The Robins by John Woolman

A thing remarkable in my childhood was, that once going to a neighbor's house, I saw on the way a robin sitting on her nest, and as I went near her she went off, but, having young ones, flew about, and with many cries told her concern for them.

I stood and threw stones at her, until, one striking her, she fell down dead. At first I was pleased with the exploit, but after a few minutes was seized with horror for having in a sportive way killed an innocent creature while she was careful of her young. I beheld her lying dead, and thought that these young ones, for which she was so heedful, must now perish for want of their parent to nourish them; and after some painful considerations on the subject, I climbed up the tree, took all the young birds and killed them, supposing that to be better than to leave them to pine away and die miserably. I believed in this case that the Scripture proverb was fulfilled: "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

I then went on my errand, but for some hours could think of little else than the cruelties I had committed, and was troubled.

He whose tender mercies are over all his works hath placed a principle in the human mind which incites to goodness towards every living creature; and this being singly attended to, we become tender-hearted and sympathizing; but being frequently rejected, the mind becomes shut up in a contrary disposition.

I often remember the Fountain of Goodness which gives being to all creatures, and whose love extends to the caring for the sparrow; and I believe that where the love of God is verily perfected, a tenderness toward all creatures made subject to us will be felt, and a care that we do not lessen that sweetness of life in the animal creation which their Creator intended for them.