15 Less-than-Inspirational Quotes from a Book of Moral Advice

Getty Images/Erin McCarthy
Getty Images/Erin McCarthy / Getty Images/Erin McCarthy

Charles H. Spurgeon was a nineteenth century Baptist preacher whose London sermons were attended by thousands at a time. The sermons were transcribed and published, and every week, thousands of copies were sold for a penny apiece. He also published dozens of books. One of his best-sellers was a book of moral teachings written in a "rustic style" for the benefit of "ploughmen and common people." It was essentially a collection of popular quaint sayings such as "what's good for the goose is good for the gander," organized around themes like "On Patience," "On Gossips," and "Thoughts about Thought."

The sayings embody what we might think of as good old country wisdom. Some of the sayings, wise as they may be, don't exactly boost the spirit. But sometimes what we need, in our age of relentlessly positive inspirational quote sharing, is a refreshingly discouraging breath of stale air. So here are 15 anti-inspirational quotes from John Ploughman's talk: Plain Advice for Plain People.

1. (Don't) Reach for the stars!

"It is not wise to aim at impossibilities—it is a waste of powder to fire at the man in the moon."

2.  (Don't) Go for it! (Don't) Take the bull by the horns!

"I have often been told to be bold, and take the bull by the horns, but, as I rather think that the amusement is more pleasant than profitable, I shall leave it to those who are so cracked already that an ugly poke with a horn would not damage their skulls."

3. It will (not) all work out in the end!

"He who rides in the carriage may yet have to clean it. Sawyers change places, and he who is up aloft may have to take his turn in the pit. In less than a thousand years we shall all be bald and poor too, and who knows what he may come to before that?"

4. Help others and you will (not) reap the rewards!

"The young sucker runs away with the sap from the old tree. The foal drains its mother, and then kicks her. The old saying is 'I taught you to swim and now you would drown me,' and many a time it comes true."

5. Whatever you do, (don’t) keep your hopes alive!

"Eggs are eggs, but some are rotten; and so hopes are hopes, but many of them are delusions."

6. Work hard and you will (not) get what you deserve!

"Expect to get half of what you earn, a quarter of what is your due, and none of what you have lent, and you will be near the mark."

7. You can (not) always make a fresh start!

"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."

8. Let's (not) all support each other's efforts!

"Better discourage a man's climbing than help him to break his neck."

9. (Don't) Get out of that rut at work!

"Plod is the word. Every one 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."

10. Technology can (not) change our lives!

"It is far better to work with an old-fashioned spade which suits your hand than with a new fangled invention you don't understand."

11. (You cannot) Be your own best friend!

"Beware of no man more than yourself: we carry our worst enemies within us."

12. Be afraid to depend on others when you need to!

"Blessed is he who expects nothing of poor flesh and blood, for he shall never be disappointed."

13. You can (not) be anything you want to be!

"It is true you must bake with the flour you have, but if the sack is empty it might be quite as well not to set up for a baker."

14. You really can (not)!

"Every minnow wants to be a whale, but it is prudent to be a little fish while you have but little water."

15. (No, really.) You can (not)!

"One chap will make a London clerk, and another will do better to plow, and sow, and reap, and mow, and be a farmer's boy. It's no use forcing them; a snail will never run a race, nor a mouse drive a wagon."