It has been left to us, in this our age of belief in the science of evolution, to open our eyes and see how much more marvellously and closely knit we are, as living members of one family in the presence of a common Father, than we had before realized.  It may be, nay it is probably true that Darwinism, as far as its actually observed results go, will not hold all the ground it anticipated; but to Darwin and his forty fellow-workers the Church of Christ at least owes this debt, that they set the world thinking and observing in the wondrous field of the relation of species; and, as followers of Jesus Christ, the gentlest of mankind whom mankind has known, we are bound to believe that the nearer we approach to His ideals, the gentler, the more sympathetic, and the happier will life on earth so mutually related become. (p. 94)….

I know that some of you will hardly understand me, when I say that we in England to-day are, in the name of two very different causes—the cause of Science and the cause of Sport—running a great risk of banishing from our midst the child-heart and the child’s power to lead brute force to higher things, rather than use brute-force and make it leader; the child’s power of persuasion to bring back gentleness, meekness, and grace, and love to a paradise re-opened for us by Christ the Lord. (pp. 101-102)

In the cause of science the great doctors are “baking dogs alive,” causing cats to lose their eyes by the grafting of slow ulcers, slicing up the brains of living animals by degrees, baring and scraping bones of living creatures, dividing nerves and nerve fibres, and by their mechanical contrivances keeping in iron vices and hard bonds the lacerated limbs of the creatures, which in those torture chambers, their laboratories, they are experimenting upon.  A law was passed in 1876 which regulates this terrible torture of living animals that are dumb, without power of choice, and defenceless; and now the Secretary of State alone can give his licence for the operator to go to his pitiless work.  But though the law stated that no vivisection should take place till the animal had been rendered insensible to pain, unhappily it did not forbid the use of a drug, “the hellish curare,” or “ourali” poison, which, whilst it actually paralyses and appears to render insensible the poor creatures that are being cut up alive, does really not only not do this, but heightens their sensibility while it deprives them of all means of showing that they suffer. (pp. 102-103)

So the terrible tragedy of the unrequited and long-protracted and certain pain of an innocent creature, to procure some possible painlessness for the higher creature, man, goes on.  And so one made in the image of God, Who is love and gentleness and mercy and all compassion, seems to be demanding for his own possible future good the ghastliest and most devilish of present torments and torture experiments from the dumb creature that would lovingly lick his hand and willingly serve him to the full of his intelligence. And all this because he has the power! (p. 103)

But there is another factor at work in this dulling and hardening of English hearts to-day.  Another cause than the cause of science is tending to put off the time when childlike gentleness shall reign and the brute in man, the wolf, and the lion, shall cease to raven and destroy.  This is the cause of so-called “sport!”  Men of old baited bulls in the Keswick market place.  Men of later time, from learned professors, such as Christopher North, to the keeper of the little public house up in the Newlands’ valley, indulged in cock-fighting; even the boys in the old Elizabethan school yard by our church gates, on their annual holiday, fought mains as a matter of course for cock-pennies; but it has been reserved to our day for gentle ladies to drink tea and eat ices where poor wounded pigeons can drop and die at their vey feet; and for our time has been reserved the rabbit-worrying as a sport which disgraces the back meadow of many a public house in mining England. (p. 104)

Those of you who have read the graphic but touching account of the rabbit coursing at Ryton Willows by the banks of Tyne last November, which Lieut.-Col Coulson witnessed, will know what I mean.  Rabbits starved, cold, and cramped, were there taken from sacks, dangled before fierce dogs, and carried to the peg which is called the “25 yards law peg;” then loosed, or rather pushed off (they were too frightened or too cramped in limb to start), and before they had got a few yards from the peg they were seized and torn in two by the dogs, over whose prowess cowards, calling themselves men, some sober, many drunk, betted and swore. (p. 105)

“I saw,” said Col. Coulson, “one unfortunate rabbit with his leg torn off, another with his entrails hanging out, and another with the skin of his back half peeled off.”  “It was really sorrowful to listen to the piteous appeals of the rabbits.  But there was no pity there.”  “No pity there,” friends!  What would this earth be if there were no pity here!  Yet it is my faith that, unless Englishmen, who follow the Lord of all pity and compassion, will arise and shew men who need recreation a more excellent way than this cowardly gambling with the lives of innocent creatures in the name of sport, we are hastening the time when in the hearts of English classes and masses there will be “no pity there.” (pp. 105-106)

Here on this anniversary of our founder, the gentle-hearted teacher of Christ who seemed to have such power over the beasts of the field and such compassion for the souls of the wild men of our mountain solitudes, I would urge you all to lay to heart the danger we are in of hardening our hearts by want of pity for all creatures.  Cruel to defenceless animals round about us, we may become cruel to the defenceless children in our homes.  Let us see to it, that so far as in us lies, we will debrutalise England, and leave our day a gentler-hearted day for Christ’s dear sake.  Friends, I would further ask you to believe that by closer communion with these so-called lower animals, and closer observation of their ways, we shall often come into closer communion with God. (pp. 106-107)

We shall find, with our added knowledge of their lives, new worlds of interest and sympathy open to us.  As we grow in graciousness and become more as little children, the wolf and the lion within us will lay aside their savagery, and in our power of appeal to the master forces of pity and compassion we may indeed be leaders of our time in the living way of pleasantness and peace, which, as the chronicle tells us, our founder trod of old. (p. 107)

(S. Kentigern and S. Herbert: Six Addresses Delivered in S. Kentigern’s Church, Crosthwaite)