READING SPIRITUAL BOOKS
Watchman Nee was not only an excellent student of the Bible; he was also a studious reader of spiritual books. He was brilliantly gifted in being able to select, comprehend, discern, and memorize appropriate material. He could easily grasp the points of a book at a glance. Through reading Christian publications, he was not only helped to receive spiritual light and life; he also became knowledgeable regarding church history and Christianity in the Western world. Through Margaret Barber he became familiar with the books of D.M. Panton, Robert Govett, G.H. Pember, Jessie Penn-Lewis, T. Austin-Sparks, and others. He also collected the writings of the Brethren teachers, such as John Nelson Darby, William Kelly, and C.H. Mackintosh. In addition to these he also collected the writings of many others. In the early days of his ministry, he spent one-third of his income for personal needs, one-third for helping others, and the remaining third to buy books. He had an arrangement with some used bookstores in London that whenever they acquired a book for which he had placed an order, it was to be sent automatically. In this way he collected nearly all the classical Christian writings from the first century on. He acquired a collection of more than three thousand of the best Christian books, which included books on church history, biographies and autobiographies of outstanding Christians, and the central messages and commentaries of spiritual writers. When he was twenty-three years of age, his bedroom was nearly filled with books. There were books on the floor and a row of books on either side of his bed, with only a narrow space in the middle to lie down. It was often said that he was buried in books. By reading these books, along with diligently studying the Bible, he not only acquired much learning concerning the content of the Bible; he also became balanced in his views. By such study he was also helped to realize more truths than all his predecessors. This greatly strengthened and enriched his ministry for the Lord’s recovery. He picked up all the good, scriptural points from the church fathers’ writings through the writings of all the prominent writers of all the centuries down to the present and put them together into his practice of the Christian life and of the church life.
Watchman Nee studied the hymnals of different Christian groups along with the songs and poetry of many authors. He became familiar with ten thousand hymns, songs, and poems. From these writings he also received light and spiritual help.
The help he received from reading books can be classified as follows:
1)He received help concerning the assurance of salvation from the works of George Cutting, a Brethren writer.
2)John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Madame Guyon’s biography, along with Hudson Taylor’s biography and the writings of other mystics, helped him in the matter of life.
3)He was greatly helped on the matter of Christ from the writings of J.G. Bellett, Charles G. Trumbull, A.B. Simpson, T. Austin-Sparks, and others.
4)Andrew Murray’s book, The Spirit of Christ, was a great help concerning the Spirit.
5)The writings of Jessie Penn-Lewis and Mrs. Charles McDonough assisted him in understanding the three parts of man.
6)He found George Müller’s autobiography enlightening concerning faith.
7)Light concerning the matter of abiding in Christ was received from the books of Andrew Murray and the biography of Hudson Taylor.
8)He received help on the subjective aspect of Christ’s death and on spiritual warfare from the books of Jessie Penn-Lewis.
9)The writings of T. Austin-Sparks and others were especially helpful concerning the truths of Christ’s resurrection and His Body.
10)Concerning God’s plan of redemption, Mary McDonough’s book by the same title was a great help.
11)Light concerning the church was received from the writings of John Nelson Darby and other Brethren teachers.
12)The writings of Robert Govett, D.M. Panton, G.H. Pember, and other Brethren writers were helpful in the matter of prophecy.
13)The insights of John Foxe, E.H. Broadbent, and others were especially helpful in the matter of church history.
14)Watchman Nee especially received help on expounding the Bible and on many other truths, in general, from the writings of Darby and the Brethren.
(Watchman Nee—A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)