For those not familiar with Charles Spurgeon's "John Ploughman," below is one of his many vignettes from John Plougman's Pictures.
"I have written for ploughmen 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. Much that needs to be said to the toiling masses would not well suit the pulpit and the Sabbath; these lowly pages may teach thrift and industry all the days of the week in the cottage and the workshop; and if some learn these lessons I shall not repent the adoption of a rustic style. That I have written in a semi-humorous vein needs no apology, since thereby sound moral teaching has gained a hearing from at least 300,000 persons. There is no particular virtue in being seriously unreadable."
―C. H. Spurgeon
Here's a queer picture, and this is the story which goes with it; you shall have it just as I found it in an old book. "An old man and his young son were driving an ass before them to the next market to sell. 'Why have you no more wit,' says one to the man upon the way, 'than you and your son to trudge it a-foot, and let the ass go light?' So the old man set his son upon the ass, and footed it himself. 'Why, sir,' says another after this, to the boy, 'ye lazy rogue, you, must you ride, and let your old father go a-foot?' The old man upon this took down his son, and got up himself. 'Do you see,' says a third, 'how the lazy old knave rides himself and the poor young fellow has much ado to creep after him?' The father, upon this, took up his son behind him. The next they met asked the old man whether the ass were his own or no? He said, 'Yes.' 'Troth, there's little sign on't,' says the other, 'by your loading him thus.' 'Well,' says the old man to himself, 'and what am I to do now? for I'm laughed at, if either the ass be empty, or if one of us rides, or both; 'and so he came to the conclusion to bind the ass's legs together with a cord, and they tried to carry him to market with a pole upon their shoulders, betwixt them. This was sport to everybody that saw it, inasmuch that the old man in great wrath threw down the ass into a river, and so went his way home again. The good man, in fine, was willing to please everybody, but had the ill fortune to please nobody, and lost his ass into the bargain.''
He who will not go to bed till he pleases every-body will have to sit up a great many nights. Many men, many minds; many women, many whims; and so if we please one we are sure to set another grumbling. We had better wait till they are all of one mind before we mind them, or we shall be like the man who hunted many hares at once and caught none. Besides, the fancies of men alter, and folly is never long pleased with the same thing, but changes its palate, and grows sick of what it doted on. Will Shepherd says he once tried to serve two masters, but, says he, "I soon had enough of it, and I declared that, if I was pardoned this once, the next time they caught me at it they might pickle me in salt and souse me in boiling vinegar."
"He who would general favour win
And not himself offend,
Today the task he may begin,
He'll never, never end."
If we dance to every fiddle we shall soon be lame in both legs. Good nature may be a great misfortune if we do not mix prudence with it.
He that all men would please
Shall never find ease.
It is right to be obliging, but we are not obliged to be every man's lackey. Put your hand quickly to your hat, for that is courtesy; but don't bow your head at every man's bidding, for that is slavery. He who hopes to please all should first fit the moon with a suit of clothes, or fill a bottomless barrel with buckets with their hoops off. To live upon the praises of others is to feed on the air; for what is praise but the breath of men's nostrils? That's poor stuff to make a dinner of. To set traps for claps, and to faint if you don't get them, is a childish thing; and to change your coat to please new company is as mean as dirt. Change for the better as often as you like, but mind it is better before you change. Tom of Bedlam never did a madder thing than he who tried to please a thousand masters at once: one is quite enough. If a man pleases God he may let the world wag its own way, and frown or flatter, as the maggot bites. What is there, after all, to frighten a man in a fool's grin, or in the frown of a poor mortal like yourself? If it mattered at all what the world says of us, it would be some comfort that when a good man is buried people say, "He was not a bad fellow after all." When the cow is dead we hear how much milk she gave. When the man's gone to heaven folks know their loss, and wonder how it was they did not treat him better.
The way of pleasing men is hard, but blessed are they who please God. He is not a free man who is afraid to think for himself, for if his thoughts are in bonds the man is not free. A man of God is a manly man. A true man does what he thinks to be right, whether the pigs grunt or the dogs howl. Are you afraid to follow out your conscience because Tom, Jack, and Harry, or Mary, Ann and Betsy, would laugh at you? Then you are not the seventy-fifth cousin to John Ploughman, who goes on his way whistling merrily, though many find fault with himself, and his plough, and his horses, and his harness, and his boots, and his coat, and his waistcoat, and his hat, and his head, and every hair on it. John says it amuses them and doesn't hurt him; but depend on it you will never catch John or his boys carrying the donkey.