To The Idle

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a Reformed Baptist preacher who lived from 1834 to 1892. He was a prolific writer and certainly had a way with words.

I have recently discovered his book, John Ploughman’s Talk and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The book is chock full of pithy zingers, many of which are agrarian in nature, and written for the common “ploughman” of his day. However, his down-to-earth observations and admonitions are timeless. Here is part of what C.H. Spurgeon writes in the introduction of John Ploughman’s Talk.

“In John Ploughman's Talk, I have written for plowmen and common people. Hence refined taste and dainty words have been discarded for strong proverbial expressions and homely phrases. I have aimed my blows at the vices of the many, and tried to inculcate those moral virtues without which men are degraded.... That I have written in a semi-humorous vein needs no apology.... There is no particular virtue in being seriously unreadable.”

The excerpts that follow are from chapter 1 of John Ploughman’s Talk, which is titled, To The Idle:

“Lolling about hour after hour, with nothing to do, is just making holes in the hedge to let the pigs through; and they will come through—make no mistake and the rooting they will do nobody knows except those who have to look after the garden. The Lord Jesus tells us himself that while men slept the enemy sowed the tares; that hits the nail on the head, for it is by the door of sluggishness that evil enters the heart more often, it seems to me, than by any other.”


“Everything in the world is of some use; but it would puzzle a doctor of divinity, or a philosopher, or the wisest owl in our steeple to tell the good of idleness: that seems to me to be an ill wind which blows nobody any good—a sort of mud which breeds no eels, a dirty ditch which would not feed a frog. Sift a sluggard grain by grain, and you'll find him all chaff.”


"You know we are obliged to plow with such cattle as we have found for us; but when I am set to work with some men, I'd as soon drive a team of snails or go out rabbit hunting with a dead ferret. Why, you might sooner get blood out of a gatepost or juice out of a cork than work out of some of them; and yet they are always talking about their rights. I wish they would give an eye to their own wrongs, and not lean on the plow handles"


"Many of our squires have nothing to do but to part their hair in the middle; and many of the London grandees, ladies and gentlemen both alike, as I am told, have no better work than killing time. Now, they say the higher a monkey climbs, the more his tail is seen; and so, the greater these people are, the more their idleness is noticed, and the more they ought to be ashamed of it. I don't say they ought to plow, but I do say that they ought to do something for the state besides being like the caterpillars on the cabbage, eating up the good things; or like the butterflies, showing themselves off but making no honey. I cannot be angry with these people somehow, for I pity them when I think of the stupid rules of fashion which they are forced to mind, and the vanity in which they drag out their days."


"The ugliest sight in the world is one of those thoroughbred loafers, who would hardly hold up his basin if it were to rain with porridge; and for certain would never hold up a bigger pot than he wanted filled for himself."


"I don't like our boys to be in mischief, but I would sooner see them up to their necks in the mud in their larks than sauntering about with nothing to do."


"My advice is, if you don't like hard work, just pitch into it, settle it off, and have your turn at rest."


"I wish all religious people would take this matter under their consideration, for some professors are amazingly lazy and make sad work for the tongues of the wicked. I think a godly plowmen ought to be the best man in the field and let no team beat him. When we are at work, we ought to be at it, and not stop the plow to talk, even though the talk may be about religion."


"If some of the members at our meeting were a little more spry with their arms and legs when they are at labor and a little quieter with their tongues, they would say more for religion than they now do."


I may blog here with more quotes on different chapters from John Ploughman’s Talk in the future. But if you would like to read the book, you can do so online at this link: John Ploughman’s Talk; or, Plain Advice For Plain People


Mule Shoe Farm said...

Pithy Pertinent Advice.

Seen on the signbaord of a local church:
No field gets turned over by the mind.

Stephen Orr said...

Herrick, I recently found "John Ploughman's Talks" in a used bookstore for a dollar. The copy was in almost mint condition, and I was tickled to buy a paperback book that had no barcode on it.

I very much enjoy reading this little gem, as I enjoy all of Spurgeon's writings.

There are also some of Spurgeon's farming sermons online, sermons with a farming/agrarian might look for them and read a few. I imagine you'd enjoy them.

Hope you and your family are having a peaceful, smile-filled Thanksgiving.