Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 5, 1955

"Buy For Yourselves" -- A Lesson In Individuality

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

"And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves." Buy for yourselves — "that rule remains while there is any meaning in individuality."

One cannot walk in expectation of eternal bliss on the faith of the works of the other fellow. I cannot feed from the treasures laid up in heaven by my neighbor — I must build my own stock pile of eternal wealth. I cannot expect a saint, living or departed, to do my praying. I must as an individual steadfastly commune with the Father. "Faith without works is dead" — yes, and my faith plus the other fellow's work is not what James meant. What then is the principle of Christian activity? Individual responsibility — a Christian is necessarily something of an individualist.

The Christian as a member of the local congregation has an obligation to the congregation in worship, in obedience to the elders, in support of the work of the church. Yet these obligations do not destroy the duty of the Christian to participate in individualistic prayer, or individualistic "visiting" of "the least of my brethren." Yes, but yes — Christianity calls for a brand of individualism. Without it the child of God never knows the satisfaction of the personal communication and contact in prayer, benevolence and evangelism. "Must I go and empty handed, must I meet my Saviour so?"

Five foolish virgins were unprepared and they could not obtain preparedness from the wise ones. The wise could not give of their oil. That which the oil represented is not a gift or a blessing that can be immediately conferred or obtained. Nor can it be transmitted to another in a sort of business transaction. It is something that calls for response on the part of each man in his individualistic exercising of faith.

"Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you:" said the wise to the foolish. On the surface the statement might seem hard and selfish. The lesson to us is one of preparation, and that preparation comes only through individual growth in Christian principle. We cannot borrow Christian character when the Bridegroom cometh. Individual preparedness is not such as can be shared in a moment's notice. Why so? We are individuals, our faith in the Christ, in the gospel is an individual quality. Can the many Dorcas sisters among us give on demand the personal blessings experienced in their individual labors for good, to the neglectful and indifferent sisters? Can the devout Cornelius brethren who spend much time in prayer and alms giving impart on demand at the judgment day blessings to those who have never experienced the individual joy of personal contact with God and with indigent men? Can the preachers of Stephen's order give courage at that great day to the cowardly who shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God's Word? Individual responsibility, where art thou! In the budget of congregations which provide, (at the rate of eight or ten cents per member), for the operation of distant institutions?

Are we teaching the brethren toward a mechanical routine, a sort of service format of attending church three times a week, giving a dollar or two on Sunday, leaving everything that pertains to teaching, "visiting" et cetera to the congregation, to the elders? Are we taking individual responsibility away and the joys and blessings thereof? Does the individual spend any time in worship outside the meeting house?

In this marvelous age man has invented means of transportation in which he can sit down and rest while going somewhere. Is this to be said of the church? Can we as individuals sit down and rest, turning all responsibility over to the man whose foot is on the accelerator? Shall we have the New Testament church or shall we have another NEW-AGE denomination?

It can be said with scriptural backing that the church member has a definite steadfast responsibility to congregational activity. It can be said with equal scriptural authority that individuals have a personal responsibility to those in need, relieving the congregation of being burdened — thereby turning more money loose for the most important task of the saving of souls. What sort of reasoning has bewitched our brethren into concluding that "Ye took me in" is to be done by proxy? (Matt. 25:35.) Shall the Good Samaritan take his man to the inn and send the church the bill? "Do good to them that persecute you" — but let the congregation do the doing? "Bear ye one another's burdens" — but let the elders do all the bearing? "Let every man prove his own work" — but only in that he turns his personal responsibilities over to the church? "Every man bear his own burden" — through the congregation? Elders, be "given to hospitality" — but bill the church for the costs? "Work out your own salvation? — no, let the institution do it? "Honour your father and mother" — by charging the institution with their care? "Provide for your own" — in a distant institution?

Some brethren running loose amongst us are "modern individualists" — they advocate taking care of personal responsibilities by proxy. Yes, they are truly modern individualists — not New Testament individualists.