From John Ploughman’s Pictures: More Plain of His Plain Talk for Plain People by Charles Spurgeon, English preacher and author, 1880.
NEVER STOP THE PLOW TO CATCH A MOUSE
Think of a man, a boy, and four horses all standing still for the sake of a mouse! They have a great work in hand which needs all their efforts, and they leave it to waste time over nothing. The main work must be done and the main concerns tended to, and one must just put up with the little things. Nobody would burn his house down to kill the ants, nor is there any use in stopping your fishing because of the seaweed. If the butcher closed his store until he had killed all the flies, we would go many a day without meat. If the water companies never gave us a drink till they had fished every carp out of the river, how would the old ladies ever make their tea?
Our minister said to me, “John, if you were on the committees of some of our congregations you would see this mouse-hunting done to perfection. And not only congregations, but whole denominations, go mouse-hunting.” He said, “A society of good Christian people will split into pieces over a petty quarrel, or mere matter of opinion, while all around them the masses are perishing for want of the Gospel. A miserable little mouse, which no cat would ever hunt, takes them off from their Lord’s work. Again, intelligent people will spend months of time and heaps of money inventing and publishing mere speculations, while the great field of the world lies unplowed. They seem to care nothing how many may perish so long as they can make their points and get their way on these minor issues. In other matters, a little common sense is allowed to rule, but in the weightiest matters foolishness is sadly conspicuous. As for you and me, John, let us kill a mouse when it nibbles at the bread on our plate, but otherwise, let us not spend our lives over it. The paltry trifles of this world are much of the same sort. Let us give our chief attention to the chief things– the glory of God, the winning of souls for Jesus, and our own salvation.”
YOU MAY BEND THE SAPLING, BUT NOT THE TREE
Ladder, pole, and cord will be of no use to straighten the bent tree; it should have been looked after much earlier. Train trees when they are saplings, and young lads before they grow beards. Begin early to teach, for children begin early to sin. Catch them young and you may hope to keep them. What is learned young is learned for life. The bent twig grows up a crooked tree. When a boy is rebellious, conquer him, and do it well the first time, that there may be no need to do it again. A child’s first lesson should be obedience, and after that you may teach him what you please. Yet, the young mind must not be laced too tight, or you may hurt its growth and hinder its strength. Nobody needs so much common sense and wisdom as a mother and a father. A child’s back must be made to bend, but it must not be broken. He must be ruled, but not with a rod of iron. His spirit must be conquered, but not crushed. Nature does sometimes overcome nurture, but for the most part the teacher wins the day.
Children are often what they are made; the pity is that so many are spoiled in the bringing up. A child may be rocked too hard; you may spoil him either by too much cuffing or too much kissing. There’s a medium in everything and they are good parents who hit upon it, so that they govern their children with love, and the children love to be governed by them. Some are like Eli, who let his sons sin and only chided them a little; these will turn out to be cruel parents in the long run. Others are too strict and make home miserable, and so drive the youngsters to the wrong road in another way. So you see it is easy to err on either side, and hard to dance the tight-rope of wisdom. Depend on it, those who have children will never be short of burdens and cares. In these days children get their own way too much, and often make their parents their slaves. It has come to a fine pass when the kittens rule the cat; it is the upsetting of everything, and no parent ought to put up with it. It is as bad for the children as it is for the grown folk, and it brings out the worst in all. The head must be the head, or it will hurt the whole body.
SCATTER AND INCREASE
People will not believe it, and yet it is true as the gospel, that giving leads to thriving. If a man cannot pay his debts he must not think of giving, for he has nothing of his own, and it is thieving to give away other people’s property. Be just before you are generous. But then, be generous. You will find that generous people are happy people, and get more enjoyment out of what they have than the misers of the world. Misers never rest till they are put to bed with a shovel. Generous souls are made happy by the happiness of others. The money they give to those in need buys them more pleasure than any other that they spend. He that gives God his heart will not deny him his money.
Proverbs 12:15 — The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
Ephesians 6:4 — Fathers (and mothers), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 9:7 — Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Dear God, help me today to watch my mouth so what goes in and what comes out won’t make me regret or hang my head with shame; so that this evening I can say, thank you, God, for helping me again. Amen. –Hilda Nelson