Charles Spurgeon, English preacher and author, John Ploughman’s Talks: Plain Advice for Plain People, 1869, Chapter 19
Hard work is the grand secret of success. Nothing but rags and poverty can come of idleness. “Diligence is the mother of good luck,” says poor Richard. Believe in traveling on step by step; don’t expect to succeed in a jump. Slow and sure is better than fast and flimsy. Perseverance, by its daily gains, enriches a man far more than fits of fortunate speculation. Every little helps, as the sow said when she snapped at a gnat. Brick by brick, houses are built. We should creep before we walk, walk before we run, and run before we ride. The more haste the worse speed, for haste trips up its own heels. Hasty climbers have sudden falls…
Even crumbs are bread. Better half a loaf than none at all. A crust is hard fare, but none at all is harder. Remember, many men have done well in very small shops. A little trade with profit is better than a great concern at a loss. A great deal of water can be got from a small pipe if the bucket is always there to catch it. A sheep may get fat in a small meadow and starve in a great desert.
Make as few changes as you can; trees often transplanted bear little fruit. If you have difficulties in one place you will have them in another; if you move because it is damp in the valley, you may find it cold on the hill. Where will the ass go that he will not have to work? Where will you find land without stones, or meat without bones? Everywhere on earth men must eat bread by the sweat of their faces. Alteration is not always improvement. There is a proper time for changing, and then you must do so, for a sitting hen gets no barley. But do not be forever on the shift, for ‘sticking to it’ conquers. He who can wait long enough will win. In one place the seed grows, and in one nest the bird hatches its eggs.
Do not be above your business. He who turns up his nose at his own work quarrels with his bread and butter. There’s some discomfort in all trades. If sailors gave up going to sea because of the wet, if bakers left off baking because it is hot work, if plowmen would not plow because of the cold, or if tailors would not make our clothes for fear of pricking their fingers, what a pass we should come to! Nonsense, my fine fellow; there’s no shame about any honest calling. Don’t be afraid of soiling your hands, for there’s plenty of soap to be had. All trades are good to good traders.
You cannot get honey if you are frightened of bees, nor sow corn if you are afraid of getting mud on your boots. Until the Lord returns, we shall have to put up with things we don’t like. We had best bear our present burdens, rather than run helter-skelter to somewhere else where we shall find matters a great deal worse. Plod is the word. Everyone must row with such oars as he has; and as he can’t choose the wind, he must sail by such as God sends him. Patience and attention will get on in the long run.
Fools ask ‘who cares about the clock?,’ but wise men know their time. Harvest when the sun shines, and if you don’t, do not blame providence. God sends every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest. He gives us our daily bread, but it is through our own labor.
Never ruin yourself for the sake of money: it is like drowning yourself in a well to get a drink of water. Better walk barefoot than ride in a carriage to hell. The mouse wins little by nibbling the cheese if it gets caught in the trap. Clean money or none, remember, for to gain badly got will be an everlasting loss. A good article, full weight, and a fair price bring customers to the shop, but people do not recommended the shop where they are cheated. Even if all you aim at is profit, deal uprightly, for it pays the best.
Look most to your spending. No matter how much comes in, if more goes out, you will always be poor. The art is not in making money, but in keeping it. Little expenses, like mice in a barn, when they are many, make great waste. Hair by hair, heads get bald. Keep within boundaries. A fool may make money, but it needs a wise man to spend it. Fare hard and work hard while you are young, and you have a chance of rest when you are old.
Do not be greedy, for covetousness is always poor: still strive to get on, for poverty is no virtue. Earn all you can, save all you can, and then give all you can. Giving to God is no loss; for lending to the Lord is always a good investment. Giving is true having, as the old gravestone said of the dead man, ‘What I spent I had, what I saved I lost, what I gave I have.’
Proverbs 12:11 — He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.
Proverbs 20:4 — A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.
Colossians 3:17… 23 — And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him… Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
O God, who hast ordained that whatever is to be desired, should be sought by labor, and who, by thy blessing, brings honest labor to good effect; look with mercy upon my endeavors. Grant me, O Lord, to do only what is lawful and right, and afford me calmness of mind, and steadiness of purpose, that I may so do thy will in this short life, as to obtain happiness in the world to come. Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit, so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day I may discharge part of the task which Thou hast alloted me; so that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my soul. Bless my endeavors as shall seem best unto Thee; and if it shall please Thee to grant me the attainment of my purpose, preserve me from sinful pride. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me, but give me a pure heart and humble mind, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
–Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) (adapted from three prayers)