Healing and Revival
"Come As A Little Child"
Henry B. Wilson was born in 1841 in Peterboro County, Canada. His father was a schoolteacher and the family was poor. He felt a religious calling and attended Trinity College in Toronto, Canada. He struggled with physical problems in college from overstress. He graduated and became an Episcopal minister in 1866. Wilson became a church of England Curate of Cathedral of St. George's Kingston, Ontario where, in his own words, he "labored with a weak body, twice seriously injured by accidents almost fatal: for years prey to dyspepsia of the worst kind; to liver disease and all its attendant miseries; with nervous depression and fainting fits after the slightest exertion. A burden to myself, a constant anxiety to my family and friends, a nuisance to doctors, and a kind of walking apothecary shop. I dragged through my work with what sickly weariness and painfulness they only know who have suffered like things." He also married and within a short time his wife was pregnant. During his wife's delivery there were complications. She died and Wilson was left to take care of his newborn son.
Truly Wilson's life was filled with sadness. Three years later he married again. His wife had one baby girl named Madele who was to be her father's support and comfort throughout his life. His wife became pregnant again and had a second daughter, but complications arose and shortly after delivery his second wife died, leaving Wilson with three children to raise on his own. When his son was seven a governess took him to a local lake for a paddleboat trip. Wilson arrived to pick up the pair but while getting off the boat they fell into the water and were pulled into the paddles, where they both died. In his deepest darkness he turned to God for consolation. Between his own struggles for health, his heavy losses, and the care of his children he cried out for a deeper experience with God.
Wilson came into contact with the Salvation Army. At that time the Army was a highly evangelistic revival organization, which was experiencing a real move of God. They were however, controversial in their approach to evangelism, which was often aggressive. They were also were having some remarkable meetings with a strong sense of the presence of God, which denominational churches did not support. Wilson had a spiritual revelation in which he said "I found myself one night kneeling at the penitent form of the Army, pleading for pardon and peace, and needing both, as much as the drunkard on one side of me and the lost woman on the other. I saw myself as never before, a poor lost soul, just as much as they, so far as the need for a new heart and a right spirit was concerned." He said that God showed him the necessity to come to Him as a little child. His daughter says in this experience "His soul was freed, his conventionality was broken, his creed broadened, his life expanded, and his usefulness extended to unlimited measure."
The Dean of St George's was initially supportive and Wilson was holding bible studies, which included 300 people. 80 Salvation Army members attended the church to receive communion. The Dean must have received strong criticism for embracing the group, however. Wilson was given the ultimatum break all ties with the Salvation Army or leave the church. He chose to leave the church. In the Fall of 1883 Wilson went to New York City where he attempted to recover his health. He tried to return to his Canadian home as an evangelist but was not accepted. In the beginning of 1884 Wilson began to work as an assistant to Rev. William Rainsford at St. George's Episcopal Church in New York City. He often ministered in children's meetings and had a special rapport with even the youngest. He was a man with a pastor's heart. He often visited the poor and the broken.
Wilson was in New York a month or two when someone invited him to attend one of A. B. Simpson's meetings. He didn't know much about divine healing, but did know a couple of people who had been healed. He went to the meeting asking God to show him whether this was true or not. At the meeting he was anointed for healing, consecration, and fuller service. He was immediately healed. His life was changed from that moment on. He preached at the church and at the mission hall almost day and night. Rather than succumbing to his old ailments he felt full of the life of God and was strengthened as he ministered. From that time on he became a strong advocate of Divine Healing, testifying at meetings with A. B. Simpson and speaking and writing on the subject. He often preached on the ABCs of Divine Healing. He said "The center and the source of this divine health is the Lord Jesus Christ, now at the right hand of God, in His glorified humanity, like the sun in the center of the universe. The medium by which this glorified humanity passes into ours is the Holy Ghost - the breath of God - the air of heaven, like the atmosphere surrounding our earth and transmitting to it the light and life-giving powers of the sun in the heavens. This is the A, B, C of Divine Healing."
Wilson and Simpson became the closest of friends. Simpson had established the Gospel Tabernacle Church in New York City in 1883 to be able to reach the lost. In 1891 Wilson received a call from Simpson to work as an associate at the Gospel Tabernacle Church. He resigned his work with Rainsford and joined Simpson. He retained his standing as an Episcopal priest. He also kept close friendships within the Salvation Army, where his daughter was an officer, and even kept up a correspondence with General Booth. His daughter remarked "he traveled tens of thousands of miles every year and visited scores of cities, towns and villages, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Maine to Florida." Wilson was a man who radiated the love of God. He had a special ministry with children who gravitated to his warmth and kindness. He wrote articles especially for children in the Alliance magazine. He was referred to as BBB or Big Baby Brother because of his relationship with children and children's ministry. Besides traveling he led the Seaman's Mission, Magdalene Home, International Missionary Alliance, Junior Missionary Alliance, and spoke at Nyack Missionary Training Institute.
Wilson was on
a speaking tour in Atlanta in February 1908. He held a meeting for children
and walked back to where he was staying. It was raining and he caught
a severe chill. The chill turned into pneumonia and he died on February
13, 1908. His death was a great shock to A. B. Simpson and to the Christian
and Missionary Alliance. His voice and leadership had been a powerful
force for Christ. He was a man who through the trials of loss and pain
had turned his life into one of radiant joy and love. His daughter Madele
Wilson wrote a memorial book after his death called "Henry Wilson
One of God's Best" which was published by the Alliance Publishing
*There is another Henry B. Wilson who also wrote books on Divine Healing in the early 1900s. He was an Episcoplian priest headquartered in Boonton, New Jersey. He began a healing prayer movement called the Society of the Nazarene. The two Henry Wilsons are not related.
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