear in a multitude of forms: and in nothing does the deep-dyed depravity of the natural man more unequivocally testify its existence, than in that prevalent cruelty of disposition which from the earliest childhood is exercised towards the patient and unoffending subjects of our tyrannical government. Do you seek confirmation of this lamentable truth?—Go into the streets and lanes of the city, go into the highways and hedges, and they’re in the merciless conduct of your fellow-mortals towards “the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and every creeping thing;” read the true character of apostate man: there learn the necessity of that radical change of disposition which religion alone can accomplish. The almost universal prevalence of cruelty in a great or less degree throughout the human species, where the power of divine grace has not by rooting out the source of the evil, banished its effect, places the true nature and necessity of spiritual influences in a very important and useful light. It confirms and illustrates the scriptural doctrine that man must be effectually translated from a state of nature into a state of grace; not only for the ensuring his own future blessedness, but also for the promoting the present comfort and happeness, as well of himself as of every inferior creature “that moveth upon the face of the earth.”

The establishment of this truth immediately leads us to prove the heinousness of the guilt of willful cruelty towards any of God’s creatures; and at the same time to connect the subject of humanity to animals with that grand and essential doctrine of revealed religion, the ruin and recovery of man. For since the dominion of man over the various brutes of the creation was an express gift of God; since God himself is all merciful, and bestowed this right of government upon man when he in conformity to the likeness of his Maker was merciful also; it is a direct and necessary conclusion, that mercy and kind treatment is due from man to every animal, and that all wanton and needless cruelty towards them is and must ever be an abomination in the sight of God. It is a positive abuse of that sovereignty with which God has intrusted him, and proves how unworthy he is of the trust. 

It is indeed most evident from the known and revealed attributes of God, that if in his wisdom and goodness he thought fit to create living beings endowed with feeling, sagacity, and usefulness to man; if when he “saw that they were good, he blessed them;” if he furnished them with varied capacities of contributing to the comfort of mankind; if, in a word, he gave them a susceptibility of enjoyment in themselves, and also a power of promoting the enjoyments of man, God must have designed such being to be happy. He therefor made man their lord and protector, in order to secure their comfort by what then was and still ought to be the strongest of obligations, that of gratitude and love to the Creator. But if man betray the confidence reposed in him, and with unfeeling wantonness or revengeful malice inflict unwarranted tortures on the unhappy objects of his control, he manifests an apostate disposition of heart, necessarily hateful to God; a disposition, which if not subdued by the transforming efficacy of Christ’s religion, will inevitably lead to his destruction. For as we fell with the first Adam, so must we rise with “the second.” Such men, whatever be their outward conduct, character, or profession in other respects, prove themselves to be under the dominion of an unholy, unregenerated temper, altogether unconformed to the life and likeness of God, and destitute of that living principle of evangelical love which distinguishes the real from the pretended Christian, the “spiritual” from the “natural” man. True love to God will be manifested by obedience to the universal law of love it will appear in acts of tenderness towards his creatures and, in proportion to their various capabilities of pain and enjoyment, will make the Christian rejoice in being the appointed instrument of lessening the one and advancing the other. The disciple of Jesus, like the planet in the heavens, faithfully reflects the light which he receives from “the Sun of righteousness.”

On such firm ground, my brethren, stands the claim of the brute creation to benevolent usage; the grant of sovereignty was given to man in his paradisaical state; but though he is fallen from these, the original charter of mercy remains unrepealed, and the right of the creatures to a merciful dominion is still established on its primitive foundation. And as the gracious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ renews in fallen man the effaced image of God, and “takes away the stony heart out of his flesh;” so in exact proportion to its real influence among mankind, it will also restore to the injured animals the long lost mercies of paradise. 

Thus have we sufficiently proved what is the will of God, and consequently what the duty of man with respect to the inferior creatures: let us however still further strengthen the argument, by examining into other parts of Scripture with the same design: by placing the sin of cruelty in different points of view, we may the more reasonably hope to awaken a due attention to the subject. “The righteous man regardeth the life (ie the happiness) of his beast; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Prov 12:10) Such is the determination of Solomon, from whose words we deduce, that the man who is under the guidance of religious principle, will feel a lively interest in promoting the comfort of the animal which God has intrusted to his dominion: but the wicked man, who is influenced by no spiritual feeling, is so far from having any sentiments either of awe to his God, or of pity and kindness for his beast, that even his tender mercies are said to be cruel. What melancholy proofs of the natural barbarity of the human heart are we daily called to witness! Well might the apostle describe those that know not God, as being “without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful!” (Rom 1:30). Instances may perhaps occasionally occur, where a certain constitutional tenderness of feeling produces a kind of natural humanity independent of religious influence: but this sort of humanity, though amiable in its appearance, is usually partial and uncertain in its effects; it wants that energy of motive and steadiness of principle, which is the living soul of Christianity. 

Such exceptions prove nothing against the general rule: wherever the religion of the gospel has not taken root in the heart, we see positive proofs of an unfeeling temper; it may appear in various degrees, and be exercised towards different objects according to circumstances; but slill it is a fact, alike notorious and melancholy, that creation groans beneath the cruelties of its tyrant, Man. “Then shall we not open our mouth for the dumb, in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction?” (Prov. 31:8). Think not that we labour in a trifling cause, when mercy is our theme, and cruelty the subject of our reprobation. ‘Cruel­ty to animals and cruelty to man are more nearly allied than many may be willing to allow: where the one exists in the heart, the other is never wholly absent: the disposition is the same in kind, though different in application: in pleading therefore the cause of one, we shall in a still more eminent degree urge the importance of the other. But even admitting, for an instant, that a kind and merciful conduct towards our brethren were compatible with a cruel unpitying temper to the inferior creatures, yet we have plainly shewn from divine authority that we must never suffer these to be injured and tormented with impunity. Seriously contemplate their various excellencies, and the obligations which we owe them for the multiplied comforts and conveniences of life; and then shudder at the sight of so much ingratitude to the great Author of them all, as we see hourly, exemplified in the merciless abuse of his creatures.

Hearken to the language made use of by God himself, in describing that most useful and injured animal the horse; can we suppose that God looks with indifference on a creature concerning whom he thus spake to Job? “Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the found of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.” (Job 39) And yet to what a tyrannical dominion, to what a more than brutal system of cruelty is this most noble and serviceable animal continually made subject! Is he made strong?—do we not daily behold his strength exhausted with fatigue, his body lashed, goaded, and tortured by every art that unfeeling man can invent? What multitudes of these creatures are untimely worn out and decayed through the constant excess of cruel treatment they receive, in order that political and domestic intelligence may be conveyed to us with more than necessary speed, or that our journeys from place to place may be performed with a needless and inhuman degree of swiftness? Full often is the laborious animal denied the food which nature requires to support his health and strength, and yet compelled to exert every nerve in his accustomed service, and unmercifully beaten if his strength fail. In vain does compassion plead in his behalf; his tyrant is alike deaf to the claims of mercy and gratitude: his writhings, convulsions, and agonies are unheeded; he often sinks under the oppression, and perishes without pity. Others are made the tools of avarice and greedy sport; not unfrequently they are forced by whips and goads to unnatural exertions beyond their strength; nay often destroyed by the tortures which they undergo for not being able to perform impossibilities; and all this to glut the gambling appetites of individuals whose hearts are eagerly alive to the spirit of mammon, but dead to the calls of humanity. When the poor animal, injured and more than half worn out in the service of such masters, is no longer able to administer to their profit or pleasure, he is discarded and consigned to the possession of some still more merciless taskmaster, (such is the reward of his past services and sufferings!) where under an accumulated weight of miserable exertion and thankless labour, he drags out the remainder of his unhappy days. How often is the horse subjected to shameful torture through the ungovernable violence of evil-tempered riders, the deliberate cruelties of ‘downright malice, the hasty paroxysms of anger, and the many nameless passions which disgrace both the higher and lower orders of society! To what end has God supplied the horse with ability to promote our interest, convenience, and pleasure? Wherefore has he given him docility of temper and willing obedience of disposition, if such be the return for his labours, such the gratitude he receives?

These things ought not so to be, my brethren; for we live in a Christian country, we call ourselves Christians, followers of a merciful Master, and disciples of a benevolent religion. But how few, “that name the name of Christ, depart from iniquity!” If such dispositions to cruelty and unthankfulness prevail amongst us, who shall say that “the same mind is in us which was in Christ Jesus?” Is it not ample proof how many hearts are still in their “natural” state, still uninfluenced by grace, still “alienated from the life of God?” If such be the hateful sovereignty we maintain over God’s creatures, shall not the very beasts of the field “rise up in judgment with this generation and condemn it?”

What Christian heart has not sometimes glowed with indignation at beholding the undeserved sorrows of the patient ass? Of all the humble ministers to our convenience, this poor animal seems to be the most universally devoted to hardship, hunger, and abuse. Although the whole of his existence is spent in contributing to the profit of his owner, though unable to utter a single complaint, or prefer an accusation for the injuries he receives, yet oppression, and neglect, and scourges, and buffettings, and reproaches, and imprecations, and famine, are the sad wages of his servitude. There are few to pity, and none to help. The barbarous treatment of this inoffensive creature places the natural temper of apostate man in a peculiarly hateful light, as there are some circumstances which to the religious mind ought especially to endear it to remembrance. Can we suppose that God did not design to inculcate a lesson of mercy toward the brute creation, when he opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to the passionate Balaam, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, because thou hast mocked me; I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. And the ass said unto Balaam, “am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, “Nay.” And the angel of the Lord said unto him, “Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: and the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, finely now also I had slain thee and saved her alive.” (Num. 22) Since the wrongs of this injured animal once found an advocate in an angel of the Lord, it cannot be a subject unworthy of a Christian preacher to enforce: happy would it be, if the once inspired eloquence of Balaam’s ass might effectually plead the cause and lessen the sufferings of her hapless race through all succeeding generations! But again, behold a greater than the angel is here: ‘‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee, he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the soal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9) Surely this so highly honoured animal is rendered holy above all others to Christian recollection? a sacred allocation is for ever inseparably formed between the patient unoffending ass and the image of the meek and humble Jesus entering the gates of Jerusalem amidst the load hosannas of the multitude. Let us ever cherish such holy connections in our thoughts, and learn to unite the principle of grateful mercy to the beast, with the devout affection we ought always to bear towards Him, who brought salvation to lsrael, “lowly and riding upon an ass.” I fear, my brethren, that the treatment which this insulted creature receives at our hands, is a sad but too faithful emblem of our prevailing carelessness and contempt towards a despised and rejected Saviour.

The present season of the year [Shrove-tide] unwillingly forces to our recollection scenes the most horribly disgusting; scenes which have been more frequently exhibited in times past, than, I trust, now they are; yet still to the disgrace of humanity and the Christian name, they do exist and provoke the language of the most just indignation. When does human nature appear in a character more hateful, more truly diabolical, more distantly removed from the likeness of God, than when man abuses his dominion over the fowls and the beasts (which once God pronounced so good after their kind) by putting them wilfully to torture and racking pains, for the express and avowed purpose of delighting himself with the sight of their druggies and agonies. Birds and beasts of the more savage and ferocious natures are brought to mutual combat, in order that the tyrants of the creation may glut their merciless appetites with (to them) the gratifying spectacle of mangled limbs, convulsed nerves, bleeding carcases, and dying groans of struggling animals. [Some years ago the newspapers used to be filled with regular advertisements of public cock-fightings: but there is reason to hope that that infamous and disgraceful diversion is not now so frequently practised as formerly: nevertheless many are still to be found who practise and countenance an amusement only calculated for demons or savages.] Surely “the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.”

But even these abominations are not sufficient: a still more odious scene of cruelty too often has been obtruded on our notice at this season likewise. Behold a crowd of demons in human shape eagerly exulting in the outrageous pleasure of watching a poor devoted bird (and that one of the noblest of the feathered tribe) gradually perishing under the blows and wounds, which their own unrelenting hands have occasioned, by hurling staves and stones at his defenceless body. What shall we say of the native hardness of man’s heart, when we see a multitude of our fellow, mortals, men, women, children, all tumultuously rejoicing at such a fight as this? when the piercing screams of the tortured bird are only overpowered by the mingled oaths, imprecations, and wild expressions of brutal joy which are uttered from every side in such abundance, that the very vault of heaven and the depths of hell seem to re-echo the execrable sound. [This description will not be thought too highly coloured by any feeling Christian, whoever witnessed the practice, (un­fit to be named in a Christian land) of throwing at Cocks.] “Lord! what is man that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

It is such things as these, my brethren, which teach us what man is by nature, and what religion is designed to make him. ‘They shew us what each of us might be, did not the restraining grace of God withhold us from the evil. ‘‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” is at once the substance and reward of Christian morality; but until the religion of the Gospel has done its work on the soul of man, until in the apostle’s language, “Christ be formed in his heart by faith,” he knows not the nature, meaning, and spiritual tendency of the doctrine. Happy are those, who whilst they meditate on the cruelties with which human nature abounds, shall be taught the true value of that heavenly influence, by which the innate hardness, implacability, and blood-thirstiness of our hearts are transformed into “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, and goodness!”

It would be an endless undertaking, to enumerate the tortures which the brute creation unnecessarily suffers through the avarice, cruelty, and guilty heedlessness of mankind: or rather in one word, through their want of Christianity: for Christianity does not deserve its name, except the true lively faith be within, and the fruits of the Spirit of holiness outwardly appear. Love, (or as it is frequently termed in the New Testament, Charity) is the most valuable of the fruits of that Spirit: it is its very nature and essence to have respect to the whole law and revealed will of God as the rule of life to the true believer. Now a merciful dominion over the living works of creation has been proved to be a manifest part of that will; consequently no one in whose heart “the love of God is truly shed abroad,” (Rom. 5:5.) can be guilty of any known and wilful act of needless cruelty. It is acknowledged indeed, that by the fall of man, suffering and misery are become in various degrees the natural and unavoidable portion of every living creature “that moveth upon the face of the earth.” “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” We ought therefore to regard every animal as a fellow-sufferers with ourselves, through the offence of Adam; and learn, from what they undergo, the humbling lesson of our own fallen condition. Hence, so far from wantonly adding to the pains of the animal race, ought we not to strive our utmost to alleviate those sufferings which they never would have inherited, but through man’s apostacy? Man is the fallen lord of a fallen creation; the very ground was cursed for his fake;” “but blessed be the God of our salvation, the means of our recovery are before us, and the more anxious we are to have the life and likeness of God restored to our own souls by virtue of their union with Christ, so likewise shall we proportionably endeavour to restore, as neatly as the present state of imperfection will permit, the primitive reign of mercy and benevolence over the manifold subjects of our sway.

God, it is true, gave to Noah the grant of animal food, from which grant alone we derive any right to put animals to death for that purpose: in this manner the goodness of God has provided for the health, strength, and subsistence of man in his present condition. But it must be a gross perversion of God’s gracious design, and altogether contradictory to that fundamental principle which it is the business of Scripture and this discourse to urge, when any wanton cruelty is exercised in the mode of depriving animals of life. Since it is from Scripture only that we can prove our right to take away animal life at all, in order to supply our necessary food; so ought we to avail ourselves of that privilege in such a manner only as Scripture warrants: whatsoever we do inconsistently with this rule, is sin. But this law of mercy is violated in a variety of ways, and millions of God’s creatures are barbarously tortured, sometimes through unfeeling carelessness, but much oftener through the deliberate barbarities which are daily employed to procure unnatural delicacies for the tables of the luxurious and the rich. 

[“A man of a humane disposition will not easily table of a dish, in which cruelty has been mingled. It is true, he did not inflict the torture, his feelings would not have permitted him: but it was perhaps inflicted on his account, or if not, he ought at least to shew his disapprobation of the cruel art, by strictly abstaining from the meats it has infected. Most men, I suppose, esteem it a duty which they owe to God, to beg his blessing upon the food of which, through his bounty, they are about to partake. But how absolutely impious is it to beg his blessing upon a table which is furnished out in part by the abuse of his bounty, and the torture of his creatures! For my own part, I could not join in such a grace, and far from expecting a blessing, should be more apt to dread a curse, upon such a table.” See an interesting and elegant essay on Humanity to Animals, by Thomas Young, A. M. Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, a name, the recollection of which has in the breast of the Author long been sacred to friendship and humanity.] 

And here let it be remarked, that in this as well as in every other species of sin, all partake in the guilt who knowingly allow the cruelty to be committed; nay, it will be laid to our charge among the sins of omission if we neglect to prevent the perpetration of every inhuman act to the very utmost of our influence and authority. No sovereign can be acquitted from the charge of an abused administration of his power, who through an indolent indifference to his duty neglects the execution of the laws. Many of you therefore had need to beware left in this respect you justly incur the imputation of cruelty, when perhaps in several other instances you revolt at and censure the conduct of those who are guilty. We are all sovereigns over the brute creation, and shall one day be summoned to give an account of the dominion which we have exercised.

It would be a vain attempt even to mention the numerous instances of barbarity which are unceasingly taking place amongst us; still more so to treat them with the reprobation which they deserve. Sometimes pastime and sport are made the excuse, and wretched animals are doomed to racks and tortures and needless death, in order that the tyrant man may be gratified with the bloody recreation. Sometimes a false plea of necessity is urged; some declare their unconsciousness of the evil complained of: whilst not a few plead for the unlimited indulgence of their wanton and luxurious appetites in open defiance of all scruple and humanity: one laughs and mocks when the subject of his cruelties is seriously addressed to him: another, more calmly, but not less unfeelingly argues on the difficulty and probable inutility of any attempts to promote a general alleviation of the sufferings of the brute creatures: and thus under a multiplicity of excuses the evil is perpetuated, and cruelty reigns triumphant in ten thousand hideous forms. It is a painful conclusion to which these reflections immediately lead us; that the true principle of the Gospel, comparatively speaking, is so little known, so little felt: in the prevalence of cruelty towards the animal race, we are compelled to acknowledge the lamentable deficiency of Christian faith, hope, and charity. For where these graces are infused into the heart, mercy without distinction of object, must exist likewise: but when the disposition is unmerciful, the spirit of divine love has found no admission.

[“Should the Christian disciple find, that after having attended to the lessons of the Gospel of peace and love in the church, his disposition still possesses its natural propensity; instead of loving-kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness, should he find the passions of hatred, cruelty, and revenge ruling in his breast; should his affections, instead of being exalted, spiritual, and pure, be earthly, sensual, and corrupt; he may depend upon it, that, so far as he is concerned, Christianity has done no good. Whatever his profession may be, his condition most certainly is that of the natural unregenerate man; who neither knoweth God, nor the things which belong to his everlasting peace.” Sermon on cruelty to Dumb Animals, by the Rev. C. Daubeny, Author of the Guide to the Church.”]

Thus, my brethren, we have seen that God made man in his own image, after his own likeness, and in that state gave him the dominion, over every animal that “moveth upon the face of the earth.” So long as he retained that holy resemblance, every living thing under his control was happy; but when the image of God was defaced, man became cruel and iron-hearted in his natural temper of mind. Now the Scriptures of God declare that “grace and truth, came by Jesus Christ” to enable those that were dead in trespasses and sins ”to put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him.” Here then we discover the only effectual remedy against all the evil of which we so loudly complain. Experience proves how little human reason and ability alone can do to effect the amendment and reformation of human wickedness: perhaps in no instance is it more unavailing than in its endeavours to convert cruelty into tenderness, and make the relentless heart to become the mansion of mercy and loving-kindness. The utmost that mere reason can do, is to produce a fair outside; and few, comparatively speaking, are even so far reformed by it. It is the grace God only through a lively faith in the blessed Redeemer, that can work the great and essential change. If you behold any one addicted to deeds of cruelty, do not rest your hope of softening the adamantine breast by the mere efficacy of human reasoning on the subject: they may indeed convince the head, but never can transform the heart. The heart is the primary seat of all evil: and till the heart of the natural man be subdued by the powerful influence of divine truth, no real or permanent good can be produced. Rivers of living water will not issue forth from the rock in the wilderness, except the hand of Moses be guided and strengthened by the power of Jehovah. We may indeed occasionally be deceived by the outward appearance of virtue, where the heart is still in a corrupt and irreligious state; for such is the excellency of the Gospel of Christ, that many, who do not inwardly acknowledge its saving power, are glad to shine in some of its borrowed colours, although they disown the luminary from which they are derived. But real holiness is absolutely requisite to a state of acceptance with God; without this “no man shall see the Lord.” “Be ye not therefore deceived, for God is not mocked.” Compared with the genuine “fruits of the Spirit,” the effect of outward reformation merely on a human basis, and unaided by the grace of God, do but resemble the specious exterior of a waxen image; both for a while may delude the eye, but bring them to the fiery ordeal of truth, and they melt at his presence, and cannot abide in the day of his coming.” Begin therefore with your children in their very earliest infancy, and as you dedicated them to God in their baptism, so forget not that the privileges of that holy sacrament will prove altogether unavailing, if they be not taught, through the influence of the holy Spirit, to subdue their natural corruptions and strong inclinations to evil. Cruelty is, for the most part, one of the earliest testimonies which they exhibit of a fallen nature: indeed, I know of no circumstance which more positively establishes the truth of that doctrine, than the general propensity of children to torture animals, and view with unfeeling curiosity and satisfaction the pangs which they create.

[“With watchfulness he (the father) discountenances all those acts of petulant barbarity, which children are so apt to exercise on the reptile creation. He will allow no court of inquisition to be erected within his house; no, not upon the most despicable, or even noxious animals. The very nuisances that are endued with life, he thinks should be dispatched, not with a lingering butchery, but with a merciful expedition. To rend in pieces a poor fly, and feast their eyes with the mangled limbs, shivering and convulsed in the pangs of death: to impale a wretched insect on the needle or bodkin: and what is still more shocking, to take pleasure in hearing its passionate moan, and feeing its agonizing struggles, such practices he absolutely forbids, as insufferable violations of nature’s law. Such as tend to extinguish the soft emotions of pity, and inure the mind to a habit of inhumanity. He often informs his children, that every living creature is sensible of pain, that none can be abused in this cruel manner, without suffering very exquisite misery. To turn their torments into pastime, and make sport with their anguish, is a rigour more than tyrannical, worse than brutal; is the very reverse of that benign Providence, whose tender mercies are over all his works.” Rev. James Hervey on the religious education of Daughters.]

Thus early do we begin to abuse our sovereignty over the brute creation! Such, alas! is “the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam! So very far is man gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil!” How often must the Christian parent’s heart have occasion to bleed at beholding the delight, the merciless delight which his child, if left to the indulgence of his own natural impulses, so frequently takes in tormenting an harmless animal! O! restrain the propensity while yet it is young; “train up your child in the way he should go,” and by the grace of God, “when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” Not only endeavour to excite an inward humanity of feeling towards the brute creatures, but accustom them to consider the design and original foundation of that dominion which under God we hold over them. Carry back their ideas to paradise of old, and by shewing them in how blessed a state things once were, excite in their hearts an early devotional anxiety for the realization of the paradise that is to come.

Teach them on scriptural grounds the heinous tendency of a cruel temper, and how great is the loveliness of mercy and compassion. Let this be your means of leading them to that most important, but most neglected knowledge, the knowledge of themselves. Teach them that as in Adam they fell, so Christ died in order to restore the likeness of God in the souls of such as should truly believe in him. Thus may you establish a right faith in their hearts, even that “faith which worketh by love.” Labour to convince them, that every proof they exhibit of a cruel disposition proves that they are estranged from God, and cannot be in a state of acceptance with him; and hence take occasion to warn them of the awful and unspeakable danger of remaining in a wilfull alienation from the life and love of God. This mode of instruction will place the importance of our present subject in a very high point of view; for by commencing with the lower species of humanity, you may gradually ascend to the highest summit of Christian benevolence. If by driving on the principles of the Gospel to root out the unfeeling temper of “the natural man” towards the brutes, you at the same time enforce the necessity and point out the means of railing up the holy affections of “the spiritual man whilst you are pleading the rights of the animal creation, you will also promote the best interests of Christianity in the hearts of your children.

The design and immediate tendency of all religious induction should be to lead the soul to “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and to produce in us the same mind which was in him.” Continually therefore enforce upon their young understandings the lessons of mercy which Christ gave to his disciples. Represent to them that he who once so benevolently took the little children in his arms and blessed them, wills that children should like himself be full of tender mercies and loving-kindness. Shew them from the word of God, that cruelty and Christianity are principles separated from each other by a gulf as wide as that by which the rich man and Lazarus were kept asunder; a gulf, which if they do not leap over whilst they are on this side the grave, they shall not be able to pass hereafter. Daily point out to them the mercies of God in the creation of his works; call to their attention the comforts and conveniences which they derive from the manifold exertions of the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air; and from thence teach them to praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders which he doeth for the children of men.” You may remind them that “in respect of creation, the beasts of the field are our fellows.

[“God,’’ saith the venerable Bishop Hull, “is above man, the creatures under him, he set in the midst. Lest he should be proud that he hath infinite creatures under him, that One is infinite degrees above him. I do therefore owe awe unto God; mercy to the inferior creatures; knowing, that they are my fellows, in respect of creation; whereas, there is no proportion betwixt me and my Maker.”]

Consequently, their sufferings have a natural and just claim to fellow feeling on our part. If indeed the distinguishing mercy of God hath endowed us with superior attainments and nobler prospects than theirs, let the value of these things appear in the clemency we exercise towards a race of beings, which though inferior in condition, yet like ourselves are formed from the dust of the earth. Thus may you effectually convince them that the brute animals were born to be the humble dependents on our goodness, not the devoted slaves of our tyranny. You will have fulfilled a most blessed part of your children’s education, if by grounding a benevolence of disposition on the precepts of the Gospel, you have introduced them to the saving knowledge of that Redeemer, who is Mercy; and of that God who is Love. So the very brutes whole cause we are pleading, and who like ourselves have long felt the sad consequences of a paradise lost, shall in the restoration of the dominion of mercy and benevolence, find a living testimony that even in this world a portion of paradise is regained.

If any thing be yet wanting to fix in their tender minds the wished-for impression, exhibit to their just indignation from living examples, the unchristian and ferocious tempers which those persons acquire who delight in deeds of cruelty to animals, and in amusements founded on barbarity and bloodshed: then, by way of contrast, let your young ones behold that pattern of all that was amiable and affectionate which Christ exemplified in himself. In a word, let the end and aim of all your admonitions be that love, tenderness, gratitude, pity, compassion, and kindness constitute the very soul of evangelical virtue and that as God for Christ’s sake hath loved them, so they in return must love him and all the creatures for his sake.

If these principles were as widely diffused, as Christian anxiety and benevolence must ever with them to be, how different a world should we inhabit? If we all fought thus to be renewed in the likeness of God in true holiness and virtue, then should the earth and all the inhabitants thereof abundantly rejoice; mercy and truth “would have again met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

May these contemplations teach us to watch and pray for that Spirit of love which is the bond of all virtues, with­ out which whosoever liveth, is dead in the sight of God! May we thence not only learn in every fellow Christian to behold a brother, but also to descend among the lower orders of creation, and in the exercise of kindness towards them, may love be made perfect. As well for their sakes as our own, may we so meditate on the blessed state of man whilst he remained in the garden of Eden, as to make us look forward with an holy and increasing anxiety towards “the times of the restitution of all things.” Whilst the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty, so that creation sighs and bleeds under the oppression of blood-thirsty men, the Christian loves to anticipate and as much as in him lies, even to realize something of that happy period foretold by the prophets of old time, when the Lord’s “people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is. 32; 2; 35) “Then the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Is. 11) Such was the happy spirit that reigned in paradise of old; and such in a far more exalted degree will be the glories of that day, when “the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”


The Author, thinking it might farther promote the design and wishes of the Institutor of the foregoing Lecture, has added a few extracts and remarks on cruelties practised upon animals, in the hope that some into whose hands this tract shall fall, may be more strongly impressed with a sense of the sinfulness of many habits and recreations too commonly tolerated amongst us. It is a certain fact, that this subject is by no means generally viewed in that light, which in the present date of civilization and religion, we have a right to expect. Cruelty to dumb animals, though avowedly disgusting to all persons of feeling, and as such not unfrequently censured, yet through the neglect of considering it in a truly scriptural manner, and thereby establishing an abiding principle of action, it is for the most part treated too much as a matter of indifference. Hence few, notwithstanding the abhorrence with which they may turn from particularly gross instances of inhumanity in others, are themselves free from the guilt of much unnecessary and thoughtless, nay often wilful cruelty towards some or other part of the brute creation. But having once proved from the word of God, that every wanton abuse of the living creatures, is sin, let no one who reverences the Scriptures presume to screen his offence by saying that the sin is little. Can there be such a thing as a little sin? when that sin is committed in defiance of the most high and great God, “the Holy ONE that inhabiteth eternity?” Can any wilful sin be little in the sight of Him “that hateth all iniquity,” and “chargeth his very angels with folly?”

The public attention was excited about two years ago by the introduction of a bill into Parliament, for the purpose of suppressing the abominable practice of Bull-baiting. The benevolent Promoter of the measure had the thanks and good wishes of every individual who had any concern either for the morals of the lower classes, or the comfort and happiness of the brute creation. But, strange to relate, the eloquence of a very able and ingenious Speaker was powerfully exerted in opposition to this simple and unexceptionable proposal of humanity; and I am grieved to add, that eloquence so successfully prevailed that the bill was rejected. Much was then said, and has been elsewhere said and written on the impropriety of curtailing or interfering with the recreations of the lower orders of the people. It is truly astonishing that there should ever be any difference of opinion on such a subject amonst the wise and good. “Whenever it becomes apparent that the tendency of any public amusement or recreation is to excite or cherish the worst and most dangerous passions of the mind; to corrupt those that are quiet and sober-minded; to encourage irregularities of conduct or desire to harden the heart against the feelings of humanity, and under the pernicious plea of innocent pastime, to assemble crowds together and promote the practice or love of riot and disorder: such meetings and recreations, under what­ever name they may pass, are odious stains on the national character, and fatal hindrances to the rise and progress of religion either among the higher or lower classes of the community. Recreations should be really proved to be harmless in a conscientious and christian point of view, before any conscientious Christian ought to sanction and approve them. What opinion then are we to form of those amusements, whose very foundation is laid in barbarity and bloodshed? and where mobs are collected together to riot and feast in the unrestrained indulgence of a cruel appetite? Such practices are much better calculated for training up men to be partakers in the bloody rites of Moloch, than disciples of a merciful and benevolent Saviour. They ought therefore in every place, and in every variety of appearance they may assume, to be discouraged and suppressed as nurseries of vice, corruption, and impiety. As some specimen of the effects likely to be derived to the disposition and morale of the people from the rejection of the above-named bill, let the following circumstance which occurred on the 5th of November last at Bury St. Edmund’s, be contemplated with the horror and indignation which it so abundantly deserves. “While a mob of Christian savages were indulging themselves in the inhuman amusement of baiting a bull, the poor animal (which was, by nature, perfectly gentle, but which had been privately baited in the morning and goaded with sharp instruments, in order to render him furious enough for public exhibition) although tied down with ropes, in his agony and rage, (baited as he was by dogs and gored by brutes in the shape of men) burst from his fetters to the great terror of his tormentors, and the no small danger of the peaceable inhabitants of the place. After this, the poor beast was doomed to be a victim of still greater barbarity, of fresh tortures inflicted: he was entangled again with ropes, and horrible, monstrous to relate!, his hoofs were cut off and he again baited, while he had to defend himself on his mangled bleeding stumps!”

As a proof that cruel sports are still in fashion, not only amongst the lower but some of the higher classes, it is mentioned in a late newspaper that a certain nobleman has just established a bear-garden in the vicinity of the metropolis, with a view to revive the almost exploded inhumanity of baiting bears: and as a refinement on the ancient system, in order to render the poor animals more defenceless against their antagonists, the teeth of the bears are all drawn out! Are we to hail those as men and brothers, nay as fellow-christians, who can take delight in such spectacles of these?­ It has been the endeavour of the foregoing discourse to prove that wanton cruelty towards brute animals is incompatible with real Christianity; the inference is obvious; those whose cruel, implacable, and unmerciful dispositions seek their recreation in beholding the pangs and sufferings of contending animals, are not Christians. “The truly religious man,” says the Rev. Mr. Daubeny, “cannot fail to be a firmly moral man: nor is it possible, that any real disciple of the meek and compassionate Jesus, can be unpossessed of a merciful disposition. He may deceive himself indeed, as too many are accustomed to do; by fancying that by his admission into the church of Christ, and by his attendance on its services, he becomes of course what the religion of the gospel was designed to make him. But Christians, like trees, are to be known by their fruits. Should that natural stock, which has been grafted into Christ, for the purpose of its being enabled to bring forth good fruit, continue to yield that sour and refuse produce which belongs only to its wild and uncultivated state, the graft, we may depend upon it, has taken no effect.” “Should he find in himself an inclination to be cruel, implacable, unmerciful, he has not studied in the school of Christ, but in that of the world; and therefore with the world be must expect to perish.” (Sermon on cruelty to dumb animals.) 

Nothing is more common, nor more disgusting to humanity, than the accounts of wagers laid on forced and violent exertions of horses and other animals; let the following instance taken from a newspaper a few months since, stand for an example. “Some brutes, in human shape, at Harlowbush fair, engaged a poney, about twelve hands high, to run an hundred miles in twelve hours. The tittle animal went sixty miles in six hours, but at the eightieth mile, it broke its heart, and fell down dead.” 

As a very singular instance of refined ingenuity in the principle as well as practice of cruelty, the followup new method of destroying field mice is copied from a modern publication; where it is recommended in consequence of several successful experiments. “Catch, by means of traps or any other method, ten or a dozen field mice alive, and confine them in a box without food: they will be driven by hunger to destroy and devour each other; the single conqueror and survivor of the rest will by this means have acquired an unnatural and ravenous thirst after the blood of his own species, and if turned out into the fields; from which he was taken, will go into their holes, and destroy both young and old, in order to satiate his newly acquired appetite.” God forbid that any such unnatural loathsome inventions should be added to the overgrown stock of cruelty already existing amongst us!

The many cruel practices exercised towards animals intended for food ought not to pass unnoticed. The unfeeling barbarities of butchers and drovers in their treatment of different kinds of beasts designed for slaughter are dreadful to be conceived. The slaying of ells alive, when a single blow properly given will instantly kill them, is a well-known instance of deliberate cruelty. Much needless torture is practiced in depriving shell-fish of life, as oysters, crabs, and lobsters. That exquisite refinement of epicurism and barbarity, the crimping of fish alive, cannot be reprobated in too strong language. Many other cases might be mentioned, and if every reader would try to make a catalogue of all the instances of unnecessary and wanton cruelty in killing animals for the purposes of food, which he recollects to have seen or heard of, it will probably tend much to excite his indignation and soften his heart.

The inhuman methods which are necessarily employed in order to teach various beasts and birds to perform unnatural and strange feats of sagacity and agility by way of public exhibition, ought to weigh with every man of feeling sufficiently to prevent his encouragement of any such useless and unwarrantable sights. This is surely one of the most wanton abuses of our dominion over the animal race. The same may be said of every mutilation of the ears and tails of horses, under the absurd and indefensible plea of improving their outward appearance.

The inhabitants of the city of Bath have no need to be reminded of the scenes of barbarity which are daily exhibited towards those wretched droves of horses and asses which carry coals about their streets, and are made the victims of so much brutal treatment from their unfeeling drivers. It is a pity that in a place so justly famed for its charities of the higher order, something cannot be done to remedy the sufferings of these poor creatures like wise.

Too much cannot be said on this subject to all those, whether parents or instructors, who have the care of children; they should watch them very narrowly to prevent their treating insects, birds, or any other animals with the smallest degree of inhumanity: they should be taught from the first to make the feelings of the creatures their own, and every possible means be employed to interest their earliest affections in the cause of tenderness and mercy on scriptural grounds. To boys in particular, that fundamental source of future cruelty of temper, the robbing birds of their nests for amusement, should be represented in its own true and hateful colours. It was very emphatically said by a writer of the last century but one; “The cruel parent that would encourage his child to deprive poor birds of her young brood, right well deserveth to have his own nest robbed, and to become childless.” For many other instances of cruelty to animals, judiciously selected and feelingly commented upon, the reader may consult Young’s Essay on Humanity.

In order to place the sin of wilfull cruelty to animals, and the baneful tendency of an attachment to cruel sports and diversions in an impressive and solemn point of view, I will conclude this black, catalogue of barbarities with the relation of a circumstance which took place on April 4, 1789; it has already appeared several times in print, and I find, upon actual inquiry, that the fact is indisputably true. It may serve instead of whole volumes written against cock-fighting, and all other such unjustifiable and inhuman practices.—“A. Esq. was a young man of large fortune, and in the splendour of his carriages and horses equalled by few country gentlemen. His table was marked for hospitality; and his behaviour courteous and polished. But Mr. A. had a strong partiality for the diversion of Cock-fighting; and had a favourite cock upon which he had won many profitable matches. The last bet he laid upon his bird he lost; which so enraged him, that he had the wretched animal tied to a spit, and roasted alive before a large fire. The screams of the tortured bird were so affecting, that some gentlemen who were present attempted to interfere; which so exasperated Mr. A. that he seized a bar of iron and with the most furious anger declared, that he would kill the first man that interposed to save the cock: but, in the midst of his passionate exclamations and threats, most awful to relate, he fell down dead upon the spot!”

“Doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth.” O!, then “let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like unto his.” (Ps 58; Num 23)

The End.



Legh Richmond (1772-1827) was an Anglican High-Calvinist preacher and writer. He served for twenty-two years as Rector of Turvey, Bedfordshire.