9. What does he tell of by the title of ‘ways’ but ways of acting? Thus it is hence said by Jeremiah; Make your ways and your doings good. [Jer. 7, 3] But what do we understand by the name of ‘steps,’ but either the motions of men’s minds or the advancements of merits? By which ‘steps’ indeed Truth calls us to Itself, saying, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden. [Matt. 11, 28] For the Lord bids us ‘come to Him’ not surely by the steps of the body, but by the advances of the heart. For he Himself says, The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. [John 4, 21] And a little after, the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father also seeketh such to worship Him. [ver. 23] Thus he implies that the steps are in the heart, when He both bids us that we should come, and yet declares that it is not at all by the motion of the body that we pass to other things. Now the Lord so ‘views the ways’ of each one, and so ‘counts all his steps,’ that by His Judgment not even the minutest thoughts or the very slightest words, which have become insignificant in our eyes from use, remain unexamined into. Thus hence He says, Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Boca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. [Matt. 5, 22] ‘Raca’ in the Hebrew speech is a word of interjection, which indeed shews the temper of one who is angry, but does not give forth a full word of anger. Thus anger without utterance is first blamed, then anger with utterance, but not yet shaped by a complete word, and at last also when it is said, Thou fool, anger is reproved, which, along with excess of the voice, is fulfilled by the perfecting of speech as well. And it is to be noted that He tells that by anger he is ‘in danger of the judgment;’ by a voice of anger, which is ‘Raca,’ ‘in danger of the council,’ and by a word of the voice, which is ‘Thou fool,’ in danger of hell fire. For by the steps of offence, the order of the sentence increased, because in ‘the judgment’ the case is still under examination, but in the council the sentence of the case is now determining, while ‘in the fire of hell’ the sentence, which proceeds from the council, is fulfilled. And therefore because of human actions ‘the Lord counts up the steps’ with exact scrutiny, anger without the voice is made over ‘to the judgment,’ but anger in the voice ‘to the council,’ and anger in speech and voice to ‘the fire of hell.’ This exactness of His scanning the Prophet had beheld, when he said, O most strong, Great One, Mighty Lord of hosts is Thy Name, Great in counsel, and Mighty in work, for Thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of Adam; to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his devices. [Jer. 32, 18. 19.]
10. Thus the Lord scans those ways with exact scrutiny, that in each one of us He should neither pass over those good points that there are for Him to recompense, nor leave without rebuke the evil things, that are doubtless displeasing to Him. For hence it is that the Angel of the Church of Pergamos He at once commends in some things, and in some rebukes, saying, I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast My Name, and hast not denied My faith. [Apoc. 2, 13. 14.] And a little while after; But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam. Hence it is said to the Angel of the Church of Thyatira, I know thy works, and thy charity, and faith, and service, and thy patience; and thy last works to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee; because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce My servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. [ver. 19. 20.] Observe how He records good things, nor yet lets go without penance evil things, that require to be cut off, surely because He so views the ways of each, and so takes account of their steps, ‘counting them up,’ that by exact counting He thoroughly estimates both how far each one is advancing to what is good, or how far, by deviating to what is evil, he may contravene his advances. For the increase of merits which is heightened by the aims of a good life, is very often held back by a mixture of evil, and the good which the mind builds up by practising it overthrows by committing other things. Whence holy men tie themselves up with greater nicety in the thought of the heart in proportion as they see that they are more searchingly scanned by the Judge Above. For they sift the mind through and through, they seek to find if they have done wrong in aught, that they may be rendered the more unblameable to the Judge, in proportion as daily and without ceasing they blame their own selves. Not, however, that they already derive from this circumstance the delights of security, because they see that they are beheld by Him, Who beholds in them those things as well, which they are not themselves able to see in themselves. And indeed blessed Job among those of old lime maintained the life of perfectness, but because by the spirit of prophecy the stretch of his eye breaks forth to the Advent of the Redeemer, in that Redeemer’s precepts he for himself reflects how many things belonging to perfection he is short of.