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That Herod conspired against the Child (although the Jew of Celsus does not believe that this really happened), is not to be wondered at. For wickedness is in a certain sense blind, and would desire to defeat fate, as if it were stronger than it. And this being Herod’s condition, he both believed that a king of the Jews had been born, and yet cherished a purpose contradictory of such a belief; not seeing that the Child is assuredly either a king and will come to the throne, or that he is not to be a king, and that his death, therefore, will be to no purpose. He desired accordingly to kill Him, his mind being agitated by contending passions on account of his wickedness, and being instigated by the blind and wicked devil who from the very beginning plotted against the Saviour, imagining that He was and would become some mighty one. An angel, however, perceiving the course of events, intimated to Joseph, although Celsus may not believe it, that he was to withdraw with the Child and His mother into Egypt, while Herod slew all the infants that were in Bethlehem and the surrounding borders, in the hope that he would thus destroy Him also who had been born King of the Jews. For he saw not the sleepless guardian power that is around those who deserve to be protected and preserved for the salvation of men, of whom Jesus is the first, superior to all others in honour and excellence, who was to be a King indeed, but not in the sense that Herod supposed, but in that in which it became God to bestow a kingdom,—for the benefit, viz., of those who were to be under His sway, who was to confer no ordinary and unimportant blessings, so to speak, upon His subjects, but who was to train them and to subject them to laws that were truly from God. And Jesus, knowing this well, and denying that He was a king in the sense that the multitude expected, but declaring the superiority of His kingdom, says: “If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not of this world.”31843184 Cf. John xviii. 36. Now, if Celsus had seen this, he would not have said: “But if, then, this was done in order that you might not reign in his stead when you had grown to man’s estate; why, after you did reach that estate, do you not become a king, instead of you, the Son of God, wandering about in so mean a condition, hiding yourself through fear, and leading a miserable life up and down?” Now, it is not dishonourable to avoid exposing one’s self to dangers, but to guard carefully against them, when this is done, not through fear of death, but from a desire to benefit others by remaining in life, until the proper time come for one who has assumed human nature to die a death that will be useful to mankind. And this is plain to him who reflects that Jesus died for the sake of men,—a point of which we have spoken to the best of our ability in the preceding pages.
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