This section contains the testimonies of six of Watchman Nee's contemporaries who knew him personally. What they have written concerning him was drawn from their personal knowledge and firsthand experience extending over a period of years.
Samuel I.L. Chang
His Relationship with Watchman Nee
Watchman Nee's grandmother and my grandmother were classmates in school. Their friendship began the relationship between our two families. Our fathers were also schoolmates, as were our sisters, and in due time he and I also attended the same school. Our relationship, however, was not merely the kind of friendship persons in the world have, but became the kind of relationship which exists between two Christian brothers. This relationship between us continued down through the years. It was through fellowship with Watchman Nee in 1927 that I was made clear concerning my own salvation. In 1934 he married my sister, but even though he became my brother-in-law, our relationship continued to be based not upon family ties but upon our relationship in Christ.
Assurance of Salvation through Watchman Nee
My spiritual relationship with Watchman Nee began when I received the assurance of salvation. He ministered Christ to me in the Spirit, bringing me into a genuine and living enjoyment of the assurance of salvation. He asked me simply, "Are you saved?" I replied, "I don't know." He asked again, "Why are you not saved?" Again I replied, "I don't know." Then he asked, "Do you believe John 3:16?" He then proceeded to break this verse down, clause by clause: "'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.'" He asked, "Do you believe this?" I replied, "Yes, I believe this." He asked, "Do you believe that 'every one who believes into Him would not perish, but have eternal life'?" I said, "Yes, I believe that also." He asked, "Are you saved?" I said, "I don't know." Then he said to me strongly, "But God said this. If you don't believe what He says, you make Him a liar!" These words lifted the veil from my heart and quickened my spirit. Immediately, I sensed the anointing within and fully believed that I was saved.
Ministered by Watchman Nee
On a number of occasions when I had personal problems, I went to Watchman Nee for help. Not one time was I rebuked. He would simply ask, "What have you learned from the Lord?" He helped me realize that all things occur under God's hand and are working together for good to conform me to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).
On one occasion my wife entered the hospital for an operation. Following the operation, the enemy attacked her with accusations and caused her to think that she was about to die. This news was reported to Watchman Nee, and he and my sister went to visit her. He realized that she was under the accusation of the enemy and ministered to her from Revelation 12:11: "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their soul-life even unto death." Then he telephoned me and confessed that his failure to help keep me in the Lord's fellowship had given the enemy ground to attack my wife. For this failure he asked my forgiveness. He fully realized that the warfare was not simply a matter for my wife alone, but that the warfare also required her husband and the church. This is why he asked me to forgive him. He realized that in order to fight against the enemy I needed the church and that there had been neglect on his part in being one with me. I told him, however, that it was not his fault; the fault lay in my inadequate consecration and in my love for the world. That is what gave the enemy the ground. Immediately I repented to the Lord. The moment I repented, the enemy left my wife, and the Lord gave her peace. The next morning when Watchman Nee's mother came to pray with her, she was able to sing praises to the Lord and enjoy the Lord's sweet anointing. This incident shows that Watchman Nee knew the ways of God. Through his spiritual discernment, my family was helped and was brought back to a complete union with Christ in our daily living.
My Impression of Watchman Nee
Watchman Nee was a person who was thoroughly saturated with the Lord. He was a man who lived in the Lord's presence. His disposition, character, and behavior had been transformed through the years under the perfecting hand of Miss Margaret E. Barber. He could listen without interruption to the words or suggestions of others. He was a man whose inner being had been touched by the Lord, and one who had acquired much rich experience from being dealt with by the Lord. If it were not so, such a genius would have found it extremely difficult to maintain a relationship with a foolish, stupid young brother like me. Later on, when I worked closely with him, I observed that he could listen to any kind of person without giving the impression that he was superior. He was transformed to such a degree that he could be built up with anyone, no matter what their condition, without being frustrated by their shortcomings or childishness.
In observing Watchman Nee's way of working, I never saw him try to impose his authority. Rather, he would set an example himself. He would rise early in the morning and work regular hours. He never took things lightly or acted loosely. Neither was he lazy. He never assumed that he was the boss, nor did he require of others what he himself would not do. He worked with his own hands, teaching others to work together with tenderness, love, patience, and cooperation.
Today most of Christianity criticizes him for his ministry concerning the church. Yet, I can testify that his ministry regarding the church was not a doctrine, a theory, or an unworkable plan. Not only did he teach what God revealed to him concerning the church-he also put the revelation into practice. Although the practice of the church, as God revealed it to Watchman Nee, was not seen on a large scale during his lifetime, today it has been fully vindicated. It is workable. Thousands of believers today can testify that they are living in the full reality of the church life.
For several years Watchman Nee and I were classmates at Trinity College, a school founded by the Church of England in the city of Foochow. We were good friends and frequently studied and played together. During our junior and senior high school years, we were both nominal Christians. We both had some knowledge of the Bible, and we outwardly kept the Christian forms of baptism, holy communion, church attendance, Bible study, and prayer. But we had never accepted in our hearts the Christ who was crucified for our sins and who resurrected on the third day, and we did not know Him as our personal Savior. We both loved the world and pursued the vanities of the world.
Watchman Nee was pursuing scholastic attainment in the field of Chinese literature. He would frequently write articles for publication in the newspapers. The money he earned was spent on lottery tickets. He was also fond of the movies. I preferred sports and yearned for the fame and praise of men.
In our first college year, his life suddenly changed. He became a fervent Christian and ceased pursuing the world. He frequently testified to his classmates, exhorting them to believe in the Lord Jesus. Many schoolmates did believe in the Lord and began voluntarily to pray in the college chapel, even during weekdays. He would frequently study the Bible in class; however, this did not seem to affect his grades. He usually came out with the highest examination scores in every subject. The lives of many of the students were changed by accepting the Lord, and the dormitory director admitted that some mischievous students, who had previously violated school regulations, had accepted the Lord and experienced a great change in their lives. As a result, he found himself with fewer cases of violation of school rules by students.
Saved through Watchman Nee
Watchman Nee invited me to attend some gospel meetings, but I refused. My heart was set on becoming famous in the sports world. One day, however, he came to my room and preached the gospel to me alone, urging me to accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior. Though I attempted to argue with him concerning some religious problems, he would not argue; instead, he asked me several questions: "Have you sinned? Do you know if your sins are forgiven? Do you know if you are saved?" At the time I didn't understand why, but in my heart I felt sorrowful. Later I realized that this was the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. He preached the gospel to me, explaining that God loved me and gave His only begotten Son for me, and that if I would truly believe in Him, I would not perish but would have eternal life. When asked if I would believe in Christ, I said I would. We knelt together and prayed, with him praying first. Then I prayed, asking the Lord to forgive my sins and thanking Him for loving and saving me. When I rose up, my heart was filled with joy and peace. I experienced a great change in my life and brought forth the fruit of repentance. My name had been one of the names on his prayer list, and the Lord answered his prayer. Praise the Lord!
Recovered by Watchman Nee
In 1924 I transferred to Nanking University and came under the influence of modernism. My faith was shaken. At that time Watchman Nee was staying in a brother's home in Nanking, recuperating from an illness. I frequently visited him for fellowship, and he helped me escape the influence of modernism. After his health improved, I was able to make arrangements for him to preach the gospel at Nanking University. As a result of his preaching, two of my classmates were saved.
Edified by Watchman Nee
In 1928, when I was about to leave the university, I considered serving the Lord full-time. I did not want to be a preacher on salary, but I did not know how to live by faith, so I went to Watchman Nee for fellowship. At that time he was quite lonely and greatly in need of co-workers who would be of the same mind. When I raised this matter, he did not encourage me in a careless manner to serve the Lord. He was neither influenced by his need for co-workers nor by the personal relationship between us. He simply told me not to wait until the Jordan waters opened, but to step into the water by faith-then the way would open before me. He knew that I lacked this kind of faith. I was waiting for the outward circumstances to change before beginning to serve the Lord. (Fifty years ago in China it was difficult to find anyone serving the Lord by faith like Watchman Nee.) Hence, I laid aside the thought of serving the Lord full-time and taught college for eight years.
In the spring of 1934, Watchman Nee held his third overcomer conference in Shanghai. In the morning he spoke on the centrality and universality of Christ. In the afternoon he spoke on God's overcomers. Through his messages in this conference, the Lord gave me revelation which brought about a great turn in my spiritual life. As a result, I stood up in the conference and for the first time consecrated my entire life to the Lord. At that time I was still teaching school.
In 1935 in Chefoo, Brother Nee experienced anew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. After this, he held a conference in Chuanchow, Fukien, and asked me to attend. There many were helped to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with the result that they had power and boldness to witness for the Lord. He also preached on the secret of the overcoming life, which is to let Christ live in our stead, according to Paul's testimony in Galatians 2:20. This conference brought in a great revival.
Confirmed and Assigned by Watchman Nee
In October 1936, Watchman Nee conducted a co-workers' conference in Kulangsu, Fukien. He cabled me and invited me to attend. By that time I had become clear concerning the Lord's call and was prepared to resign my teaching job to live by faith and serve the Lord. While I was seeking the Lord for His guidance, I received Brother Nee's invitation. I immediately realized that it was the Lord's will for me to attend the conference. I thank the Lord that at this conference I was given the rare opportunity of listening to Watchman Nee's testimony, which I was later able to publish as three articles. At the end of the conference, Brother Nee and the other co-workers assigned me to begin the work in Canton and later in Hong Kong. In 1937 Watchman Nee began the Lord's work in the southwest part of China in the city of Kunming in Yunnan province. After establishing the church there, he invited me to come and work in that locality. I picked up the burden and moved my family there. I worked there for three years, until my return to Hong Kong in 1940.
Following World War II, whenever Watchman Nee visited Canton or Hong Kong, I took the opportunity to seek his fellowship. I usually planned to ask him a number of questions, but after having some fellowship with him, it was unnecessary to ask the questions. In our fellowship I always received an abundant supply of life.
Trained by Watchman Nee
In 1948 I again had opportunity to attend a conference in the church in Shanghai. Brother Nee ministered on the matter of handing over ourselves with all we possess to the Lord. His words were full of impact and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the meetings were full of the Lord's presence. Many were revived and handed over themselves and their possessions, to be built together in serving the Lord. In the last meeting of the conference, because I was leaving for Foochow, Brother Nee, in the presence of all the assembled brothers and sisters, addressed me in the following words of farewell:
There is only one Christ, but due to different viewpoints and emphases of the workers, it seems that Christ has been divided into many Christs. If a worker cannot express to others the one Christ whom God desires to present, his work is a failure. Many today have had very intimate contact with the Lord, while others are merely pressing against Him (Mark 5:24). Perhaps some have indeed touched His back, held His hand, or torn His garments; yet they have no relationship whatever with Him in life. Among the many who thronged Jesus, the woman with an issue of blood was not the only one who was ill, but she was the only one healed in life (Matt. 9:20-22).
Some today indeed know the Christ of Bethesda (Mark 8:22-26) or the Christ of Gadara (Mark 5:1-20) or the Christ of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). In their experience they have really seen the miracles and the wonders. They may even be able to perform the miracles themselves. Yet if there is no true inward revelation, none of these works will amount to anything. Some may be able to tell others with moving power of a Christ of Emmaus. They may be able to expound the Scriptures and may cause others to become truly fervent in their hearts; yet it is all to no avail. The real work is to impart a Christ of revelation to others. I speak these words not only to Brother Weigh, but to all the co-workers and to all the brothers and sisters alike. If you and I cannot impart a Christ of revelation to others, our work is a failure.
Here we see that there are two basically different stands that a worker of the Lord can take: one emphasizes work, the expounding of the Scriptures, miracles, works of wonders, and answers to prayers, etc. The other presents before men a Christ of revelation.
In the same year, 1948, from the beginning of June to the end of September, Watchman Nee held a period of training on Mount Kuling, Fukien, for the purpose of training co-workers from all over China. I attended that training. Every day we spent approximately seven hours listening to Brother Nee and receiving his ministry. I was greatly helped in my spiritual understanding and also in the principles of working for the Lord....
My Last Contact with Watchman Nee
In the early part of 1950, Watchman Nee came to Hong Kong. Soon Witness Lee also joined him. In the past it had been a rare occurrence for these two brothers to visit the same church at the same time. Their ministry issued in a great revival in the church in Hong Kong. Previously there had been about three hundred in the meetings. As a result of the revival the number increased to between two and three thousand. There was a special blessing upon the church in Hong Kong.
Saved through Watchman Nee
I first met Watchman Nee in Chefoo, Shantung province, in the summer of 1935. I was then twenty-one years old. I was raised in a Christian family and studied in a Christian school. Though my mother's father had been a Free Methodist pastor, Christianity left me with a very poor impression, and I became an atheist. God was merciful to me, however, and caused me to meet Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. It was through them that I received salvation.
My aunt, who was quite concerned for my salvation, found occasion to introduce me to Watchman Nee in Witness Lee's living room. He began to preach the gospel to me, and we debated the matter of God's existence. He gave many reasons to prove God's existence, but I argued that since I could not see God, I could not believe in Him. Then he asked, "Can you see everything with your eyes? Do you deny the existence of something simply because you cannot see it? For example, there are electrical waves and air in this room. Can you deny their existence? God is not physical; God is Spirit. You cannot contact God with your eyes; you must use your spirit. If you seek God with your spirit, you will find Him." Then I asked, "How do I contact God with my spirit?" His reply was, "Just speak to God from deep within, according to your need and inner sense."
I went home and began to pray according to his instruction. Thank God! He answered my prayer and changed me from within. The following Sunday I attended the meeting. Witness Lee preached the gospel. His words were so powerful that the Lord was able to conquer me, deliver me, and clearly save me.
Helped through His Publications
After being saved, I secretly consecrated myself to the Lord. The Lord was so dear and so precious to me that I was willing to give up the world and serve Him the rest of my life. Then for twelve years I did not see Watchman Nee, but continued to receive much help through his spiritual publications.
Trained by Watchman Nee
I was a trainee in Watchman Nee's first training on Mount Kuling, Foochow, in 1948. I attended his training for nearly four months and was greatly helped by him. On one occasion, after I gave a testimony, he made the following comments:
Brother Chang, you said that in spiritual matters you frequently felt flat and often felt dry. I hope that from now on you will disregard all these feelings. Whether or not you feel flat, disregard it. Simply commit yourself into the Lord's hand and believe that He is able to take care of you, and spontaneously He will bring you through. There are many problems we cannot overcome by ourselves. However, when we behold the Lord and draw near to the Lord, the problem disappears.
The following is a parable about a centipede. One day, as a centipede was about to walk, it examined its legs to consider which one should move first. Should the left leg move first or the right one? How about the eighth leg, or the tenth? The centipede was stuck there trying to make a decision. The problem of the mind became a problem of the practice. Eventually, the sun came up. Without thinking, the centipede ran out to see the sunrise without considering which leg should move first. It forgot about how to walk and simply walked. When the problem of the mind was gone, the problem of the practice also disappeared.
The more you try to deal with the inner dryness, depression, and flatness, the more you cannot overcome them. These things become an issue because you make them an issue. If you forget about them and let them go, they will disappear.
Sometimes a problem is conquered by fighting, and other times it is conquered by forgetting. Many things can be gotten over by the exercise of your strength. But at other times, simply by forgetting it, the problem is solved. Boast in your weakness and give up your striving and your methods; then His power will spread over you.
This is the secret: Ask God to give you a glimpse of His riches and His glory through reading the Bible, praying, attending a meeting, or having fellowship with the brothers. Spontaneously, you will forget about other things. The infilling comes by forgetting, and forgetting comes by touching the Lord. Once you touch the Lord, you will no longer look at yourself.
Following his comments on my testimony, I asked him the following question: "I was sick for a year with tuberculosis, even with blood in my mucus. One day God's word came, I received faith, and the sickness was healed. But occasionally I would vomit again and the symptom would reappear. Why does the symptom reappear, and how do I overcome it?"
Brother Nee gave the following answer:
Concerning the matter of healing, we must pay attention to three things: 1) Do not tempt God, 2) Do not accept the symptom, and 3) Believe that the grace is sufficient.
Timothy had a chronic stomach problem. Paul advised him to no longer drink water. In those days the Jews had water ponds beneath their houses to store rain water or water diverted from another source. Bacteria grew in the water and made it unsanitary. So Paul advised Timothy to use a little wine (1 Tim. 5:23). Wine has a warming effect and helps the blood circulation. Paul had the gift of healing, and he healed many sick ones, but he did not heal Timothy's sickness. Timothy himself was also gifted, yet he could not get his own stomach problem healed. God did not give a word. Timothy could not say, "It doesn't matter whether I drink water or wine."
No! That would be tempting God. He should not drink the water out of a clay pond. To trust God and to tempt God may appear the same outwardly. The difference is in whether you have God's word or not. From all appearance, to rise up and walk with God's word is the same as to rise up and walk without God's word. But to rise and walk without God's word is to tempt God. If I walk on the premise that God can heal me, I am tempting God. But if I have God's word, I do not need to worry about the law of sanitation. If I do not have God's word, I should not disobey the natural law. Look at the man with the withered hand. Because the Lord had spoken a word to him, he did not wait until the symptom changed to believe that he was healed. He could ignore the symptom. The Lord told him to stretch forth his hand, and he simply stretched forth his hand. The Lord's word is dependable; the symptom is not. The paralytic did not wait until he was stronger before picking up his bed and walking. The Lord told him to pick up his bed and walk; so he picked it up and walked. When you have the Lord's word, you do not need to check your pulse or see if your fever is gone. If one does not have God's word, he needs to abide by the law of sanitation. But if one has God's word, he can afford to be an extremist, fearing nothing.
Watchman Nee then gave this testimony of how he was healed:
I was sick. Then one day God sent His word to heal me. I only knew that I must take care of God's word and not my symptom. If God says I am healed, then His word has stopped the illness. If you continue to look at your sickness, God's word loses its effectiveness. I was neither delighted if my fever went down nor nervous if it went up. My eyes were not on my temperature but on God's word. Whether the temperature was high or low, whether the blood count was more or less, these were not the Lord. Only the Lord is the Lord. Learn to laugh at the temperature. It doesn't matter whether it is high or low. Learn to trust in God's word and not in the symptom. Only God's word is real; the symptom is false. When God says it is over, it is over. If you vomited blood, God must be testing your faith. Learn to trust in God's word and not in the symptom, and the symptom will change. At first, I could not believe that I was healed either, because I did not have God's word. But one day God's word came, yet my symptom was still very serious. But I rose up and said, "Lord, rebuke the symptom if it is false." One or two hours later the illness was gone.
I had a lung problem, a kidney problem, a liver problem, and a heart problem. In 1923 I had peritonitis. I laid in bed for over a month. Breathing was painful to me. My fever was high and I was in much suffering. Brother Miao asked some saints to come and pray for me. When he prayed I felt nothing. However, when a certain sister, Miss Barber, prayed, "Lord, no one in the grave can praise Thee. If our brother dies, he will not be able to praise Thee," my heart was relieved, even though my fever was still high and I was still in acute pain. When the day dawned, I arose and walked to Lo-hsing Pagoda to edit an issue of The Christian Magazine.If you do not have God's word, you must take care of your body. But if you have God's word, you should ignore the symptom. Treat the symptom as a temptation and a lie. Do not stay with the symptom; stay away from it.
Some illnesses are healed immediately; others are not. Once when sick, I asked the Lord to heal me. The Lord said, "The healing will not take place quickly, but My grace is sufficient for you." Then the Lord showed me something. A boat sailing in the middle of a stream was facing a big rock and could not get through. The Lord asked me, "Shall I remove the rock so you can get through, or shall I raise the water level so that you can go over it?" At that moment I was clear concerning the Lord's will, and I said, "Lord, I do not ask to have the problem removed; I ask for an increase of Your grace."
There is no illness in the world that a Christian cannot overcome. If you have the Lord's word, do not care for the symptom. Believe that God is faithful. Be strengthened by contacting God's word, not by seeking removal of the symptom. Neither need you fear that the symptom will be an obstacle. Although the rock is not removed, the water level will be increased, not just some but greatly. This is our way.
In summary, these three things should be noted: 1) If you act without God's word, you tempt God; 2) If you have God's word, do not look at the symptom; 3) If God's word does not heal you immediately, then His grace will be sufficient for you. He never intended that we be sick and lack sufficient grace. Paul had an infirmity, yet he worked more than anyone else. Illness never stops the work. Learn to commit yourself to the true and faithful Lord.
A month before attending the Kuling training, I vomited a mouthful of blood and stayed in a Shanghai hospital. When the vomiting stopped, I went to Kuling. That was why I asked the question concerning the recurrence of a symptom after being healed. After receiving Brother Nee's help and guidance, the Lord showed me that in this universe only two things are real: God and His word. Everything else is false. Since I had God's word, I was healed, and since I was healed, there was no need to care for the symptom. Since God's word had come, any symptom was a lie. I thank God that from June 1948 until this very day in 1991, for forty-three years, I have not vomited blood again, not even a trace. The symptom has completely fled. Praise the Lord!
Impressed with Watchman Nee
Whenever Watchman Nee was asked a question, his answer was always practical, to the point, clear, full of anointing, and filled with light. His manner was very normal and open, and he was easy to approach. He had a great capacity and a broad heart. In spiritual matters, he climbed to the heights and touched the depths. Concerning God's principle and purpose, he was very rich in understanding and experience. He was frequently misunderstood and evil spoken of, but he never attempted to explain or vindicate himself. Once when asked why he would not make some effort to explain so as to avoid being misunderstood, he replied, "Brothers, if people trust us, there is no need to explain; if people do not trust us, there is no use in explaining." Not only would he not explain or vindicate when being backbitten; he would not reason or argue even when rebuked to his face.
He belittled the matter of riches. Substantial amounts of money passed through his hands. He was entrusted with large amounts to distribute in the Lord's work, and he also earned large sums in his business. Yet, while receiving with one hand, he would distribute with the other. On one occasion he said, "I believe that among the coworkers in China, I am the one who most frequently spends the last dollar." This was surely so. All those close to him knew that he was often empty-handed, keeping nothing for himself. But for the Lord's work and for the need of the church, he would give anything.
Dr. Chang Yu-lan
A Close Associate
Impression of Watchman Nee
Watchman Nee arrived in Chungking on March 6, 1945, and three days later attended a love feast to which he had been invited by the church in Chungking. He stayed in my home for ten days, and we continued to see each other for over a year. Later he moved to a place nearby called Little Lung-kan. Some of us would go to his home once or twice a week for fellowship. This continued for over six months. I would always have some questions prepared and would ask them one by one. His answers solved many problems. He always left a very sweet impression, yet one did not lose the sense of respect. His attitude was gentle and meek, and his words were full of anointing. In conversation with him, there was no sense of distance but a sense of being watered and supplied. Frequently seven or eight brothers and sisters would surround him, talking and asking questions for several hours, but he never showed tiredness. The impression left by his words and manner are unforgettable.
Concerning Spiritual Instruction
He told us about going to Margaret Barber weekly, during his student days, to be rebuked. At those times when there was nothing to rebuke, she would ask questions until some fault was found; then she would rebuke him. He said that through this means he received excellent spiritual instruction.
On one occasion Watchman Nee was rebuked by an employee. This employee pointed his finger and pounded his fist, rebuking Watchman Nee for almost four hours. At one point, some neighbors who felt the employee was being unfair, stepped in to intervene. But Watchman Nee sat calmly in his chair, holding a newspaper, without changing expression, as if nothing were happening. At times while he was being rebuked, he would nod his head. When I saw that, I could not understand it. Now I know that he was receiving it as a discipline from God's hand and was submitting himself to this circumstance God had allowed.
Frequently, Watchman Nee would suddenly lift up his eyes, look to heaven, and say, "He is God." The implication was that every circumstance was under God's sovereign arrangement and that he was willing to receive it as such and to obey.
Watchman Nee did not have the usual concept toward those who would inflict him with hurt. On one occasion he said, "The brothers who transgress are like little children who have fallen into a miry ditch. Their clothes and hair are defiled. But give them a bath, and they will be clean again. In the future all the brothers and sisters will be transparent precious stones in the New Jerusalem."
In Chungking the brothers asked him to participate in the Lord's table. However, he would not partake of the bread or the cup; he simply sat and prayed silently, His reason: "The problem in the church in Shanghai has not been resolved; therefore, I cannot break the bread here." I asked him when he would resume his ministry, and he replied, "There is no possibility."
Concerning the Lord's leading for the work, Watchman Nee was very keen in his discernment and quick in making decisions. In explaining why this was so, he said, "If I am wrong, the Lord will use the wall and the donkey to stop me, as He did with Balaam." This attitude indicates that Watchman Nee was one who always obeyed the discipline of the Holy Spirit.
Concerning the Christian Life
On one occasion Watchman Nee instructed some of us, saying, "Christians must escape the system of Christianity. It is more important to deal with the system than to deal with consecration. It is useless to consecrate inside the system." When asked whether it was permissible to play cards without betting money, he replied, "To the Christian there is no absolute right or wrong. It may be all right for one person to do a thing, but not all right for another person to do the same thing. What is right or wrong for a Christian depends upon the level of life he has attained; the level of life is reflected in how many things he cannot do."
Prayer and Fellowship with the Lord
Watchman Nee prayed in a slow way with one or two words coming slowly from his mouth. When I was in Chungking, I unconsciously picked up his way of prayer. By praying in such a way I sensed the presence of the Lord abiding with me. Every word was directed to the Lord, and the words kept springing up from within. Later, a leading brother rebuked me for that practice and told me that I should not copy another's way of prayer, so I stopped praying that way. However, even to this day, when I pray privately I still pray this way, pouring out to God one or two words at a time. By praying in this way, it is much easier to touch the anointing.
On how to maintain fellowship with the Lord, Watchman Nee used the following example: "Suppose a train is traveling from Szechuan to Kunming. It must pass through many tunnels. Sometimes it is traveling in darkness, sometimes in light. The experience of a Christian's fellowship with the Lord is the same. If one is in darkness, he must first confess his sin. If there is no sense of sin, he must exercise his will to continue on in the fellowship."
Maturity in Life
On the matter of maturing in life, Watchman Nee said this:
Time is needed for life to mature. Other than having a big head, young people cannot really be matured. Maturity is a matter of the enlargement of capacity. You must allow God to give you time to suffer beyond measure; then your capacity will be enlarged. Some could suffer the loss of five dollars, but could never suffer the loss of five thousand dollars. Some could forgive others two or three times, but the fifth time would make their hands tremble. One discovers by eating whether a fruit is raw or ripe. Raw fruit tastes sour and bitter and is tough and hard. Only ripe fruit tastes sweet and fragrant. Madame Guyon had the flavor of ripeness. She was a teacher to the elderly and a friend to children. The Christian life grows in a natural way. It is not a matter of being artificially ripened like the ripening of a banana with mild heat. The Son of Man came eating and drinking. With some people, their eating and drinking exposes their true condition. Life does not come as a result of spiritual cultivation. If you have the Spirit, there is no need of cultivation; if you do not have the Spirit, there is no way to cultivate. Lilies blossom and birds grow feathers quite spontaneously. There is no need for them to cultivate these features. Cultivation can only produce a "saint" according to the world's concept; it cannot produce a real Christian. It is sufficient to have the seal of the cross on the negative side. There is no need to strive to bear fruit. Striving only delays the growth of life; it cannot speed it up. It is important for us to receive God's arrangement in the circumstances. This arrangement is the discipline of the Holy Spirit. To escape God's arrangement just one time is to lose an opportunity to have our capacity enlarged. This will prolong the time required for life to mature in us and will even require us to make up this lesson in order to reach maturity. A believer can never be the same after passing through suffering. Either he will have his capacity enlarged or he will become more hardened. For this reason, when believers are passing through suffering, they must pay attention and they must realize that maturity in life is the sum total of receiving the discipline of the Holy Spirit. People may see a person who has matured in life, but they cannot see the accumulated discipline of the Holy Spirit which that person has received secretly day by day throughout the years.
A Few Spiritual Sayings
Watchman Nee once said, "The lower we put something, the safer it is. It is safest to put a cup on the floor." The implication was that the more the workers of the Lord humble themselves, the safer it is for them. On another occasion he said, "When the cross is not 'air-sealed,' it will be blown away." This means that when you are bearing the cross you should not tell the secret to others. As soon as you tell what you are passing through, the meaning of the cross is gone.
Another of his sayings went like this: "Some who fall, fall on the upper floor, while some who stand, stand on the ground floor. Those who stand on the ground floor should not laugh at those who fall on the upper floor."
Concerning admonishing someone, Brother Nee said, "There can be two results: 1) The person you admonish is restored, or 2) He is hardened. The way to tell whether your admonition was accurate or not is to observe the person you admonished. If by rejecting your admonition, such a one ends up in darkness, it proves your admonition was correct. But if after such a one rejects your fellowship, he still continues to have fellowship with the Lord, it proves your admonition was wrong."
One time he said to me, "If some beggars are sleeping under the eaves and you wake them up, treat them with won ton and then preach the gospel to them. Surely you will touch the anointing within." After coming to Taiwan, I met Watchman Nee's nephew, Soo-fu. He told me that when he was young he saw his uncle meet a group of coolies squatting around gambling. Watchman Nee also squatted beside them, talking and laughing. To all he really became all in order to gain some.
From observing Watchman Nee's way of life, I feel that he learned how to abound and how to be abased and that everywhere and in every way he learned the secret. When he first came to Chungking, he lived in a small apartment with only a bed and a table. When one went to visit him, the wooden stairs would sway and make creaking noises. Later, when he moved into his own factory buildings, it made no difference; his attitude was the same as before. Concerning eating, he sometimes ate only bread and water, and at other times he enjoyed an abundant love feast. To all such matters regarding his living he seemed indifferent.
Elizabeth P. Rademacher
A Western Missionary
Forty-eight years have elapsed since I last saw Watchman Nee. It was February 1943, and America was at war with Japan. Most foreigners living in the International Settlement in Shanghai, China, were under the jurisdiction of the Japanese. Just the evening before I was interned along with many other Americans (my co-workers were British), through our gate came Watchman Nee, unannounced, as was his custom when visiting us four Westerners. After sharing some refreshments and enjoying some sweet fellowship, he handed me a small unlabeled bottle of highly concentrated vitamins produced at CBC Laboratories with the instruction: "Take half a drop a day." What forethought and concern for a little sister about to be confined for an undetermined period of time!
When I first heard the name Watchman Nee in 1934, I knew nothing about him. I pictured an aged man with a flowing white beard! Little did I realize that he wasn't much older than I—probably at that time about thirty. Several years later I saw him for the first time at Hardoon Road, where, with an older missionary, I sometimes attended the Lord's table and special meetings.
The Spirit's Indwelling
At the beginning of 1938, Watchman Nee conducted a Bible study with the church in Shanghai on the Holy Spirit. Having had a Pentecostal background, I was somewhat confused and disillusioned. I desired to hear what he had to say, hoping to receive help on a number of puzzling questions. For example, why were there inconsistencies in the lives of so many who professedly had received the outpoured Spirit with manifestations? Where was the godly living? Why did I live a defeated life?
The word the Lord spoke to me through Watchman Nee made a revolutionary impact on my life. The evening I heard him say that Jesus became the Spirit to dwell in us, light dawned. Before, the Lord had seemed so far removed from me; now He was real within. This solved my basic problem. I could now locate Him within my being. I saw further that the work of the Holy Spirit is twofold. There is the outward aspect with gifts and manifestations; but more important still, there is the inward aspect—the infilling that transforms lives.
He used a helpful illustration which made an indelible impression: If a heavily loaded vehicle is run without adequate air in the tires, it is possible that the car will be wrecked. This is an apt picture of one who experiences many outpourings of the Spirit without having a commensurate work of the Spirit within. I thanked God I had not become a wreck. Now I understood why so many I had been acquainted with in the past had wound up bringing disgrace to the Lord's name.
On another occasion he gave his testimony concerning the girl he had loved and given up for the Lord. He quoted Psalms 73:25: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee," and testified that this had become his reality. This testimony amazed me. I had never heard or met anyone who could honestly make such a statement.
The Bible study ended, but the Lord wasn't through with me. The Sunday evening before Watchman Nee's departure for Hong Kong and England, six of us gathered around the fireplace in a missionary couple's home. We had met in such an informal way several times before. Usually a large number of Westerners were present, eating and fellowshipping together, listening eagerly to Brother Nee as he spoke in fluent English concerning the kingdom or as he answered questions relating to his messages on the Holy Spirit. Once there swept over me the deep inner sense: God is standing here speaking!
This occasion afforded him his last opportunity to share his burden before going abroad. He began, "I want to say something more about the kingdom." During the course of his speaking, he uttered these words: "The Lord needs heralds for the kingdom." At that moment something happened to me, and Watchman Nee, being aware of it, said, "Don't be afraid, Miss Peck." Simply by the power of the Lord's speaking, I was changed into another person. Praise the Lord for such a faithful, humble, and approachable servant of His.
There are also other recollections of very practical and considerate expressions of loving concern: the day Watchman and Mrs. Nee dropped in with a silk wadded comforter for each of us missionaries; several invitations to their home for delicious dinners featuring Foochow delicacies; the conversation after a serious wrong decision on my part, and the comforting reply, "Sometimes even our mistakes are right."
During the period from 1940 to early 1943, there were changes in the church life. We began to meet in smaller groups in different areas of the city for the Lord's table and prayer meetings. Watchman Nee usually ministered on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, and sometimes to the new believers on Friday nights, as well as during special conferences. I remember that he frequently referred to Margaret E. Barber, through whom he received so much help in his early Christian life. The ministry of the Word was life-giving, and many impressions were so deeply implanted as to be unforgettable.
The ministry of the Word was life-giving, and many impressions were so deeply implanted as to be unforgettable. One example is his comment on Romans 12:1-2: "God's will is not for those who are unconsecrated. It is a question of what sort of person I am. Am I qualified to know His will? All good is not God's will, but God's will is always good." And this word to the new believers: "Salvation without consecration is like a railway with only one track. We need both to advance on the spiritual road." Also this word on John 14:6: "How many truths do you know that have emancipated you? The truth is Christ; so if truth is only 'truth' to you, it is ineffectual."
One message on the will of God left me overwhelmed. It portrayed the will of God from eternity in the past to eternity in the future. The essence of what he said was this: In the beginning there was only one will-God's undisputed will. Then Satan fell, and in the universe there was a second will-a rebellious will. Later God created man with a free will, able to choose to be one either with God or with Satan. In eternity future, after Satan has been cast into the lake of fire, there will again be only one will in the universe-but a will not the same as in the beginning, for God's will and man's will will be perfectly blended into one will.
Confidence in His Leading
Sometime in 1942 Watchman Nee's ministry ceased. Since we were not always aware of his movements or his engagements in other places, it did not seem strange at first. As the weeks passed, though I did not know that he had been asked not to minister at Hardoon Road, I began to sense an undercurrent. The day also came when the Westerners were asked not to attend the meetings. Whether or not this was due to the Japanese occupation and the fear that we might be accused of spying, I do not know. We were always delighted when Brother Nee would visit us unexpectedly in those days. Since at this time he was involved with the CBC Laboratories, we received a personally conducted tour through the company. No matter how others may have felt during that time of his "tentmaking," we had nothing but trust and confidence in his leading. How could we pass judgment on him? It was because of his faithfulness in following the Lord and proclaiming His Word that several of us had been brought into the glorious church life.
Impressions of Contacts
Through all the twenty-five years I knew Watchman Nee, from 1925 to 1950, I was deeply impressed with certain characteristics of his.
Absolute toward the Lord
He loved the Lord as his first love. To him the Lord came first in everything. He never compromised regarding the Lord's interest, nor did he sacrifice any truth for the sake of convenience. He also did not follow the Lord halfway. His commitment to the Lord was absolute.
In knowing the Bible and in his church practice, he was very well-balanced. He did not follow any teaching or any practice in an unbalanced way as so many Christians in denominations do. He would frequently compare one view of a certain thing with other views that he might be kept from falling into some extreme. In his daily Christian life, he practiced the same principle.
From reading many classical Christian books, he picked up all the good scriptural points of many different Christian groups, gathering them all into the practice of the church life. He never rejected a good scriptural point simply because it came from the wrong source. He even picked up some good items from extreme Pentecostalism. In this way he was able to bring into the present practice of the church all the riches which Christ had given His Body in the past centuries. Through him we are now able to participate in all these riches in the local churches, not in a narrow way, nor in a sectarian way, but in an all-inclusive way.
Knowing the Bible
In my entire life I have never met another person who knew the Bible as deeply as Watchman Nee. He received much help from many of the finest Christian writers of past centuries, but he also stood upon their shoulders, seeing more things from the Scriptures than they did. He not only knew the letter of the Bible, but he also knew the Spirit of the Bible. He probed into the depths and touched the Spirit of the Scriptures. His knowledge of the Bible was filled with light and saturated with life. He had not only the objective view of the Scriptures but also the subjective experience of God's Word.
Knowing the Lord
He was truly a man of God, knowing the Lord in a full way. He knew the Lord in His acts as well as in His ways. He knew the Lord not only according to His love, mercy, grace, righteousness, and holiness, but also according to His eternal purpose and His present economy. He had both the full, objective knowledge and the living, subjective realization of the Lord. He knew the Lord personally, as well as in the church, His Body.
He knew that the Lord as the living Spirit lived in his spirit, and he knew how to exercise his spirit. He practiced rejecting the mind, emotion, and will of his soul, and he also practiced behaving and acting in the spirit. In this way he lived by the Lord as his life. He cared little for work; he continually cared for life more than work. He said repeatedly that the work should be the outflow of life. His ministry was not one of work but one of life, carried out by life. He paid much more attention to what he was than to what he did. He was truly a man of life.
Knowing the Church
He saw clearly that the church as the Body of Christ was Christ's expression with Him as its life and content. He also saw that the church could only be practical with the existence of local churches. He saw too that only churches in localities could carry out God's eternal purpose to have the church built up in a way which the gates of Hades could not prevail against. He thoroughly realized that to recover the proper church life on the proper ground is God's present economy. He did not teach mere doctrines concerning the church. He received a full revelation from the New Testament, not only regarding the content and reality of the church, but also regarding the practicality of the church. Through the years in his ministry, he not only stressed the experience of Christ but also emphasized the practice of the church life. His vision was not only Christ, but Christ and the church. Christ was his life, and the church was his living. He suffered for the church more than for Christ. The persecutions which came upon him from the denominations came mostly because of his emphasis on the church. He was burdened to carry out his vision concerning the practicality of the church life. He desired to see a local church in every city in China.
A Gift of the Age
I consider Watchman Nee to be a unique gift given by the Head to His Body for His recovery in this age. I fully respect him as such a gift. I have the full confidence and assurance that it was absolutely of the Lord that I followed this gift for the Lord's interest in His present move on this earth. I feel no shame whatsoever in saying that I followed a man—a man that was the unique gift and the seer of the divine visions in this age.
I am more than grateful to the Lord that immediately after being saved I was brought into such a profitable relationship with Watchman Nee and put into the closest relationship with him in the work of His recovery through so many events over a long period of time. The revelations concerning Christ, the church, the spirit, and life which I saw through Watchman Nee, the infusions of life which I received from him, and the things concerning the work and the church which I learned from him will require eternity to evaluate their true worth.