st-irenaeus-of-lyonWe learn by experience that we possess eternal duration from the excelling power of this Being, not from our own nature.

This is so that we may neither undervalue that glory which surrounds God as He is, nor be ignorant of our own nature, but that we may know what God can effect, and what benefits man receives.

Thus we should never wander from the true comprehension of things as they are, that is, both with regard to God and with regard to man.

[…] The Apostle Paul has…in the most lucid manner, pointed out that man has been delivered over to his own infirmity, lest, being uplifted, he might fall away from the truth.

Thus he says in the second Epistle to the Corinthians: And lest I should be lifted up by the sublimity of the revelations, there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.

And upon this I besought the Lord three times, that it might depart from me. But he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for strength is made perfect in weakness”.

Gladly therefore shall I rather glory in infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Cor. 12:7–9).

[…] Did the Lord wish, in that case, that His apostles should thus undergo buffeting, and that he should endure such infirmity?

Even so it was; the word says it. For strength is made perfect in weakness, rendering him a better man who by means of his infirmity becomes acquainted with the power of God.

For how could a man have learned that he is himself an infirm being, and mortal by nature, but that God is immortal and powerful, unless he had learned by experience what is in both?

For there is nothing evil in learning one’s infirmities by endurance; yea, rather, it has even the beneficial effect of preventing him from forming an undue opinion of his own nature.

But [man’s] being lifted up against God, and taking His glory to one’s self, rendering man ungrateful, has brought much evil upon him.

And thus, I say, man must learn both things by experience, that he may not be destitute of truth and love either towards himself or his Creator.

But the experience of both confers upon him the true knowledge as to God and man, and increases his love towards God. Now, where there exists an increase of love, there a greater glory is wrought out by the power of God for those who love Him.

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 5,2,3 & 5,3,1 [slightly adapted].