kw: book summaries, watchman nee, christian ministry
Volume Six of The Collected Works of Watchman Nee (CWWN) is a fourth volume of articles drawn from The Christian, the journal he published from 1925 to 1927. The two sections contain nine Gospel Messages and fourteen Spiritual Teachings. These were articles he wrote for Issues 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 19, 22 and 24. In most of the other issues he used translations from Christian literature he had gathered from extensive reading. It is said that during the 1920's and through most of the 1930's he spent about one third of the money that passed through his hands on books ordered from overseas Christian booksellers. His dwelling was filled with books. Fortunately, he could read, in either Chinese or English, very, very fast.
The Gospel Messages are impressive for their breadth of scope. Some are edited transcripts from spoken messages. Here and later his written and spoken evangelism was intended to reach every kind of human personality. Thus the message, "Can Morality Save Us" is intended for those well-behaved ones who are not apparently sinful. Dwelling on what Jesus said upon observing how a Pharisee prayed, and how a publican prayed, Nee shows that the super-moral Pharisee was left unredeemed after his self-righteous prayer, while the sinful, possibly extortionous, tax-collecter "went home justified" because he admitted his sinfulness to God and asked for mercy. Three of the messages describe fifteen of "The Paths to Hell". They show how easy it is to go to hell, and in each case, describe and the remedy for such hell-bound practices as self-confident pride or making excuses to delay accepting Christ; more serious practices such as habitual adultery are also addressed. The ironic approach was intended to get the attention of those who had a ho-hum attitude toward the ordinary gospel preaching of the day.
The Spiritual Teachings were intended to instruct believers with any level of experience in truths that were being neglected by the standard Protestant theology of the time. The first article, "Assurance of Salvation," was revolutionary. Throughout the "Christian world" of the early Twentieth Century—and even into the 1960's in America, in my experience!—hardly anyone dared to proclaim, "Jesus has saved me," or "Jesus is my Lord. I am a child of God." Instead, at the most they might weakly proclaim that they had "hope in God's mercy", or, if they actually knew some scriptures, "the hope of eternal salvation." Nee uses the clear proclamations of the scriptures to show that we can indeed know that we have been redeemed and that we are secure forever; and even the more, he shows that we must know these things in order to grow in our spiritual life. In another wonderful message, "The Source of Faith," he expounds upon Eph. 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." We are not born with faith. God gives us faith, and it is then ours to use. How tragic to neglect so precious a gift! I am reminded of a story I read, in which a preacher is urging his friend to receive Christ. The friend is part owner of a soap manufacturing company. As they walk they pass a very dirty child playing in the dirt. The preacher asks, "Why is this child dirty? Your company makes many tons of soap." The friend replies, "He has to use some to clean himself." "Yes indeed," the preacher says, "And you have had faith made available for you to use. Use it to believe and claim the redemption that Jesus Christ already produced for you!"
By the time Watchman Nee wrote articles for Issue #24 of The Christian, he had just turned twenty-four years of age. He had been a Christian about seven years. Few indeed are those men or women of God who have seen as deeply, and expounded so clearly, even during lives of sixty or eighty years, what this young man was enabled by God to do by an age that a typical "minister" graduates from Seminary.