Healing and Revival
"The Nazarene Still Heals"
Henry Blauvelt Wilson was born in 1870, the third son of Thomas and Hannah Wilson. His parents were active in the Episcopal Church and before Henry was even born his mother dedicated him to the service of God. Wilson's early years were spent growing up in New York City. When Henry was four, the family moved "to the country" and bought an acre of land in Rutherford, New Jersey. Three more children were added to the family, but sadly two of them died within a few short years, leaving the three boys and a little girl named Grace.
Thomas Wilson was very progressive and believed all his children should receive a good education. Thomas himself was influential and held the position of Mayor of Rutherford for two terms. The boys attended High School and Thomas taught all his sons the basics of the printing trade. Henry initially took up journalism working on the local Rutherford newspaper, but felt the call to the ministry. He often spoke of his mother Hannah dedicating him as the biblical Hannah had done with Samuel and felt his call came from her.
Wilson was accepted to Princeton to begin his theological studies. His parents agreed to help him if he would work for a year and save his money. He worked as a journalist for the New York World newspaper. Within a year his father's health collapsed and within three years his father had died. Henry became the sole supporter of his mother and sister. He continued working as a journalist and eventually worked for the Washington Star, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York Herald, and the New York Evening Sun. He also joined the Salvation Army and was associated with them for the rest of his life.
Wilson was entrepreneurial and he added advertising to his skills. He produced booklets and folders and eventually established an advertising agency in New Jersey. He would take his family to Ocean Grove or Asbury, New Jersey and produce advertising pamphlets for businesses serving the summer visitors. Still his heart called him to the ministry. Finally in 1901 at the age of 31 Wilson could afford to go to Seminary. He continued to write and support his family, which now included a wife. He stayed in Seminary going on to post-graduate work. He graduated in 1905 and received a call to become the priest in charge of a mission in Brooklyn.
A new chapter of Wilson's life opened to him. While running the Mission he was often called to the local hospital to minister to people associated with his congregation. He evidently began to have unusual success in praying for people because his ministry began expanding and others sought him out to pray for them as well. Praying for the sick was having such success that the hospital gave him official status and he had the same access as physicians who worked there. He saw that ministry to the soul was paired with ministry to the body. Wilson believed that clergy and lay people should bring the presence of God with them as they touched the sick. He taught that healing was "contagious" and that as people were healed others would then catch the truth and pass it on.
Wilson had been working day and night and the physical exhaustion caught up with him. Possibly due to hospital exposure he developed an infection, which caused heart damage (endocarditis). He was told if he was careful that he could live two more years. He became the rector of St John's Church in Boonton, New Jersey in 1907. Rather than settling in to a quiet life Wilson poured himself out in other ways. Besides his ministerial duties he was Probation Officer, President of the Board of Protectors, President of the Commission of Charities and Correction, Director for the Morris County Home for Children, and he started St. John's School. In 1910 Wilson also started the Society of the Nazarene whose aim "was to deepen spiritual life and to impart strength and health to body and soul by prayer, laying on of hands, or anointing." He began it because he believed in "Our Lord's continued interest in the health of the body as well as the salvation of the soul." The Society's goal was "to each, preach and heal." Those in the society actively taught on healing and demonstrated how to pray for the sick within Anglican and Episcopalian churches. The Society eventually had chapters (guilds) worldwide. Wilson was strongly influenced by James Moore Hickson and the "Society of Emmanuel" that Hickson had started in England to pray for the sick.
Wilson also began to write on the topic of healing. Over the next several years he wrote "Does Christ Still Heal?", "The Revival of the Gift of Healing", "Ghost or Gospels", "God's Will for the World", and "The Power to Heal". He also published a monthly magazine called "The Nazarene" which gave testimonies of healing and teaching on healing. Wilson was on a mission in California when he became sick. He died on March 7, 1923. His impact was significant in promoting healing prayer in Episcopal and Anglican churches, especially in the United States. Much of what he wrote prepared the denomination for the visit of James Moore Hickson in 1919 and 1920. The Society of the Nazarene continued after his death promoting the practical use of healing prayer.
Wilson's wife Theresa was a teacher at the school that Wilson founded. She wrote a book in 1966 titled "The Idea of a School", which included some basic biographical information on Wilson. The couple had one daughter who died in 1973. Theresa died in 1975 at the age of 95.
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*There is another Henry B. Wilson who also wrote books on Divine Healing in the early 1900s. He was an Episcoplian priest who worked with A. B. Simpson in the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The two Henry Wilsons are not related.
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