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at any time, as their companions, but awake to find themselves destitute of the necessary qualification for that readiness, just at the moment when it is wanted.
The actual arrival of the bridegroom takes place at midnight: a time when sleep is the soundest, and consequently the occurrence of any event, which presupposes the exercise of vigilance and attention, in order to be prepared for it, is least to be anticipated. This circumstance, therefore, contributes in its order to the effect of the surprise in question. But with respect to the supposition itself—it is a critical distinction, approaching to the extreme verge, yet confined within the strict limits of propriety, that a ceremony, which ought to have begun in the evening, but had been deferred, apparently indefinitely, beyond its usual time, is yet actually consummated at midnight.
His arrival is preceded or accompanied by a crye La very natural and characteristic circumstance of the tumultuous joy and festivity which might be expected to distinguish the progress of a nuptial procession through the public streets, and to notify its. approach ; and which, in the present instance, may justly be presumed to have proceeded from the personal train of friends and attendants of the other
e Harmer mentions, vol, i. 211. chap. iii. Obs. xxi. from sir John Chardin, that“ in the Indies the parts of the night are “made known as well by instruments (of music) in great cities, “ as by the rounds of the watchmen ; who with cries, and small “ drums, give them notice that a fourth part of the night is “ passed.” Such cries must needs awake those that were previously asleep.
sex, with which the principal party in a nuptial solemnity, coming to receive bis bride, and to conduct her from her own home to his, would ordinarily be surrounded. The direct effect of this cry is to awake the virgins from their slumbers, by calling on them to come forth, and unite the nuptial train of the bride with the retinue of the bridegroom ; that so both inight proceed in conjunction to the house where the nuptial feast was to be kept. And as the arrival of the bridegroom, until this time, appears to have been unusually procrastinated; so the course of the ceremony from this time forward, seems to be marked by more than ordinary quickness and dispatch. The words of command addressed from without to the company of virgins within, “ The “ bridegroom is coming: come ye forth to meet “ him," are expressive of haste and expedition. This too is a natural circumstance in the conclusion of a ceremony, which had been previously deferred beyond its proper time; and by leaving no room for the adoption of precautions, at this stage of the consummation, which might have been neglected until then; it conspires with every other particular to heighten the effect of the surprise, and to promote the proper moral of the history.
It appears from the language of the foolish virgins, when assigning a reason for requesting from their companions a portion of the oil which they had prepared in reserve—“Give to us from your oil; be6 cause our lamps are beginning to go out;" (ai que Tráoes ýpõv oßévvuutai)—that the lamps of the foolish virgins, and we may presume those of the wise ones also, had continued to burn with the original supply
of oil, up to the critical moment when they were wanted; but were beginning to fail for the first time then. The meaning of these words is, that their lamps had begun to be extinguished, but were not quite extinct; that they had begun to go out, but were not yet gone. Hence, though the lamps of the wise virgins must have been discovered in the same situation—it was easy for them, having a supply of oil at hand, to pour a little more into them, and to revive the flame as effectually as ever; which the parable calls, “trimming their lamps :" but the lamps of their companions, which were on the point of being extinguished already, without an additional supply from some other quarter, would soon be entirely dead.
It was natural, therefore, that not being provided with the means of this supply themselves, and the occasion being urgent and requiring it immediately, if they were to retain their place in the nuptial solemnity- they should turn to their companions in their distress, and ask to borrow of them a little of the oil from their vessels. But it was not reasonable that the ultimate advantage of a precaution, which though equally necessary to the foolish, and equally possible to them, had been neglected while it was practicable, should be enjoyed by any but those to whose wisdom and foresight the precaution was due. Besides which, and as a still more cogent reason for refusing their request—in the provision which the wise virgins had made, their æconomy had been shewn, as well as their foresight—and the oil which they had taken in reserve, was no more than sufficient for themselves. To have shared it with their companions, would have been to render it insufficient for them all, and to endanger the place and privilege in the nuptial attendance, of all: so that under the circumstances of the case, the refusal of the wise to give away any part of their oil, was just as natural, and just as prudential, as the request of that favour by the foolish.
The only alternative, then, which might seem to be left to the foolish virgins, was that suggested by their wiser companions—to go and procure it for themselves, where it was likely to be found ; viz. from those that sold it. And as this was the only expedient, which, under the circumstances of the case, seemed likely to answer the end in view ; so, had there been time to carry it into effect, it might have repaired their previous omission, and remedied the consequences of their original imprudence. But the procession of the bridegroom was at hand, when they discovered their omission, and were made sensible of their imprudence; and to go to the shops to buy, and to return provided with what they wanted, would take up time for a very different purpose, where not a moment was to be spared from the purpose of attending on the bride. The very expedient, then, which under the circumstances of their situation appeared to be the only one left, with the probable chance of retrieving the consequences of a past error to themselves, would prove in the end to have rendered these consequences but the more inevitable. This very expedient would turn out to be a preposterous remedy—too late in its occurrence to obviate the effects of an oversight, once committed ; in its own nature the reverse of the prospective contrivance of their wiser companions,
and just as characteristic of folly in being adopted at the time when the evil to be avoided, was close at hand, as in having been neglected before, when it was yet remote, and capable of being guarded against.
The arrival of the bridegroom, then, just at the moment when the unwise virgins have set out upon their errand, besides being a circumstance naturally to be expected from the previous course of things is strikingly conducive to the moral effect of the narrative. It was a consequence of their departure, at such a time, that upon the actual coming of the bridegroom's party, none were left in attendance on the bride, and in a state of readiness to bear their part in the nuptial procession, from her home to his, but the wiser portion of the company; and none being ready at the time to join in the nuptial procession, but these, none could accompany it to the house where the nuptial feast was to be celebrated, none could be admitted into that house in quality of the guests at that feast, and none could ultimately partake of the feast—but these.
The separation, then, which takes place first at this point of time, (a point of time determined by the actual arrival of the bridegroom,) between one part of the same company, and the other-all of them previously waiting for, and expecting the bridegroom in common, all of them previously having the same personal interest in the event of his coming, and the same personal inducement to wait for and expect it—is a separation of the wise as such from the unwise as such; that is, of one part from the other, according to the difference of the