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The History Of Perpetua
THE STORY OF PERPETUA.
Perpetua was a beautiful young woman, in the prime of her life about 22 years of age. She belonged to a very wealthy and noble family and her father, who was a noble man, was very fond of her. She was married and had a lovely little baby that she loved with all her heart. The whole of Perpetua’s family were Christians, except her father, though a good man, was an unbeliever.
Perpetua lived in province of North Africa of the Roman Empire during the reign of Caesar Severus from AD 194 to 210. Due to political instability during those years the Caesars of Rome did not have the time to focus on the persecution of Christians, till the year 202, when Severus started persecuting the church with all his might. During this time Perpetua and a few of her friends were preparing themselves for baptism and communion. In the year 202 she and another woman, as well as 3 young men were arrested for being Christians, and placed under house arrest.
Very soon she and her friends were brought before their persecutors for the first time, and her elderly father came in public to plead with her to say that she was not a Christian because of the disgrace that this confession brought on their family. Pointing to a vessel that was standing on the ground she asked her father : “Can I call this vessel anything else than what it is - a vessel?” “No” he replied. “Neither can I say that I am not a Christian” were her words to him. A few days after this she and her friends were baptized, upon which they were immediately thrown into the dungeon.
In the dungeon she was terrified. It as so dark and so hot because there were so many other prisoners inside. The soldiers treated them so harshly and she was so miserable because her child was taken from her. The deacons of the church paid a large sum of money and succeeded into getting the Christian prisoners a better apartment where they were separated from the common criminals. Perpetua could now get her child back, and with her baby at her breast she wrote : This prison has become a palace to me!
After a few days news came that the prisoners will shortly be tried. Her old father hastened to his daughter in great distress. He pleaded with her : “ My daughter - pity my gray hair. Pity me as your father who has brought you up. I have loved you more than all your brothers - do not expose me to this shame amongst men. Look at your small child - how will he live without you? Let your noble spirit give way, lest you plunge us all in ruin” Whilst saying this he kissed her hands, threw himself at her feet and cried. She was greatly moved by her father’s pleas but she remained steadfast : What shall happen before the tribunal will depend on the will of God - for we do not stand in our own strength., but by the power of God.”
On the day of the trial, a great multitude assembled. As she stood before the governor, her aged father again came before her to plead, this time holding her infant son in his arms. What an agonizing moment - the gray hair of her father, and her only child- all this in the face of the multitude. “ “Have mercy on your old father’s gray hair and your young child” said the governor, “and offer sacrifices to the Emperor” There at the spot she commended her infant to her mother and her brother, and when the governor asked her: “Are you a Christian” she replied “ Yes, I am a Christian” and that sealed her fate.
The prisoners returned to their dungeon rejoicing. They were condemned to serve as a cruel sport to the people to the people in a fight with animals in the amphitheater. According to the custom in Cartage the men prisoners would have been clothed in scarlet like the priests of Saturn , and the women in yellow as priestesses of Ceres, but the prisoners protested against this. “We came here of our own choice, we have given our lives to Christ, and do not want to be forced in such abominations” The soldiers yielded and allowed them to enter the arena with simple clothes. Perpetua was singing a Psalm. The men was exposed to lions, leopards and bears, while the women were tossed by a furious cow, and finally killed by the sword of a gladiator.
Thus ends the story of Perpetua. In her we see the beautiful combination of the tenderest feelings and the strongest affections which Christianity recognizes - but these all sacrificed to her Savior Who gave Himself for her. May we learn from this not to be complainers, but to stand firm in our faith, that God may be glorified.
Taken from: Miller’s Church History