An associate of John Wesley, John F. Fletcher, was one of the eminent men of early Methodism. He related an experience, which is preserved in a Life of Mr. Fletcher, included in the complete Works of Wesley.
“One Sunday,” said he, “when I had done reading prayers at Madeley, I went up into the pulpit, intending to preach a sermon, which I had prepared for that purpose. But my mind was so confused, that I could not recollect either my text or any part of my sermon. I was afraid I should be obliged to come down without saying any thing. But having recollected myself a little, I thought I would say something on the First Lesson, which was the third chapter of Daniel, containing the account of the three children cast into the fiery furnace: I found in doing it such an extraordinary assistance from God, and such a peculiar enlargement of heart, that I supposed there must be some peculiar cause for it. I therefore desired, if any of the congregation found any thing particular, they would acquaint me with it in the ensuing week.”
“In consequence of this, the Wednesday after, a woman came, and gave me the following account:- ‘I have been for some time much concerned about my soul. I have attended the church at all opportunities, and have spent much time in private prayer. At this my husband (who is a butcher) has been exceedingly enraged, and threatened me severely what he would do, if I did not leave off going to John Fletcher’s church; yea, if I dared to go anymore to any religious meetings whatsoever. When I told him I could not in conscience refrain from going at least to our parish church, he grew quite outrageous, and swore dreadfully, if I went anymore, he would cut my throat as soon as I came home. This made me cry mightily to God, that he would support me in the trying hour. And though I did not feel any great degree of comfort, yet having a sure confidence in God, I determined to go on in my duty, and leave the event to him. Last Sunday, after many struggles with the devil and my own heart, I came downstairs ready for church. My husband asked me, whether I was resolved to go hither. I told him, I was. Well then, said he, I shall not (as I intended) cut your throat; but I will heat the oven, and throw you into it the moment you come home. Notwithstanding this threatening, which he enforced with many bitter oaths, I went to church, praying all the way that God would strengthen me to suffer whatever may befall me. While you were speaking of the three children whom Nebuchadnezzar cast into the burning fiery furnace, I found it all belonged to me, and God applied every word to my heart. And when the sermon was ended, I thought, if I had a thousand lives, I could lay them all down for God. I felt my soul so filled with his love, that I hastened home, fully determined to give myself to whatsoever God pleased; nothing doubting, but that either he would take me to heaven, if he suffered me to be burned to death, or that he would some way deliver me, even as he did his three servants that trusted in him. When I got almost to our own door, I saw the flames issuing out of the mouth of the oven. And I expected nothing else, but that I should be thrown into it immediately. I felt my heart rejoice, that if it were so, the will of the Lord would be done. I opened the door, and, to my utter astonishment, saw my husband upon his knees, wrestling with God in prayer for the forgiveness of his sins. He caught me in his arms, earnestly begged my pardon, and has continued diligently seeking God ever since.’
I now know why my sermon was taken from me; namely, that God might thus magnify his mercy.”
Works of Wesley, Vol. VI, p. 465.