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personal characters of each. It is a separation which, notwithstanding its effects in discriminating between the personal fortunes of its subjects respectively at last, is due to the difference of their personal conduct before; and being no more than the necessary consequence of the different use of means and opportunities, equally in the power of both, and equally left to their own discretion, it is after all only the just personal retribution which prudence or imprudence of conduct, in the same situation, the right or the wrong use of similar means and opportunities, under circumstances equally favourable for either, are liable at all times, and may be expected in the end, to suffer.
The entering in of both the bridal parties, with such of the friends and attendants of each, as were present at the time; the closing of the door, immediately afterwards, against all besides; the consequent impossibility of procuring admission, and therefore of partaking in the nuptial festivity, to which any, not already within, whether they had been previously invited or not, became thencefor. ward subject; the probability that the door, whose closing is mentioned, was the smaller or private gate, through which the principal parties, with their immediate friends and attendants, were wont to be admitted on such occasions, are points which we had reason to explain elsewhere, as characteristic circumstances in the celebration of eastern weddings, or of entertainments in the East in general . The most important observation which we have to make upon them at present, is, that all these things
f Supra vol. iii. 450—452.
take effect during the continued absence of the improvident virgins, indeed--who are consequently among the number of those excluded—but only so long before their actual return as to be followed directly by it. They find, then, upon their arrival, the door shut; a clear intimation both that the nuptial parties were each within, and that the nuptial feast was already begun : they find themselves without, and consequently their exclusion certain, and the loss of the privilege of guests which they had hitherto supposed themselves to possess, irrecoverable; and all this, by being but a little too late. The folly of their original imprudence, in neglecting a certain precaution when it was as possible, as it was adviseable, to have adopted it; the absurdity of that preposterous wisdom, which is first awakened to the necessity of contriving when the power of executing is past; the true praise and salutary consequences of that wary and vigilant forecast, which is never to be found unprepared, but contemplates and provides long before for every possible emergency, could not have been more strikingly illustrated than by this result.
As then the conduct of the unwise virgins, from the time of the discovery of their imprudence, resembled the behaviour of those who were labouring to retrieve the effects of a previous error, when it was too late; so the rest of their conduct from this point of time, upon finding the door shut, resembles the behaviour of those who have discovered by experience that their efforts have been in vain, and in default of a better, are beginning to trust to a desperate and precarious chance. The rule of proceeding in such cases must have been too well
understood by them not to know, that as they had been too late to enter in along with the rest of the company, they had no right to expect, nor, generally speaking, any reason to calculate, upon admission at this period of the solemnity. Yet they are described as coming and knocking at the door, and saying, “ Lord ! Lord! open unto us." We may presume, therefore, that what they knew they could no longer claim as a right, they were venturing to ask as a favour; and consequently were trusting for the success of their application, not to the reason of the thing, to the merits of their suit, or to the justice of the party addressed, but to his good-nature and compassion. If so, their very request was a condemnation of themselves, and an admission that they had deserved the evil from which they sought to be relieved.
But the answer of the bridegroom from within might naturally be expected to refuse their petition; and under the circumstances of the case, there was much more reason to deny it, than to listen to it.
These, as part of the friends or companions of the bride, in particular, might not be personally known to himself; in which case his reply, taken in the exact meaning of its terms, would be literally true; and their application for admission would appear the request of strangers, who could not without impertinence, intrude into a ceremony, which nowise concerned them. But whether they were personally known to himself or not, and whether they once had a right to expect admission or not-as the attendants of the bride—it was clear that their privilege had been forfeited, by their absence at the time of her nuptial procession. To have opened the door to any part even of the proper train and retinue of the bride, who had not been ready to attend her, when their personal service was necessary to pay her honour, and to reflect dignity upon the celebrity of her nuptial procession—would have been an undeserved indulgence to them, and an injury done to the rest; and would have left the bridegroom open to the implication, that it was indifferent in his opinion, whether due honour and respect had been paid to his bride by her personal friends, or not; and that the wisdorn and foresight, the vigilance and fidelity, exerted in her behalf, by some of her friends, were not more praiseworthy in his opinion, or more entitled to his gratitude and acknowledgment, than the folly and thoughtlessness, the indolence and supineness, or the neglect of duty which had been displayed by others. The request of the foolish virgins, then, could not be conceded by the bridegroom, without a manifest injustice to the wise, and a clear intimation that the principal personage, who must exercise the right of admitting or excluding whom he would, as the guests at his own nuptial feast, was indifferent on whom his choice fell, or whether they deserved well of himself and of his bride, or not. It is consequently refused; and the sentence of exclusion entailed upon the refusal, becomes irrevocable in the case of the foolish virgins—to which result, the account of their request itself, and indeed the continuation of their history in particular, after that of the wise virgins had ceased, were doubtless intended to conduct.
THE MORAL. The design and tendency of the above representation, as conducing to one result, the effect of its cir
cumstances taken collectively, may be briefly described as follows: Out of a certain number of persons, designated as a company of virgins, all invited beforehand to the same nuptial festivity, and all waiting in common, with an equal expectation of partaking in it-to shew how it came to pass that one part lost their privilege of guests, and the other retained it to the end. The cause of this unexpected issue of things is resolvable into the fact, that the coming of the bridegroom which determined the precise point of time when the celebration of the nuptial feast was to begin, was later than had been expected by any of the company, collected to receive him; and consequently happened at a time when it must have been unforeseen to them all. But one part had adopted a precaution which was calculated to meet this contingency; the other had neglected to do so. One part, therefore, was prepared for his arrival at the moment when it took place; the rest had their preparations to make: one part was ready to accompany his nuptial procession, as soon as their presence was required; the rest were necessarily left behind. One part, therefore, would obtain admission into the house where the nuptial feast was to be celebrated, as soon as the procession reached it; the rest would be excluded from it, by the same act which admitted them : after which, the privilege of guests at the feast, became inalienably secured to the one, and irrecoverably lost to the other.
Now as all this was the effect of an original oversight on the part of those who are described as suffering from its consequences at last; an oversight committed at the outset of the business, but not discovered until the end of it; an oversight which was