Why We Use Block Quotes

We’ve explained before how and why we use brackets [ ] and ellipses for clarity and concision. This week, we explain why we use block quotes so extensively in our posts.

First, links (i.e., hyperlinks,) to articles, editorials, and posts from which block quotes are taken, serve as footnote references to those sources. We rely on fair use, permissions granted, and works deemed in the public domain. Links in our posts, which are unrelated to block quotes, serve to develop the linked words, phrases, or sentences. These latter links are often crucial and expand upon and/or substantiate the thoughts expressed in the post. We try to ensure that all links open in separate tabs or windows (depending on your browser’s or reader’s properties.)

Next, delving into our motivation behind our heavy block quote usage, the glory of human beings is defined as:

…A number of external manifestations and conditions, aspects of internal character, and the inherent condition of human nature. As applied to external manifestations and conditions of human beings, glory may refer to position, possessions, strength, or length of life…

We view the written expression of exquisite thoughts as one of those possessions.

That said, we could digest and regurgitate another’s thoughts, representing their insights as our own; but that, of course, is stealing the glory due others (and ultimately, that of our God, from and to Whom are all things.) It is necessary to give credit where credit is due.

Also, our intent is to call attention to otherwise neglected or obscure thoughts; not so because they have no merit, but because our modern times trade in the facile and trending rather than investing in the deep and time-tested.

You might venture to think that we are just lazy. To this, I must say, you might be right.

Ultimately, however, we are called to humility:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

The authors of what we block quote are more significant than ourselves. They thought and wrote these things first (and, usually, with more eloquence than we can muster.) Though we might stand on the shoulders of giants, let us acknowledge them as such.

Calvin, our go-to commentator for all things biblical (except the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Revelation, and a few others, regretfully,) says about these verses in Philippians:

Nothing through strife or vain-glory. …We avoid strife by deliberating and acting peacefully, especially if we are not actuated by ambition. For ambition is a means of fanning all strife. Vain-glory means any glorying in the flesh; for what ground of glorying have men in themselves that is not vanity?

But by humility. For both diseases [(i.e., strife and vain-glory,) Paul] brings forward one remedy — humility, and with good reason, for it is the mother of moderation, the effect of which is that, yielding up our own right, we give the preference to others, and are not easily thrown into agitation. He gives a definition of true humility — when everyone esteems himself less than others. Now, if anything in our whole life is difficult, this above everything else is so.

Hence it is not to be wondered if humility is so rare a virtue. For, as one says, “Everyone has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.” See! here is pride. Afterwards from a foolish admiration of ourselves arises contempt of the brethren. And, so far are we from what Paul here enjoins, that one can hardly endure that others should be on a level with him, for there is no one that is not eager to have superiority. [emphasis added]

Yet, Calvin, modest as he was, poses a question we might dare to ask for ourselves:

…How it is possible that one who is in reality distinguished above others can reckon those to be superior to him who he knows are greatly beneath him? I answer, that this altogether depends on a right estimate of God’s gifts, and our own infirmities.

For however any one may be distinguished by illustrious endowments, he ought to consider with [regard to] himself that they have not been conferred upon him that he might be self-complacent, that he might exalt himself, or even that he might hold himself in esteem.

Let him, instead of this, employ himself in correcting and detecting his faults, and he will have abundant occasion for humility. In others, on the other hand, he will regard with honor whatever there is of excellences, and will by means of love bury their faults.

The man who will observe this rule, will feel no difficulty in preferring others before himself. And this, too, Paul meant when he added, that they ought not to have everyone a regard to themselves, but to their neighbors, or that they ought not to be devoted to themselves.

Hence it is quite possible that a pious man, even though he should be aware that he is superior, may nevertheless hold others in greater esteem.

So then, let this proverb be true of us all:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

    give me neither poverty nor riches;

    feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you

    and say, “Who is the Lord?”

or lest I be poor and steal

    and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:8-9 (ESV)

As our Lord said: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” And “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Modern Romans, YouTube, The Call – Topic, Lyrics

Against You Only

The great King of Israel, David, committed adultery with another man’s wife. To hide his sin, he had her husband killed. Problem solved? Not in the least. After the prophet Nathan confronts him with the severity of his deed, David admits to his sin. His full confession is recorded in Psalm 51. The verse that concerns us in this post is:

Against you, you only, have I sinned

    and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

    and blameless in your judgment.

Psalm 51:4 English Standard Version (ESV)

Speaking of David’s confession, John Calvin says:

Against You only…I conceive his meaning to be, that though all the world should pardon him, he felt that God was the Judge with whom he had to do, that conscience hailed him to his bar, and that the voice of man could administer no relief to him, however much he might be disposed to forgive, or to excuse, or to flatter. His eyes and his whole soul were directed to God, regardless of what man might think or say concerning him.

…There is every reason to believe that David, in order to prevent his mind from being soothed into a false peace by the flatteries of his court, realized the judgment of God upon his offense, and felt that this was in itself an intolerable burden, even supposing that he should escape all trouble from the hands of his fellow-creatures.

On the import of the second couplet, Calvin says:

So that You may be justified…Any doubt upon the meaning of the words, however, is completely removed by the connection in which they are cited in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans,

“For what if some did not believe? Shall God be unjust? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, ‘That thou may be justified in thy sayings, and might overcome when thou art judged.’” — Romans 3:3, 4

Here the words before us are quoted in proof of the doctrine that God’s righteousness is apparent even in the sins of men, and his truth in their falsehood.

To have a clear apprehension of their meaning, it is necessary that we reflect upon the covenant which God had made with David. The salvation of the whole world having been in a certain sense deposited with him by this covenant, the enemies of religion might take occasion to exclaim upon his fall, “Here is the pillar of the Church gone, and what is now to become of the miserable remnant whose hopes rested upon his holiness?”

…Aware that such attempts might be made to impugn the righteousness of God, David takes this opportunity of justifying [God’s righteousness], and charging himself with the whole guilt of the transaction. He declares that God was justified…should he have spoken the sentence of condemnation against him for his sin, as [God] might have done but for his gratuitous mercy.

Of course, the knowledge that our sin offends God most should not excuse us from seeking our brother’s or sister’s forgiveness. However, we should fear all the more, having been forgiven by others, that we did sin against Him who purchased us at great cost to Himself.

Ligonier Generic Background - David and Bathsheba

Life of David, Lecture 13 – David and Bathsheba, R. C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries