Proverbs 12:10

An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
Charles Bridges

"A righteous man regards the life of his animal,
but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

The minuteness of Scripture is one of its most valuable properties. It shows the mind of God on many points apparently trivial. Here it tests our profession by our treatment of the brute beasts. They were given to man, as the lord of the creation, for his use, comfort, and food--not for his wantonness. A righteous man regards the life of his animal, duly attends to its comfort, and never presses it beyond its strength. The brutal habits, therefore, the coarse words, inhumane blows, and hard tyranny on the public roads are disgraceful to our nature. The delight of children in putting animals to pain for amusement, if not early restrained, will mature them in cruelty, demoralize their whole character, and harden them against all the sympathies of social life. As Mr. Locke wisely observed, "They who delight in the sufferings and destruction of inferior creatures will not be apt to be very compassionate and benign to those of their own kind." Thus the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel, having no right feeling, and are only a milder exercise of barbarity usually meted out for some selfish end.

But why is this humanity marked as the feature of a righteous man? Because it is the image of our heavenly Father, who spreads his cherishing wings over his whole creation. As though the field of man was too small for his goodness, he regards the life of the beast. Witness the sanctions of his law and the dispensations of his judgments. Nay, even did he by miraculous interference put into the mouth of the stupid ass to plead as it were the cause of the silent creation. Must not then his children reflect his whole image of love? And is not the lack of any feature of this image a mark of doubtful relationship to him?

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