Scottish nonconformist minister, activist, and author
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- It is certain, higher powers are not to be resisted; but some persons in power may be resisted. The powers are ordained of God; but kings commanding unjust things are not ordained of God to do such things; but to apply this to tyrants, I do not understand. Magistrates in some acts may be guilty of tyranny, and yet retain the power of magistracy; but tyrants cannot be capable of magistracy, nor any one of the scripture-characters of righteous rulers. They cannot retain that which they have forfeited, and which they have overturned; and usurpers cannot retain that which they never had. They may act and enact some things materially just, but they are not formally such as can make them magistrates, no more than some unjust actions can make a magistrate a tyrant. A murderer, saving the life of one and killing another, does not make him no murderer: once a murderer ay a murderer, once a robber ay a robber, till he restore what he hath robbed: so once a tyrant ay a tyrant, till he makes amends for his tyranny, and that will be hard to do. [...] The concrete does specificate the abstract in actuating it, as a magistrate in his exercising government, makes his power to be magistry; a robber, in his robbing, makes his power to be robbery; an usurper in his usurping makes his power to be usurpation; so a tyrant in his tyrannizing, can have no power but tyranny. As the abstract of a magistrate is nothing but magistracy, so the abstract of a tyrant is nothing but tyranny. It is frivolous then to distinguish between a tyrannical power in the concrete, and tyranny in the abstract; the power and the abuse of the power: for he hath no power as a tyrant, but what is abused. [...] It is altogether impertinent to use such a distinction, with application to tyrants or usurpers, as many do in their pleading for the owning of our oppressors; for they have no power, but what is the abuse of power.
- A Hind Let Loose, 1687
- Works by Alexander Shields at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Alexander Shields at Internet Archive