Tag Archives: Watchman Nee (1903-1972)

Free Books by Watchman Nee (COMPLETE)

Around the time I came to Christ, I found in my parents’ house several Watchman Nee books inscribed from a family member who had passed many years before: Sit, Walk, StandThe Normal Christian Life; Love Not the World; and Changed into His Likeness. As soon as I read Sit, Walk, Stand, I was hooked.

I found out that his other books were only a few dollars each at a used bookstore, and I began devouring them: Practical Issues of This Life, Spiritual Knowledge, The Release of the Spirit—his little books seemed to me an endless treasure hoard of straightforward teaching. He was the first Christian author I got really hooked on.

Fortunately, his books are easier to find than ever. They have been in digital format for many years, and his primary publisher, Living Stream Ministry, has made his books available for online reading for free, no strings attached. The only catch is, they are not for download (at least, not legally, and not here):

Free Books by Watchman Nee (COMPLETE)

Below I’ve marked with asterisks (***) the books by him which I recommend most. Living Stream’s website uses

List of Book Titles (Alphabetical):

  1. The Assembly Life
  2. Authority and Submission
  3. The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit***
  4. Burden and Prayer
    [Changed into His Likeness]***
  5. The Character of the Lord’s Worker
  6. Christ Becoming Our Wisdom
  7. Christ is All Spiritual Matters and Things
  8. Christ our Righteousness
  9. Church Affairs
  10. The Christian Life and Warfare (Works, Set 1, Vol. 1)
  11. The Word of the Cross (Works, Set 1, Vol. 2)
  12. The Christian (1) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 3)
  13. The Christian (2) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 4)
  14. The Christian (3) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 5)
  15. The Christian (4) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 6)
  16. The Christian (5) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 7)
  17. The Present Testimony (1) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 8)
  18. The Present Testimony (2) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 9)
  19. The Present Testimony (3) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 10)
  20. The Present Testimony (4) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 11)
  21. The Spiritual Man (1) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 12)
  22. The Spiritual Man (2) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 13)
  23. The Spiritual Man (3) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 14)
  24. Study on Matthew (Works, Set 1, Vol. 15)
  25. Study on Revelation (Works, Set 1, Vol. 16)
  26. Notes on Scriptural Messages (1) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 17)
  27. Notes on Scriptural Messages (2) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 18)
  28. Notes on Scriptural Messages (3) (Works, Set 1, Vol. 19)
  29. Questions on the Gospel (Works, Set 1, Vol. 20)
  30. The Christian (1934-1940) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 21)
  31. The Assembly Life & The Prayer Ministry of the Church (Works, Set 2, Vol. 22)
  32. The Song of Songs & Hymns (Works, Set 2, Vol. 23)
  33. The Overcoming Life (Works, Set 2, Vol. 24)
  34. Collection of Newsletters (1) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 25)
  35. Collection of Newsletters (2) & Watchman Nee’s Testimony (Works, Set 2, Vol. 26)
  36. The Normal Christian Faith (Works, Set 2, Vol. 27)
  37.  The Gospel of God (1) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 28)
  38. The Gospel of God (2) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 29)
  39. The Normal Christian Church Life (Works, Set 2, Vol. 30)
  40. The Open Door (1) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 31)
  41. The Open Door (2) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 32)
  42. The Glorious Church (Works, Set 2, Vol. 34)
  43. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Works, Set 2, Vol. 35)
  44. Central Messages (Works, Set 2, Vol. 36)
  45. General Messages (1) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 37)
  46. General Messages (2) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 38)
  47. Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (1) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 41)
  48. Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (2) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 42)
  49. Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (3) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 43)
  50. Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (4) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 44)
  51. Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (5) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 45)
  52. Conferences, Messages, and Fellowship (6) (Works, Set 2, Vol. 46)
  53. The Orthodoxy of the Church & Authority and Submission (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 47)
  54. Messages for Building Up New Believers (1) (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 48)
  55. Messages for Building Up New Believers (2) (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 49)
  56. Messages for Building Up New Believers (3) (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 50)
  57. Church Affairs (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 51)
  58. The Character of the Lord’s Worker (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 52)
  59. The Ministry of God’s Word (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 53)
  60. How to Study the Bible & The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 54)
  61. The Ministers & The Open Door (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 55)
  62. The Open Door & The Present Testimony (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 56)
  63. The Resumption of Watchman Nee’s Ministry (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 57)
  64. Spiritual Judgment and Examples of Judgment (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 58)
  65. Miscellaneous Records of the Kuling Training (1) (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 59)
  66. Miscellaneous Records of the Kuling Training (2) (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 60)
  67. Matured Leadings in the Lord’s Recovery (1) (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 61)
  68. Matured Leadings in the Lord’s Recovery (2) (Collected Works, Set 3, Vol. 62)
  69. Concerning the Lord’s Day Message Meeting
  70. Deep Calls unto Deep
  71. Expecting the Lord’s Blessing
  72. Fact, Faith, and Experience
  73. The Flow of the Spirit
  74. Further Talks on the Church Life
  75. The Glorious Church
  76. God is Willing
  77. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  78. God’s Eternal Plan
  79. God’s Keeping Power
  80. God’s Overcomers
  81. God’s Plan and God’s Rest
  82. The Gospel of God (2 volume set)
  83. Head Covering
  84. The Holy Spirit and Reality
  85. How to Know God’s Will
  86. How to Study the Bible
  87. Key to Prayer, The
  88. The Life of the Altar and the Tent
  89. Messages for Building Up New Believers, Vol. 1
  90. Messages for Building Up New Believers, Vol. 2
  91. Messages for Building Up New Believers, Vol. 3
  92. Messages Given During the Resumption of Watchman Nee’s Ministry (2 volume set)
  93. The Messenger of the Cross***
  94. Ministering to the House or to God?
  95. The Ministry of God’s Word
    [The Mystery of Creation?]
  96. The Mystery of Christ
  97. Baptism (New Believer’s Series (1))
  98. Terminating the Past (New Believer’s Series (2))
  99. Separation from the World (New Believer’s Series (3))
  100. Witnessing (New Believer’s Series (4))
  101. Leading Men to Christ (New Believer’s Series (5))
  102. If Anyone Sins (New Believer’s Series (6))
  103. Consecration (New Believer’s Series (7))
  104. Confession with the Mouth (New Believer’s Series (8))
  105. Reading the Bible (New Believer’s Series (9))
  106. Meeting (New Believer’s Series (10))
  107. Prayer (New Believer’s Series (11))
  108. Early Rising (New Believer’s Series (12))
  109. Confession and Recompense (New Believer’s Series (13))
  110. Forgiveness and Restoration (New Believer’s Series (14))
  111. Deliverance (New Believer’s Series (15))
  112. Our Life (New Believer’s Series (16))
  113. Seeking God’s Will (New Believer’s Series (17))
  114. Governmental Forgiveness (New Believer’s Series (18))
  115. The Discipline of God (New Believer’s Series (19))
  116. The Discipline of the Holy Spirit (New Believer’s Series (20))
  117. Withstanding the Devil (New Believer’s Series (21))
  118. Loving the Brothers (New Believer’s Series (22))
  119. The Priesthood (New Believer’s Series (23))
  120. The Body of Christ (New Believer’s Series (24))
  121. The New Covenant (1952 Edition)
  122. The Normal Christian Church Life
  123. The Normal Christian Faith
    [The Normal Christian Worker = The Character of the Lord’s Worker]
  124. The Orthodoxy of the Church
  125. The Overcoming Life
  126. Praising
  127. A Prayer for Revelation
  128. The Prayer Ministry of the Church
  129. Questions on the Gospel
    [The Release of the Spirit = The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit]
  130. The Renewing of the Mind
  131. A Righteous Forgiveness
  132. Self-Knowledge and God’s Light
  133. Separated Unto the Lord
  134. The Sinners’ Friend
  135. The Song of Songs
  136. Special Grace and Reserve Grace
    [Spiritual Authority = Authority and Submission?]
    [Spiritual Knowledge?]
    The Spiritual Man (3 volume set)
  137. Spiritual Progress
  138. A Sure Salvation
  139. Tell Him
  140. The Time of the Cross
  141. The Treasure in Earthen Vessels
  142. The Two Natures
  143. Two Principles of Living
  144. Watchman Nee’s Testimony
  145. What Are We?
  146. The Word of the Cross
  147. The Worship That Draws Near
  148. Worshipping the Ways of God

List of Booklet Titles

  1. And Peter [booklet]
  2. The Body of Christ (W.N. Booklet)

Who Is Watchman Nee?

Living Stream Ministry has kindly kept Watchman Nee’s entire written works available online, barring three or four in which copyright belongs to the publisher.

I was going to just post a list of his books, but I thought it would be better to put down some thoughts about his life, suffering, and theology, since these are so much less known than his books, which are sold everywhere.

Watchman Nee’s Life and Suffering

Watchman Nee (Chinese name: Ni Tuosheng) was a Chinese pastor who was considered a key pioneer in a Chinese church-planting movement from 1922. His parents baptized him as a Methodist; from age 13 he was educated at a CMS (i.e. Church of England) school; and he was profoundly impacted by the writings of the Plymouth Brethren. He was a great lover of the works of T. Austin-Sparks and helped to keep them in print. You can see how, theologically, he was not just connected to one stream, though the Brethren probably had the largest influence on him.

Nee suffered ongoing persecution for much of his lifetime. Churches in China came under great pressure from the government after the 1949 Communist Revolution under the infamous Mao Zedong. Watchman Nee was arrested in 1952 under trumped-up charges, and had to undergo “re-education.” Many of his co-workers were arrested or coerced into bringing accusations against him. His scheduled release date in 1967 came and went, and the years continued to roll by. Nee’s wife, Charity, died during his last year in prison, but he was not allowed to attend her funeral. Finally, in 1972, Watchman Nee himself died after twenty years in prison.

His Theology and Writing Style

Because of his orthodox preaching, his voluminous writings, and his endurance under pressure, he is regarded as one of the treasures of the Chinese church.

His treatment of Scripture is always accessible and written in simple language. Perhaps because he is not European, his illustrations rarely come from expected directions; but they are always homely, brief, and straightforward.

Theologically, he was orthodox, but never dull. On the central topics, like soteriology or Christology, his stance would be utterly orthodox; he approaches other topics in ways that are more speculative.

Essential Books By Watchman Nee

His most popular books are those where he talks about the basic elements of walking with Christ:

  • Sit, Walk, Stand is my personal favorite, where he pulls the titular metaphor for Christian life from Ephesians;
  • The Normal Christian Life deals with topics like Christ’s blood, sin, and “the flesh” and “the spirit”;
  • Several of his books, like The Messenger of the Cross, Spiritual Knowledge and The Release of the Spirit, have been deeply challenging to me as they focus on the meaning of being conformed to Christ in his death and resurrection.

Other books include straightforward, devotional Bible studies. Three that come to mind are:

  • The Practical Issues of This Life (on various topics);
  • Changed into His Likeness (on the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and
  • Love Not the World (1 John 2:15).

On some topics he takes more of an independent or speculative line—usually with great confidence. In some places, he is following the ideas of Brethren writers, but in other places his thought processes are quite novel. I can think of four books that I have read with mixed enjoyment, where he is (for good or for ill!) definitely outside of mainstream evangelical thought:

  • Mystery of Creation promotes gap theory, an idea which had several prominent Brethren advocates, but is definitely not in the main stream;
  • His book on The Song of Songs is mainly allegorical, a mode of interpretation roundly criticized in Western seminaries;
  • The Latent Power of the Soul is not exactly recommended for family devotions, as it deals with the occult;
  • Lastly, whatever your pastor says, Nee’s ideas on Authority and Submission (or Spiritual Authority) were undoubtedly influenced by East Asian culture!

The “Local Churches”

Before I conclude, Watchman Nee’s connection to the local church movement needs to be mentioned. The “local churches” are a global movement that grew out of the church-planting movement with which Nee was connected. Some sources say that he founded the movement, but this is probably a little misleading, since the movement has obviously metamorphosed over the decades since his death. “Local church” leaders say that, according to a strict interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3, adopting a name (or denomination, which is just a fancy word for a name) or organization other than the name of Christ is heresy——and, I might add, I have argued elsewhere that this kind of exclusion itself is exactly what Scripture means by ‘heresy’! “Local churches” only take names like “the church of Jesus in Owensville,” and they typically can be found handing out their “approved” Recovery Version of the Bible, another sign of their cultish tendencies.

It is not easy to trace Nee’s connection to the “local church” movement, but it didn’t spread to the West until Nee had already been imprisoned for many years. Apparently, Witness Lee—whose books are also online—is the one who more or less codified their mode of worship and ecclesiology, following off of Nee’s principles. And it is not all wrong. I sympathize with their point that denominations can be unhelpful. But I find it to be an utter abomination to cast off the billions of Christians who accept a church orientation or a theological name like “Protestant,” “Baptist,” or “Calvinist.” These names are only powerful inasmuch as we believe what they entail; and they are only divisive inasmuch as we empower them to be so. In a rare inversion, I believe the “local church” movement is actually right about what’s right but they’re wrong about what’s wrong.

Conclusion

Watchman Nee’s life speaks for itself. China was known for many years as one of the places of dire need in evangelical missions; now it is known for its vast networks of underground churches, often functioning, as far as we can tell, without any institutional backing (like in Korea), or any British colonial influence (like in Uganda and Fiji), or any unscriptural prosperity preaching (as is disappointingly widespread in Kenya and much of subsaharan Africa). In terms of both Nee’s writings and the Chinese underground church, “great is the company that has published” the word, and it would be as unjust to give all the credit to a simple preacher like Watchman Nee as it would to give him none.

Latent Power of the Soul book cover

Review: The Latent Power of the Soul

Rating: ★★★★

Who: Watchman Nee, Chinese church leader and teacher. In addition to serving tirelessly in the Chinese church, he was an extremely prolific translator, and a huge quantity of his talks were transcribed into books. (See our post: Who is Watchman Nee?)

Overview: Watchman Nee takes literally the Scripture about “dividing soul from spirit.” Several of Nee’s books teach that man is composed of body, soul and spirit—but God only inhabits spirit. Nee, along with G. H. Pember and a few others, taught that the human soul (not spirit) has true supernatural powers which are demonstrated in cult and occult practices. He believed that as a result of the Fall, man’s “soul power” was latent, yet open to provocation and exploitation by demonic forces. As examples, he cites stories of people seeing events from a distance, reading another thoughts, or healing themselves using only positive thinking. He sees these as true—though human—miracles that will only increase in the end times. Nee warns Christians against practices that could bring out “psychic” power, rather than the true spiritual power of the Holy Spirit.

Meat: Nee’s explanation of the practices of Christian Science and similar cults seems spot-on. The Bible is very specific about true miracles falsely worked in the end times by the Antichrist and his servants. This has at least two applications: 1. We should not assume that all miracles are false if they are not worked in the name of Christ; the devil has his miracles too. 2. We should test even miracles that are worked in the church. We should never allow Christian workers that have miracles, but do not honor Christ; and we should take care what means we employ in praying for miracles. Power for miracles is not a valid end in itself, if it is not submitted to the will of the Father.

Bones: Nee’s warnings are probably overdrawn here and can lead to imbalance. For instance, he warns against praying “towards” people so that we don’t focus on healing them by psychic aspects, rather than by the Holy Spirit. But the New Testament talks all the way through about the laying on of hands, and doesn’t provide any special warnings about this. He seems to be giving human influence a little too much credit.

I think that Nee’s warnings about revival are very pertinent. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t try to remove my “soul” from worship; that seems unreasonable, even impossible. Rather, I would try to focus on the Lord, and not on creating a certain kind of feeling in those I am serving, whether by preaching or leading worship. I would also avoid revivalists who preach to create a feeling, rather than a conviction.

Quotes: “If Adam was capable of managing the earth, his prowess was most certainly superior to ours today.” (p. 5)

“All who develop their soul power [i.e. psychic power] cannot avoid being contacted and used by the evil spirit.” (p. 15)

“The meditations of many people are simply a kind of psychic operation. Not so with the Christian faith. … We can know Him in our intuition, regardless what our feeling may be.” (p. 31)

“Whoever aims at better and deeper work ought not to speak of power. Our responsibility is to fall into the earth and die. … What we need is not greater power but deeper death.” (p. 52)