Human affections, dear as they are, must always yield primary allegiance to Christ. This day in church history belongs to Perpetua who so inspired the early Christians that Augustine warned against viewing her story as equal to Scripture. Perpetua was born about 176 in Carthage, North Africa, growing up in a well-to-do family. Her father wasn’t a Christian, but her brothers and mother were devoted to Christ. Perpetua, bright and attractive, gained a good education and a husband, then a baby boy.

In 202 Emperor Septimus Severius issued an edict against Christians, and presently Perpetua was placed under house arrest. When her father begged her to recant, she pointed to a waterpot and asked, “Father, do you see this vessel? Can it be called by any other name than what it is? So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.”

She was moved to prison where her father again visited her, begging her with sobs to renounce her faith. She refused. Perpetua and a handful of other believers were then tried in the marketplace where, again, her father appeared, carrying her infant son and begging her to free herself.

Sentenced to torture and execution, the Christians were dragged back to prison. When she asked to see her baby a final time, she was refused. But on the eve of her death, Perpetua wrote of God’s sustaining presence: I saw that I should not fight with beasts but with the devil; I knew the victory to be mine.

On March 7, 202 the Christians were marched into the arena where Perpetua was gored and thrown by a savage heifer. Surviving the first encounter, she crept to the aid of a companion. Shortly thereafter, a gladiator pierced her with his sword. When the trembling youth came at her again, she helped guide his shaking sword to her throat.

Her devotion to Christ so inspired the Christians in North Africa that she personified Tertullian’s famous quote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Indeed, through the power of her witness, her chief jailer, Pudens, committed himself to the Lord Jesus.

My dear friends, I want you to know that what has happened to me has helped to spread the good news. The Roman guards and all the others know that I am here in jail because I serve Christ. Now most of the Lord’s followers have become brave and are fearlessly telling the message. (Philippians 1:12-14)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Mar.7.

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