Government of the Tongue, Richard Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Allestree indicates that flattery is a form of mental slavery and says that love and friendship are far too valuable to prostitute them. In addition, he believes that flattery is harmful because, by failing to point out a man's flaws, or by transmuting those flaws into assets, one condemns the man to continue in those faults. Furthermore, he points out that flatterers are often treacherous, because their affection ends when the one that they have flattered falls out of favor. In fact, when the formerly adored friend falls out of favor, the flatterers are often the first to point out their faults to those who are coming into favor.

In section nine, Allestree speaks about boasting. Boasting is not limited to people speaking bombastically about themselves, but also includes people who cannot hear talk on any subject without trying to turn that subject towards them. Therefore, it becomes clear that boasters are very proud, which is its own sin. In fact, Scripture refers to pride as being the vice most detestable to God. However, he points out that boasting about accidental acquisitions and natural excellencies is a sacrilege, because the boaster is taking credit for something given to him by God. One cannot snatch one's reward from God by making one's own tongue the trumpet of one's alms or the echo of one's prayers. Allestree maintains that boasting and ostentation have never brought advantage to any man. Furthermore, a man who studies only himself is unlikely to make any progress, especially when a man makes no inquiries into his own faults or defects, but only focuses his contemplation upon his best qualities.

In section ten, Allestree speaks of querulousness. He believes that boasting and querulousness can often be seen in one person, and that murmurers and complainers are oftentimes those most likely to be boastful. He finds it remarkable that every trivial fault seems to eclipse even the greatest blessings. In fact, he believes that most complaints and discontents stem from man's lusts and inordinate appetites. Furthermore, men seem to find themselves ill used by people who will not serve them, as if a person is somehow selfish if he will not make himself a slave to another's will. He believes that querulousness renders a man unpleasant company. Even if men should charitably respect another's complaints, if the audience is not concerned with the cause of the complaints, they cannot be expected to remedy them. He further points out that there is no room in heaven for complaints.

Although Allestree warns against querulousness, in section eleven he also warns against a man being over confident and peremptory. He believes that there are two types of peremptoriness: one a magisterialness in matters of opinion and speculation, the other a positiveness in relating matters of fact. He finds a man in error when he only considers his own opinion, and above reproach. He believes that some men believe that they lose honor if they change an opinion, which is a sign of pride, despite the fact that human nature is very fallible. He also cautions that personal prejudices are very forcible in biasing opinions. Therefore, confidence should not be confused with the truth. In addition to pride, ignorance fuels those who believe they are free from error; furthermore, the combination of ignorance and pride are virtually impenetrable. He also cautions against those who attest to the truth of idle vagrant reports, turning loose rumors into certainties. Furthermore, he warns that some men only converse with a lower sort of company, so that the truth of his words will not be disputed. He also warns against men swearing oaths without knowledge of the truth, because they make God a witness to trifling rumors. Finally, Allestree warns that men who are peremptory are more prone to quarrels, because they are unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of truth in an opposing point-of-view.

In section twelve, Allestree speaks of obscene talk. Obscene and immodest talk is that talk that is offensive to the purity of God. However, he does not go into a lengthy discussion of obscenity, but instead encourages the reader to dismiss the subject. He believes that uncleanness should not even be named by those aspiring to better.

After describing the various types of speech that are offensive to God, Allestree cautions that he knows that he has not covered all types of offensive speech. However, he hopes that his writing will allow people to improve themselves and strive towards becoming perfect men. He also hopes that it will allow people to see how these misuses of speech have come into common practice and are used on a daily basis. He warns against man misusing his tongue, even in innocence. He believes that men must train themselves to speak for good, because if the tongue is not speaking of good, it will be practicing upon bad. So men must try to make their tongues into instruments of virtue. The highest virtue of speech is when it is used to implant a true reverential awe of God, and thereby sow the seed of immortality.


Initially, it appears that there is little to interpret in Allestree's The Government of the Tongue, because Allestree's discussion of speech and how it impacts mankind's relationship with God is relatively straightforward. Allestree discusses the use of speech and how it impacts mankind's spiritual relationship with God. However, it quickly becomes clear that Allestree's writing is directed strictly at a Christian audience. First, Allestree references man's special relationship with God, based on the idea that man was created superior to the animals. Next, he mentions that speech was given to men so that they could share with one another and with God. This draws directly from Scripture and is not a point-of-view shared by all religions.

Even though Allestree's writing is directed towards a Christian audience, he makes points that are applicable to people of all religious backgrounds. Regardless of religious affiliation, few people would be likely to question the concept that speech has enabled the creation of modern human society. For example, Allestree's assertion that spoken speech led to written writing seems apparent. However, one might disagree with his assertion that speech and writing were developed for the glorification of God, or even that they were gifts from God.

Furthermore, Allestree's discussion about the abuse of speech is not merely directed towards man's relationship with God. Although he claims that he is not entering into a discussion of ethical speech, Allestree does make a strong ethical and philosophical argument regarding the appropriate use of speech. For example, he points out how speech can be misused, and these misuses are not limited to a religious context. However, he links each specific type of misuse to something in the Scripture. For example, the first abuse of speech Allestree discusses is depravation. In fact, he maintains that speech is the source of all other types of depravation. In fact, he shows that speech played an essential role in original sin, because the Serpent used speech to tempt Eve. He also highlights several instances where strictly verbal temptation led to catastrophic and ungodly outcomes in the Bible. By using these examples, Allestree makes it clear that speech can be the cause of other sins.

Allestree's discussion of atheistical discourse is very interesting. Allestree's definition of atheism is broad and appears to include any direct attack on God through speech. Allestree appears to believe that atheism is a tremendous problem, which is making gains. One of the reasons he believes atheism is making gains is because it maintains that there is no God to hold people accountable in the future for their behavior in the present. However, Allestree also discusses the sin of pride in various contexts throughout his writing. He makes it clear that he believes that pride contributes tremendously to other sins. For example, he suggests that pride plays an important role in the spread of atheism, because people want to appear knowledgeable, and fear that demonstrating faith in something that they cannot prove makes them appear unknowledgeable.

In fact, Allestree makes it clear that he finds atheism to be unreasonable. He maintains that even atheists carry the vestiges of religion in them, and fear the possibility of judgment and Hell. This point is essential, because Allestree basically links the misuse and abuse of speech with atheism, even when it is not so labeled. For example, if God has cautioned against these various misuses of speech, and people ignore these cautions, they are doing something that runs contrary to the existence of God. Therefore, any of the other abuses of speech can be described as somewhat atheist. It also appears that Allestree would even contend that such abuses of speech are somewhat responsible for the spread of atheism.

Another salient point that Allestree makes is that the relative size of a sin does not make it less harmful. For example, he labels detraction a relatively small sin. However, he also…

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