Monday, March 20, 2006

Gibbon on Tillotson Against Transubstantiation

Gibbon, writing of his ceasing to profess Catholicism:

...I must observe, that it was principally effected by my private reflections; and I still remember my solitary transport at the discovery of a philosophical argument against the doctrine of transubstantiation: that the text of scripture, which seems to inculcate the real presence, is attested only by a single sense--our sight; while the real presence itself is disproved by three of our senses--the sight, the touch, and the taste. The various articles of the Romish creed disappeared like a dream; and after a full conviction, on Christmas-day, 1754, I received the sacrament in the church of Lausanne. It was here that I suspended my religious inquiries, acquiescing with implicit belief in the tenets and mysteries, which are adopted by the general consent of catholics and protestants.

[Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life and Writings.]

This is clearly from the Tillotsonian argument. Since Gibbon does not give Tillotson's name, it isn't clear whether the philosophical argument in question was found through reading Tillotson, or as summarized by someone else (e.g., Hume, whose Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding was first published in 1748, under the title, Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding).

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