One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs…
It is not difficult to see the force and application of this homely but sententious little allegory. Jeremiah lived in those days of declension and disaster in which the invasion of Judea by the King of Babylon was not only threatened, but actually took place. He saw the departure of "the King of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem," and these were all "carried away captive" to Babylon. Nevertheless, many of every class were left behind, and these were placed under the government of that weak and wicked king, Zedekiah. Those who were "carried away" comprised the best of the population with regard to intelligence, religious feeling, and patriotism. Their sorrows and afflictions humbled them, so that they repented of their idolatries and obtained mercy of the Lord. In due time the way was prepared for the return of the exiles to their own land; and there, under the leader. ship of such men as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel, they founded afresh a pious commonwealth, in which the worship of the true God was ever afterwards main-rained down to the time of the coming of Christ. In them was fulfilled the promise contained in verses 4-7. On the other hand, the Jews who remained at home with Zedekiah "and his princes" revolted against God more and more. They abandoned themselves openly to licentiousness and idolatry. Their temper fiery and mutinous, their language blasphemous, their whole conduct infamous. (See vers. 8-13.) These were the evil figs, so evil that they could not be eaten. The point suggested to us by Jeremiah's vision is, that there occur periods, or special circumstances, in the religious life of nations, which tend to develop and force the maturation of character with unusual energy and astonishing rapidity. In such times, you do not find people merely good or bad; but the good are very good, and the evil very evil. Now, it is evident that no parallel whatever can be drawn between our position and circumstances in England at the present time and those of Judea in the days of Jeremiah. We are not, as a nation, suffering either from internal anarchy or from external assault. But still it may be, that other influences and conditions of society are at work, producing an exactly analogous result to that at the time referred to in the text.
I. CERTAIN PECULIARITIES OF OUR TIMES AND POSITION MY BE NOTED.
1. This is an age of extraordinary intellectual and social activity. The most absolute liberty of speech exists, and men shrink from the utterance of no opinion, the broaching of no speculation. This unusual activity and daring of thought produces rapid and extraordinary changes in both political and ecclesiastical affairs. Amid the astonishment and whirl of such events, it requires a great effort to keep the mind calm, and hold fast in our judgments, utterances, and actions to the sober requirements of sound principle and acknowledged truth (Proverbs 17:27, margin).
2. The very full and clear religious light which we enjoy.
3. The corresponding increase of activity in the Church. All manner of special devices are being tried and carried out vigorously whereby to reach all classes, to instruct the most ignorant and reform the most vicious, whilst ancient and ordinary means of grace are sustained with unprecedented interest and efficiency.
II. WHAT DO ALL THESE THINGS IMPORT? and what do they necessitate on our part individually? Truly we find here divers potent and stimulating agencies in operation, calculated to arouse us up to repentance and godly solicitude, and then to prompt us on to vigorous Christian life and action. If we yield to them, how fast and far may we soon be carried in the path of faith, in a career of usefulness! What bold, what firm, what fruitful Christians we must become if we enter fully into "the spirit of the times," considered as engaged on the side of Christ and His Gospel! But if we refuse to do so, if we set ourselves to resist these powerful influences, how strenuous must that resistance be! how determined and how self-conscious that action of the will which still fights against God and clings to worldliness and sin! Facts are in harmony with these reasonings. Illustrations abound on every side. In this earnest age you find earnest men both for good and evil. Was ever war conducted on so fearful a scale as we have lately witnessed? In our day, we have also seen such specimens of commercial roguery and robbery, conceived on so magnificent a scale, and executed under so clever and admirable a cloak of hypocrisy, as no previous age has ever presented to the world. On the other hand, look at the men who stand foremost in the van of religion and philanthropy. These are God's heroes; men are still living amongst us worthy of comparison with the spiritual heroes of ancient times, in regard to all that is noble in faith, self-denying in zeal, munificent in giving, or abundant in labours. These, indeed, are among the good figs, which by God's grace are very good: and to the production of such instances of exalted and matured piety, the present times are not in the least unfavourable. One might speak of books, as well as men. And if, on the other hand, it be true that infidelity and immorality were never so speciously or so boldly advocated as now, in sensational novels, in shallow critiques, or in vulgar serials; so, again, we defy any age to show such noble and masterly treatises as are now written by men of sanctified learning and genius, either in exposition of the Scriptures, or in vindication of their contents. Then there are public institutions and societies to be looked at. If chapels are multiplied, so are theatres. Look at the state of our large towns and cities. Were ever such facilities for evil doing? such criminal attractions for the young? so many places where vice is seductive and sin made easy? The kingdom of Satan is as active and roused up to new exertions as is the kingdom of Christ. It is said that, in the early colonisation of Van Diemen's Land, one man took a hive of bees, and soon the island was filled with swarms, and both the trees and rocks dropped with honey; another took a handful of thistle-down, and ere long the country was overrun with prickly and gigantic weeds. Like such actions, are the deeds of all men now. Shall we, then, multiply honey-hives, or scatter thistles in the earth? Let us seek to be good, and do good: and then, behold what glorious possibilities belong to us, of being pre-eminently holy, blest and useful!
(T. G. Horon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.