Quotes on Resistance to Tyranny


A Collection

Myers, R. Andrew – ‘Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God’ & the Declaration of Independence, 2009, 19 pp.

This is a collection of 27 primary source quotes from history, beginning with Augustine (A.D. 410), tracing influences upon the United State’s Declaration of Independence.



Order of More Quotes

The quotes below are as referenced in John Milton’s The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates  (1650)

Ulrich Zwingli  †1531
Martin Luther  †1546

Martin Bucer  †1551
John Calvin  †1564
Anthony Gilby  †1585
Christopher Goodman  †1603
David Paraeus  †1622



Ulrich Zwingli

Tom. I. articul. 42.

“When Kings reign perfidiously, and against the rule of Christ, they may according to the word of God be deposed.”

“I know not how it comes to pass that Kings reign by succession, unless it be with consent of the whole people.”

“But when by suffrage and consent of the whole people, or the better part of them, a Tyrant is deposed or put to death, God is the chief leader in that action.”

“Now that we are so luke-warm in upholding public justice, we endure the vices of Tyrants to reign now a days with impunity; justly therefore by them we are trod underfoot, and shall at length with them be punished.  Yet ways are not wanting by which Tyrants may be removed, but there wants public justice.”

“Beware ye Tyrants for now the Gospel of Jesus Christ spreading far and wide, will renew the lives of many to love innocence and justice; which if ye also shall do, ye shall be honored.  But if ye shall go on to rage and do violence, ye shall be trampled on by all men.”

“When the Roman Empire or any other shall begin to oppress Religion, and we negligently suffer it, we are as much guilty of Religion so violated, as the Oppressors themselves.”



Martin Luther

Lib. contra Rusticos apud Sleidan. I. 5.

“Such is the state of things at this day, that men neither can, nor will, nor indeed ought to endure longer the domination of you Princes.”

“Neither is Cæsar to make War as heed of Christendom, Protector of the Church, Defender of the Faith; these Titles being false and Windy, and most Kings being the greatest Enemies to Religion.”


Lib: De bello contra Turcas. apud Sleid. I. 14.

“What hinders then, but that we may dispose or punish them?”


Quoted of Luther by Cochlæus in his Miscellanies, when the Protestants in Germany entered into a Covenant at Smalcaldia:

“That I may stop their mouths, the Pope and Emperor are not born but elected, and may also be deposed as has been often done.”

To displace and throw down this Exactor, this Phalaris, this Nero, is a work well pleasing to God; Namely, for being such a one: which is a moral reason.  Shall then so slight a consideration as his hap to be not elective simply, but by birth, which was a mere accident, overthrow that which is moral, and make unpleasing to God that which otherwise had so well pleased Him? certainly not: for if the matter be rightly argued, Election much rather than chance, binds a man to content himself with what he suffers by his own bad Election.  Though indeed neither the one nor other binds any man, much less any people to a necessary sufferance of those wrongs and evils, which they have ability and strength enough given them to remove.”



Martin Bucer

on Matt ch. 5

If a Sovereign Prince endeavor by arms to defend transgressors, to subvert those things which are taught in the word of God, they who are in authority under him, ought first to dissuade him; if they prevail not, and that he now bears himself not as a Prince, but as an enemy, and seeks to violate privileges and rights granted to inferior Magistrates or commonalities, it is the part of pious Magistrates, imploring first the assistance of God, rather to try all ways and means,then to betray the flock of Christ, to such an enemy of God: for they also are to this end ordained, that they may defend the people of God, and maintain those things which are good and just.  For to have supreme power lessens not the evil committed by that power, but makes it the less tolerable, by how much the more generally hurtful.  Then certainly the less tolerable, the more unpardonably to be punished.



John Calvin

Commentary on Daniel 4:25

Now adays Monarchs pretend always in their Titles, to be Kings by the grace of God: but how many of them to this end only pretend it, that they may reign without control; for to what purpose is the grace of God mentioned in the Title of Kings, but that they may acknowledge no Superior?  In the mean while God, whose name they use, to support themselves, they willingly would tread under their feet.  It is therefore a mere cheat when they boast to reign by the grace of God.


On Dan. 6:22

“Earthly Princes depose themselves while they rise against God, yea they are unworthy to be numbered among men: rather it behooves us to spit upon their heads than to obey them.


Commentary on Rom. 13:1

“Understand further that powers are from God, not as pestilence and famine, and wars, and other visitations for sin are said to be from Him, but because He has appointed them for the legitimate and just government of the world.  For though tyrannies and unjust exercise of power, as they are full of disorder (ἀταξίας) are not an ordained government, yet the right of government is ordained by God for the well-being of mankind.”



Anthony Gilby  (1510-1585)

de obedientiâ. p. 25. & 105.

“Kings have their authority of the people, who may upon occasion re-assume it to themselves.”

England’s Complaint against the Canons

“The people may kill wicked Princes as monsters and cruel beasts.”



Christopher Goodman

of Obedience

Ch. 10. p. 139

“When Kings or Rulers become blasphemers of God, oppressors and murderers of their Subjects, they ought no more to be accounted Kings or lawful Magistrates, but as private men to be examined, accused, condemned and punished by the Law of God, and being convicted and punished by that law, it is not man’s but God’s doing,”

Ch. 11, p. 143,144

“By the civil laws a fool or idiot born, and so proved shall loose the lands and inheritance wherto he is born, because he is not able to use them aright.  And especially ought in no case be suffered to have the government of a whole Nation; But there is no such evil can come to the Common-wealth by fools and idiots as does by the rage and fury of ungodly Rulers; Such therefore being without God ought to have no authority over God’s people, who by his Word requires the contrary.”

Ch. 13, p. 184

“No person is exempt by any Law of God from this punishment, be he King, Queen, or Emperor, he must die the death, for God has not placed them above others, to transgress his laws as they list, but to be subject to them as well as others, and if they be subject to his laws, then to the punishment also, so much the more as their example is more dangerous.”

p. 185

“When Magistrates cease to doe their Duty, the people are as it were without Magistrates, yea worse, and then God gives the sword into the peoples hand, and he himself is become immediately their head.”

p. 190

“If Princes doe right and keep promise with you, then doe you owe to them all humble obedience: if not, ye are discharged, and your study ought to be in this case how ye may depose and punish according to the Law such Rebels against God and oppressors of their Country.”



David Paræus

on Rom. 13

“They whose part it is to set up Magistrates, may restrain them also from outrageous deeds, or pull them down; but all Magistrates are set up either by Parliament, or by Electors, or by other Magistrates; They therefore who exalted them, may lawfully degrade and punish them.”




Related Pages

Resistance to Tyrrany

Historic Treatises on Resistance to Tyranny