This short article appeared in the Baptist Magazine, 1810.
Trinitarian and Unitarian
There is a manifest opposition between these terms. If they be properly applied, this opposition is as real as that between three and one. But it does not exist unless the plural noun and the singular noun are precisely the same.
Apply this to the Socinian controversy. The Socinian calls himself a Unitarian. Wherefore? His meaning is universally understood to be, that he believes in the existence of only one infinite Spirit, one self-existent Being. This is a great and fundamental truth. But by thus appropriating the appellation of Unitarian, in this sense of the word, to himself, he virtually charges the Trinitarian with what is opposite to it, namely, with maintaining that there are three infinite Spirits, three self-existent Beings. Justice to the Trinitarian requires us to ask whether this charge is true. The answer is, No. Is not then the Unitarian chargeable with either ignorance, or wilful misrepresentation, of the sentiments of those whom he opposes? If any one say to me, “my sentiments differ from yours; for I believe that there is only one infinite spirit,”–does he not thereby virtually charge me with believing that there are three? He who believes in three infinite Spirits, three self existent Beings, is not a Trinitarian, but a Tritheist.
Should the Unitarian allege, that Tritheistic inferences are deducible from Trinitarian sentiments, this self-vindication cannot be accepted as valid; for no one has a right to draw consequences from my sentiments, and then to charge me, directly or indirectly, with maintaining those consequences.
But do any such consequences follow?–Let us enquire.
Does the Trinitarian maintain that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three self-existent Beings? No,–but that the sacred three, whom he calls Persons, because in scripture the pronouns I, Thou, and He, are applied to them, are one self-existent Being. The Unitarian may ask, what does the Trinitarian mean by three Persons? It is a sufficient reply, that he does not mean three Beings. It results, that the conduct of the Socinian in assuming the name of Unitarian is calculated to mislead those who are unacquainted with the subject.