Friday, January 25, 2013

  She was Faithful 'til Death will you be? 

This picture describes the death of Perpetua.*

                             Here is a testimony of another Brave Daughter of Sarah. Bravery seldom heard of in our time. The name "Christian" is no longer a death sentence (at least not for many in America). The reality of death & persecutions are only very real to those who are truly living faithful to the Gospel. It is in making this choice that we are set apart from this world of professing Christians; & thus we bring upon ourselves the afflictions of the Gospel. But to die faithful to Christ, & with the confidence of the Holy Men & Women of Old - these short lived afflictions are worth it. Here is yet another testimony to strengthen our hearts to be valiant for the Truth. Oh Lord help us to be faithful & attain unto such a Holy & powerful testimony.


Felicitas was a Christian widow at Rome, and had seven sons, whose names were Januarius, Fe-
(Page 110) lix, Philippus, Sylvanus, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis. These lived together with their mother in one house, as an entire Christian church. Of the mother it is stated, that by her Christian communion, (conversation) which she had with the Roman women, she converted many to Christ. The sons, on their part, also acquitted themselves well by winning many men to Christ.
Now, when the heathen priests complained of this to Antonius, the Emperor-who had resumed the persecution which had begun with Trajan, but had subsided-saying, that there were not only men, but also women, who blasphemed the gods, despised their images, trampled under foot the Emperor's worship of the gods, yea, turned away many from the old religion of the Romans; that this was principally done by a certain widow, named Felicitas, and her seven sons, and that, therefore, in order to prevent this, they must be compelled to give up Christ, and sacrifice to the gods, or, in case they should refuse to do so, be put to death, the Emperor, prompted or instigated hereby, gave . to Publius, the provost, or chief magistrate of Rome, full authority over them.
  Publius, willing to spare Felicitas, as being a highly respectable woman, first secretly summoned her and her sons into his own house, where he entreated them with fair words and promises, but afterwards threatened to punish them with severe tortures, unless they would forsake the Christian religion, and readopt the old Roman worship of the gods. Felicitas, remembering the words of Christ,"Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven," did not seek to evade the issue by using dissimulating or indirect words, but answered briefly thus, "I am neither moved by thy flatteries and entreaties, nor am I intimidated by thy threats; for I experience in my heart the working of the Holy Ghost, which gives me a living power, and prepares me for the conflict of suffering, to endure all that thou mayest lay upon me, for the confession of my faith."
  When Publius could not move the mother from her steadfast purpose, he said to her, "Very well; if it seems pleasant to thee , to die, die alone, but have pity and a mother's compassion for thy sons, and command them, to ransom their own lives at least, by sacrificing to the gods."
  Thereupon Felicitas said to the judge, "Thy compassion is pure wickedness, and thy admonition is nothing but cruelty, for, if my sons should sacrifice to the gods, they would not ransom 'their lives, but sell them to the hellish fiend, whose slaves, yea, whose serfs in soul and body, they would become, and be reserved by him, in chains of darkness, for everlasting fire."
  Then, turning away from the judge, to her sons, she said, "Remain steadfast in the faith, and in the confession of Christ; for Christ and His saints are waiting for you. Behold, heaven is open before you; therefore fight valiantly for your souls, and show, that you are faithful in the love of Christ, wherewith He loves you, and you Him."
  This filled the judge with rage against her, and he commanded them to smite her on the cheek, while he at the same time upbraided her vehemently, saying, "How darest thou thus impudently exhort thy sons in my presence, and make them obstinate to disobey the commands of the Emperor; whereas it would be far more proper for thee to incite them to obedience toward him?"
  Felicitas, notwithstanding that death had been threatened her, answered with more than manly courage, saying, "If thou, O judge, didst know our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the power of His Godhead and majesty, thou wouldst undoubtedly desist from persecuting the Christians, and wouldst not seek to draw us away from the Christian religion by blaspheming His holy name; for whoever curses (or blasphemes) Christ and His faithful ones, curses (or blasphemes) God Himself, who, by faith, dwells in their hearts."
  Thereupon, though they struck her in the face with their fists, in order to silence her, she did not cease to admonish her sons to remain steadfast, and to fear neither tortures nor rack, nor even death itself, but to die willingly for the name of Christ.
  Therefore, Publius the judge took each of her sons separately, and talked first to one and then to the other, hoping by this last resort to draw away from the faith, by promises as well as by threats, some of them at least, if not all. But as he could not prevail upon them, he sent a message to the Emperor, stating that they all remained obstinate, and that he could in no wise induce them to sacrifice to the gods. Thereupon the Emperor sentenced the mother together with her seven sons, that they should be delivered into the hands of different executioners, and be tortured and put to death in various ways; yet, that the mother was first to see all her sons die, before she herself should be put to death.
  In accordance with this sentence, they first scourged Januarius, the first-born, to death, in the presence of his mother. The scourges were made of cords or ropes, to the ends of which balls of lead were attached. Those who had to undergo this mode of torture were scourged with them on their necks, backs, sides, and other tender parts of their bodies, either to torture them, or in order to martyr them to death as was the case in this instance. Felix and Philippus, the two brothers next (in age), were beaten to death with rods. Sylvanus, also called Syllanus, was cast down from a height. Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis were beheaded. Last of all, the mother was beheaded or put to death with the sword. This took place under Emperor Antonius Pius. A. Mell. 1st book of the Hist., fol. 33, col. 4 and fol. 34, col. 1-3, ex Prudent. in hincentio. Also, Acto. Adon. Mart., 23 Novemb. Greg. P. in Natali. S. Felic. Homil. 3, in Eu. Bet. Chrysol. Serm. 134. Arta apud Mombrit.
Page 111 tom 1. Beda Usuard. 23 Nov. Heur. Er$ord. Chron., Mart. Rom. Touching the time when this took place, see P. J. Twisck, Chron. 2d book, for the year 164, page 45, col. 1, front hincentio, in Cal., fol. 35. (This testimony & many others can be found in the Martyrs Mirror online book - link located under Study Tools on this blog.)
 What a powerful testimony of faith & confidence from a mother & her children who simply believed the Gospel, & were unwilling to compromise to save their life on earth. Mat 10:28  "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."-Y'shua (Jesus) They believed these things that they were told. They were not told by Christ in the flesh, but by faithful men who spread the Gospel of truth. They believed what they heard to the laying down of their life!
  As Women of faith we can be like Felicitas & teach the children to never compromise the Gospel of truth, to never fear what man or flesh can do unto us (Psalm 56:4  In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.). Felicitas was known for her Christian conversation (in the Bible conversation is known to mean our behavior not just words). Her behavior was so powerful it converted unbelievers--& she obviously was not compromising in her behavior.
  As i was working on Felicitas testimony i came across the testimony of Perpetua who was killed for her faith not many years after Felicitas. Her death was made a show in an arena. The people wanted to see the blood & violence & take pleasure in it as many people do today when they pay to watch movies & play video games that make things appear more real. I wouldn't be surprised if  these upcoming desensitized generations become dis-satisfied with virtual reality & turn again to the arena. It is very possible that history will repeat itself, & the faithful will once again depart from this world in the midst of a Super Dome filled with a raging generation of anti-christ, false Christians who will think they are doing God a service by putting the faithful to death.
May we press in & redeem the time, that if our time comes to show ourself valiant for the Gospel, we may have the confidence & assurance of these Holy Women of Old. Praise God for preserving these testimony for us.

October 2011 - Vol. 53
*Perpetua's Victory Over Death
The heroic witness of the early Christian martyrs
Perpetua was a young lady who had it made. She was born into a noble Roman family in Carthage, a Roman city in North Africa in 181 AD. She was beautiful, well-educated, happily married around the age of twenty, and now the mother of an infant son. And then to the surprise of her family she decided to become a Christian. This appeared sheer nonsense to her father who saw it as breaking not only with Roman tradition but with family loyalty as well. Besides, what good had Christianity brought to Roman society? It seemed to mainly attract working class people and the slaves who had little or nothing to lose. Many emperors had tried to suppress it in the past, and the current emperor Septimus had decided to outlaw it once again, and threatened death to anyone who professed it. 
The threat of death did not deter Perpetua from taking instructions in the Christian faith. She discovered that the Gospels were true and offered the way to eternal life and happiness. Jesus of Nazareth became a real living person to her, someone greater than the emperor, someone who was king of heaven and the whole earth as well. Despite the objections of her family, Perpetua pursued the Christian faith with great enthusiasm and conviction. Her brother Secundus soon followed in becoming a Christian as well. 
Perpetua’s father had pleaded with tears to persuade her to give up her Christian faith. Her answer was simple and clear. Pointing to a water jug, she asked her father, "See that pot lying  there? Can you call it by any other name than what it is?"
“Of course not,” he answered. Perpetua responded, “Neither can I call myself by any other name than what I am – a Christian.” Her father became so upset that he physically attacked her. 
Sometime after the birth of her firstborn son, she was arrested, along with four other Christians who were new in the faith. Her brother Secundus had been arrested earlier and thrown into prison as well. Before being taken to prison she was baptized. The Holy Spirit gave her a prophetic gift and told her to pray for nothing but endurance in the face of her trials.
Perpetua was thrown into a crowded prison with no light anywhere. In her diary she described her ordeal:
Such darkness I have never known! What a day of horror! Terrible heat, owing to the crowds! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all, I was tormented with anxiety for my baby.
Perpetua admitted she was afraid and was most at pain from being separated from her nursing infant. Another young woman in prison with her, who was a slave by the name of Felicity, was eight months pregnant.  Two deacons who visited the prisoners paid the jailers to move Perpetua and Felicity to a better prison cell where they could receive visits from family members and be better cared for. Perpetua’s mother brought Perpetua’s baby to her so she could nurse the child. When Perpetua received permission for the baby to stay with her, she said “suddenly my prison became a palace for me.”
Once again Perpetua’s father pleaded with kisses and tears for Perpetua to give up her faith. She told him, “We rely not on our own power but on the power of God.” When she was taken before the judge he also tried to persuade her to give up her faith. After she refused, the judge sentenced her, along with the other four new Christians and Saturus their Christian teacher, to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena.
Two days before the execution, the slave Felicity gave birth to a healthy girl who was adopted and raised by one of the Christian women of Carthage. 
While in prison Perpetua shared a vision she had received. She saw a ladder leading to heaven. At the bottom of the ladder was a serpent, attacking the Christians trying to climb the ladder to heaven. Perpetua understood that she would have to fight Satan rather than just the beasts of the arena. The Lord assured her that she would not be defeated in overcoming Satan. This gave her great confidence and courage. 
On the day of the games, the three men and two women were led into the amphitheatre. At the demand of the crowd they were first scourged. Then a boar, a bear, and a leopard, were set on the men, and a wild cow on the women. Wounded by the wild animals, they gave each other the kiss of peace and were then put to the sword. 
Perpetua's last words to her brother were: “Stand fast in the faith and love one another and do not be tempted to do anything wrong because of our sufferings.”
An early eyewitness account describes the death of Perpetua: 
“But Perpetua, that she might experience pain more deeply, rejoiced over her broken body and guided the shaking hand of the inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman – one before whom the unclean spirit trembled – could not perhaps have been killed, had she herself not willed it.” 

Perpetua and Saturus wrote personal accounts of their ordeal while in prison. They include the testimony of Felicity as well. An English translation of the account, called The Passions of the Holy Martyrs Pepetua and Felicitas, along with an eye witness testimony of their martyrdom can be found online

[The story of Perpetua is based on her personal testimony along with other early eye witness accounts, adapted by Don Schwager.] 
[this was copied & pasted by P.F. from (see bottom of page...)] From the account of the holy martyrs of Carthage (203 AD) Called and chosen for the glory of the Lord
The day of the martyrs’ victory dawned. They marched from their cells into the amphitheater, as if into heaven, with cheerful looks and graceful bearing. If they trembled it was for joy and not fear.
Perpetua was the first to be thrown down, and she fell prostrate. She got up and, seeing that Felicity was prostrate, went over and reached out her hand to her and lifted her up. Both stood together. The hostility of the crowd was appeased, and they were ordered to the gate called Sanavivaria.
There Perpetua was welcomed by a catechumen named Rusticus. Rousing herself as if from sleep (so deep had she been in spiritual ecstasy), she began to look around. To everyone’s amazement she said: “When are we going to be led to the beast?” When she heard that it had already happened she did not at first believe it until she saw the marks of violence on her body and her clothing. 
Then she beckoned to her brother and the catechumen, and addressed them in these words: “Stand firm in faith, love one another and do not be tempted to do anything wrong because of our sufferings.”
Saturus, too, in another gate, encouraged the soldier Pudens, saying: “Here I am, and just as I thought and foretold I have not yet felt any wild beast. Now believe with your whole heart: I will go there and be killed by the leopard in one bite.” And right at the end of the games, when he was thrown to the leopard he was in fact covered with so much blood from one bite that the people cried out to him: “Washed and saved, washed and saved!” And  so, giving evidence of a second baptism, he was clearly saved who had been washed in this manner.
Then Saturus said to the soldier Pudens: “Farewell, and remember your faith as well as me; do not let these things frighten you; let them rather strengthen you.” At the same time he asked for the little ring from Pudens’ finger. After soaking it in his wound he returned it to Pudens as a keepsake, leaving him a pledge and a remembrance of his blood. Half dead, he was thrown along with the others into the usual place of slaughter.
The people, however, had demanded that the martyrs be led to the middle of the amphitheater. They wanted to see the sword thrust into the bodies of the victims, so that their eyes might share in the slaughter. Without being asked they went where the people wanted them to go; but first they kissed one another, to complete their witness with the customary kiss of peace.
The others stood motionless and received the deathblow in silence, especially Saturus, who had gone up first and was first to die; he was helping
Perpetua. But Perpetua, that she might experience the pain more deeply, rejoiced over her broken body and guided the shaking hand of the    inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman one before whom the unclean spirit trembled could not perhaps have been killed, had she herself not willed it.
Bravest and happiest martyrs! You were called and chosen for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Historical note: This excerpt is taken from The Martyrdom of Perpetua. It is based on the first-person accounts of Perpetua and Saturus, which took place under the persecution of Septimius Severus in 202-3 AD.  The popularity of the account spread rapidly in the third and fourth centuries. By the fourth century, a basilica at Carthage was dedicated to the memory of Perpetua.]
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